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Monetization: A chance for Zimba Filmmakers to get paid?
God Bless the Internet!
Over the last few years. Zimbabwean filmmakers have found that they can use the internet to reach a large audience for their productions. And by large, I mean larger than any theatrical release in Zimbabwe, or the diaspora, could ever hope for even the most publicised movie. Zvauya Sei Amukurungai?, a feature length drama, has nearly 52000 hits since its makers uploaded it to Youtube a year ago. There are productions with thrice as many hits in half the time.
The Internet has made filmmaking within reach of a wider cross-section of Zimbabweans at home and abroad. Before, you needed the backing of the donor community, so you made a messagey film about Aids, the girl child or whatever appealed to said donor . Then came the entrepreneurs, who figured that were profits to be gleaned from investing in a camcorder and DVD authoring equipment. With the Internet standing by to show your film to thousands, you can shoot, edit, release and publicise a feature film from a tablet £100. The Internet has also allowed producers to explore the uncharted territory beyond the self-censorship of the traditional film and television industry. All sorts of stories are now being told, without the constraints that a ZBC commissioning editor or the terms of reference of an NGO would impose.
All in all, it is a very encouraging picture about the Zimbabwean film industry: in the midst of widespread economic collapse, it still has a pulse. A film is being made somewhere at any given time. Moreover, films and TV shows from the past are finding new audiences. I stumbled across Ngozi, a drama I watched on TV when I was 8 years old.
Yet, in all of this euphoria about the power of the internet, there is a question that is slowly beginning to rise to the surface:
Can the Internet Bless Us Back?
At some point, many of these independent filmmakers are going to wonder out loud when the blessings of the Internet will extend to even a modest remuneration. I contacted a few producers and asked them why they have not made an effort to cash in on the thousands of hits on their content. The answer I got was invariably: I had no idea you could make money this way.
It has been about a decade and a half since I was at film school in Zimbabwe, and "digital cinema" as we called it then was only the subject of speculation. I don't know what they are teaching young filmmakers these days. But then again, many of the producers churning out these films on Youtube and Facebook don't come across as having been to film school at all. Maybe someone ought to come out with a whole module on Digital Distribution or something. Until they do, keep reading this article. And when you are done, perhaps you might find the time to share your thoughts in the comments section below. Tell other filmmakers about this article too. Such acts of kindness are tied to what I am about to tell you about making money on Youtube etc.
Those of you who know a bit more about me are aware that I am a professional writer. Yet you are getting this article for free. You may have noticed all the adverts around this article. When you click on them, you pay me. A few cents at a time, of course, but it all adds up. This is pretty much what you can do to make money from the videos you upload on to the internet. It happens so often that it even has a name: monetization.
Monetization is when you set up with your platform, in this case, Youtube, that it can insert adverts into your content and share the revenue generated with you. The more people that click on these adverts, the more money you both make. If you have the means to do so, you can also set up your own website where you distribute content and display adverts to paying customers. The advertising revenue on Youtube alone is around $6b annually. The time for Zimbabwean producers to claim a share of that is now! Realistically, many producers will not make more than a few dollars a day. However, that is still a lot better than just making videos and uploading them for free. For those who want to aim for the big bucks, I am going to share some tips:
Turning Your Content Into The Gift That Keeps On Giving
- It has to be all original- If you have a 120-minute drama, with a potential viewership of 1 million in the first six months, why would you block any chances of making any money from it by using a track by a popular musician as the soundtrack? Youtube will not allow any monetization on content that is not entirely owned by the uploader.
- Social Media- Use Whatsapp, Twitter, Facebook etc to let people know when you have a new video out. So many people watching at the same time makes Youtube sit up and notice, which means that they will tell more people about it. There is a reason why there are so many social media share buttons at the bottom of every video on Youtube. Social media helps you build an audience. I was disappointed to note that only one member of the entire cast and crew of a 7-clip production had a facebook page. Seriously, guys?
- Keep Them Coming- Think of Youtube users like cattle, wandering the plains in herds, seeking lush pastures on which to graze. If they think you have no more videos, they will move on in herds. You have to keep giving them more in order to stick around and keep those hits stats high enough for you to qualify for Youtube's most lucrative advertising bands.
- Link Them - Make sure that your audience know about your other content. There are tools on Youtube that allow you to do this.
Basically, these are my four main tips to get you set up on Youtube. Give them a try, and give me some feedback on how it has worked out for you. Check out the poll below, it may help you get an idea of what your potential audience are looking for when they log on to Youtube
Masimba Musodza's latest novel is now out.