Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Hurt Locker, Indie Films, Financing TV Part II

I've cut this long post into two parts again as an experiment. Part I was posted Tuesday, May 11, 2010 here.

Now for Part II.
The topic here is "If you want to understand the world, follow the money." And by following the business model and financing sources for the fiction delivery system, we might understand things well enough to boost the Alien Romance field's respectability. So here is Part I, a history lesson in financing fiction, followed by Part II, how that historical root has shaped what's happening now and reveals what might happen next. If you anticipate what's going to happen next, you can turn a profit on it.

Part II

Today, a similar revolution is going on in film to what has happened in SF/F book publishing under the pressure from an exploding fanfic marketplace (and other sorts of pressure we're not talking about this time).

As fanzines were originally produced and distributed at a huge loss to the publishers, eventually publishers learned the business of publishing applied to fanzines as well. And the best fanzines became break-even.

That's right. They weren't allowed to make a profit, but they could break-even, that is cover the expenses with the price of the 'zine. If it were legal, they soon saw, they could indeed make a profit.

The fiction delivery system I've been talking about in these posts is a business model, and it can operate at a profit - if it's legal.

Hence, the pressure on the copyright system that makes it illegal to turn a profit on material copyrighted by others unless you pay the owner. Society is looking for a new model for the ownership of art by its creator.

The Indie Film community is meanwhile, tapping into Indie Writers, first-time screenwriters selling their first script. It's become a voracious market for scripts that could be filmed for way under a million dollars.

Use the LOOK INSIDE feature on Amazon to read the intro to the screenplay of THE HURT LOCKER.


I have the book itself (it's good) and the end-notes or Production Notes at the end tell the story of how this film was funded.

As Indie film makers climb the ladder, they are able to attract investors and increase budgets to where those "fanzine" type flaws can be avoided. It's all about budget.

Really study how THE HURT LOCKER was created, and you'll see something very important is happening.

Now think about this. TV shows (long a product only of big studios) are now searching for and finding "independent financing."

Read this article in Daily Variety:


The TV Show Leverage is looking to leverage some financing from a new source. Remember the original Star Trek was canceled because of low Nielsen Ratings (because there were no ratings boxes on College Dorm TV's), and Nielsen Ratings exist for the sole purpose of determining the sale price of commercial time (eyeballs = revenue). If you don't have at least 3 seasons of shows, you can't syndicate and monetize the investment in the first 2 seasons.

Thus the 3rd season of 16 shows of LEVERAGE are key to monetizing the investment.

In the early 1970's, Star Trek fen hatched the idea that we should buy stock in Paramount and NBC and force them to put Star Trek back on the air.  Good idea, before it's time.  Shareholders had no say over programming.

If this business model idea had existed then, Roddenberry would have had a ready source of all the cash needed to create a 4th and 5th Season of the original show, and probably most of the derivatives and the movies.  Fans were willing (and increasingly able) to raise that kind of money as many went on to very successful careers after college.

Remember always -- it's a business model. Invest and reap more than you invested. That's the only criterion of any interest, and the only thing that determines whether you the audience will have access to any bit of fiction.

EXCEPT -- now we have self-publishing and YouTube. Which are the "fanzines" of yesteryear manifesting in the Web-hubbed world.

Yes, the business model of fanzines was - pay nobody, throw your hobby-money into a fun project - the only profit is a boost to your ego (egoboo another coinage of fandom).

Have you seen the Star Trek Episode WORLD ENOUGH AND TIME -- made with unpaid actors, not paying for the script, out-of-pocket investment.


It's a TV Show Episode fanzine - and it's fabulous Indie Production.

Marc Zicree engineering and produced WORLD ENOUGH AND TIME with all legal permissions. And it's been hugely successful.

Here's one more datapoint to consider.

Wired Magazine featured in March 2010 an article on using Twitter to transfer money person to person -- better and faster than PayPal.


The article talks about uninventing "money" as something printed on paper or coined from something of value. Whole new concept of making a business model work. And the concept arises from a new style of thinking, a new internal or mental model of the universe.

This kind of thinking is native to the Web 2.0+ generation.

But it is transforming the business model of the Fiction Delivery System I've been talking about.

I've been following several people on Twitter who are soliciting investors in Indie films.

Yes, for $25 or $50 you can "own" a fraction of a film - which like HURT LOCKER might win an Academy Award or perhaps a lesser accolade, and become worth money. Or it might be a paradigm transforming addition to this new world. There are lots of different sorts of "deals" out there for investing in Indie Films.

Here's one from Twitter:
@FilmCourageWe are 74% Funded, Over $11,000 raised. $3855 left to go & 17 hours left.... http://bit.ly/aVDeQP

And another one from twitter (@syfy is the official syfy channel tweeter)

Syfy Q) @dspringfield Would Syfy ever consider a cost sharing arrangement like Friday Night Lights on DirecTV? A) We'd probably consider it.

And I'm in some Film groups on Twitter where there's a lot of funding activity going on. Innovation in funding procedures will drive innovation in the kinds of fiction that can be delivered to different fractional audiences -- and then those little audiences grow and change the whole world.

The overall thrust of this series of posts on aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com is all about presenting Alien and SF/Paranormal Romance to the general audience in such a way as to reveal to them why this kind of story deserves attention and ultimately respect. The boring business of tracing how funding sources changes the whole business model is just one tiny part of this investigation.

So here's another illustration of the results of this kind of thinking, not so much focused on entertainment as on the kind of tech innovation that is pushing the world of entertainment financing (and thus ownership issues such as copyright) in new directions:

An article in Businessweek titled "And Google Begat..." shows how the entrepreneurial training employees at Google absorb even non-verbally is driving a new wave of tech innovation:


These datapoints are important not only because of their content, but also because of where I found them.

As Star Trek fanfic began slowly to be mentioned in major media, so also these innovative ways of financing the fiction delivery system are surfacing first here-and-there, and now in the hugely influential national media.

The source of financing for the endeavor actually shapes the endeavor, more even than the objective or driving ambition to communicate.

Financing and its sources belong to the Tarot Suit of Pentacles, the World of manifestation. Here is a list of the 10 posts on the Suit of Pentacles I've done on this blog.


Money is not the root of all evil, but rather the manifestation of whatever (good or bad) has been conceptualized "above" that level.

There is a dynamic tension in play between the established system of profiting from large audiences which is explained here in a Review of a book about the film industry and its business model (you probably should read the book; but I haven't yet):


and the system profiting from do-it-yourself entertainment (Indie Films, YouTube, Self-publishing, and now TV Series independently funded), which is discussed further down in the Review.

The walletpop.com review says:
Independent film financing has collapsed. Studios rarely make money on a film. Although the industry may not be putting out films to your taste, you're still paying tax dollars to support them. And Wal-Mart is one reason skin is so rare in major studio releases.

And a little further down in the article (which you really should read in whole) it says:
What happened to sex?
There was a time when nudity was almost obligatory in major films. Now, even James Bond's arm candy is modestly attired, and Epstein points out that, of the top 25 highest grossing films since 2000, none have had any sex-related nudity.
There are two reasons for this, according to Epstein.

Remember earlier here I pointed out how the sex scene has replaced the action scene in SF/F - especially kickbutt heroine urban fantasy. And have you looked at Romance covers as a group lately? Two figures, suggestively intertwined -- the artists must be horrendously bored by that order from editors.

But sexuality has disappeared from the big screen - (still a lot of hot stuff on TV, but that may change soon too).

On the third hand, read this article:

'Harry Potter' Star Says Filming a Sex Scene is Hard, Watching It With Parents is Harder


Lesson for the writer - if you want a big audience, delete all the sex scenes.

Remember the writing lesson where you are required to write 10 pages, then the instructor tells you to go over it and delete every single adjective and adverb, and you absolutely die over that drill?

Well, do the same thing with your sex scenes. Delete them all and see if you still have a story in there somewhere. See what that does to the story you are telling. Maybe you have a major motion picture on your hands. Or an Indie.

I have no reason to suspect that what this review on walletpop.com says about Indie Film financing or the 10 items in the big screen blockbuster formula is not currently true. But to the kind of thinkers the Wired article referenced above talks about, that is an opportunity not an obstacle.

I recall my grandparents remembering the days before radio when families would gather in the living room in the evening and play piano, violin, and sing-along, entertaining themselves.

Perhaps we're headed back to that life rhythm on a new arc. Families sitting around concocting a YouTube video; what an image.

Jacqueline Lichtenberg


  1. "Well, do the same thing with your sex scenes. Delete them all and see if you still have a story in there somewhere. See what that does to the story you are telling."

    But, but....

    By the strict editorial criterion we've been taught, if removing the sex scenes doesn't change the story, they were superfluous in the first place and shouldn't have been there.

    If we're writing erotic romance, the sex scenes HAVE to be integral to the story. Of course, those are the kinds of stories that probably would NOT become blockbuster movies, for that very reason. But they could be made into indie "niche" films, couldn't they?

    Interesting (and a bit annoying) how HBO sexed up the Sookie Stackhouse books in creating the "True Blood" series. I like the show, but fortunately it's been long enough since I read the earlier books that I don't remember them well enough to cringe over the changes. I just accept the TV episodes as completely different "takes" on the stories. It does bother me, though, that viewers who haven't read the books will assume the novels are full of explicit sex and foul language, neither of which is true. So the author might be losing some potential readers who would have enjoyed the books.

  2. Yes, I think you're getting the point.

    Today "sex scene" has simply, and mechanically, replaced "fight scene" to transform action into erotica.

    And the sex scenes in print are anywhere from unimaginative to pornographic and pointless.

    Jacqueline Lichtenberg

  3. "And the sex scenes in print are anywhere from unimaginative to pornographic and pointless."

    I've read lots that aren't! For example, to mention an instance from some years back, the love scenes in Diana Gabaldon's OUTLANDER. Most of the paranormal romances I've read recently do a decent job of using sexual encounters as a form of character development rather than simply "mechanical" page-fillers.

    And I do hope the ones I write aren't pointless; at least, I strive to make them imaginative and integral to the plot. :)

  4. Margaret:

    Oh, yes and just LOOK at Gabaldon's reputation -- when she did it, it was NEW in the general-fiction market.

    PNR does do a better job than most action-fantasy these days, too. That's why I want to see the splinter-genres grab reputation, as Gabaldon did.

  5. why do u care?9:07 AM EDT

    i wanna see the hurt locker!