Screenwriters’ Clubhouse Launched!

There are hundreds of different screenwriting competitions across the globe. From prestigious international academy fellowships that give out tens of thousands of dollars in prizes, to online competitions that simply reward writers with notoriety, contests for film writers are everywhere.

At ZoomTilt, we wanted to create something original that could be focused on the writer and their growth as a writer above all else. We wanted it to be accessible to everyone, of all skill levels, across the entire country.

That is why we created the Screenwriters’ Clubhouse.

The Screenwriters’ Clubhouse offers fun writing “workouts” with two week deadlines. The Clubhouse could be called a “gym” for screenwriters, encouraging writers to “exercise” regularly by writing short concepts and scripts based on new ideas. These workouts are only 5 pages long, and they serve as potential first episodes for your own creative screenplay.

While other screenwriting competitions often ask for $50-$100 for submissions, we only ask you donate $5 toward the Clubhouse in order to be eligible to win cash prizes and recognition.  Our Clubhouse is a community, so you put in $5 that goes into the Kitty (meow!); you and other screenwriters vote on your favorite script; then the winners get paid out of the Kitty.  You can even participate without paying the donation, but then you can’t win awards or cash prizes.  

We want to make the Screenwriters’ Clubhouse a friendly creative community where writers can bounce ideas off one another, give feedback on one another’s work, and be inspired to enjoy the writing process. To help foster this environment, we are offering live writing events to help writers join forces and finish their workouts in person.

The first live event will be at University of Massachusetts Boston, in the Point Lounge on August 29th.

Stop by for free pizza and an awesome writing community!

To sign up for the Screenwriters’ Clubhouse, simply visit http://www.ZoomTilt.com and click sign up. It is quick and easy. Also be sure to check out ZoomTilt on Facebook and YouTube for new updates and awesome videos.

Filmmaker Highlight: John Rhode

John Rhode has seen it all.  He modeled, acted in the theatre, shot the Buckeye’s football film as well as PSA’s for the state of Ohio, had a film critic show in Columbus and received an MFA in Cinema from Ohio State University.  Destined to come to LA, he later studied at USC cinema and got into tons of music videos.

Then he worked as a camera operator and had the opportunity to work with Academy Award winners like John Seale (Harry Potter films), Vilmos Zsigmond (The Deer Hunter), and Vittorio Storaro (Apocalypse Now).  John has won Telly and Eagle Awards for his own cinematography, and has now turned to directing when he’s not shooting, having directed three movies as well as commercials with Southwest Airlines and videos for Google.  His list of credits is impressive.

John Rhode

I got to know John’s work from an excellent short he worked on with Frank Chindamo for one of our branded competitions.  Their short, “Quit Your Day Job”, included YouTube stars in a hilarious comedy about two lazy husbands who try to make millions by filming their own reality shows.  Their wives are not amused, but our viewers were!  I asked John about what he thinks is happening with web video.

“I’m definitely looking to do a lot more, and we’re pitching different companies,” he began.  “Amazon, Yahoo, YouTube, even Craigslist all have their own webisodes. I think the YouTube experiment is over…I heard the subscribers to their webisodes — the ones they spent $100M on one year and another $200M the next — didn’t amount to the subscribers compared to their existing wacky YouTube celebrities.

“But everyone is still trying to find their way.  I’m looking to shoot more narrative material including webisodes or even commercial-tainments.  Some webisodes have been very successful, and some networks are picking them up for TV shows.”  For some examples, read this recent article from IndieWire or this one from The National.

In addition to his efforts on the web, John is still inspired to work on his own features.  “I’m developing screenplays with several writers, looking to develop features for under $5M as well as mega-budgets.  We have several scripts in development, from family to thriller genres.”

JR Filming

Memoir of a Web-series Producer

I’ve been hitting the pavement in the independent production scene since 2008. I currently serve as the Manager of Brand and Community Relations for ZoomTilt and am obtaining my Master in Fine Arts in Media Art from Emerson College in Boston, MA. Below is a recollection of how I became a web-series producer and my opinion on the status quo of web television. My opinions are my own and do not reflect the overall opinion of ZoomTilt or Emerson College.

_______________________________________________________________________

My first job in the world of production back in 2008 was with an independent, non-profit, production company that focused on women’s programming in New York City. Back than we received hundreds of feature film and play submissions from hungry, powerful, talented women writers. Our involvement with a winning 2006 Sundance Film Festival as well as our long list of female celebrity endorsements and our core messaging made this production company one that everyone wanted to be involved with.

However, we were just as broke as the hungry, powerful, talented women writers that sought us out.

True, there were a few celebrity writer/directors that were vying for us to produce their work. One well-known TV actress/writer and director in particular submitted three feature scripts to us during the summer of 2009. I wasn’t overtly impressed with her work. Three years later in 2012, one of her scripts that she submitted had made it to production and further than that into the Sundance schedule. As I predicted three years earlier, her work wasn’t well received, but it was still her film I was watching on the screen and not my former production company’s film.

The actress/writer/director in question had spent, seven – I repeat seven years, getting that script from paper to screen. And when I say it wasn’t well received, I really, really mean it wasn’t well received. One veteran producer I had breakfast with the day after its debut said and I quote, “I’ve never walked out of a Sundance movie till last evening.”

_______________________________________________________________________

I moved out of New York City during the summer months of 2010 to pursue my graduate studies and re-evaluate how I was going to find my place in this business. In the fall of 2010, I embarked on executive and supervising my first web based series, a concept that mimicked that of Friends and Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and was the brainchild of a Boston filmmaker. I show ran the concept, built the production team, as well as the cast and tried to break the mold by keeping a TV standard for the series, releasing a 24 minute pilot online in late 2011.

I had spent about 9 months promoting the series before its debut. My knowledge and PR skills came in handy as did my social media accounts. The pilot episode at its length received over 24,000 views in just the first week.

But that was it. We only had money for one episode. How on earth were we going to continue this?

I’ll admit I was slightly stubborn at the time. I wanted to present this power and stay firm in my decision to keep the series at television length. It wasn’t until one epiphany in the shower that it really hit me. “Don’t break the mold, follow the status quo – follow the rules.”

We than re-released the series into 5 parts. One “season,” when combined was now the length of a standard TV episode. And for the two years of work that it took us to film two “TV length episodes” I was able to say instead that I produced two seasons of a web series concept, ten episodes in total. The numbers in our new scenario just sound much more impressive. And made me feel slightly accomplished.

The success and buzz over the “Friends-esque” web-series led to the production of several short films that I produced as well as another web-series concept, this one though, was a competition based reality show that was shot and edited in a 7-day turn around period. We had established reality personalities built into the concept but alas did not give the series that much build up regarding our PR efforts and therefore received less views than we had hoped. We also faced the difficulty of having some production restrains. Here we were working less with quality and more with quantity and proof of concept.

This past year at Emerson College I began to wonder about narrative complexity. That little theory based yada yada that formulates why storytelling is effective, how it is structured and as a result resonates with audiences. Narrative complexity theories have since been translated into television and I figure that the same must go for web series content, right?

So, as I begun studying to understand whether or not narrative complexity existed in within web series I discovered a lot more than I expected. Or more correctly, I heard a lot of what I “didn’t want to hear.”

Realizing you made mistakes is never something easy to admit. However, it is important to realize the mistakes and grow, learn and move forward with them.

Looking back on my time working for the NYC based production company, as well as my time producing web-series and short films as well as my time at Sundance (and SXSW and CES and TriBeCa), I’ve learned one thing that I hope to leave you all with:

Be inventive. Embrace innovation. Think outside of the box.

Whether you are producing narrative content or running a small marketing firm. Sure, “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” but I believe that there is an overflow of what is out there these days and even those who are getting praise and recognition are not looking to alternative methods or allowing exploration of “finding the new.”

One thing is for sure if you are like me, interested in spearheading your own projects, take a moment to think about it? How has this been done before? Has it worked? I guarantee you that nothing that has been done under the sun – or made it to Sundance for that fact was simply out of “luck”.

 

 

10 Key Measurement Metrics for Video Marketers (Part 2)

In the first installment of 10 Key Measurement Metrics for Video Marketers, we looked at earned media views, content sharing and subscriber and sign-up conversions.  In this week’s post we’re going to explore three more key video analytics data points for marketers and advertisers: (A) click-through rates (CTRs) and referral traffic, (B) audience retention (view-to-completion), and (C) social conversation.  Let’s dive in.

4. CTRs

Marketers we talk to seem to be split about 50-50 on whether to track CTRs and referral traffic from videos as a campaign metric.  On one hand, it’s worth asking the question of any digital marketer – “why wouldn’t you want to track clicks?” – considering how focused many are on email, call-to-action button and social media post CTRs.  The flip side however, is that measuring referral traffic and CTRs from video tends to be challenging: primary social video hubs like YouTube and Vimeo offer very limited native click-tracking support. In the full-service version of our video A/B testing tool ZoomTilt Analytics, video experiments can be customized to track video click-through-rates for videos where YouTube annotation links have been added.  ZoomTilt Analytics can also estimate and compare CTRs for any type of video by capturing closed-loop audience data, but doing so currently requires additional custom client integration.

Video A/B Testing Software

If you’re not using ZoomTilt Analytics, there are still a few options to track CTRs on your video.  One option is using trackable links (like bit.ly) within YouTube annotations then calculating your CTR manually with bit.ly’s analytics data.  For enterprise customers using Brightcove or Wistia for video hosting, both platforms also offer click and conversion tracking insights on individual video call-to-actions within their respective analytics reporting.

Overall it’s helpful to monitor and A/B test video-specific CTRs, as well as track video referral traffic from YouTube and other content hosting destinations.

5. Audience Retention (View-to-Completion)

Video Audience Completion

One of the best video measurement metrics is, of course, audience retention or the video’s view-to-completion percentage.  The higher the average, absolute percentage, the more engaging, relevant and/or enjoyable the content is to audiences.

What’s a good baseline view-to-completion benchmark for branded video? One data set from Tubemogul indicates that, on average, only 15-25% of skippable online video ads are viewed to completion. In most cases, when viewers are allowed to skip pre-roll, they’ll jump ahead to the content they want to watch.  When video viewers are forced to watch ads, additional data indicates 85-95% view-to-completion rates for long-form videos and 65-70% completion rates for short-form (<5 minute) videos.

Since social video and branded entertainment is clearly the right content strategy in digital video, our view is advertisers should be sure to open their content to choice-based viewership and evaluate content traction with people who can freely skip or share it.  Audience retention rates won’t be as high as forced pre-roll or mid-roll ads, but that’s exactly the point: content marketing should be pull-based because of its value, not push advertising that’s forced into audiences viewing sessions.

When it comes to measuring view-to-completion, we see a new layer of valuable data emerging in demographic and audience-profile-specific retention data, a key feature within ZoomTilt Analytics.  For example, a branded entertainment spot aimed at working mothers might have 100,000 views and an overall view-to-completion rate of 30%.  That’s directionally helpful to a marketer, but it would be great to know what % of those views came from working mothers and what their subsegment-specific audience retention rate was.  Was it higher than the mean? Lower versus the mean? That’s a critical campaign insight that deserves to be tracked.

6. Social Conversation

Another metric we recommend video marketers track is the volume of social conversation around their video (where, at the risk of repetition, it helps to develop content worth talking about). Generally, the best places to track conversation is in comments sections (YouTube, Vimeo, Facebook, blogs where the video has been embedded) and on Twitter.  Generally, our baseline recommendation is to measure three conversation dimensions:

  1. Total number of comments, responses or social mentions for your video or campaign
  2. General sentiment of comments (positive, negative or neutral)
  3. Distribution of comments across owned media properties and other channels (is your content most discussed on your YouTube channel? more popular on Facebook? Why might that be?)

By understanding (and participating) in the dialogue around your video, as a marketer you have another great feedback tool to measure what works or doesn’t work with different audiences. Moreover, by encouraging your viewers to take a follow-up action by including a call-to-action that incentivizes user-generated content responses or conversation, you can help amplify your message and brand experience well beyond your own content.

=======================================================

In next week’s Part 3 we’ll continue our discussion of key measurement metrics for video marketers, looking at viewer sentiment, redemptions and the viewership distribution curve, so stay tuned!

YouTube Creator Academy: Lesson 1 – 3

This week our Manager of Brand and Community Relations, Amy DePaola (also known on Twitter as @TheeAmyDee), dove into her first ever MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) with the YouTube Creator’s Academy.

Amy, who has produced several web based series, including 617 The Series and the second season of The Rookie Bartender, decided to let us in on some of the secrets that only 32,000 YouTubers are partaking in.

In lessons one through three, which were led by Tastemade’s SORTED Food, Amy learned the difference between subscribers and non-subscribers and how they effect “watch time” and “clicks.” Ultimately, it is subscribers who up your channels “watch-time” and the YTCA is divulging insight into how to increase your subscriber base. In fact, in the new welcome module that YouTube deployed, your subscribers and your non-subscribers see two different page set-ups. Non-subscribers are prompted with a welcome teaser video while subscribers are led right into a channel’s playlist and related content. Both of which creator’s can control.

In addition to how to gain subscribers and design/layout, Amy learned about branding, which brought some perspective as to how you should treat your YouTube page. That is if you are serious about making yourself or your creation about a business. Amy has mentioned that this experience has been motivating for her and she would love if you will follow her as she rebuilds her individual YouTube presence.

Can a Social Video Series Save HubSpot $31K?

HubSpot is offering a $30,000 referral bonus for referrals to help them recruit qualified software developers. ZoomTilt offers a social video package priced at $29K. If the use of a widely-shared, demographically-targeted and Hubspot-branded social video series (which we’d be happy to produce) inspires [at least] two great developers to apply to Hubspot, ZoomTilt would save HubSpot $31,000 without blunting the force of their HR-driven PR campaign.

Every company on the cutting edge of technology needs great software developers, right? Hubspot agrees.

Know a great developer? Refer them to HubSpot for $30K!

This common notion has been emphatically reinforced by Inbound Marketing heavyweight HubSpot’s announcement of a $30,000 bounty for a successful developer referral. Hubspot hopes to fill 15 developer jobs through the referral program, meaning there is up to $450K to be claimed by those possessing an extensive developer database. 

Is throwing money in the direction of the problem the best way to attract top developer talent? Generally accepted thought says that monetary compensation is often secondary to developers, who typically care most about things like:

  • Autonomy
  • Environments where they can learn and try new things
  • Creativity in problem solving
  • Building something that matters
  • Excellent management
  • Recognition

Does Hubspot have a culture problem, preventing top talent acquisition? Not from conversations I have had. Two weeks ago, I had the pleasure of talking with three Hubspot developers after an event, all were quick to evangelize Hubspot’s working environment as one of the best in which they had participated.

Hubspot also goes above and beyond to promote great office culture and share culture insights openly. Hubspot’s CultureCode Slideshare garnered over 300,000 views in three weeks after hitting the web.

So why the $30,000 referral bonus? Is there a different way to get the same result?

To answer this question, I reached out to Luis Reyes, video content producer at video game company Nexon. Luis was the creative force behind Nexon’s web series, ‘Testers’, and had this to say about the impact a web series can have on company culture,

“In general, I would say, just having video content that featured the staff, either fictionalized by actors in Testers, or in interviews in Blabber Box (which was our variety show), it helped engage everyone that worked at Nexon. In fact, our Marketing Director from about two years ago sited our video content as one of the reason he wanted to come to Nexon. So I think there is a benefit.

A web series is always good. Its [impact is] two fold. (A) I think that a web series helps put a human face on an industry for a broader audience; and (B) It becomes like defacto entertainment for the current staff, able to articulate the frustrations and emotions of an industry in a way that more blanket entertainment can’t.”

What do you think? Is sharable, entertaining video a valuable recruiting tool internet companies are missing out on? Does spending $29K on a ZoomTilt social video package that results in one qualified developer hire or a developer remaining at Hubspot makes financial sense? What are some other creative solutions to this problem?

10 Reasons No One Watches Your Brand’s Videos

Business Man Game of Thrones Meme

Content-loving customers had better take note, because you just leap-frogged blogging and slide deck-styling all the way making a video for your brand. “Video? Isn’t that the future of marketing and like 60% of all internet traffic?” You’re damn right it is, and now your content marketing prowess is on full display to all your customers and social media followers, not to mention a billion monthly YouTube users. WIN. That’s right internet – we’re uploaded, we’re discoverable and we’re in the game with a titanic 88 views in week one. And people, 88 views is just the beginning, because by week two we’ll be making waves with triple digit viewership, am I right?

It saddens me to say that in ZoomTilt’s line of work, I seem to have this exact same conversation on a weekly basis:

Brand: We want a viral video. None of our videos are getting good viewership and we’re spending a lot of time and money on them.

Me: Well, what kind of videos are you making right now?

Brand: Pretty much all documentary-style testimonial interviews and really slick, artsy, color-corrected videos of beautiful, waif-ish people walking down dim hallways showcasing our product.

Me: Would you consider experimenting and cross-testing different types of video creative? Maybe something more relevant to your target demo that’s funny, or edgy, or surprising? Perhaps with memorable, strongly-defined characters? We can define success metrics and perform deep data-gathering and predictive A/B testing on each one.

Brand: Oh no, no, no. We could never do that. Characters? We’re not GEICO, we don’t have a Gecko… the brand IS the personality. Besides, we can’t be a funny brand or an edgy brand, we’re an elegant, sophisticated, reliable, precision-engineered brand whose experience must translate like a haiku told upon the shore of a placid lake. So what can we do like that that’s going to go pretty viral..?

Stop. Video marketers, 95% of you need to re-think your approach right now, because that one competitor who gets it is smoking your PR and inbound marketing efforts. So let’s cut the small talk and get you started with our field-guide of key video marketing pitfalls to avoid. If you’re making videos for your brand and no one is watching them, here are the ten (10) reasons why:

1. You don’t really know your audience. Knowing who your audience is (say age 35+ working mothers) isn’t the same as knowing their media consumption habits and what content resonates with them – you need to understand both.

Let’s start with a typical customer video from a mainstream, mom-oriented consumer brand:

Ok, darling and highly likable Mom? Check. Solid brand that knows how to do fun video creative? Check (*ahem* Old Spice Guy *ahem*). Video that will inspire anyone to share your message or watch more? Complete miss. Don’t get us wrong, there are great opportunities out there in user-generated content, but why would a mom watch dozens of nearly identical informational testimonials for the same product? And why does Pampers, a globally-recognized diaper brand, feel the need to flood its YouTube channel and crowd out its more premium content with so many different iterations of the same bland, product credibility-builder video that doesn’t create informational or emotional value for their customers? Why would a diaper-buyer watch multiple minutes of this type of video content rather than simply executing a 15 second Google search to quickly skim a credible blog review on the same product? Your customers’ time, convenience and content consumption autonomy are highly relevant to your digital content strategy – respect them.

Now let’s take a look at some of their professional creative:

Strong start here too – who doesn’t love cute, happy babies with bed-head? But ouch, only 6 likes and 3 dislike? What gives?

Well, to summarize the entire campaign message: “if your baby pees or poops itself and doesn’t get changed, it won’t be happy (or have great, disheveled hair) like these happy babies.” What’s new, insightful or interesting about that message, one that more or less restates the same biological principle mothers have known for decades, if not centuries? Sorry Pampers, we already know your diapers are probably a little bit better (and a little bit more expensive) than some of the other brands sitting next to you on the shelf, your single layer of additional protection isn’t boosting brand lift or getting anyone to retweet this.

Want to know who gets motherhood? Fiat gets motherhood:



2. Your content doesn’t create value.

A lot of marketers think successful branded video content needs to have professional, $10,000-per-minute-and-up production quality. It doesn’t. Nor does it even necessarily have to be funny or shocking, although that usually helps. But one thing your content MUST accomplish is value creation for the viewer, which can be either informational value, emotional value or both, like these:



3. Your content generates a low-valence emotional response.

72 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute, so if you make something average it will get skipped and ignored. If you create something on the far end of the spectrum that generates high viewer emotional arousal, audiences will engage with and share your video.

Right (creative) way to make a marketing video for your pizza business:

Wrong (traditional, uncreative) way to make a marketing video for your pizza business:


4. Your video content doesn’t have hooks early and often.

Again, when you create content, your content is competing for attention against an ocean of entertaining video, great music and informative blog articles. You don’t need to perform an epic jump from space like RedBull, but be sure to hook viewers’ attention early and often to avoid drop-off and defection to other content. Nice job Pepsi:


5. Your content has no story arc.

Both of these videos feature heavy men’s business apparel product placements. Which do you think had the better digital campaign return on investment (ROI) and repeat viewer engagement because viewers wanted to know what happens next?

Story:

No story:


6. No one found your great video.

Unfortunately, successful video content marketing isn’t just creating great content, then putting it up on your YouTube page, blog and facebook feed and moving on to the next thing. Videos live and die by discovery, and you need to get a broad audience (and, for that matter, the right audience) looking at your work. I wrote a pretty comprehensive introductory explainer to getting more views on your video here on Quora. Check it out and feel free to leave comments or feedback if it was helpful or you disagree with any of my core points. Whatever you do, don’t make the same mistakes as Cybergeddon.

7. You didn’t test your video(s).

Traditional video content marketing – particularly branded entertainment – can be high-reward, but also moderate risk. Even with significant investment in seeding and paid media, big branded content efforts can crash and burn because the creators missed their audience or couldn’t quite pull it together on execution. At ZoomTilt, our branded entertainment media buying process is closely-integrated with video A/B-testing, so that not only do advertisers get to compare multiple creative variations based on the same brief or campaign objective, but they can also make data-driven predictions about targeted audience engagement and content virality prior to committing their full production spend. Test your videos, don’t just pull the trigger on a $300,000 media buy because your 24 year old intern down the hall who wears skinny jeans thinks they’re epic.

8. You’re not amplifying or complementing the conversation.

During prime time, up to 60% of the conversation happening on Twitter can be related to TV. Yes, successful TV shows can create global hashtags in real time. While digital isn’t at that scale and more fragmented, it’s also not as ephemeral here-and-gone as a TV ad, and that’s a big opportunity for marketers to capitalize on. Create companion content, connect your videos to product promotions or product launches, integrate hashtags and then measure it all. Entertaining storytelling is a huge catalyst for social media activity and engagement, so don’t silo your videos from your overall social media marketing efforts.

9. You’re missing the long tail.

Just like search engine optimization (SEO), strategically targeting the long tail (and long tail keywords in your video title, text description and metadata) can pay off big, particularly when your video has little relevant competition but really strikes a chord with a spirited niche. Get it right, and next thing you know your content gets picked up on Mashable and your sales go through the roof. Just ask the OraBrush guys:


10. You’re the 1,000th brand to hop on a content-competitive trend.

Don’t go head-to-head on replica content with Fortune 500 marketing giants (unless you yourself are a Fortune 500 marketing giant) if you can’t bring something really new, fresh and novel to the table:

This wins (#JeffGordonisonFire):

This doesn’t (#sorryHubspot):


The difference a little creativity and the scale of your audience reach [a solid celebrity cameo that doesn't bust your budget usually doesn't hurt either] collectively make on the success of your content cannot be understated.

Now let’s go out there and make successful branded videos people love.