Summaries of pitches of strategies

Going to get a video of my MEGA pitch up as soon as I get hold of the (undoubtedly embarrassing) clip, but this is a summary of where The Precinct is now (also a summary of my pitch), as written for the MEGA guys:

THE PRECINCT


Australia doesn’t have its own animated series for adults; a Simpsons, a South Park. We think it’s long past due, and that we’re the ones to deliver it in the form of The Precinct.


We love the cop shows and cop movies of the 1980s, and it’s those synth-powered explosion-fests we pay tribute to in our story, the story of a team of crazed, toilet roll-shaped cops whose precinct house is threatened by a corrupt city mayor.


We came into the MEGA program with ideas and a thirst for knowledge, and came out with a multiplatform strategy based around an animated series, a series of interstitial episodes and an online choose-your-own-adventure game.


We know our market exists. They watch American shows like South Park, The Venture Bros and Harvey Birdman. They’re active viewers who care about the stuff they watch and have opinions on it.The challenge lies in monetising our concepts, given they’re also big downloaders.


As far as we can tell, the main reason a show like this hasn’t happened yet is because it’s a tough market out there, and it’s always easier to sell a kids’ show. But The Precinct, while being unashamedly Australian, is designed for a world audience who love COP ACTION! A natively digital Flash animation production will keep costs down and quality high. An innovative online and offline marketing strategy will be the key to making The Precinct economically viable.


Film Victoria has invested about $25,000 into The Precinct’s development to date. Our intention is to partner with a local network who have an interest in launching an Australian first; a cartoon series for adults which tells an Aussie story.


With a theme song sung by John Farnham.

Yep. It’s better with pictures.

Animation time again!

The MEGA pitch went really well! Unfortunately, none of the broadcasters or entertainment types Justin invited actually showed! True, the pitches were happening right in the middle of the work day, but still… not good enough, ABC and SBS. You really had something better to do?…

TEN THINGS THE REPS FROM THE ABC MIGHT HAVE BEEN DOING INSTEAD OF ATTENDING MY PITCH

  1. Flicking through lists of reality shows, trying to find ones they can buy or produce that are superficially “classier” than the ones on the commercial networks
  2. Watching the hot new young guy, Tino, on Gardening Australia, touching selves lightly
  3. Latte-sipping
  4. “Lefty shit”
  5. Repeating the word “vodcast” over and over while staring, shirtless, into a mirror
  6. Thinking about where they were the day The Glass House got axed
  7. Establishing exciting new online initiative, closing down yesterday’s
  8. Ironing wrinkles out of Triple J presenters
  9. Searching for an even more wanky way to say “documentary” than “factual programming”
  10. Commissioning somethingorother

Obviously I kid. I do it because I love them so!

I’m going to do a video of the pitch so you (and they) can see what I presented on the day.


From the animatic

From the animatic


Meanwhile: it’s about time to make this John Farnham-related Precinct short I’ve been talking up for a while. Now that MEGA’s over I’ll have time to finish off the animatic. Then, it’s animation time.

I’d love to get it done over the holidays, but I can’t do it all myself. What I’m thinking is that I’ll set aside some money and hire on some help! I know a lot of animators who are suddenly out of work

The problem, of course, is that I can’t afford to pay people what they’re worth (or even what they’re used to being paid, which is another, lower, amount). I’m thinking that maybe I could assign individuals a maximum of one or two shots, to minimise the pain.

Not that I’m against abusing animators. They should just know they’re going to be abused before they sign up!

The Precinct: Playing To Win is going to be an “illegal” short, too, in the sense that it’ll be using copyrighted music by John Farnham. The idea is that w’re going to show it to John Farnham and he’ll like it enough to agree to get involved with the show (i.e. sing the theme song!). It so badly needs him.

So: can you animate like this?


And do you want to be abused?

Proof things are moving along

Here’s the current version of my Farnsy-themed animatic!

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I (and our growing team) just spent a few weeks working on an application to Film Victoria‘s Digital Media Prototyping fund. It’s 80 pages long. You could injure someone with it if you swung it at their head. I would never do such a thing.

The “future-innovation-online-mobile-media” discussions that’ve gone on around it, and at MEGA, are starting to really do my head in. It’s becoming very clear that I’m not the sort of person who does big, visionary ideas involving technology that hasn’t been invented yet. I prefer looking at what already exists and trying to figure out how we can use it all in an amusing way.

Also, people continue to tell me things like “in the future, you won’t be a storyteller: you’ll be facilitating OTHER PEOPLE’S stories!” Because in the future nobody will watch a TV show or movie without interacting with it. Also, in the future everyone will wear silver jumpsuits and eat Space Food Sticks at every meal.

Never mind. The application we put in (around The Precinct and our “choose-your-own-adventure” thing) may not be enormously innovative technically, but it’d be (i) a lot of fun, (ii) a sweet tool for showing broadcasters the possibilities of COP ACTION as a cartoon and game and (iii) not half as easy, cheesy and token as some TV series online tie-ins I’ve seen.

And I am trying to open my mind to more inclusive, truly “interactive” stuff. As long as I can still make my funny toons.

Ackersley and keytar

Ackersley and keytar

Speaking of which, for those who were not at our secret Precinct puppet/slide-show in July, here’s the images we showed telling the story of our 1986 flashback episode! Since there’s no script or explanation, it will be be bit mystifying to most of you. Make up your own story: it’s TOTALLY INTERACTIVE OMG LOLZ

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We’re going to be pitching The Precinct to an audience of INDUSTRY BIGWIGS as the grand finale to MEGA later this month, and are able to make suggestions as to who should be invited! If you know of (or ARE) a switched-on film/tv/online industry person with a sense of humour, drop us a line and maybe we can swing a ticket their/your way.

Tear it up

Brendan Lewis

On Wednesday night our MEGA session was about “Financial Feasibility”.

In other words, we’d spent a couple months chucking ideas around in a friendly playpen, and our fearless leader Justin felt the need to dampen our enthusiasm by dropping some people with market experience on us.

One was the afore-pictured (is that a word?) Brendan Lewis, and I don’t think he’d mind my saying he was clearly there to tear the throats out of our concepts with his serrated teeth and then, blood coursing down his mighty jaw, roar up at the full moon like some sort of entrepreneurial werewolf.

There’s some real good ideas in our group, and there’s some real good ideas that haven’t been thought through from the market/consumer perspective, i.e. “who would pay for this?”

I have thought about this, and am willing to acknowledge that an animated cop-themed Choose Your Own Adventure is not exactly the money-making Killer App the world is hanging out for. But I think there’s an audience for it.

So when Brendan chucked his now famous line, “Where’s the money coming from?” at me, I talked briefly about my interest in locating some companies with senses of humour for sponsorship/product placement action. We’ll make it funny, really!

  • The online choose-your-own-adventure game (which I’ve now named The Precinct: Die Trying) opens with a lovely video clip of myself, sitting by the fire at my Norwegian ski lodge, extolling the benefits of SPIRAX brand sketchbooks. “If it’s not a #534, it’s off my desk like a shot,” I purr, as a group of half-naked “Spirax Girls” pout and spray fixative on each other.
  • During the series, the characters take frequent breaks at the HOTEL METROPOLITAN in North Melbourne for “fat-arse chook parmas”, hang out in front of the station eating MRS MAC’S Giant Sausage Rolls or HERBERT ADAMS Spinach & Cheese Rolls, and then gulp down bottle after bottle of SLADES brand portello and creaming soda. Then they vomit. But this does not reflect on the quality of the food and refreshments made by these fine organisations!

The alternatives for funding being: looking for investment/grants, teaming up with a TV network and launching Die Trying as part of the series’ marketing, or just starting to write and build the game slowly and maybe attempting to flog some adorable, cylindrical merchandise. The idea of “crowdfunding” has been suggested, but I’d like to try this myself on a small scale before committing to it as a viable idea.

Anyway, I think I made it through the pitch OK, but I was a bit worse for wear afterwards.

sleepy

sleepy

Rooms full of people with big brains

Going along to these MEGA sessions and listening to the smart people talk about interesting things reminds me of two other slightly similar gatherings. One I’ve actually been to, and one I’ve just seen bits of on the web.

The one I’ve seen bits of on the web is called TED. Rebecca Clements put me onto it. It’s a big conference they have over in the USA every so often. Smart people (I mean, very smart people) address an audience of more smart people about a wide variety of topics. They film these talks and post some of them on their site, YouTube, etc. Some incredibly interesting talks. A few are “change the way you think” kind of talks.

Try this one. It’s my favourite.

The one I actually went to was a thing called XMediaLab. They describe this as a “digital media think tank and creative workshop”, and that is what it is. They bring lots of experts in various fields (relevant to digital media) to one place for a weekend and a bunch of lucky people with interesting digital media project ideas get to listen to them talk, then consult with the ones they like best to get the benefit of their wisdom.

I went to the Melbourne XML a couple years ago as part of my friend Katrina’s team. Her project “Girl Mechanic TV” scored a place, and I was along as the cartoony/animaty/designy guy.

It was an intense weekend. I was working Friday so I missed the “talks” day, but Sat and Sun were packed out with meetings with an impressive array of people, each with their own particular take on Kat’s project. A Canadian design lecturer (the other Martha from Martha and the Muffins) told her it needed to be more educational. An Indian venture capitalist told her it needed to be completely uneducational (and needed more “freaks”. He was a strange guy).

I guess the point of this post is, “try to listen to smart people talk if you can”. Even better if you can talk TO them as well. They all have their own agendas, of course. As long as you know what those are, you can learn shitloads.

Yesterday we spent the whole day at a MEGA session where we pitched our projects to business/marketing type people.

Would you believe advertisers want new ways to subject us to ads?

Some people’s ideas revolve around serving ads direct to your phone. Naturally, they went over well with the ad gurus. Personally, the idea of phone ads makes me wanna ralph. They think they can make it so the ads are so finely targeted that people will actually LOOK FORWARD to seeing them, as they’ll have such a good knowledge of what YOU THE CONSUMER wants to buy, they’ll only deliver ads you’re interested in.

I’m for this in theory, but I suspect it’ll be difficult getting consumers to hand over all this demographic info, and people in the future will probably continue to get lots of ads for Cialiviagrium they don’t need.

I’m personally interested in sticking product placement in The Precinct. We’d make it funny. Anyway, that’s another post.

Make it, then show it to us.

People don’t quite understand that animation is expensive. Even “cheap” animation. When I quoted the projected per-episode cost of our show, I think someone suggested that outlandish amount would HAVE to be blown on drugs — there’s no way a CARTOON could cost that much!…

It can. It does. The number I quoted was probably a tenth of a Simpsons episode, maybe a third of a South Park (our episodes are half the length).

Drew at Eskimo, whom we’re working on cross-platform strategy with, asked me the other day why I couldn’t just make a few Precinct episodes on my own time. He was being somewhat facetious, but was nevertheless after a serious answer. He wondered how much money I would have to be handed to go ahead and start making the show by myself.

The first answer is, I have just gone ahead and made some Precinct animation — this. I had help from a number of people. They worked, essentially, for nothing. I don’t want to keep asking people to work for nothing. If we can’t scare up enough money to pay people to work on it, maybe it’s not good enough.

The second answer is, I could (and maybe should) be working on just making the show myself. I am doing a storyboard for another Precinct short, but work on this has really dropped off since I started the new day job, and MEGA. In the past, I WOULD just have started animating. I did Herman that way. It took a long time.

But I really think The Precinct needs some production value, and some backing. It’s a nice, commercial idea. It looks cute and could get a reasonable audience if we did it well. Not to say I won’t do some more stupid cheap toons soon… like these.

But all the talk about DIY, cheapness and episode lengths has made me start thinking about another way of approaching The Precinct‘s production.

mega05_ideas

Which is the value of consulting with big-brained people! Thanks, MEGA and Film Victoria, for making that possible!

MEGA sessions 3 & 4: market analysis

In the last two MEGA sessions we’ve been spoken to by some industry professionals in of the mobile/online “space” (this is the word ICT people use, and who am I to do different) about what the market’s currently like for mobile phone/devices and related services, where money comes from for the development of these, and what might come next.

The talks raised some questions in my mind, most notably:

  1. how do you interest people in funding an animated cop show when it is not something anyone actually NEEDS (in the sense that there is a need for a digital scheduler, or medical emergency services, or a good-tasting orange)?
  2. will Apple’s continued disinterest in supporting Flash on the iPhone make much difference to our approach to mobile?
  3. why make “apps” for specific mobiles/operating systems when a web app can (theoretically) work identically on any web-capable device?

In session 3, Brad Birchall spoke about (among other things) venture capital, and suggested VCs might prefer you to sink your own cash into your project before coming to them. Jennifer Wilson gave me a phrase I didn’t know: “on/off deck”, which in mobile terms refers to the “magic portal” your phone provider shows you when you start your phone. They use the “deck” to push their preferred content at you. My “notes”:
mega0304_ondeckIn week 3, there were many more concepts to get my head around. I interpreted them on paper but may have missed some of the subtleties:

Data/devices, Evil corporate content

Other things I found interesting:

  • Telcos lose money subsidising iPhones for their customers.
  • In the future, telcos hope to be the fat, rich middleman between you and everything you buy (by virtue of their serving up the platform by which you buy it).
  • Big time venture capitalists wouldn’t spit in the direction of a project our size (too inexpensive for them to bother with).
  • The business model we envisioned for our online choose-your-own-adventure story has a name, and the name is “freemium”.
  • Almost 35% of Americans answer the phone while they’re having sex.