A Viral Video Experiment: The One Minute Movie

Everyone wants to do what they love for a living, and filmmakers are no different. With the explosion of YouTube and other video sharing sites, the internet is a potentially new frontier to make some money by making movies. I’ve been pondering lately about how this could be possible, but there are several roadblocks to overcome.

While we all wait for YouTube to activate their profit sharing model, Metacafe seems to be the next best option. They pay based on numbers of views (you start building a balance after 20,000), and some have done well using this method. Revver is another possibility (the Mentos/Diet Coke videos were made available here), but relies on ads that run at the end of the video. When a viewer clicks on it, you get a small cut. I like Metacafe’s method better, as I think it yields more results. Every view counts there, while only every click on an ad counts on Revver. Do the math.

Another issue is content. The most watched videos on any sharing site seem to be non-narrative in nature. Even within my own YouTube videos, the one that has the most looks is a stack of pumpkins getting blown up with dynamite. I didn’t even shoot this one, but was given it by my sister-in-law. I put it on my site because it was pretty cool, and she used a tripod. All I did was give it some proper tags (explode, dynamite, etc.) and it’s been watched over 1,500 times in three months, and I fully expect that number to increase.

Then there is the time element. There is no way of knowing how many people actually watch a video all the way through after clicking on it (Stage6 is one site that gives you this info), and if people are like me, they click away fast. Especially on videos longer than a minute or two. I’m guessing that if you don’t grab the viewer in thirty seconds or less, they are long gone.

So I came up with an idea: the One Minute Movie. These would be fully-realized very short stories that transpire in exactly sixty seconds. They would all be different (not like webisodes of the same plot), so if you didn’t like the movie you just saw, you could come back (ideally) next week and see what the new One Minute Movie was like. Viewers could even make suggestions about what they wanted to see, to give them a feeling of being part of the whole process.

I had one of these already in the can for a Gizmodo contest I participated in last year. Called Midnight, it was a noir tale that had to be told in one minute. I changed the name to One Minute Movie: Midnight, and uploaded it to Metacafe’s Producer Rewards program. Since there was a femme fatale involved, I placed the word ‘sexy’ as one of the tags, hoping to drive a lot of traffic to the movie.

So far, not much as happened. As of this writing, the movie has less than sixty hits. This may be due to its already existing on YouTube (it’s been watched 779 times), where it is not brand new. Most likely it’s because no one knows about it. The same holds true for any movie: no promotion, no viewers. This is one area I really need to work on, and will have to aggressively if I want this whole thing to pan out.

I think the One Minute Movie is a good concept, and can even work out to pay a bill or two. But, as with all filmmakers, I might have to make quite a few movies before one of them becomes a hit, viral or otherwise.