The Plateau Sessions: Film Industry
If you google plateau, the definition you find sounds like: An area of flat or level higher ground.
Similarly, the J&B Hive holds The Plateau Sessions to let our audience in on the tools and education that have until now, been exclusively available to our member businesses.
After the first discussion explored Business Models for Creative Ideas, the second Plateau Session was about Finances for Creative (Film) Businesses.
The audience were treated to a presentation by J&B Hive member business Outré Productions, as well as a company finance masterclass by Sizwe Mbilase, MD of Honare Chartered Accountants.
Besides its multi-functional venue, the J&B Hive is also an incubator that helps South African entrepreneurs grow their businesses. This assistance could be in the form of mentorship, valuable connections or even sponsorship.
The film outfit was started by four friends with a camera and laptop as their only capital. The creative director, actor, writer and a film producer squad all stretch their roles to keep this business running productively and efficiently.
3 years in, the crew has done work with J&B, Diageo and Trace, among some of their own creative projects.
Plateau Sessions host, Precious Nkadimeng invited Siyabonga Mkholo and Ziggy Ndlovu to tell us more about business, and making money in the film industry.
After the tear-jerking story of how they met, the team highlighted audience development as the key component of any successful content strategy.
“If you don’t have a strategy to develop your audience, you won’t get far in this industry.” –Siyabonga Mkholo
The concept of audience development can broadly be defined as an approach to extend the range, scale and/or nature of your audiences. – (Taken from Independent Cinema Office)
The always-ongoing process helps identify valuable opportunities, especially in an environment as flexible as South Africa’s film industry.
With this key factor in mind, the duo told us about 5 Traditional Distribution Channels that film businesses can explore to make money:
While there’s not much direct profit to be made here, these offer a neat portfolio feature and a chance to build reputation in the industry. Most festivals also offer awards and cash prizes that could be equally valuable to your business’ success.
If a film premieres at a big film festival, there’s a bigger chance a major distributor will contact you to get that project on a more profitable platform.
An example of this is The Blair Witch Project, a classic horror film which premiered at Sundance Film Festival in 1999.
After some crafty publicity strategies, the low-budget feature ended up making a whopping 300% profit – and is still available on various platforms today.
[We are NOT including any picture of The Blair Witch Project. Stay away, you’ve been warned.]
Formerly regarded to be the “be all, end all” of content, movie theatres find themselves fighting for relevance in an ever-changing entertainment landscape. The Outré team was quick to reassure us of the relevance of cinema. With the promise of more direct profits and some stats to back it up.
To get your film into theatres, you have to partner with a distribution company by either selling them a portion of your Intellectual Property or paying for their distribution services.
Once that situationship is secured, the bulk of the task is getting people to pay to see your film in theatres. A feat Siya says is always possible if you can connect with your audience.
An example of such success was Keeping up with The Kandasamys, one of 2017’s top grossing South African films – which attracted viewership from people who identify as Indian worldwide.
While many people have less time to watch their favourite shows, majority of South Africans still depend on TV as their main source of entertainment.
Getting on TV can be achieved by answering to briefs that are usually announced by channels.
Usually, networks will release briefs for shows they are looking for; calling content creators to take a swing. These briefs all have different requirements, stages of production and time constraints.
Once successful, the channel helps your project move on to the following stages of production, until it’s ready to release. At which point you hit the big time.
TV has the added benefit of guaranteed views for your show, even from people that could never have been reached on other platforms.
Digital is perhaps the most exciting of all platforms, with the lustre of ‘newness’ and the infinite possibilities to attract any content creator.
Especially focused on audience, digital gives you the power (& responsibility) to define who sees your content, and the technology to reach them however you see fit.
Digital distribution includes platforms like YouTube, video on-demand services (be they transactional, subscription-based or advertising-funded), Social Networks; as well countless other methods which can be used to develop your audience and deliver the content they signed up for.
The key is to use all your platforms to drive traffic to your main content. A principle that Outré stretches as far as hosting viewing parties for their YouTube web-series, aptly titled #LoveTheWebSeries.
Last but not least, is DVD really worth your efforts in 2019?
According to the Outré team, yes. DVDs work well with a fixed community such as a church or family. Event discs are especially profitable as memorabilia for dedicated members and supporters of these relevant groups.
As you may have noted, content distribution is about finding the most suitable approach for your audience.
What followed was a discussion about the factors mentioned above – and Sizwe Mbilase’s brilliant masterclass in company finance.
And while it’s impossible to share everything learned at this installment of the Plateau Sessions – we hope the article has put you on some new knowledge and piqued your interest for our next one.
Be sure to check out #LoveTheWebSeries. Also, here’s a special shout to Sizwe Mbilase, Precious Nkadimeng, the J&B Hive Community – as well as everyone responsible for these sessions.
If you’re trying to get your money right, you can watch a video of Mr. Mbilase’s talk here:
Follow us on Twitter (@hivejoburg) to stay up with the latest incubations and business successions. Hoping to see you at the next Plateau, Don’t Miss Out!
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Lungelo Hlela is a Digital Copywriter based in Johannesburg, South Africa. When he’s not writing for brands, most of his work includes themes about social issues, history and popular culture. Follow him @lungelosam for more of his existentialist ramblings and romantic ideals.