Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Building a billion-dollar enterprise, 12 - Prototype QF2013Q1A

I felt like giving it a research lab-sounding name. But to put it more simply, "Quick Flicks" - at least in its initial iteration - is done.

Yesterday, I decided to just buckle down and get it done. I had gotten myself bogged down in questions about whether or not to publish through Kindle, of how to sell downloadable PDFs...I seriously confused myself. Yesterday, I decided to forget Kindle for now, to sell PDFs with PayPal as the transaction mechanism, and to just go ahead and get it done.

Last night, at six minutes past midnight, I quietly celebrated the completion of the mini-website containing PDFs of five short scripts, together with licenses granting people the right to produce them, which they can download upon purchase.

The scripts are:

    "Message, Not in a Bottle" – A young man leaves a very unusual phone message for his twin sister.
    "I Will Love You Always" – A priest abandons his ministry to marry one of his congregants.
    "coda" – A black man. A white woman. A carefully-planned sexual assault. A twist.
    "No Dessert" – A restaurant patron observers two lovers at dinner before carrying out his assignment as a hit man.
    "End Run" – A political candidate's campaign ends with his assassination - which he himself helped to plan.

Today I did a bunch of revisions. Perhaps best of all, I created a front end that is easily accessible and more attractive than a plain old webpage: I uploaded "I Will Love You Always," my first short film, to YouTube, and put a paragraph in the description offering the script to other filmmakers, with a link to QuickFlicks. (actually, just a link to the page for the IWLYA script, but now that I think of it, I think I'll replace it with a link to the Quick Flicks intro page, which I will tweak).

The rationale for Quick Flicks goes something like this: a lot of people want to make short films, but they don't want to write them - their hearts are set on directing, not writing. Some of them would gladly pay for a short script if they knew how to find a writer. Some might pay to use an existing script, especially if the price is in line for a No/Lo-budget project (the Quick Flick scripts are priced at $4.99/$9.99). (UPDATE: This pricing will expire at midnight, Jan. 31, 2013. See this blog post about recipes, teachability and wealth.)

The uploading of "I Will Love You Always" is in itself a breakthrough. When I shot IWLYA in April 2005, YouTube was in its infancy. I knew that I wanted to make short films, and I knew that I wanted to distribute them via the Internet. I envisioned a website where people would pay .99 to view a movie (maybe .47 for a short). I didn't have the resources to build such a site, so it became my dream to have my films appear on iFilm, which was the go-to site for short films online. But while I was laboring over IWLYA with my editor, Andy Fenlock - a process that took wayyy too long - iFilm was bought by Viacom and ultimately vanished into SpikeTV (a story which still saddens me - to my knowledge, it has never truly been replaced as an online showcase for short films). Meanwhile, YouTube grew to become the Godzilla of online video.

And in all of this time, I never learned how to get my short film from DVD to YouTube. Until today, when I Googled "upload DVDs to YouTube" (duh!), and found VidCorder, a dandy little program for ripping DVDs. Some five minutes after installing the program, my video was ready for upload. So I am pleased to present, "I Will Love You Always," an AC Earing/Elwin Green production, written and directed by Elwin Green.

So today, for the first time, I have products in the marketplace, I have the transaction machinery in place for selling those products automatically, with no work on my part, and I have a marketing piece in place to lead people toward the transaction machinery - a marketing piece that doesn't look like a marketing piece, because it's not - it's a short film :)

The very idea of Quick Flicks - making screenplays that I wrote for my own use available for other filmmakers who may not want to be writers - was inspired by Timothy Ferriss' "muse" concept, as described in his book "The 4-Hour Workweek:"

"Our goal is simple: to create an automated vehicle for generating cash without consuming time. That's it. I will call this vehicle a 'muse' whenever possible to separate it from the ambiguous term 'business,' which can refer to a lemonade stand or a Fortune 10 oil conglomerate - our objective is more limited and thus requires a more precise label."

Thanks, Tim!

Finally having such machinery in place is exciting. What's even more exciting is that scaling those elements - products, transaction machinery and marketing - can go a long way in growing Luminaria into a billion-dollar enterprise.
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