Peculiar – Digital Access Soon to be Available on Christian Cinema

B&W Peculiar Logo.jpg
The changes in SVOD platforms have made me take a long look at where the series has been available, and where the people who would most want to see it are consuming content.

I believe that even though the series is aging, the best outlet is Christian Cinema.

Assuming all goes as planned, all 10 episodes of Peculiar will be available on ChristianCinema.com through the Transactional Video On Demand (TVOD) platform. You’ll be able to purchase episodes or the entire series, and view it on your computer, TV or digital device.

At the end of February, Peculiar will no longer be available on Amazon Prime Video. And it’s already been removed from Youtube.

Check out the newly-cut-for-2018 series trailer for Peculiar:

It’s my hope that making this content (which was made for a Christian audiences) available to people who are looking for Christian content, more people will see it. Instead of just throwing it out into the world through any outlet possible, this more targeted release will put the show in front of more people who might actually want to watch it.

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Amazon Intant Video, CreateSpace, Aggregators and Episodic Content

{Update: You should now look into Amazon Video Direct. Fixes a lot of issues with Amazon instant Video.}

handy videoI’ve been looking for ways to get the episodes of Peculiar onto streaming sites. There are a few aggregators out there, but many require you to fork over several hundred dollars in order to have the content submitted. Then there is a chance it won’t be accepted.

One place that will take anything you submit is Amazon. If you send it, they take it. And Createspace offers a simple way to get your content online.

But it’s not perfect. The workflow of the Createspace submission is: Create a project, burn a DVD (!) and mail it to them. They rip it. They place it online and share the sales with you. Sorry, no Amazon Prime access for your content. That’s right, you must make a standard definition DVD of your video project and they will rip their file from that compressed mpeg2 file. There is no way to upload your content, and no way to sell HD content through Createspace.

But it is free and fairly simple.

If I had a movie I would probably have already just sent it in. But I have 10 episodes of a show.

When I asked about sending episodic content in, I was told they no longer allow that.

That seemed odd, since there are tons of TV shows grouped together as seasons on Amazon Instant Video. And from that phasing, Createspace used to allow indie producers to group their content together as well. So I asked why.

In true major company help desk fashion I had to ask three times. Every time I asked why they don’t allow indie producers to group episodes, I was told what they allowed. They said, that’s right, we don’t allow it. On the fourth try I finally got an answer.

It seems that some users ruined it for the rest of us. A few people were uploading movies broken into multiple parts, and asking customers to buy multiple installments. Customers complained. The hammer dropped. I personally think it’s a bit of overkill for what had to be a small problem, but it’s their company.

I was preparing to submit each semester of the show (6 episodes for the 1st, 4 episodes for the 2nd) as a separate movie, when I ran across a new aggregator. This one is called Kinonation. I’m still researching them, and waiting to hear back if they allow episodic content, but on the surface it seems like a good thing. no upfront fees, just a split on the backside. For a project that may not see huge sales to recoup lots of submission fees, this seems like a good deal. Oh, and the submissions are eligible for Amazon Prime.

So, I’m waiting to hear back, and ready to move toward online distribution of the show.

I Refuse to Buy Air Time on Christian TV

Soap BoxPardon me while I step up on my soapbox and rant a bit about the Christian TV paid-time financial model.

Sure, it works great if you are a church putting your worship services on the air. You just make a line item in the budget and do your thing. Or if you are a non profit talk show, just spend 3-5 minutes selling your merchandise or asking for donations every show. No problem… in the short term. But long term this is a major problem. Audiences for this content are shrinking. Donations are drying up and donors are literally dying off.

Mean while, some of us are trying to create scripted content. Raising money outside the show. Trying to place it on stations and networks. Most see the need for this kind of thing. Almost none can (will?) pay for it. I sat with one of the big ones a few weeks ago. They would be happy to pay a licensing fee for a new show, provided it was good enough quality. But of course, the fee wouldn’t even come close to covering the production costs. Most are just happy to take the show for free.

But once in a while I run into one that likes the show, but wants me to pay them to air it. No. Never. I will give it away because we want people to see it, but I refuse to ever buy air time. It’s wrong headed, it’s upside down, and this practice has a very limited lifespan.

The other day I got an email from a foreign network. They were not asking for me to buy air time, but they wanted me to cover the cost of translating the program. I understand. It costs money to translate from English into another language. I declined. Partly because I didn’t have $3000 sitting around. Partly because my initial conversation with the president of the network had not included any mention of fees I would owe. Partly because in any other market (model?) they would be paying me for the content.

There is an audience for scripted and non traditional religious content. Our industry has to figure out how to get more of that created and on the air. Squeezing the producer for money to broadcast it isn’t the way. We had better figure it out soon. The clock is ticking.

eBook Available

I’ve been meaning to post the link, but have been slammed with prep for the 2014 NRB Convention.

My eBook is live in the Kindle store. Get it here: Peculiar Programming

PP Book Cover

“An award winning Christian sitcom produced and broadcast around the world for under $9000? Yes, it can be done. Find out how a former Media Pastor led a cast and crew of volunteers to create a non traditional religious program that was seen on multiple networks, stations and satellites. Learn what you need to know about the Christian TV market, writing and producing your own show, and then getting it on the air for FREE!

12 Chapters, 14,502 words.”

It’s actually been selling more than I expected. $3 isn’t much to ask, and I hope a lot of people will be interested in the subject. We need more non traditional religious TV shows!

First eBook Submitted for Publishing

Screen Shot 2014-02-07 at 10.08.26 AM
This morning I submitted my first eBook to Kindle for publishing!

14,502 words, 12 chapters, about how I took Peculiar from concept to worldwide broadcast. I cover everything from the Christian TV market, to writing and producing the show, to getting it on the air for free.

Find out more info at www.peculiarprogramming.com.

The book is in review right now, but will be available on Kindle in the next couple of days.

PP Book Cover

New Facebook Page Post Reach is Horrible- How Bad is It?

Recently an Ad Age article said Facebook has now admitted that the organic views of fan pages are dropping. Significantly. In fact, Facebook suggests that the best way to “maximize” delivery of your content is to pay them. Fan pages, to them, are not communities of people who like and want content from a brand. They are ways for businesses to advertise more cheaply and effectively through Facebook in a “social context” format.

For small businesses, non profits, and generally anyone who has a fan page that isn’t specifically about selling something, this is bad news. Previously you could assume that people who became a fan of your page had a decent shot at seeing the content they signed up for. Now, only a small percentage of people see the content.

The only way to bypass the Facebook imposed limitations is to post something that your fans engage with so much that their behavior through likes and shares and comments causes the post to propagate beyond the limitations. Of course, it will be seen through those networks, not by the people who have already signed up. So, while it’s great if you have a post that generates huge engagement, the people who do the engaging and see the post through those social feeds may not be your current fans.

I wanted to see just how bad it was. My largest fans page is for my show Peculiar. I currently have 697 fans. (Crossed 700 during this experiment) Before these changes, I would normally see 60-75% of fans through organic views. That is, I’d post something and 65% or so of my fans would see it in their timeline. How bad are the new algorithms?

My page is a fan page for a TV show, with 700 fans. Many of the posts are video links to the show’s Youtube page.

For the experiment I used an event I ran during the holidays. We had the #10daysofPeculiar event on Peculiar’s FB fan page, where we brought back episodes of the show, posting one per day. With other extras posted in the afternoons. Half the videos we posted are not normally available online. I was aware of the new post reach issues, and wanted to help make sure fans didn’t miss the chance to see the episodes. So I boosted a few posts. I only spent $5 per boost, but with under 700 fans, that more than covered them. I selected showing the post to people who like the show and are friends of people who like the show. Here are the results. Number of views per day across all posts:

Screen Shot 2014-01-01 at 11.08.36 AM

Guess which days got “boosted posts” and which days didn’t. You can see more detailed list of each post at the bottom of the post. I spent a total of $25 during the multi day event. Total organic views hit 956 over 12 days while views I paid for hit 7040, (over only 5 days of “boosted posts).

OK, I know, I did this over the holidays. I tried not to be too concerned with the views on Christmas Eve and Christmas. But the huge disparity between “boosted” posts and organic post is revealing. Even so, post engagement via likes and shares wasn’t that different. (That says more about my content than Facebook’s policies.)

The frustrating thing for many fan pages is that their fans have NO IDEA this is happening. Normally, once someone clicks like on your page, they don’t come back. They expect your content to show up in their new feed. If they see less, they just assume that your are posting less.

Then there is the issue of balance, where your are not supposed to post just ads. You need to engage your audience. Ask questions, give them value and content for free. So that when you do advertise or make an “ask” they will be engaged enough to respond. I am not the best at this. But these new algorithms mess that up badly. If you only “boost” posts that have advertisements in them, then the only posts that most fans see are the ones asking for money. Less than 25% see the other engagement posts. So you won’t see the same number of fans response when you sell something, or ask them to do something.

That stinks.

Facebook users probably don’t know, and if they did know… on the surface at least, they would likely think this was a great idea. Less ads, more content I want. They may not realize that this new system is set up to either pepper their feeds with sponsored posts, or reduce the content they want drastically. And Facebook? They are just trying to stay profitable. They have shareholders to think about now. Larger brands with big budgets won’t notice much.

In the mean time, people like me are looking for other ways to reach our fans on a consistent basis.

I am launching an email newsletter for Pup Tent Media, my production company. I will have the content for my various FB pages there (Peculiar, Flawed, and any new ventures…), send it out once a month. At least then, I know people who signed up for the content will see the email, even if they don’t open it. They at least have the chance.

To make sure you never miss the information about Pup Tent Media’s projects, sign up now!

Details of the #10DaysofPeculiar Posts:

Dec 20: Text post received 158 organic views, 6 page likes.

Dec 20: New Event, 19 organic views, 1 like, 11 people from those invited “attending”

Dec 21: New Cover Photo, 3 likes, 6 people saw it.

Dec 21: Video link, boosted post, $5 budget. 26 organic views, 760 paid. 6 likes

Dec 22: Video link, boosted post. $5 budget. 33 organic views, 1110 paid views. 3 likes

Dec 22: Video link, 37 organic views, 3 likes

Dec 23: Video link, boosted post, $5 budget, 34 organic views, 1391 paid views, 7 likes

Dec 23: Video link, 37 organic views, 3 likes.

Dec 24; Video link, 46 organic views, 3 likes

Dec 24, Text post, 95 organic videos, 4 likes

Dec 24, Video link, 53 organic views, 3 likes

Dec 25, Text post, 83 organic views, 4 likes

Dec 25, Video link, 31 organic views, 2 likes

Dec 26, Video link, 61 organic views, 4 likes

Dec 27, Video link, 41 organic views, 2 likes

Dec 27, Text post, 50 organic views

dec 28, Video Link, 81 organic views, 5 likes

Dec 28, Video link, 114 organic views, 7 likes, 1 comment

Dec 29, Video link, boosted post, $5 budget, 26 organic, 1935 paid views, 6 likes, 1 comment

Dec 29, Text post, 121 organic views, 4 likes

Dec 30, Video link, 54 organic views, 4 likes

Dec 30, Video link, 42 organic views, 4 likes

Dec 31, Video link, boosted post, $5 budget, 20 organic views, 1844 paid views, 6 likes

You Can Do This!

Screen Shot 2013-10-12 at 11.20.55 AMI keep wondering why I don’t run into more people who are actually making shows like mine. Better than mine.

I walked the floor at NRB Convention last year and talked to a lot of people. None of them knew of other series like this. If that sample is to be believed, no one else is making a dramatic comedy series. Stand up comedy, sure. Sketch comedy, even. I have heard of a 30-minute drama. I’ve found a couple of Christian sitcoms out there, but the whole landscape is wide open for both comedy and drama. There’s just not that many being made.

Is it really that hard to make a dramatic series?

Here’s the online version of the September Technologies for Worship Magazine. On page 19 there is an article I wrote about how we created Peculiar for next to nothing. The gear list in the article? Half of that gear was borrowed, not bought. It is possible to do this.

What does it take?

1. Audacity. The simple, unfiltered audacity to believe that you can make something, that you can create it.

2. Perseverance. You will get tired, you will hit roadblocks, you will want to quit sometimes. If you quit, you will never finish. Simple, I know, but most truths are. Want to make a dramatic TV series? Then keep making it until it’s done.

3. Flexibility. Things will not always be ideal, they won’t be the way you want them. You will compromise, you will wish you had something you don’t. Become good at logistics. Figure out how to get it done, and then do it. In the end, it’s more about resourcefulness than resources.

4. Teamwork. You can’t do it alone. Network, go to conferences, join Facebook groups, meet people. Develop of group of friends that have common goals and dreams. Work on each other’s projects. Cast a vision for yours, and lead them to accomplish it.

5. Learning. Read, take classes, help other people with their projects, subscribe to Youtube channels, follow people on twitter. Never stop learning, and never stop practicing. This will come in phases. I am learning right now about better script writing, and in the process I am improving my feature length script. Before this was budgeting.

4580D Heartbeat.qxdDon’t believe the lie that you don’t know enough, aren’t good enough to do it. If I had listened to that voice, I wouldn’t have 10 episodes of my show, Peculiar. Is it perfect? Nope. Not even close. But it’s 100% better than what it would be if I was still waiting to be “good enough” to do it.

You can do it! Believe it.

It’s Dead, it Just Doesn’t Know it Yet

model tombstoneThe paid time/donor model for Christian TV broadcasting is dead. It just doesn’t know it yet.

I know there are program producers and stations and networks that will vehemently disagree with me on this. That’s OK. Eventually, no one will be able to deny this. There are some programs that are still working, but others are reworking what they do because of dropping donations. And it will only get “worse” as time passes.

The practice of paying non-profit, education license TV stations for a block of time, and then asking viewers to buy something or give something to your organization so you can continue to afford to make shows and buy time… is dead. Or at least on life support.

I recently described paid time/donor shows as having a limited shelf life (I’m mixing my metaphors.). These aren’t the same as churches producing teaching/worship shows. Those will always be around, because churches will continue to invest their budget into extending their ministry into their community. But the ones without the church backing, that rely only on donations from viewers, on selling things. Those will become less and less viable. Viewers who faithfully watch and support teaching programs with money are shrinking. They are literally dying off. And as the viewing and giving habits of younger audience members begin to have more of an impact on religious stations, things will begin to change.

The model to replace it hasn’t been fully formed yet. I had hoped to get in on the cusp of that new model, but those of us making shows that we are not buying time for are kind of out on the rough seas, looking for a harbor. (I know, I’m mixing my metaphors again. How about we’re in a private room in the maternity ward, hoping to check out of the hospital? No? You know what I mean.)

Today another network, CTN-Lifestyle, will start broadcasting my show, Peculiar. Not in the middle of the night, but during primetime and 3 bonus times. This cost me nothing but the time to email and ask, and then upload the programs. OK, it also cost me the time, effort, and resources to produce the programs.

This brings the number of networks (groups broadcasting the show to more than one market at a time) broadcasting Peculiar to 5. With 3 individual stations either already broadcasting, or about to start. With more in conversation. The amount of money spent by me to buy this air time is $0.00. It is possible to place programming that appeals to a younger audience on religious stations without buying it.

The flip side is that we cannot expect support from viewers who just want to write us a check. So, how can we afford to make more programs? Even at the super micro budget we had for Peculiar, that’s still a chunk to recoup… and then make enough on top of that to afford to make more episodes.

I did have one network give me a little bit of money for the show. Just enough to cover closed captioning. But that is not the norm. I really want to vent about the realities of Christian TV and it’s upside down funding model. I will restrain myself, and simply say that it stinks.

Retail? I wouldn’t bet on it. So far retails sales of my show’s DVD have been slow. It may eventually make back what we spent to create the show, but not any time soon. Unknown actors, unknown show, unknown director… very hard to reach a tipping point in publicity. For profit company broadcasting on non profit stations, so there’s no direct sales through the broadcast. Someone more skilled in marketing of this kind of thing may have better luck.

So, stations won’t buy it (cause most can’t afford to) and retail is sluggish. Netflix and the like aren’t much better. You might… might… get $10,000 for a streaming deal. That might cover your current production costs, but it won’t cover production for the future. So what’s left?

I’m not sure.

I do know that Christian radio stations sell spots… I mean, provide informational announcements for underwriting sponsors. Maybe a TV show can do something similar? Why not? I’ve spoken with one local religious stations about this. It’s possible. But likely that would be a station to station proposition, and not something that larger networks would consider. Not at this point anyway.

I don’t know the answer. But with the current model on life support, and more and more opportunity for new programming to air, we need to figure it out soon.

What do you think?

I Need Your Help

help imageI posted a way that you can help me with my show.

Here’s part of that post:

Peculiar doesn’t ask for money. In fact, pretty much the only way we will see any money for the show is if people buy the DVD. Peculiar is a relatively unknown show with unknown actors and an unknown director. A lot of people don’t even know it exists. People you know don’t know it exists.

That’s how you can help. You can tell them about it.

I will make it super easy for you. Below are some sample posts you can use on twitter, Facebook and send out via email. You can write your own, or just copy and paste these. Send them out to your friends, family and acquaintances.

Why am I asking this? Simple, if we sell enough DVDs, we can make more shows like Peculiar. You can help make sure that happens.

Sample Posts:

twitter:

Option 1: Check out this Christian sitcom called @Peculiarshow: http://goo.gl/GfGljo

Option 2: Here’s a new show I really like called @Peculiarshow: http://goo.gl/GfGljo

Option 3: You should buy a DVD of this new show called @Peculiarshow: http://goo.gl/GfGljo

Facebook:

Option1: Check out this Christian sitcom called Peculiar. It’s a show about a college kid whose life is different: http://goo.gl/GfGljo

Option2: This show I like, Peculiar, has a DVD available: http://goo.gl/GfGljo

Option 3: If you’re looking for a way to support independent Christian TV, check out a DVD of Peculiar: http://goo.gl/GfGljo

Email:

Hey, you should check out this new show, Peculiar. It’s a Christian sitcom about a college kid whose life is different. The first 6 episodes are available on DVD. They even come with Bible study questions. It’s an independent show, so they are selling DVDs to raise mony to make more shows like this. Here’s the link: http://goo.gl/GfGljo

That’s it. Just copy and paste those and send them to the people you know. Or write your own. Buy you can be a huge help, just getting the word out.

Thanks!

Scott Link

Season 1 (all 10 episodes) of Peculiar Should have cost $60,000!

dollar singThis week I am working on the last episode of the first full season of Peculiar. We did 6 episodes first, and then another 4 this May/June.

Total, for the entire 10 episode run, we will end up spending under $9,000. That includes captioning. That’s 10 22:30 episodes. Over 200 minutes of content.

I was playing with numbers, researching what a production with a higher budget would look like. I checked out the SAG Ultra Low budget rates. These numbers don’t include all the benefits and other things, or the restrictions you have to follow if you do an actual union contract. I just wanted to see what the rates were.

Minimum of $100 per 8 hour day for actors. I know from my own freelance experience that crew positions would cost between $200 and 400 per day. For fun let’s say $250.

We had an average of 5 actors per day, and an average of 4 crew per day. Sometimes more, sometimes less. We shot the 10 episodes over 34 days, total.

If you do the math, and add what we spent on food and gear and captioning, that’s $60,000!

Holy smokes. I know how low end we were on stuff. We really needed better lighting. And imagine if we had to pay for locations? Add at least another $5,000.

I am still amazed we got these done. Thankful to have so many people who saw the vision for the show, and joined in.