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Sunday, February 13, 2011

It's the last ever Mr Vista. Here's a recap on the stats:

  • 30 Episodes
  • A couple of clip episodes
  • 1 episode that we shot that didn't work at all in the edit.
  • About 2 million views according to the stats.
  • I'd estimate that that is in fact only about 1 million 'real' views of people actually watching it.
  • Core fans (who actually email and comment more than once) is about 50.
And the key news is that the project did kind of break even overall. This is only if you count me not taking any money. Any future income will therefore be shared with all those involved. 

It was shot in HD to give it future-proofing. Storage space needed for the whole thing is 250Gb - which is worth mentioning as storage is a start up cost.

I was made to reflect upon the whole web series ideas as there are a few interesting ones kicking off now. Just a quick round up:
  • There is Persona starting this week (paid subscription model)
  • Some local chums have their comedy MugBop coming soon.
  • I've also been asked for advice on a twitter series that is in development.
  • And I know of two other web series that people are working on soon - but aren't public yet.
So it seems like a good time to reflect back on the big question; is it worth it?

The short answer is; what does 'worth' mean? Which I say not to be glib. But rather to say that you need to be clear on the reasons why you should invest time and effort in a web series.

If it is cashflow then it is probably not worth it. Income sources include licensing of the films via mDistribute and ad revenue from YouTube etc - if you can become an official partner. Becoming an official partner is really just a case of having enough subscribers and views. You do hear of people having break out hits that earn a lot of money. These I still see as exceptions rather than the rule. You can't rely on this at all and should take it out of your business model.

If you want views and people to see your work - then yes, it can be done. But you need to work on it. If, indeed, this is your primary motivation then you should be spending more time on online publicity, twittering, creating fun downloads and other techniques to drive online traffic to your site than on the films themselves. Obviously the films are important. But good films by themselves aren't enough always. So be prepared to spend more time away from the films than on them! I found the spin off activities from Mr Vista (downloads, graphics, special MSN emoticons) were very popular.

If you want to learn and have fun - then you probably have the best outlook. Making something and getting it out there beats sitting around waiting for something to happen. And all you have to lose is your time and sanity. Awesome.

If you want to do a series as a pilot for TV or to get an agent then this is more tricky. It is hard to know if that will work. And certainly I feel focusing on getting the viewing figures up will be key. Without that it is just another youtube clip. It also needs to have room for growth. For example could Mr Vista be a half hour TV show or not?

Overall there are 3 trends that seem to make the series be successful:
One: Keep the premise very simple so people pick it up instantly.
Two: Have your series follow a philosophy, way of looking at the world, a certain structure, joke style or maybe a unique visual treatment. This way people can say "Hey, its in the style of..." 
Three: Do loads. 30 short episodes are better than 10 longer ones. Heck, it is probably even better than 10 better ones. It gives the audience more chances to get in on the series.

Lastly, if I had my time over again I would probably have invested some money into Google Ads and actually been pro-active in that manner of drawing an audience in. It really is a numbers game.

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