There’s a lot we can learn from Joss Whedon. For those who haven’t been out of their caves since they headed for the hills during the Korean Rapture of 1992 let me introduce him to you.
He started off with a rather diverse Writing portfolio. His scripts include everything from BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, to TOY STORY, to ALIEN RESURRECTION. And then he began creating tv series including the hits BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER, ANGEL, FIREFLY, and now DOLLHOUSE.
He’s diversified into Comic Books and recently into Short films for the Web. His latest Web Hit is a quirky piece called “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog”. There’s no rating on it, but just so you know before you run out to google it and watch it with your whole family, it probably weighs in at a PG-13.
Anyway, I’ve heard Joss speak on a number of occasions and he’s hilarious. Very down to earth and you can tell he has spent a lot of time contemplating media. And bottom line he loves to tell a good story. Here’s an excerpt of an interview with him in The Hollywood Reporter by Lesley Goldberg.
THR: In terms of producing content specifically for the Web, how far have you seen it come in the past couple of years?
Whedon: People are kind of dancing around it. There definitely has been some interesting stuff that I’ve seen. I haven’t seen as much as other people; I’m kind of new to the field, truthfully. I feel like we’ve seen some cool things and some advancements, but people have gotten stuck in a rut already.
When we were making this, people were like, “You can’t have anything over seven minutes long,” and somebody else was like ‘You can’t have anything over three minutes long; attention spans will go at two minutes and 49.7 seconds every single time no matter what.” It’s a very nascent field and everybody was very entrenched about the way you could create content and what people would sit for on the Internet.
So we were like we were going to make it however long we’d like. We shot for 10 minutes, but it’s me so it came out long.
THR: Based so far on your experience with “Dr. Horrible,” do you think the Web is a good business model?
Whedon: None of us is going to become a billionaire from doing this but yes, I think it’s very tricky and most people will tell you it can’t be done. I had one person who might actually be a billionaire, and he said, “Yeah, you’ll make $2,000.” And he wasn’t being mean. … I’m happy to say, we’ve topped $2,000.
The thing is, as a business model, what it isn’t is a cash cow. Most of the territory has been staked out. Unless you create a YouTube or a Google or something that’s all already been done, now the field is crowded. There was 1.0, where it’s basically the open prairie, now that’s all done. And there’s 2.0, where the ideas are smaller and they fit in what is now an existing structure.
And so you have to find a niche in there ,and you have to accept that that’s what it is, especially if you’re working on my level. A studio isn’t really interested in making an investment unless it’s a huge one. I can’t do that.
But I do think that’s the best way to find a sustainable model on the Internet is to build something that is always exactly the size it needs to be. Don’t throw $100 million and need it to start bringing back (returns); don’t say, “Oh we’ll get in the black in five years’ time.”
I was prepared to lose every cent that I put into this. I did this because well, I got to make a musical that’s first and foremost, but because we do need new business models for the creative community as residuals are going to become a thing of the past. Some people are going to need to get into this and I feel the way to get it is to always stay at the exact level you’re at.
“Dr. Horrible” should turn a profit and just enough to continue at that level. At some point it could get bigger and turn into a bigger thing, or it could get smaller. You have to have that malleability. If your expectations are too high, if you’re in it to make a fortune, you’re going to have a bad time, I think. If you’re in it to make a living, you might do OK.
So there you go. Everyone wants to make money with web video, few are doing it. Joss is one of the few. So when we find a success story, we go in to study it and ask “why?” and then see if it’s perhaps a repeatable process.
In this case, it is. All you have to do is write and sell 4 hit scripts, then turn one of those into a tv series, spin off 2 other series from that series and make some comics and then create a funny Web Video during a Hollywood Writer’s Strike and BAM. You’re making money. Simple.
So, stop whining and go start writing!
The full interview can be read at The Hollywood Reporter