I Upgraded My Camera

I know. Telling stories isn’t about gear. You can tell a compelling story on your phone and tell a terrible story and the most expensive camera.
Even, so sometimes a new body comes out that is worth the upgrade. When I upgraded from the Sony a6000 to the a6500, the jump was huge. I was shooting my documentary, I needed the features of a better camera, and splurged a bit to get the a6500 over the a6300.


Enter the a6600. When it came out a few months ago, it was released to mixed reviews. Some people didn’t see it as a major upgrade. The upgraded AF, larger battery, and headphone jack alone were enough to make me want one. Add in a flip up screen and no video record limit, and I’m sold.


But the price was high. I just couldn’t justify spending another $1400, especially in between major projects. Even when the body started going on sale for $1200 regularly, I didn’t purchase it.


Last week, BH Photo put the a6600 on an education discount for $918. At this price point, I could justify the leap. I could sell my a6500 and accessories, and some other filmmaking gear to cover the cost. And I have two college students (dual credit counts) in my home. So, my son bought me a camera. Such a good kid.


I actually looked at the a6400. Numerically, that would be  a downgrade. But the a6400 had the new AF and no limit on recording. I liked those features. but the a6400 does not have the larger battery and headphone jack. Those two features were important to me. (I also like IBIS, but Sony’s isn’t that great, really. I could live without it.)


-As someone who shoots documentary footage, the smaller my footprint can be, the better. With the included headphone jack, I don’t have to use an external recorder to monitor audio recording. 


-I am often “running and gunning” and with the a6500 I routinely had multiple batteries on charge. The new, larger battery will help reduce the number of battery changes.


-In a “run and gun” situation, autofocus can be a critical component. I loved the face tracking in the a6500, but a couple of times it let me down. I had to cover a couple of shots I really wanted to use because at an inopportune moment the face tracking hunted focus for half a second. It doesn’t happen often, but it happened. I’m hoping, with the eye-tracking AF there will be greater accuracy.


I understand that some people may not value these improvements, at least not enough to upgrade. I didn’t think they were worth upgrading until this sale. But at that price, I could not pass it up. Plus I cleaned out my production cases a bit, converting little used gear to a new camera.

Christianity Today, Editorials, and Cognitive Dissonance

[I know it’s Christmas Eve, but I was catching up on things and saw this pattern. Merry Christmas. Read this later.]

The dictionary defines cognitive dissonance as the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change. As a rule, we cannot maintain cognitive dissonance for long.


When we run into information that contradicts our personally held beliefs we must either refute/discredit the information or change our beliefs. Sometimes instead of discrediting the info, we discredit the source. (That doesn’t make the info false, but allows people to feel OK about ignoring it). Other times we rationalize our positions. (That also doesn’t make the info false, but does allow us to feel we’ve chosen the best position in difficult situations.)


When the new information is challenging issues of core beliefs, we are more likely to defend current opinions more strongly. It’s difficult to move people in their core beliefs.


Case in point- Christianity Today publishes an opinion of one editor. The article makes several points, and compares the current president to President Clinton, morally. CT is a previously trusted source (Many agreed with their criticisms of President Clinton), so Christians take note. But the opinion causes cognitive dissonance. Trump supporting Believers cannot accept the editorial and continue to support Trump. So we see the responses… CT is progressive, etc… (Attacking the source) What’s the alternative, supporting baby-killing Democrats? Lesser of two evils, etc…(Rationalizing)


For the record, I don’t agree with everything in the article. But I find it interesting that the primary criticism of the piece falls into those 2 categories- discrediting source and rationalizing, rather than point by point rebuttal of the points of the article. I’m sure there are some responses that do that, but most I’ve seen are pointing to the source or rationalizing.


People really don’t like it when their core positions are challenged.

What’s our go to response when presented with contradictory info? Do we discredit the source, rationalize our position, or refute the information or change our position?

My Podcast is Available on All Major Platforms

I just scheduled a new email update about my new podcast. I’ve written about this a bit, but the podcast is about developing a biblical worldview.

This has been a passion of mine for years. I have taught a few times and done a few Bible studies related to this. So, I was thinking about how to get that information out, and fell into the idea of a podcast.

Podcasting is popular, and there are ways to get them set up for free or very little money. And I was surprised that there weren’t any easily found podcasts about developing a biblical worldview. 

Allow me to introduce The Foundations Podcast, developing a biblical worldview in a Post-Christian world. It is available on all of the major podcast platforms, including iTunesSpotify, and Google Podcasts.

The  podcast is about our view of the world, and how we create that worldview. I believe we have generations of believers in the church that do not have a biblical worldview. And, they don’t even know they don’t have one. 

I hope that listeners take away an understanding of how vital a biblical world view is, and some tools to help them understand issues through the lens of our faith and the Bible. 

Currently there are 3 episodes, with a 4th dropping later this weekend. You can see the podcast page at anchor.fm/foundations. I have a few more written and ready to record. Even a bonus Christmas episode next week. After I finish the first series, or season, I will take a break and see what other topics I might cover.

Please take a moment to subscribe through your favorite Podcast platform, and let people who might be interested know about the podcast.

The Foundations Podcast

I just launched my brand new podcast. You can listen now at anchor.fm/foundations. Soon it should be available on your favorite podcast platforms. I’m kind of stoked about it. I have 7 episodes written so far, with plans for 9 episodes this season. I could add a few more.

Topics include:

Episode 1- Who, Why, and What?
Episode 2: Why we can trust the Bible as the foundation of our worldview
Episode 3- A lot about Lot.
Episode 4- How to develop a biblical worldview
Episode 5- How to study the Bible
Episode 6- Slavery, Polygamy, and Other Bad Things in the Bible 
Episode 7- LGBTQ and The Church

I’m not exactly sure how often episodes will post. Probably once a week. But subscribe and don’t miss an episode.

Possible Podcast

I’m considering producing a podcast.

If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you probably know I am all about helping people develop a biblical worldview. I have taught a few times and done a few Bible studies related to this. So, I was thinking about how to get that information out, and fell into the idea of a podcast.

Podcasting is popular, and there are ways to get them set up for free or very little money. And I was surprised to find there weren’t any easily found podcasts about developing a biblical worldview.

I sat down and lined out a series of episodes. Ive written 4 of them out, and begun gathering content for 3 or 4 others episodes. I may just do a short series, or if I’m inspired and it goes well I may do more. Definitely on a seasonal basis.

To make it easier, I would record several episodes at a time, and then release them every week or few days.

More info to come on this as I consider whether to do it or not.

Advertising in Australia

While Amazon Prime in the US and UK pay royalties about like Youtube (which is minimal), for some reason in Australia they pay $.25 per hour of streaming. That means one viewing of my film pays almost the same a someone renting it for $1.

But I live in the US, so how can I get people to watch Down Under? There is a thriving homeschool community in Australia. So, I gave advertising a shot.

I reset my geo location for Facebook ads to Australia. I targeted people who like homeschooling and speech. And I floated a $5 experimental brand awareness ad.

In 2 days I saw 2,279 impressions with a reach of 1,616. FB says 80 people had ad recall lift. 5 clicks.

Of course, this isn’t a true funnel, and it just the tip of any excursion into that market. I’ve asked Filmhub if I can get a direct link tot he film on Amazon, so I can use it in future ads.

And, since Filmhub reports monthly, I have to wait to see if any of those clicks actually watched the movie. But, if they did it could be an interesting venue.

Frustrated With Film Marketing

Just being real for a minute.

I spent a year and a half making a documentary that people in the target audience like. It’s far from perfect, but it’s been very well received. Here’s a short trailer I cut together highlighting some of the viewer reviews:

It’s the best thing I’ve ever made. So far.

So, I did a TVOD release, made it available for rental and sale. I marketed the film, did the email list thing, did the direct marketing to the target audience thing. I used social media to find audiences.

After the sales dried up, I started down the road of SVOD. Specifically focusing on Amazon Prime.

Now, I’ve written before about how terrible Prime royalty rates are. Basically, when people watch my movie all the way through, Amazon gives me $0.12. Twelve cents…

But, hey, everyone says that SVOD is how people want to view indie films. Even the people I know who took a survey about it said the same thing. People are more likely to watch through an SVOD or AVOD platform. So we just have to get more people to watch it.

And that brings me to the biggest frustration. I have not been able to find a way to advertise the movie to a targeted audience in a way that actually makes money.

I’m not talking about getting rich. I’m talking about making back the money it cost to make the film. Generating profit enough to make another one.

I have identified a great audience through Facebook, with about 370,000 members. Every time I run a brand awareness or traffic campaign I get great results. Sounds awesome, right?

Sure, if you can get people to watch for less than $0.12 a view, it’s great. But I have not been able to spend less than $0.40 per click. That’s just per click, it doesn’t mean people who click actually watch the whole thing. And sometimes it costs more, even up to $3.30 per click, using Facebook’s bid/auction placement.

When I ask experts on social media ads, they don’t have an answer. Most of the time they talk about using email lists, and building audiences. That’s great. Good advice when you’re making a movie.

But for this film, I’ve already plucked that low hanging fruit. I am ready to move to the next phase- where people who don’t know about the movie decide to watch it.

Is there no way to reach these people and see results that actually allows me to break even? No one seems to know one. It’s very frustrating.

For fun, I’m currently running a new test ad campaign. I’m limiting the bid to 6 cents per landing page view, and making the landing page the Amazon video page. I will see if FB can figure out how to serve up the ads. And if it will give any decent results.

Update: FB did not serve the ads. So, back to the drawing board.

The Scary World of SVOD

Prime Video

So, I flipped the switch and my feature length documentary is now available on SVOD. Right now that’s Amazon Prime, but hopefully some other platforms will pick it up.


I worked a year an a half on this movie, and now people can see it for basically free. I think it’s the best thing I’ve ever produced. It’s not perfect. But it ain’t bad either. In the target audience, it has been well received.
But entering SVOD is scary…


Why is it scary?


Money.
Most people don’t think much about his much the indie films they watch cost to make. They don’t care if a studio make their investment back. They don’t think about whether an indie film might make it back. It just doesn’t enter their mind.


But as a filmmaker who both raised and invested his own money, I think about it. A lot. 


In an ideal world, my film would make back enough to fund the next one. in a realistic world, I’d like to break even. That means it as to earn enough revenues to recoup everything it cost of get it out there. That’s where windowing comes in. 


Big movies launch in theaters, then go to digital TVOD for a while, then physical media, then later it hits SVOD. Self distributed movies may have physical copies, but some, like mine, are only available via digital. So there’s a TVOD window and then an SVOD window.


it’s a balancing act to decide when to switch windows. It’s hard to get people spend money to see an indie film. It’s easier to get them to try one on a subscription service. But the royalty difference between TVOD and SVOD shows just how much easier it is.


I thought long and hard about this issue. I don’t know if it will ever make the money it cost to create back. (That stinks) I do know that I found a really good audience to advertise too. But none of them were tipped into spending cash when I ran the “funnel.” And industry people say that SVOD is where the views are, not TVOD. My own unscientific survey also showed that people my spend money on indie film, but would prefer to watch on a subscription service.


So it makes sense to move it here.


But based on the Amazon royalty for my film right now means that it takes 12 Prime views to equal one $1.99 rental. So to make more money, I have to find 12 people interested enough to watch the film for every person I would have found who would have rented it. This audience better be a good one. Preliminary results are good, but I’m also running ads to drive viewers to the site.


It’s easier to make more movies if you have a track record of success and funds from that success to launch you. SVOD has a long tail, but it’s also the last window… (lumping Advertiser supported VOD in)

Comments and odd reviews
SVOD attracts weird reviews and comments.


When a film is in TVOD a viewer has to really want to see it. Unless it’s just terrible, they probably won’t leave an odd review. They were really interested in it, so much so that they paid money to watch it as a rental or purchase.


However, SVOD users don’t have to be interested to try out a film. I have often clicked and tried films i would never pay money for. Just to see. That also means people who are not your target audience, or who are just trolls who have wandered out from under their bridge might watch and comment or review your film.


i know it’s hard to believe the internet could engender such behavior. I actually stopped making tutorial videos on Youtube partially because the comments were so toxic. There were other reasons, but that environment played into it.


Places like Amazon aren’t quite that bad, but you do get your fair share of weirdness. The comedy short “Carjacked” that I wrote and directed got a 1-star review simply because it was a short comedy. I mean, it’s not a secret. What did the viewer expect? Long drama?


Luckily, a few people have reviewed the film on Amazon (3 as of now) and it’s still at 5 stars. I expect that to change. And frankly, even bad reviews help drive the algorithm. 


It’s scary to be in SVOD. I don’t know what will happen. its like releasing the movie all over again. What if people hate it? What if they don’t?
Well, I like it. I’m proud of it, even with its flaws.


If you want to watch on Amazon, check it out here: amzn.to/2mu5msO


If you like it, leave a review. If you don’t, send me a message telling me how much you hate it. 

To Prime or not to Prime: TVOD vs SVOD in Indie Filmmaking

Trying to make back the money it costs to produce an independent film is hard.

People expect entertainment for free. Really, I should say “free” instead. Nothing is free, but it’s not normally something people pay for at the time of consuming the entertainment. They pay a monthly (Netflix, Hulu) or annual (Amazon) fee, but when they sit down to watch a movie or show, there’s no transaction. Youtube is free, social media is free, even TV is free, if you don’t count paying for cable or satellite, or dealing with advertising.

Studios spend millions on overcoming this expectation. It takes a big amount of interest to trigger someone buying a movie instead of just “netflixing” it. And, I have found, it takes a lot of interest to trigger the purchase or rental of an indie documentary.

My film has been in the TVOD window, or Transactional Video On Demand window- meaning people who want to watch it must buy or rent it. I’m considering when to move to the next widow, which is SVOD and AVOD, or Subscription VOD or Advertising Supported VOD. It’s a big decision because the difference in margins is pretty large. In TVOD the split between platform and filmmaker ranges from 50-90%, depending on platform. Amazon Video is 50%. So if you rent a movie for $2, the filmmaker gets $1. Amazon Prime royalties are paid by the amount of time watched. And that royalty varies based on a number of factors Amazon calls an engagement score.

Given its current engagement score on Amazon, my documentary would generate $0.05 per hour of streamed video. (Max possible is $0.10) So, I would be making right at $0.08 per viewing of my entire film. (If someone watches part of it, then the royalty will be adjusted.) That means to make more money from SVOD/Prime than rentals ($1) I would need to have my film viewed 12 times on Prime vs rented one time.

Sounds crazy right? How can anyone expect a movie to be viewed 12 times as much as it is rented just by making it available to Prime subscribers?

Part of my issue is that most of the initial rush of purchases have already happened. People who already know about the movie have already decided to buy or rent it. To generate more rentals or purchases I have to introduce someone to the movie and then get them interested enough to spend money on the transaction. I have to trigger someone to overcome their expectation of free entertainment. Opening the SVOD/AVOD window could bypass that, but will it generate revenue?

So, I did a little survey among my friends. These are people I can easily reach through organic means (not paid) on social media and email. I asked 5 simple questions. There was a definite trend.

I should mention this is far from a perfect or scientific survey. It’s a snapshot of what people I know think about watching independent films. It’s also a bit skewed by the number of filmmakers who are included in the survey, so keep that in mind when reading the results. I will break that down a bit more as the article goes on.

29 total responses.

Survey results with filmmakers included:

29 responses. 3 people had give money toward a crowdfunding campaign for film. 12 had been in or helped make a film. 14 had never been involved with film before.

96.5% use an SVOD service like Netflix, Amazon or Hulu.
75% did not use an AVOD platform, like Crackle or Tubi.

65% said they either had or were willing to spend money an indie film (TVOD)
27% said the either had or were willing to watch an indie film on a “free” streaming platform. (SVOD/AVOD)
92% are open to watching your movie, if they are interested.

75% said they would rather watch an indie film on SVOD/AVOD.

Then I took out all of the filmmakers in the survey, leaving 17 responses.

53% said they either had or were willing to spend money an indie film (TVOD)
41% said the either had or were willing to watch an indie film on a “free” streaming platform. (SVOD/AVOD)
94% of these non-filmmakers are open to watching your movie, if they are interested enough. (That’s up 2% from when looking at the responses with filmmakers included… Weird)

76% said they would rather watch an indie film on SVOD/AVOD.

OK, so what does that mean?

Not a lot of people watch AVOD. Almost everyone has an SVOD service.

A lot of people say they will buy or rent an indie film, if they are interested enough. But in both versions of the survey, basically 3/4 say they would prefer to watch it through SVOD/AVOD. That makes sense, right? I’m already paying for the subscription, it’s easy to just add it and watch.

So while more than half are willing to consider spending money on your movie, it’s always going to be easier to get people to watch in SVOD. And, especially among friends and family, you can capture those TVOD transactions early.

Bottom line: After the initial rush of purchases by your committed fans, open the film up to SVOD. This should trigger the next level of fans, who might watch but are hesitant to pay money to watch.

Facebook Advertising for Filmmakers: Finding the right audience setting

I’ve been trying to crack the code on how to advertise my niche documentary via social media. Specifically, how to earn more money than expended on the ads. I am in the TVOD window, and am trying to generate rentals and purchases to recoup the cost of making the movie.

I recently tried the FB conversion funnel using my small social media following, and it didn’t work well. I used the same funnel with a larger audience for my work, and generated a 20% increase in attendance for an event. So the funnel works, but my audience was too small.

So I decided to run some experimental ads. Not full funnels, but trying audiences groupings to see what worked. My plan was to run a few days of brand awareness and then a few days of video interactions, and see what happens.

I tried 2 sets of audiences. I spent just $10 per ad set, so total buy was $40. Small, experiment.

My content was a specifically targeted video ad for the brand awareness, followed by a generic trailer for the video interaction week.

The first set was a super tiny, very targeted audience. About 1000 or so potential members.

Brand awareness ad had a reach of 429 with a frequency of 1.89, resulting in 809 impressions, and estimated ad recall of 40. 5 people clicked the link to my website.

Facebook can also track how much attention viewers pay during brand awareness campaigns. I saw 21.88% Attention Impressions, meaning 1 out of 5 people paused when scrolling by my ad. So, I’m hitting the right group. But is it big enough?

The next ad set for video interactions with the same, tiny audience saw a reach of 384, with 123 video view, and a frequency of 2.99, which means I had 1147 impressions. 15 people clicked the link to my website. I again had an estimated ad recall of 40 people, or 10.42%.

Seems like a good target, but the frequency of 2.99 for just a $10 buy is worrisome. A larger buy would see a higher frequency. Audience felt a bit small.

For the 2nd ad experiment, I used detailed targeting to select people who liked or interacted with 10 popular homeschooling websites. This provided an audience of about 370,000.

The percentages were about the same. Very similar in ad recall. Frequency was lower because it’s a larger audience pool. But the number of people factored into a much better reach.

For brand awareness as the goal, cost per impressions was half for the larger audience. For video views the cost was 25% of the smaller audience. Same trailer, the small audience played through 123 times, but for the larger audience, it played through 624 times.

Video view reach for the small audience was 384. Reach for the larger one was 1983. Both had the same budget. Both had same ad recall lift of about 10%. But because the audience was larger, the ad recall lift of 10% means 200 people recalled my trailer instead of just 40.

So, what does this mean?

I’ve been struggling to find the right sized audience to target. FB’s funnel is set up thinking you have a good sized audience to funnel people from brand awareness to interaction to sale. But my established FB/IG pages do not have that reach.

So I have been looking for an additional targeting measure. The first audience was too small. But this second one with 370,000 members seems like it is the right size. And every interaction was positive, with organic shares and recommendations to other people.

My next move is to run a special via Vimeo On Demand and shoot for traffic to the Vimeo page. (Since Vimeo isn’t my page cannot track actual conversions so it confuses the ad algorithms to try that).

So I’m spending $10 again but trying for conversions. In this case, leads generated by people clicking through my website to places they can buy or rent the film.

I am trying to find an audience pool large enough and reachable enough to generate sales greater than cost of advertising. I want to reach that awareness tipping point where enough people know about the film that it can organically see sales. We did not achieve that at launch. Frustrating when you know a film is well received by its target audience, but a big part of the target audience isn’t aware of it.