Experience on Crowdsourcing Screenplays and Videos

The most mentioned benefits of Crowdsourcing are that reaching many people allows you to do things cheaper and faster.  This properties have been tested by Stephen de Souza, screenwriter, and Sunil Rajaraman, CEO of Scripped.com. They published their experience in: Crowdsourcing creative content: a case study, check hereunder their Lessons Learned!

Steven de Souza has written major screenplays as Die Hard 1 & 2, 48 Hours among others.  In 2008, he produced a web series, entitled Unknown Sender.

Cost per minute to produce on his own, keeping costs lean = $1,000/minute.

Unknown Sender got considerable critical acclaim, not only from the blogosphere but from the mainstream media as well, and was a triple honoree in the 2009 Webby Awards for Best Series, Best Writing, and Best Individual Performance (for Mr. Dalton).  Wanting to continue Unknown Sender but now re-immersed in his conventional media projects stalled by the strike, Steven turned to Sunil and Scripped to crowdsource new scripts for Unknown Sender, and Talenthouse to crowdsource videos based on those scripts.  They received over 200 submissions for the script content (in one month’s time), and averaged roughly 10 video submissions/per script once the video portion of the contest began (duration of two months).  An incentive of $200 per winning script was allotted, and $500 per winning video.  All winners received a contract for half of the future net profits.  Entries came from not only the United States, but from the U.K., Chile, Spain, and Russia, and the results were impressive[…]

Cost per minute to produce using crowdsourcing = $140/minute.

Takeaways/Lessons Learned

Stephen and Sunil were impressed by the quality of the crowdsourced screenplays and crowdsourced videos. That said, the cost per minute shown does not account for their time to vet the scripts, time to vet the videos and, most valuable for all involved, time to give each filmmaker one-on-one criticism.

In the end, there were definitely a few major takeaways from the whole exercise:

  • The crowd needs management before, during and after production.  This was an area they fell down in:  After the scripts were approved, the filmmakers were left to their own devices.   A surprising number lost track of the ground rules, i.e., that all entries were to appear to be “found footage”, and diverged from that concept in post, if not during production itself.  Had they had a layer of screening and interaction with the contestants in the gap between delivery of script and delivery of finished cut, and had viewed dailies and assemblies (easy enough in a wired world), these filmmakers could have been saved from disqualifying themselves by veering off course.  Here, the model for the vaunted “new media” is clearly the almost century-old studio system.
  • The quality was much better than expected, approaching independent film or broadcast quality in some respects, such as acting, production values, or direction, but not yet in all cases across the board.
  • Filtering the artists before they submit might be a more viable solution, or “curated” crowdsourcing. This solution may not be as attractive for other types of projects, but for video production, is a must.
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