Part of the whole or a separate revenue stream? Budget accordingly.
There is a broad spectrum of activity that filmmakers adopt to engage audiences. This runs from production blogging and social media engagement using additional digital assets, perhaps collated from unused footage – to development of games, aargs, web series, etc, which may be revenue generating in themselves.
Definitions vary over what qualifies as trans / cross media, as opposed to simply feature film marketing. Such qualifications don’t really impact on more than semantics until the finance plan is considered.
Given that these extra assets and activities cost money, aim to develop a larger audience for the film and generate extra returns, it seems appropriate that they would come under the same, integrated budget as the feature film. This is the logical argument proposed by Jon Reiss and this would certainly make a finance plan simpler for producers – if, of course investors were willing to pay for such budget lines.
In making moves towards this situation, it is necessary for public funders to take the first step, bear the risk of the new model in order to prove its worth to the market. This is certainly happening at production and postproduction stages, though such investment remains outside of the finance plan of the film itself. An interesting question is whether public funders want to see planning and preparation of digital elements and an audience engagement strategy as a deliverable with final script at development stage?
A number of financing models for non film content were proposed in filmmaker discussion at EIFF. Arabella Page Croft of Black Camel (Outpost 1,2 and Legacy) took Jon’s point that funds for marketing and distribution activities should be placed in escrow to avoid being reallocated into physical production a step further. The argument proposed was for separat budgets, fiance plans and therefore recoupment patterns even when the same investors are involved, this is in order to completely safeguard against risk of squeeze by production budgets.
Samm Haillay of Third Films (Better Things) who has had great success with Duane Hopkins’ films and art installations argued for the complete separation of the feature film finance plan and rights from everything else. This is both in order to clarify the rights and to recognise that backers of extra filmic material, especially in the art world, do not tend to overlap with film investors despite the overlap in audiences.
It could well be that the crossover between extra content and marketing, and the problems financing such projects commercially, sees innovation through the use of crowdfunding. This would be to prove audience demand, raise cash and serve as marketing in its own right. Research in the Korean film industry points in this direction and more empirical evidence is required from western markets to add to anecdotal support from well known examples: Iron Sky etc.
Research Associate, Creative Scotland