How to Reach a Million Video Views -Part 1: The Set Up
Over the course of the next 5 weeks, a series of guest blog posts by the screenwriter and director Gregor Schmidinger will try to reveal the mystery about how to reach a million views with a (narrative) short film on the Internet. Find out more about Gregor at the end of this article.
You can like and connect with The Boy Next Door at www.facebook.com/ TheBoyNextDoorFilm
A couple of weeks ago, after Nino wrote his blog post on content vs. technology, he asked me to write a guest post about my short film The Boy Next Door that has just reached a million views on YouTube(1) yesterday. Not only did the movie reach this magic number, it also received more than 600 comments that are predominantly positive such as:
I guess these are all comments every filmmaker would like to hear about his movies. We all want to make an emotional impact on our audience and we also want them to be willing to pay for it. Some movies achieve it and others donʻt. I take this as a chance to reflect on the project and analyze why people around the globe simply love the short film.
This is the first in a series of five posts that puts my thoughts and point of views into words. It‘s a great chance to structure my thoughts and share my experiences on the art of filmmaking that I made in the last three years.
Before we jump right into how to reach a million views with a short film, let me provide you with a rough roadmap for the series:
• This post is about how it all started, providing you with the necessary framework. I will also provide you with statistic data that outlines the road to a million views.
• The 2nd and 3rd post will be dedicated to story. We will look at what art really is and how it is different from commerce, how to be original and learn about aesthetic emotions and the monomyth.
• In the 4th post I‘ll write about finding a niche, defining your audience and how your audience will get to see your movie.
• The 5th and last post will raise the question what to do with a million views and how to turn it into useable value. I will conclude with a summary of the cornerstones we covered that you then can apply on your next project.
Now would be the perfect to time to watch the short film if you haven‘t seen it yet. Take the ten minutes to later understand the references and examples I will use throughout the series.
HOW IT ALL STARTED
During my third year at Salzburg University of Applied Sciences I had the chance to go to the US studying with the Department of Theatre and Film at Bowling Green State University, Ohio. The Boy Next Door was an in-class project for my Sync-Sound Production class. The assignment was to write five pages of script over Christmas brake, shooting them in spring semester of 2008.
Since I wanted to use the chance to shoot a film in the US, I put probably more effort into the project than was expected or required. E.g. I put a casting call in Backstage, flew to New York City and casted actors in a hotel room in Manhattan. I had them flown back to Ohio during the shoot that took place over the course of three days in a Best Western hotel in Bowling Green.
The crew consisted only of fellow students and friends. We shot with minimal equipment, that was provided by the university. We used a Panasonic DVX-100, three ARRI lights, and a basic audio set. Additionally, I rented a Letus adapter and a couple of lenses (I think it was a 24, 35, 50, 85 and 110mm). We recorded with the former DV Rack (now Adobe OnLocation) right to hard drive. Interesting side note, I did no color correction at all. We achieved the look and feel of the movie with set dressing and lighting. I only tweaked the levels slightly.
WHAT HAPPENED NEXT?
I tried to submit The Boy Next Door to film festivals while moving back to Europe and doing an internship at a commercial film production company in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Most festivals that I submitted the short to declined it. The Long Island Gay and Lesbian Film Festival as well as a small short film festival in the UK screened the movie. All in all, the short did not good at the festival circuit and did not receive a lot of attention.
Luckily, I had not enough patience at that time to keep submitting the movie to more film festivals, so I put it on YouTube in February 2009. Well, let me put it that way, the movie did not really good the first couple of months either. Around 30 people watched the short a day. In July 2009, the views per day rose to a maximum of 600 before it dropped again.
It was not until September 2009 that the movie started to gain momentum, steadily increasing its views per day. Maybe it was because more people started to surf the internet again in fall or it just reached the critically mass it needed. Anyhow, things started to accelerate and the short reached 100.000 views on December 11th 2009. The views per day kept increasing over the course of 2010 reaching 3.000 views a day and an all time views of 1 million two years after I uploaded The Boy Next Door.
Someone might say that it has been sheer luck that The Boy Next Door gained momentum. If it were a scientific debate, we would need to repeat the experiment and see whether the outcome was the same. Luckily, we can:
Dbna.de, a German web portal, did an interview with me about The Boy Next Door in 2010. In addition, they asked me to provide them with a version of The Boy Next Door that has German subtitles superimposed. They re-uploaded it to YouTube and even to my surprise, not even one year later, the short has yet again gained more than 150.000 views.(2) Other than the original version, it’s mostly German speaking users that view and comment on the movie. This clearly indicates to me, that the movie really does reach and affect a lot of people out there.
But why does the short work? The main reason is clearly its story. Thus, next week and the week after, we‘ll have an extensive look at story in general and the story of The Boy Next Door in particular.
Gregor is a screenwriter and director from Austria currently working as a multimedia designer and studying screenwriting at UCLA. On his blog BreakingIn he writes about screenwriting, directing and artistic development, documenting his attempt to break into the business. You can follow him on Twitter @Breaking_In.