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Millers Wheel Day 2 On Location- Challenges & Rewards

Here’s an On Location update from last weeks production. Good times, aside from my foot going through the floor.

On Location Day 1 Millers Wheel Production (videos)

We are doing new video posts called On Location. These are quick, rough video clips, updates and behind-the-scenes footage we take in the field or at the office. We hope these clips will give you insights into how we work, how video production and post works in general and how our video services can benefit you. You can also watch or subscribe to our On Location Playlist on Youtube. Here is Furman Pictures On Location this last week:

 

Video Updates: Location Scouting for Nelson Wright’s “Millers Wheel”

This week, Nelson Wright and I went location scouting, did some auditions and worked on storyboards for a music video from his upcoming album. We visited the Issiquah Train Depot Museum, Georgetown Seattle and a couple other places. Check out these two onsite video updates:

 

Old Union Station

Seattle_-_Union_Station_interior_pano_01We are scouting locations for a music video in Seattle next month. One of the options is the Old Union Station. They gave us a green light to film there, but it turned out not to be quite the right look for this production. Still, it would have been a beautiful place to film. I want to give them a shout out because they are good people to work with. Keep them in mind if you have a production coming up.

New Projects with Landa & Others

Landa Pressure WasherIt’s been a busy time here at Furman Pictures with a full production and post production schedule for numerous clients. We have projects underway in Portland, Oregon and Vancouver and Seattle, Washington right now.

Here’s a photo that Charles snapped during a recent Landa product promo shoot. That project is currently in post production. I have to say it looked even cooler in person with the misty going.

You may have noticed a slow down with our “how to” blog posts. Basically we are working on revising those to be more concise and easy to read.

We are also working on developing a new media entertainment series that will be distributed direct to the client with profits being earned from ad sales.

Do you have ideas for a project you would like to discuss? It’s highly likely that we would enjoy working with you, so please give a call or email.

-Nikia

Kiss the Internet Goodbye

verizon2Internet service providers can now legally block your website from showing up unless you pay them an extra fee. They can also charge you more, based on how much data you use… and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

This month a federal appeals court struck down what is commonly known as net neutrality in Verizon vs the Federal Communication Commission. What effect will that have on your business in concrete terms?

This is concerning to companies who create or distribute video on the web because of the large bandwidth. However, with about 90 percent of all home internet traffic now being video, it should also be a concern to businesses and home users who also distribute and consume video. That doesn’t really leave anyone out.

Video and use of bandwidth is just part of the equation.

“consumers will have more choices to determine for themselves how they access and experience the Internet”

In a statement, Verizon Wireless said the decision would “allow more room for innovation, and consumers will have more choices to determine for themselves how they access and experience the Internet. Verizon has been and remains committed to the open Internet that provides consumers with competitive choices and unblocked access to lawful websites and content when, where, and how they want.”

It would seem the ruling to allow internet providers to control and limit  consumer’s content is quite literally the opposite of free choice.

Internet providers and online companies had already started to control online information. Take Google Maps for example. When a user searches for a specific service, Google doesn’t bring up all the businesses that offer that service. Instead, they only show businesses that have either directly registered with Google or who are advertising with Google. You can instead search for a specific company name or web address, but now, that option can be blocked as well.

Verizon and other service providers may now prevent customers and competitors from seeing specific websites for any number of reasons, for example, if business is not paying Verizon an advertising fee. Or Verizon may require a customer to purchase a higher tier of service with fewer limits on the number of webpages or data they view in a day, week or month. A business may have to pay a higher premium to even show up at all under a given domain name. Or, if a website is popular, it might have to pay extra for customers to view it.

The internet will become more like a cable TV station, where you don’t really have a choice of what you see, you only see what is in the service provider’s program line up. It would be more like looking at the MSN Internet or the Verizon Internet.

Internet providers can also block out competitors. For example, Comcast can now block Netflix. More likely, they will just charge Netflix more to stream content. So, expect your internet streaming service fees to rise in the near future.

Ironically, the US internet experience may now become more like China or Iran, only it will be businesses instead of government limiting what you see and how you see it. But then again, have we already started down that road?

As invasive as the NSA’s extensive information gathering has been, Google is far more invasive. After all, every service they offer – search engine, web browser, Android OS, inexpensive tablets, phones, email, wearable electronics, driverless cars, Google Maps, free phone numbers, free voice services, Google Wallet, etc. – are all focused on one simple business goal: harvesting your personal information to make a profit.

However, others like Clyde Wayne Crews Jr., Forbes, believe this is the Internet 3.0, the way of things to come.

It appears the majority of users and businesses oppose Verizon, agreeing that unrestricted internet access is essential to a free and open market. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is considering appealing the decision, which greatly weakens the FCC’s authority over all.

Jennifer Yeh, of freepress.net points out that the court’s ruling is based on certain missteps the FCC has take in the past by regulating the internet on a shaky legal structure.

“power to protect the open Internet may be in jeopardy”

The FCC’s “power to protect the open Internet may be in jeopardy,” Says Yeh. “Yet as this decision signals, the Commission can correct its missteps and treat broadband as a telecommunications service subject to Title II common carrier obligations.”

Perhaps Verizon has free market capitalism and it’s customers in mind, or perhaps, as factories who use child workers, internet providers are only interested in free market capitalism as it benefits themselves at the expense of others.

What do you think? How could the court’s decision effect your business or organization? Will you take action for or against net neutrality? Is limiting your access to the internet good for your business? Post your comments below.

PROTECTING YOUR CREATIVE CONTENT

loveoneanother_web2So you’ve got a bright idea for a dynamic new film, show or web series, but then what? Pitching and negotiating creative content can be tricky for the most seasoned professional.

I have been a producer for two nationally broadcast television series, one of which is currently airing out Outside television, and I’m working on developing a third. Through those experiences, I have learned that revealing the right information to the right people at the right time, while still protecting your creative idea, can be tricky.

It is a complicated process that takes into play personalities, who you know and current trends often more than the content of your idea; and usually means bring more to the table than just your idea… but that is a topic for another day.

Over the years, countless creative ideas have been stolen in the film and television industry. Many film companies and projects have gone under locked in legal battles. But there are ways to make the shady areas of negotiating more clear.

Monica Harris is an attorney who has worked in broadcast network and cable television and in the scripted and reality genres for nearly 20 years with companies like Viacom Media Networks, NBC-Universal Television and ABC/Walt Disney Television. I recently asked her to write an introduction on how to better protect creative content through the negotiating process.

Nikia Furman
Director, Cinematographer

Protecting Your Creative Content

Any successful writer or producer will tell you that coming up with a compelling concept for a series is really only half the battle; much of the heavy lifting occurs when the time comes to sell – or “pitch” – the concept.  And therein lies the challenge, because the goal is not merely to persuade a prospective buyer to purchase your idea, but to also dissuade the buyer from using your idea without paying you for it.

Whether you are pitching an idea for an unscripted series or selling a script for a web series or sitcom, the fundamental rule of idea protection is the same: flesh out your idea on paper as much as possible, register your idea and make sure that you create a paper trail leading to anyone who has touched or seen your work.

Fleshing Out Your Concept:

If you’ve written a script for a film or TV series, this isn’t a problem. You’ve already completed this step by reducing your vision to a recognizable and protectable format that includes characters, an established environment, scenes and dialogue. Fleshing out concepts for unscripted projects in the form of “treatments” is a bit more challenging and actually takes some practice to master. Experienced producers can create these in batches at a time, as they are accustomed to pitching these formats to production companies, studios and networks, but for the newcomer the task of formulating a compelling and sales-worthy treatment is often challenging.  There are many resources online and classes that can assist the aspiring writer/producer in developing treatments, but the important thing to keep in mind for purposes of this discussion is that mere ideas cannot be protected under copyright laws.  Therefore, the more detailed the treatment, the easier it is to protect the ideas contained in them.  For example, it is much easier to protect a concept for a competition/elimination show that involves young couples on an island who engage in physical and mental challenges each week, and after being voted off are replaced with another couple from the viewing audience than it is to make the case for a reality show about couples on an island.  You get the idea.

Registering Your Work:

This task is actually fairly simple.  The Writers Guild of America  (WGA) offers a relatively affordable registration process for members and non-members which allows them to register any script.  Even better, the WGA permits writers to register multiple drafts of the same script, which has the advantage of allowing an artist to protect any changes, whether incidental or material, to the underlying concept.  A change could be something as significant as the addition of a character or as minor as changing the dialogue in a scene.

Writers can register their scripts with either the WGAW or the WGAE (there are two offices of the WGA, located in Los Angeles and New York):

https://www.wgawregistry.org/webrss/dataentry.asp

https://www.wgaeast.org/script_registration

The cost of registration is nominal ($20 for non-members with the WGAW and $25 for non-members with the WGAE) , and it provides an independent, objective third party verification of the content of your work at a particular point in time.  Speaking of “work”, WGA registration is also extremely valuable because it protects a broad range of material including treatments, synopses, outlines, and written ideas specifically intended for radio, television and film, video cassettes/discs, or interactive media. The WGAW Registry also accepts stageplays, novels and other books, short stories, poems, commercials, strategic marketing campaign, lyrics, drawings, music and other media work.  So whether you come up with an idea for the next great reality series or a detailed marketing campaign, you can protect your written concept by registering it.

Submitting Your Work:

Now that you’ve fleshed out your idea and registered it, you’re ready to start knocking on doors and making phone calls to prospective buyers.  The best way to pitch your idea is with the aid of an entertainment lawyer or an agent who has established contacts with potential buyers and has a better chance of getting your material in front of a decision-maker.  Unfortunately, this is often easier said than done, as the best-connected lawyers and agents don’t have much spare time on their hands and won’t consider “shopping” material unless they believe they have a good shot at selling it.  If you’re lucky enough to be invited in to pitch your work without being represented by a lawyer or an agent, then it is more likely than not that you will be asked to sign a submission release.  In essence, this is a document that is designed to protect the prospective buyer form the very type of claim (idea theft) that you are likely to bring against the them if they produce a project that is substantially similar to yours.

Submission releases range in length from one page to several pages, and some are scarier than others.  But the general idea is always the same: by submitting your work, you are acknowledging if the buyer happens to have a project in development that is similar to something that you are sending to them, you will not sue them.  So you’re probably wondering at this point why anyone would ever sign a submission release.  The short answer is this: if a buyer has no prior experience with you, and if you are not approaching them via a representative (a lawyer or an agent) with whom they have had prior dealings, then they will not consider your work unless you sign a release.  Moreover, although many writers think that they are the only ones who have ever come up with a brilliant concept, the truth is that very few ideas are truly unique.  As the old adage goes, there are really only 13 basic story archetypes in literature, and everything is derivative – in some way, shape or form – of those archetypes. What this means is that somewhere out there another writer has likely come up with a similar idea and has pitched it to a buyer, and perhaps even the same buyer that you are approaching.  As a former head of a network business and legal affairs department for many years, I can confirm that my creative execs routinely received the same pitches independently from different producers multiple times.

Having said that, a submission release should not deter you from submitting your material to legitimate producers or other buyers, especially if you have registered your work.  Why?  Because signing a submission release doesn’t mean that a buyer can steal your idea; it just means that you will have to make a strong case that (a) you submitted the idea to them first and (b) the project that they produced is substantially-similar to the idea that you submitted to them.

Which brings us to the paper trail.  Regardless of whether you submit your work for consideration through a representative or with a submission release, it is important for you to keep your own personal, written record of the people who have seen your work,  i.e. evidence of the date, time, name and title of the person who received the submission. Email provides an ideal method for creating a written record of the content submitted.  It is never a good idea to simply walk into a room, leave your written material, shake hands and wait by the phone.  Make a point of sending written material before your face-to-face meeting.  And if you don’t have the opportunity to submit your material before a meeting?  Then simply follow-up with an email with your material attached, thanking the buyer for taking the time to meet with you and generally re-capping the essence of your pitch in broad strokes.  It doesn’t have to be heavy-handed; just enough to let the person you met with know that you appreciated their time and remind them why your project is a special one.  If you are required to sign a submission release, be sure to attach your material to the signed release so that a written record is created.

While the steps set forth above by no means guarantee that your valuable intellectual property will never be appropriated without your consent, they will aid you in protecting yourself from theft to the greatest extent possible and will make prospective buyers think twice about producing projects that are uncomfortably similar to yours.

Happy pitching!

Monica Harris
Falcon Media

Harris can be reached by calling (424) 280-0630 or by email at monica@falcon-legal.com.

How Video Analytics Help Your Business

Big-Double-Computer-IMG_1870Internet video has grown tremendously recently, but online video marketing dollars have not followed suit. In this post, we’ll take a look at what video analytics are and how they uncover myths that cause businesses to stumble with video marketing.

In the not so distant past, video marketing results out side of television broadcasts were difficult to measure, not to mention, barely accessible. Then came the internet. We think of the internet as having been around awhile, but we forget the rise of video has largely developed only in the recent past, really starting in 2006, growing by 73% from 71 Million to 123 million unique viewers in 1 year, then to 180 million viewers in 2009 where it has held somewhat steady.

We know those statistics because online video brings the ability for every business and individual to be able to track how many times a given video is viewed, how much of it is seen, as well as the viewer’s actions proceeding and following the viewing. That is video analytics.

Analytics have helped us understand many things, like how an online product is much more likely to sell when accompanied by a related video.

Yet studies show that as a trend, businesses are not taking advantage of the data analytics provide. Here’s an example: Businesses in general are still spending far less on ads for online video programming compared to television programming, sometime’s more than 50% less. Why is that? A report by Cisco found that most businesses still believe that video advertising in short form online content is not as effective at TV, when in fact, analytics show the opposite is true. Effectiveness of online ads are as effective as television ads. Not only that, digital and cross-media campaigns result in improved targeting.

So, how can your business or organization use analytics to improve effectiveness?

  1. At the most basic level, you can post your video on a site like Youtube or Vimeo and keep track of the number of views compared with other videos you have created.
  2. At the next level, your web master can create tracking code, or take advantage of Google Analytics, to for more advanced tracking of users actions.
  3. Beyond that, along with a significantly larger budget, there are many companies that will keep track of even more actions that users might take related to your video, website and costumers interaction with the two.

How do those numbers turn into profit? Research by comScore show that website visitors are 64% more likely to buy a product on an online retail site after watching a video. Numbers are important. In short, if your business is not taking advantage of video and analytics at some level, you are missing out. What are your numbers?

-Nikia Furman
Director, Cinematographer

Tips on How to Revive Your Creative Soul (Video)

In the creative and corporate world, we often put our best ideas out there just to have them crushed by whims and profit margins. In this video post, we will look at ways to revive our creative hearts and souls.

You can also click here to watch directly on Youtube.

What tools do you use to reset your creative focus?  Have ideas for other topics? Make your suggestions in the comments below, or reply to the e-newsletter. If you haven’t signed up for one of the e-newsletter you can using either of these:

Production and Post or Video Marketing Tips.

Are Chop Shops Shrinking Your Media Profits?

Have you noticed people wanting to pay less for video production services? From the big boys to the non-profits down the street? Some chop shops are filling that niche, but what does that mean for the rest of us? In this blog post, we’ll look at video marketing trends and see if there’s room for change.

I recently had a production company that creates a well know reality series on a major cable network contact me for a half day of camera work for $250. I’ve run into that low of offer for a full day’s work as well. While it could work for someone starting out, it brings up a multitude of problems. For one, the half day of work is a myth, after prep and travel, your day is spent. But that’s also simply not enough for the freelancer or production company to function when you include the cost of equipment, marketing, dues, healthcare, etc.

Companies are popping up to meet that need. Companies like Pixel Fish, Demand Studios, Knowlera. These companies rely on a large database of independent producers, camera operators who are willing to work at a cut rate in order to offer their client a very inexpensive product. A few of these companies offer livable payment levels if you work with them in bulk, however, most do not offer rates at a sustainable level. They do meet the needs of a niche market.

On a larger scale, there are companies willing to pay an appropriate rate, but it seems like the national conversation about the increasing divide between the middle and upper class also applies to the film and television industry. The good paying film and media jobs are getting fewer and farther between.

Part of this has to do with the cost of equipment coming down, which, lets face it, has been overpriced. I remember paying $400 for a one foot long custom monitor cable for a studio camera about 10 years ago, or $25,000 to $50,000 for color correction software. And these are just low budget examples.

The broadcast verses cable verses the internet is another factor. Ad dollars spent on most forms of television dropped while ad spending for cable increased by 5% the first quarter of 2013 compared to the first quarter of 2012.

The slowed economy has likely played a part too.  According to ComScore, video views have increased by 1290% since 2006. However, ComScore’s research also notes that ad dollars for video marketing have fallen notably behind the amount of video being viewed, as indicated in this graph:

130818-Graph

But research also indicates that advertisers simply don’t trust internet video advertising yet like they do the old standbys, broadcast and cable.

So what does all this mean?

First, there are market places for video that are not being taken advantage of. It’s up to us as professionals to find them.

Second, our clients need to be educated. Video is effective at making them money, whether by entertaining or by direct solicitation. We need to identify those ways and talk our clients about them.

Third, hiring someone at a cut rate, whether a large company or a local outfit comes at a cost. A well studied and exacted media piece is far more effective than a quick edit filled with stock footage. Successful companies still understand this and know paying extra for experience and specialized services will equal a greater return.

In summary chop shops and those new to the business can and will manufacture video at a cut rate that is less effective and not sustainable. It’s up to us as production and post facilities to either seek out the fewer clients who know the difference effective media can make or educate the large group of “middle class” clients about the increasingly underutilized world of video marketing.

Written By: Nikia Furman, Filmmaker

Next Month: Give Yourself A Creative Tune-up

This Production and Post thread discusses current issues filmmakers  and media professionals face everyday in production and post. For the most part, it will focus on issues the average filmmaker is facing, from software and equipment choices to budgets and organizational solutions with interviews and advice from people who have been there before and know how to get the job done. You can get monthly tips and insights, participate in and learn from the results of related surveys, join in the discussion and ask questions. Click here to sign up.