Making a feature just for YouTube?

Happy New Year everybody.

I had been planning to develop a short film but now I'm torn between doing a short or a feature, because I'm really interested in this script I'm writing which is actually a feature.

I'm just curious about the practicality of making a 90-something-minute feature film for say $5,000 and then putting up on YouTube for free. Because that's what I thought about doing.

I know it sounds like I'm answering my own question, but I'm thinking maybe it'll be a way to gain exposure as a filmmaker and then when I get around to making other films with bigger budgets and bigger actors, then those movies would be going to film festivals, movie theaters and the whole shebang.

I was also wondering if anyone here has made a feature-length movie and then posted it on YouTube for free.
 

sfoster

Staff Member
Moderator
Have you made a short film yet?

You might be surprised at how hard it is to get anyone to watch it. A feature film is even harder to convince people to watch because it's such a time commitment.

Usually the things that do best on youtube are little comedy skits and tutorials or reviews.

I'll counter with a question. Have YOU ever watched an indie feature length film on youtube?
 

directorik

IndieTalk's Resident Guru
indiePRO
I'm just curious about the practicality of making a 90-something-minute feature film for say $5,000 and then putting up on YouTube for free. Because that's what I thought about doing.
I think it's a very practical idea. You should do it. It's a great way
to show people that you have talent and skill as a filmmaker.
 
I'm just curious

How curious? Curious enough to have done some research already? If so, what did you come up with?

the practicality of making a 90-something-minute feature film for say $5,000 and then putting up on YouTube for free

Do you have a script and a team that can work within the restriction of $5k? If not, then the practicality side of this isn't very good.

I'm thinking maybe it'll be a way to gain exposure as a filmmaker and then when I get around to making other films with bigger budgets and bigger actors

You'll need to answer this one big question. How are you going to stand out among the rest of the tens of thousands of hours of video that are uploaded to Youtube every week? How much will your exposure worth if no one sees it?

The way I see it, your whole plan hinges on your marketing ability as much as your filmmaking ability.

Good luck in your journey.
 
I'm just curious about the practicality of making a 90-something-minute feature film for say $5,000 and then putting up on YouTube for free.

It's entirely practical.

I'm thinking maybe it'll be a way to gain exposure as a filmmaker ...

What has led you to believe or think that a $5k budget feature posted on Youtube will gain you exposure?

I get around to making other films with bigger budgets and bigger actors, then those movies would be going to film festivals, movie theaters and the whole shebang.

While making a $5k feature for youtube is entirely practical, making a feature for youtube good enough to gain the level of exposure necessary to attract the size of budgets required to hire bigger actors and gain theatrical distribution, with just $5k and no filmmaking experience, is not at all practical.

Natalie: Your posts indicate a belief that there's a quick/easy way to making commercial quality films. Baring a very rich relative or a miracle, there isn't! If you are really serious about making commercial quality features, you will start with a very long term plan, one which first includes gaining and developing the knowledge, talent, experience and network necessary to make you actually capable of making commercial quality films. So far, your posts imply that you are not "really serious"!

G
 
A Youtube content creator named Stuart Ashen, otherwise known as Ashens, wrote, directed, and starred in a feature length urban-adventure film intended to be published for free on Youtube.

The film is still available online for Free, as was intended. He simply produced a special DVD and Blu-ray copy for those fans who helped out with the crowdfunding campaign, and who were interested in buying them after the fact. I don't believe any more are available though.

The film was budgeted at around $50,000, but they made over $73,000 on IndieGogo.

The final project, called "Ashens And the Quest for the Game Child," is a very well executed and photographed 80 minute film, and is reasonably well written and acted as well, full of that typical dry British humor. It's likely not many people will get the opportunity to do what Stuart has done here, as he obviously cultivated a large group of talented people around him through conventions and networking with other content makers, all of whom were willing to work for smaller than average, or no pay. But this is still a solid example of what the original poster is looking to do.

The story of this film may not connect with those who are not specifically British, or who have not watched Ashens' other videos, as he is a Tat reviewer: otherwise known as someone who reviews random junk and rubbish (appliances, cheap tools, bargain-bin game consoles, old food, foreign food, knock-off toys, dollar store decorations, etc.) And so the film is an extension of his portable game console reviews, where he is now on the hunt for a fabled Gameboy clone known as the "Game Child."

This is probably the best example I've seen of a feature-length film made specifically for online release, for Free, and is actually an enjoyable watch, especially if you've seen some of Ashens' previous content. He's produced a few other enjoyable short projects, also very well photographed and staged.

Here's a link to the film itself:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VS2Cnx_eL6s
 
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I have two features that I produced not intending to put them on YouTube, but decided to anyway three years ago. The most popular one currently makes around $50 a month from ads and has 332,000 views. We shot it for $2000 and made the majority of it back from one night at a theater and DVD sales. Since it's release on YouTube three years ago, it has made around $1500 from ads. So we've made back the money and then some now. A buddy of mine produces features exclusively for YouTube now. I'm not sure what he makes, but he does them for nothing so anything he makes is profit.
 
Have you made a short film yet?

You might be surprised at how hard it is to get anyone to watch it. A feature film is even harder to convince people to watch because it's such a time commitment.

Usually the things that do best on youtube are little comedy skits and tutorials or reviews.

I'll counter with a question. Have YOU ever watched an indie feature length film on youtube?

Content is king. If you make a good film you will rise to the top of the pile. It's true that countless hours are uploaded to YouTube weekly but most of that is people's pets videos and copyrighted music.

Are you happy with it?

Did the select few right people watch it -studio ppl, agents, investors?

Who cares if the masses watch it. Seriously. Most of them are too busy commenting on the latest pop stars music video.. if you had a GLOBAL fan base of 200 which each gave you $100 a year you could makes films for the rest of your life and own a home with a family, food, medical care and a car. Think about that, it doesn't take much.

Focus on making really good films and the rest will take care of itself.
 
A Youtube content creator named Stuart Ashen, otherwise known as Ashens, wrote, directed, and starred in a feature length urban-adventure film intended to be published for free on Youtube.

I worked on this film, so just a note about the budget: The IGG campaign was only a portion of the budget, the production company also pitched in about the same amount of money as the campaign raised. The film now has a retail DVD/BR release through Anchor Bay Entertainment.

Also I'm not sure where the idea of 'smaller than average or no pay' has come from. Everyone was paid and it was a professional set with a crew made up of industry professionals.
 
I worked on this film, so just a note about the budget: The IGG campaign was only a portion of the budget, the production company also pitched in about the same amount of money as the campaign raised. The film now has a retail DVD/BR release through Anchor Bay Entertainment.

Also I'm not sure where the idea of 'smaller than average or no pay' has come from. Everyone was paid and it was a professional set with a crew made up of industry professionals.

Wow. I didn't expect to see someone from that crew on here. That's fantastic.

I honestly had no clue what the cast or crew was paid, I just assumed due to it's smaller budget, the fact that similiar small budget productions can't usually pay their cast or crew their typical dues, and assuming that a cast and crew of a more professional status would have usually been paid more than was available from the budget I was aware of.

But if everyone was paid properly, then that's even more admirable.
 
How does that work when the film was designed to be released for free on youtube?

I don't think there aren't any rules that say you can't offer a film for free, but then also offer a DVD/Blu-ray for purchase, IF you know that some people will want one. Because the DVD/Blu-ray will have a lot of bonus features that the online free version won't have attached to it. And we're not talking a few cheap featurettes, we're talking like at least a couple of hours or more of exclusive stuff.
 
......................

I'm just curious about the practicality of making a 90-something-minute feature film for say $5,000 and then putting up on YouTube for free. Because that's what I thought about doing.

.........but I'm thinking maybe it'll be a way to gain exposure as a filmmaker ...........................

I was also wondering if anyone here has made a feature-length movie and then posted it on YouTube for free.

Happy New Year to you too :)

First I'd like to say I'm not a database with facts, but I don't remember any success story about a filmmaker who made it big after making his/her effort ever a feature that was posted on YouTube.
Actually, all examples of succesfull directors i can think of started with shorter formats, being short films, music videos or commercials. And the project that got their attention was almost never their first attempt at filmmaking.
A Youtube example that is on top of my mind is 'Panic Attack' that indeed cought the attention of both press and Hollywood:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dadPWhEhVk

However, all what I say comes from my memory AND has a survivor bias to it, so it is no proof that doing the same as these examples will reap the same rsults, or the opposite that the path you choose is 100% impossible.

I have been in your position: writing on a feature and wanting to make it without any experience, and even worse, no access to the resources (people, places, gear and money) it would require. I didn't make it: one reason was that I had no real idea about what I was doing.
In hindsight (it was in the year 2000) I can tell that it would have been not the ticket to success the way you describe, it would be a pompuous crappy movie and the only way it would have benefited me was the experience I would have gained. But the amount of effort compared to the result would probably have been demotivating instead of inspiring.
One year later I went to artschool and looking back: all the short projects made the effort-effect ratio much more favourable for the learning curve.

It is good to be inspired and write the feature script.
When it is finished you can decide what to do: working for a year or more to spend $5000,- on a feature, or go for the short.
 
9.9/10, would not watch an indie feature on YouTube. Just straight forward. Sorry.

The only way I'd invest that time is if you have shorts I liked previously. And that's a challenge of it's own.

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And I'm a filmmaker too, I can only imagine the extremely slim average YouTuber that would even look for such a thing.
 
9.9/10, would not watch an indie feature on YouTube. Just straight forward. Sorry.

The only way I'd invest that time is if you have shorts I liked previously. And that's a challenge of it's own.

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And I'm a filmmaker too, I can only imagine the extremely slim average YouTuber that would even look for such a thing.

I would think if you can watch movies on Netflix and Amazon, you can just as easily do it on Youtube. The trouble is getting people to stumble upon your film out of the billions of other things they could be watching. You also have to market it well, and get some trailers out first.

It wouldn't be easy, but I can't see it being a totally fruitless idea.
 
I would think if you can watch movies on Netflix and Amazon, you can just as easily do it on Youtube. The trouble is getting people to stumble upon your film out of the billions of other things they could be watching. You also have to market it well, and get some trailers out first.

It wouldn't be easy, but I can't see it being a totally fruitless idea.

Horrible comparison. Netflix has a filter, not everyone can just put a video on Netflix. I trust it to be generally of high quality video, but even then a lot of those films I wouldn't even give a second thought of watching.

"billions of other things they would rather be watching" is more accurate for making a feature for YouTube.

Let's stop dreaming and giving false hope honestly. Make a feature, put it on YouTube, you're not going to get famous from it, you're not going to make money from it, it's not going to get you anywhere. It'll barely even be noticed. Those that do notice it, most likely won't watch it or will stop after about 10 - 15 minutes into it.

Shorts work better for YouTube, it's a high consumption video site. I'd rather watch your 5, 10 minute, shorts than your 1 feature.
 
Horrible comparison. Netflix has a filter, not everyone can just put a video on Netflix. I trust it to be generally of high quality video, but even then a lot of those films I wouldn't even give a second thought of watching.

"billions of other things they would rather be watching" is more accurate for making a feature for YouTube.

Let's stop dreaming and giving false hope honestly. Make a feature, put it on YouTube, you're not going to get famous from it, you're not going to make money from it, it's not going to get you anywhere. It'll barely even be noticed. Those that do notice it, most likely won't watch it or will stop after about 10 - 15 minutes into it.

Shorts work better for YouTube, it's a high consumption video site. I'd rather watch your 5, 10 minute, shorts than your 1 feature.

In all honestly, yes, I would never advise anyone to jump into a feature--let alone one that has no plans to make any money--before you make at least a couple of shorts to test your skills and build some on-set and production experience. I am definitely not ready myself, nor interested in tackling a feature until I get quite a few more ideas out of my head and into short-form projects. Maybe some web-comics on the side. Some video table-reads and skits to test out dialogue and performance chemistry. Stuff like that.

If one proves themselves capable after that point, then I think if the circumstances are favorable and you can work to build a fan-base before you make a feature, then Youtube could work. But, you have to be the sort of person who already has a big enough fan-base to make a feature worth-while: like Stuart Ashen as I had mentioned earlier. He has a subscriber base of just over a million people for a bunch of videos of him talking about stuff on his couch, and another 150+ thousand subscribers of related channels he's been featured on.

Trying to make a feature right out the gate with no prior audience attached to you or your work won't yield anything, just like you're saying. And you're right. Even if the film is good, it will be very hard for anyone to stumble upon it, unless perhaps you make the opening scene really eye-catching and potentially viral, and if the rest of the film is equally as engaging.

But... that's a very big "IF."
 
Even if the film is good, it will be very hard for anyone to stumble upon it, unless perhaps you make the opening scene really eye-catching and potentially viral, and if the rest of the film is equally as engaging.

But... that's a very big "IF."

Everything up to that point was good. I don't care if your opening is very catching, I'm not going to spend an hour watching a YouTube video... and most others won't either.

This kind of thing is 100% reliant on fan base, and I mean SUBSTANTIAL fan base. 1 million? Yea that's a good one. You can do it if you have 1,000,000 subscribers. If you have 10,000? No. Hey, get to 100,000 you might be able to Kickstart one pretty well.

You have to factor in... people subscribe to things... and then never watch them again.. they just forget about it. Which is even more likely with a filmmaker's channel who isn't putting out weekly content. Which most filmmakers are not making a quality short every weekend.

Very few YouTube short channels have been successful in releasing their ever so seldom videos and building fan bases big enough to create features from. The best example of this would be that Rocket Jump(?) guy... I may be messing up his name... Jimmy Wang? Something like that... He made Video Game High School and is now making some movie.
 
Everything up to that point was good. I don't care if your opening is very catching, I'm not going to spend an hour watching a YouTube video... and most others won't either.

I will argue this notion, to a degree, with a channel known as RedLetterMedia.

The majority of their content consists of 45 to 1 hour and 45 minute videos where they sit and talk about crappy movies that they just watched previously, as well as brand new movies that they just saw in theaters. And most of their recent videos (at that length) in their series called "Half in the Bag" and "Best of the Worst" have between 200,000 and 400,000 views each.

That's a very particular fan-base, to be sure, but it definitely says something about how the attention span for long-form videos on Youtube has changed dramatically since 2005. Not to mention the millions of people who watch long-form Let's Play videos, which can last up to an hour or more as well.

These are also not movies: these are reviews of movies that involve a more friendly and an almost intimate style of conversation between like-minded people. It feels like you're spending time with these people and having fun riffing on scenes and characters you just experienced. So the engagement factor is much higher for longer periods than it might be if you were watching a regular film unfold over an hour or more. The dynamic is much different.

All I'm saying though, is that there are plenty of people who can and do watch really long videos. Whether or not they'll watch an amateur movie on Youtube is a different story. Cause these guys have made movies too, but I don't think they've been as successful as their review shows.
 
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