While I was researching creative funding avenues for documentaries, I came across an interesting idea that unfortunately appears to have failed on its first outing: selling shares in a movie. In 2003, Los Angeles underwriter Civilian Capital formed Billy Dead Inc. in order to have an initial public offering of stock to finance the making of the film Billy Dead. The film, due to star Ethan Hawke and be directed by Keith Gordon (The Singing Detective) was based on the book of the same name by Lisa Reardon. The novel, described by Amazon as “a gut-wrenching trip into the past of an American family that’s about as unappetizing as you will find” seems the unlikely candidate for the kind of mass appeal that an IPO would demand, but perhaps Civilian Capital were banking on the investors being more interested in their chance to participate in the glamour of Hollywood.
The plan was to sell 900,000 preferred shares for $8.75 apiece, raising $7.9 million. After Civilian Capital’s 7 percent cut and other startup costs and overhead, $6.2 million would remain to make the film. Once Billy Dead was filmed, the shareholders would be able to participate on revenue, after taxes, from the sale of rights to distribute the film to theaters, television, and DVD markets. Assuming that the film got great reviews and earned $20 million in total revenue, this would leave $6 million in gross profits to be divided up after the $8 million in production costs are deducted and the distributor takes their 30 percent. This would leave $1.95 million after taxes, with the shareholders getting half, equal to approximately $2.15 a share, a fairly respectable return of 25 percent over a couple of years. The problem is that making money with movies is never a sure thing, with the rule of thumb in Hollywood being that 75 percent of all studio movies lose money. The results of the IPO were certainly underwhelming, with Civilian Capital raising only $125,000 from 50 investors, far short of their initial goals. The company ended up amending their filings with the SEC and returning investors’ money. The lack of any mention of the film on the Internet Movie Database since that time seems to show that the film has sunk into oblivion.
As long as there are filmmakers that will do anything and everything to get their vision on the screen, there will be creative and unique ways to raise the money to make it happen.]]>
After all of the work that I have put into working on this blog and blogging about those self-same developments, I recently had another epiphany – I am focusing on the wrong thing. My purpose is supposed to be getting the Brush with Extinction project off the ground and instead I am spending all of my time working on and improving the companion blog, which should just be a project journal. While I have learned a great deal about creating an online presence, I need to keep my focus on the tasks that need to be completed for the Brush with Extinction project. There are a number of smaller housekeeping tasks that need to be tackled such as making the documentary proposal title page image a clickable link without the need for a separate hyperlink. However, I also need to start focusing on the actual work to getting the Brush with Extinction project such as getting the documentary proposal in front of documentary filmmakers and prospective sources of funding for the project.
The most important task that I need to take care is to increase the visibility of the Brush with Extinction project and my first step in achieving this goal is to attempt some viral marketing and send out a broadcast email to friends and family announcing the Brush with Extinction project and website. Hopefully by having my own little internet coming out party will improve my Technorati Rank, which currently stands at 4,694,995 with no authority yet. Given that Technorati has counted 7.4 million blogs that have posted in the last 120 days, that puts me in front of 2.7 million blogs, but with a ways to go.]]>
As part of my quest to be a better blogger, I make sure that I get my Daily Blog Tips. One extremely helpful tip was a checklist of 40 tips to setup and optimize a blog, with links to previously published tips. The first plugin listed as an essential addition was Akismet, a spam blocker. Given my previous experiences with that fabled canned luncheon meat, I couldn’t click through to the site fast enough. After a relatively simple download and installation process, I got the Akismet program up and running, protecting Brush with Extinction. One of the statistics listed on the Akismet site and backed up by my experience is that 88 percent of all comments are spam. I am looking forward to reading comments that actually relate to what I have written rather than the nonsensical jibberish that I have encountered so far.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I wanted to get the ability to send updates to the blog by email to interested subscribers, and the best part is that my lack of programming experience isn’t a problem. Taking my cues from the blog of a good friend that already had the feature, I targeted FeedBurner. FeedBurner’s interface is simple to use and a couple of mouse clicks and I had set up the feature on the blog. The site even produced the html code that I needed to set up the subscription box on the blog. Now it is up to me to get some subscribers.]]>
The next task to check off my list of things to do was adding a signature to the images on the t-shirts featuring Lauren’s artwork. As mentioned previously, I want to add her signature to the digital images to tie the images to Lauren and increase her profile as the artist. As with most things associated with my quixotic quest, it was not as easy as I had hoped (as is always the case, I found a how-to article after I had done all of the work). After getting Lauren to sign a blank piece of paper with a flourish, I scanned it and then discovered that just cut and pasting wasn’t an option because the white background came with the black signature and would a bit silly and amateurish on the t-shirts.
After bumping up against the limits of my extremely limited Photoshop knowledge, I figured out that if I inverted the picture of the signature and then change everything that was black to transparent and then re-invert the image, I ended up with a black signature with a transparent background. At that point, it was relatively easy to add the signature file to the artwork and upload it into CafePress. In order to be sure that it came out correctly, I only added it to the gorilla t-shirt and will order a sample to see if the signature reads clearly enough to not look like a smudge on the image but isn’t so large as to be distracting.]]>
As mention in previously, there are lots of ways to earn money from blogs and I am starting to explore a few options. I do want to stress that I am not looking at this project as a money-making venture and any and all funds that the site generates will be put towards hosting fees and anything left over with be divided among the charities that this project supports. Every article that I have read about blogging and money mention Google AdSense. Now, I have to admit that I am a little wary of plastering advertisements up on the site and detracting from the serious intentions of the project.
An interesting aside about advertising that has absolutely nothing to do with this site: I was amused to watch a video about Times Square in New York which mentioned that the owner of the building at No. 1 doesn’t even bother renting out the office space because the building makes so much . Notwithstanding my reservations about advertising, I thought that it is worth giving it a whirl and see how it goes. I completed and submitted the application for an Adsense account and got the approval back two days later. I then set about setting up the AdSense link on my site. I started with the smallest advertising size possible (125 x 125 Button) to see how it goes, as I can always expand it in the future if it works. I will be interested to see if it works as advertised.]]>
Now that this blog has been running for a while and I have actually had some feedback (not in the comments – that is only spam – see below) about it, it was time to do some tidying up of the way that the blog appears on the screen. The two primarily changes that I wanted to make were the removal of the calendar and the
The Meta section of the blog includes admin links such as “Login” that are useful to me as the owner of the blog, but offer no value to the reader and even ending up confusing one of them as being part of the blog. I did some research on getting rid of the
The t-shirts that I ordered from CafePress arrived and it was almost silly how excited I was about a simple t-shirt. It was a wonderful feeling to see Lauren’s artwork on a commercially produced t-shirt – the finish was excellent and it was as good as any t-shirt that you could buy in a store. After recovering from my giddiness, I got down to the more serious business of critically evaluating the t-shirts that I was selling. The most obvious problem that I saw was with the Whale Tail t-shirt. The yellow that formed the background to the picture printed up with a fairly harsh hue that wasn’t a true reproduction of Lauren’s original. I think that I am going to have to use Photoshop to tweak the color saturation or hue in the digital images that CafePress is using and if that doesn’t work, get another digital image of the original work.
There were a couple other additions that I realized that I wanted to make to the t-shirts, namely a logo and Lauren’s signature. I have wanted to make a logo for the project for a while and think that having a small version on the shoulder or back of the shirt would reinforce the use of the t-shirts to promote and fund the Brush with Extinction project. Lauren typically signs her work on the back of the image or frame, which doesn’t translate to the t-shirts very well. I thought about having a scan of her signature across the back of the shirts, but she isn’t well known enough for it to be meaningful at this point. So I am going to have to figure out a way to add her signature to the digital images to tie the images to Lauren and increase her profile as the artist.]]>
Now that the Wild Easel CafePress shop is up and running, I thought that it was time to check out the actual t-shirts as a kind of quality control. In particular, I wanted to see how the digital images of the artwork translated with the direct printing process used by CafePress for their t-shirts. I ordered shirts with two out of the three images that I am selling (Gorilla and the Whale Tail) and I am very interested in seeing what they look like. I have found that I am very excited to see the first tangible product of the Brush with Extinction project. I also figured that it would also be good to have a t-shirt on hand to wear when I wanted to do some low-key advertising for the project and Lauren’s artwork.
My encounter with comment spam continued this week with a textbook meaningless question of “What do you mean?” for the Learning how to blog – Post Length and Frequency blog entry. I have to admit that my sarcastic side was sorely tempted to send some sort of surreal response to the commenter, but given the nature of spam it would probably have been an empty gesture. An interesting side note with the comment spam that I received so far is that the Learning how to blog – Post Length and Frequency blog entry is the only one of all of the ones that I have posted that is attracting all of the spam. I must be something I said!]]>
As mentioned previously, one funding option for this project is to ask the readers of the blog for donations directly. I struggle with this option for many of the same reasons given by Darren Rowse at ProBlogger.net in his post Donation Buttons on Blogs. Darren states that raising funds through donations only really works when the blog have both high readership levels and loyal readers. I don’t meet either of these criteria at the moment, but given the conservation bent of the Brush with Extinction project, I figured that it would not be a bad idea to have the option on the website, just in case. In addition, I would direct any funds that were collected in excess of the website’s expenses to the charities that are closely allied to the project. Now it was just a matter of making it happen.
After doing some research online, I discovered that PayPal had cleverly set up the ability to have donations sent to an email address and they would even compose the html that would create the donate button to put on the website. A couple of clicks later, I had a proper donation button set up and linked to the email address that I created specifically for this purpose: firstname.lastname@example.org. I will also set up a saving account with ING Direct to deposit any funds that I receive. One other thing to add to the To Do list is to add a financial page to the website to keep track of donations, t-shirt sales and expenses. It will be interesting to see what happens.]]>
Not much to report this week, other than I have started to work on adding the ability to send updates to the blog by email to interested subscribers. I came across this feature on a good friend’s personal blog and enjoy getting an email whenever she has made an update to her blog instead of having to surf the web in the hope that there has been any changes. I think that an email update feature would particularly valuable given the somewhat sporadic nature of the posts to the blog. The only problem will be figuring out how to do it given my lack of programming or blogging experience.
There were two more comments this week and they certainly brought my excitement about the commenting process crashing down to earth. I had two identical comments on two different blog posts from cory at 2minutecashadvance offering my dad a speedy and smooth cash advance loan. Not especially relevant or even making much sense – why offer my dad a loan? After a little research, I turned up the delightful world of , and even started to question the first comment that I was so excited about. It turns out that spammers make meaningless or nonsensical comments with links to their own site as a way of increasing their search engine rankings. I checked and my first commenter did leave a “glad tidings and hollow compliments” kind of message that Wired mentions in its article , but since he hadn’t actually listed his website in the comment, I am going to give him the benefit of the doubt.]]>