Bios - XTVN - Q&A

                   
We asked a simple question: what happens if we bring together the world’s best micro-budget filmmaking talent and advertisers looking for demographically targeted audiences?
 


 

What is XTVN?

The basic premise is that now it's possible to make features for less than the cost of a TV commercial, let's partner advertisers with producers on finance and marketing. It was born from the marketing strategy planned for the upcoming road-movie comedy The Booze Cruise. We realised we were essentially bringing large numbers of demographically targeted people - our audience - to a single website, and that's spectacularly valuable to advertisers. Print media and TV are struggling because audiences have flocked online, but those audiences have scattered to the four corners of the web. If we can bring a large number of people to one place then there are targeted marketing opportunities which are valuable enough to advertisers to justify financing a microbudget film.

How will XTVN work exactly?
We're a cross between a feature film development company and an ad agency. We're an online film distributor, but we're not a portal. Portals spread all their advertising spending across their whole catalogue and that's just not our business model. We’ll develop films with proven filmmakers and our own stable of experienced script consultants, and work with advertisers to build mutually beneficial marketing campaigns tailored to each film. These are not feature length commercials - these are independent stories from experienced writers and filmmakers. The partnership is one of finance and marketing collaboration because the symbiosis is already there: we're both trying to reach the same audiences. Filmmakers maintaining artistic integrity is a key part of our ongoing strategy.

What's in it for advertisers who want to get involved?
Of course in return for finance we have to provide audiences. While each film will have its own strategies for generating publicity there will be some common threads such as intelligent use of YouTube and social networking, engaging with the blogosphere and traditional media. A lot of people think product placement is the answer and while we think tastefully done brand cameos can be part of the answer, another big selling point is the online-first model itself. When you see a film in the cinema you don't rush home to look up the brands featured. Online the sponsors links are right there on the site while you watch or buy the film. We're doing it in a way that doesn't distract people from the viewing experience, and we’re offering tools that make the brand-film connection much more immediate, and therefore valuable.

We'll put all our "DVD extras" online too to make the site more 'sticky' and advertisers will have large areas of the website to convey their message with interactivity and video if they so desire. There are many areas advertisers can work with us, from subsidising downloads (so they're free to the consumer) to working with us on live events, promotional contests etc - all of which will symbiotically bring in more viewers, more word of mouth and so on. If you have your own marketing team we can also work with them on cross-promotional ideas of their devising.

We build a reputation on quality film entertainment at a low enough price that people can flock to see and tell their friends about. The cross-promotional marketing gets the ball rolling and brings viewers to the film's site. What the sponsor/advertiser chooses to promote is then, within reason, pretty well up to you and of course you can augment what we do with paid advertising, promotions and so on of your own.

What is in it for film-makers?
Well the obvious one is that their film's budget is covered. Apart from XTVN there's no equity investor so, after a percentage of marketing and XTVN's cut, the producer is in the black. It doesn't mean they can reap a profit making just any old crap, quite the opposite: it means a filmmaker has to work harder to make something remarkable (in the Seth Godin sense) in the first place. Advertising is traditionally the biggest cost in film distribution. We believe if we design each film around a remarkable premise we’ll be creating a better film into the bargain, as well as winning the word of mouth marketing game.

What are Microbudget films?
In Cannes in 2010 everyone was talking about microbudget. Dozens of producers already have £50,000-£100,000 films completed. Two of those - Christine Hartland (WMD) and Yvonne Deutschman (The Power of Three) are helping produce XTVN's first feature The Booze Cruise (c4ab.com) and are also peripherally involved in XTVN.

Practically speaking it's just a matter of finding the right material that works for a small cast & crew and a short shooting schedule. That's where you make a lot of the savings. A smaller crew helps you move faster, get more shots per day. Intelligent forward planning means you're not wasting time deciding on lighting set-ups or trying out lenses. Lightweight LED lights can be set up in half the time and run off portable batteries. You keep costume changes and location moves to a minimum, that sort of thing. Writers have been working within some kind of practical parameters for millennia. Modern playwrights and TV writers know it well. Only novelists have been immune to practical considerations. Film screenwriters can find creative ways to avoid scenes of robot invasions.

The RED ONE camera and affordable Mac-based editing make a huge difference. To get images as good as the RED used to require an army of technicians, shipping film to labs, telecine digital rushes... just think of the cost of all that infrastructure. Now you plug a hard drive into a Mac and you're editing images of the same quality in seconds.

Anything else we should know?
Microbudget feature films - if the story, script, marketing and execution are right - have the potential to make it big and launch careers. On the other hand it takes a long time to learn how to create engaging, entertaining stories that keep audiences engaged for two hours. That's why we're working with established screenwriters and script doctors with produced credits to develop material to the high standards international audiences expect.

The cinematography and sound equipment are there, the cast & crew talent has always been there, what's been missing in the low-budget sector is a quality threshold, and that's a key part of the XTVN brand. Our audiences will require it and our sponsoring advertisers will require it. With this boutique mentality XTVN and the movies we make can go from strength to strength and leave a legacy of quality movies which live in the minds of viewers forever.

Where can I find out more?
Simply call us up or send an email to Ryan Godwin, our head of marketing and business affairs. He’ll be more than happy to answer your questions and discuss how we can work together and accomplish our mutual goals.

 

 

 
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