Valuing the Web Series: Symposium summary
1) Taylor Litton Strain/Erin Goode, creators, interested in research to help them make business cases for web series, attract funding, find data to support expectations about audiences.
Our research could develop a repository of case studies focusing on financing, production and release strategies:
How and where web series creators found financing, how much they spent on production/postproduction and where they put their money, and marketing/release strategies – for example: do you release soundtrack for your webseries on itunes first and then make it free on Spotify or other way round?
Such case studies could elicit insider information about short cuts and tactics – for example Taylor had figured out how to use Facebook’s services to get information on the number of people who like Jessica Jones in Sydney – information on niche audiences – Facebook allows you to pay to reach the kind of people who like shows like your own.
Our research would also yield international data on web series producers’ business that could expand knowledge of practitioners in our local Australian market.
2) Research on television has focused on high budget drama formats, but little research so far on low end of the spectrum, grassroots content production appealing to transnational taste cultures. Landscape of television changed, hollowing out of the middle with streaming services and currently high end and low end of the spectrum experiencing rapid growth.
Reasons to map this sector of the screen industry:
- Globally web series exploding in a number of countries.
- Australia globally a leader in web series production, numbers of web series risen from 150 in 2015 to 3,700 in 2017 (Steinar figures right?)
- Simultaneously advertising revenues collapsing, dramatic fall in terms of dollar amounts spent on clicks per thousand (Stuart figures?) and many web series practitioners going into serious debt to make web series with no clear information about whether this will pay off career-wise.
- No one systematically monitoring the web series internationally, web series sometimes mentioned on imdb but not systematically tracked.
- Lack of information on sustainability of the sector and this is a problem for developing coherent policy.
- We need research to scope the scale of this sector, assess its potential in terms of career trajectories, meeting diversity targets and its value to audiences, practitioners and screen industries. Develop typology of major genres.
Ideas for what we would do:
- Examine career trajectories of ‘successful’ web series producers, using Joel’s World Cup tallies (he tracks how many selections, nominations and awards web series receive on international festival circuit). Gather longitudinal data on 30 (?)successful creators over three years, reinterviewing every six months.
- Track both people and productions, looking at life cycle of web series productions.
- Focus groups. Using in kind contributions from webfest not for profit partners, conduct qualitative study in France, Canada and Australia looking at – business case studies, production culture, diversity in terms of regional, rural, indigenous etc, sustainability and career trajectories. Web festivals particularly good value as partners because they can organise for focus groups with practitioners, giving us access and helping us make the most of our visits.
- Analyse emerging culture of this sector– what constitutes success for practitioners, folklore about calling card strategies, when you stop being an ‘emerging filmmaker’ anecdotal evidence from symposium we held suggests adoption among practitioners of the language and perhaps strategies of Internet start-ups (e.g. referring to a web series as a ‘proof of concept’)
- Compile a ‘strategic data base’ of case studies, repository of information on business strategies, financing, career outcomes and content diversity and value to local economy.
- International forums on future telling – at Web festivals will also hold forums gathering experts in web series industry (mix of producers, creators, writers, researchers) to discuss where the industry will be in ten years, produce some informed projections.
- Stuart – important that we explain how our research will leverage previous work funded by the ARC.
- Our research will build on/leverage previous work including Annabel Sheehan – looked at everyone who won an AFI and tracked their careers plus explored background and how they got to the AFI. (This was funded by the AFC) Also a model for us is Tony Moore and Mark Gibson “fringe to fame” discovery project history of postwar period of avant-garde of outlier culture that becomes more mainstream. (Who funded this – Stuart do you know? I could only find a paper and it didn’t mention funding in the acknowledgements)
Tony Moore, Mark Gibson, (2013) “Fringe to Famous: Bohemians, entrepreneurs, audiences and the enabling state. Asia Pacific Journal of Arts and Cultural Management, 10(1).
Sheehan, Annabelle. 1998. Career Paths in the Australian Film Industry: a survey of AFI Award nominees 1988-93, Australian Film Commission, September