Thursday, January 31, 2013

Building a billion-dollar enterprise, 13 - Tweaking the prototype

"No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money."     - Samuel Johnson

Today I am performing corrective surgery on Quick Flicks.

I'm raising the prices on the scripts, effective Feb. 1.

I am doing this for two compelling reasons.

1. In any sane world, the scripts are worth more than their current prices of $4.99 and $9.99. I have always tended to undervalue my work as a writer, as evidenced by the fact that most of the writing I done, I have done for free (Like, um, this blog. Hmmmmm....).

But I have also been involved with the production of three short films, not only practically, but financially. Between the three of them, I have spent thousands of dollars to secure other people's expertise. For any of them, it would have made sense to allocate some money for myself as screenwriter. And not just $9.99.

The current Writers Guild of America contract sets the minimum payment for a feature-length screenplay at $42, 930.

Let's run some numbers.

The length of screenplays is generally about one page per minute of film, so the script for a 2-hour movie would be about 120 pages. Dividing the minimum payment of $42,930 by 120 suggests that any screenplay worth buying is worth $357.75 per page. Minimum.

But I"m not in the WGA, the people using the scripts wouldn't be WGA signatories, etc.

Very true, and that is why I am not charging $400/page. Or $300. Or even $200. But I'm also not valuing my work at less than the price of a fast-food meal anymore.

(That last paragraph was an update. The original version read: "Blah blah. Oz, the Great and Wonderful, has spoken. The discounted fares to ride this train end today." Which now sounds a bit testy.)

2. I am also raising the prices as an exercise in following instructions.

When Tim Ferriss expands on the idea of the Muse in his book, "The 4-Hour Workweek," the second criterion he lists is: "It should cost the customer $50 - $200." He summarizes his reasoning thusly:

"I have found that a price range of $50 - 200 per sale provides the most profit for the least customer service hassle. Price high and then justify."

The fact that I priced my scripts so far below Ferriss' suggested price range now looks like an example of a pattern.

I haven't followed wealthbuilding recipes well.

I tell myself that I want a recipe, a system. I tell myself that I want a list of steps I can follow to achieve a certain result. I have bought books and tapes by the dozens that lay out steps to follow to achieve certain results.

And I have not followed the steps.

Most of the time, I have started to follow the steps. Then I have stopped. I have no idea why.

Maybe it's because I have lacked the confidence to follow instructions, and don't really believe that the steps will work in my case. Maybe it's because I have lacked the humility to follow instructions, and I assume that I can improve the recipe before I've even tried it. Because, you know, I am so much smarter than the person who has done it.

Either way, it no longer matters. What matters is how I change, now.

I think it's time for a new BBDE Mantra: If you want the cake, you've got to follow the recipe.

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The justification for the new pricing, if a customer ever brings it to that, will run something like, "If you want to make quality films, you need to start getting used to paying for quality scripts."

This goes to the reason that I underpriced the scripts in the first place: my definition of my audience included the assumption that they are broke. 

Maybe that was because I have spent so much time being broke, myself (this may surprise people who got to know me during my flush period as a reporter for the Post-Gazette. Let's give a cheer for union contracts that help workers to not be broke.).

In any case, the assumption that aspiring filmmakers are broke is hereby broken: tuition for Master's programs at the top five film schools in the U.S. (according to a ranking by the Hollywood Reporter) averages about $40,000. People who manage that are probably not broke.

What assumptions are you operating with that might be leading you away from, rather than toward, the results you want? How can you break those assumptions, today, and change course? How have you done so in the past? Let's talk!
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