Author’s note: This article published 2015.
Grant Dixon, a documentary producer and Baptist church member, sees the coming decade of broadcasting on internet as similar to the first few years of NZ on Air. Then, when broadcasting was all new, there was an opportunity for newbies to get in on the bottom floor. When TV3 began, they were willing to take risks to break the TVNZ stranglehold.
According to Dixon, the internet is now in a similar wild-west time.
A newbie producer could try working with the new gatekeepers—iTunes, Vimeo, Netflix, Apple TV and television manufacturers who control the movie apps that come pre-installed—but, this being a wild-west time, they could go it alone and breakthrough the clutter. “These are interesting times and a great time for young film makers to get involved as long as they can stump up the [required] money and don’t mind not being paid for long stretches of time,” Mr. Dixon said.
A producer must first set-up a well-designed website with good product aimed at a target niche audience. He must get good media coverage along with well targeted low cost advertising. At that point, there is an opportunity to breakthrough, grow sales and make money, particularity if you are selling to an international audience.
The potential internet audience may be comprised of up to three billion people, according to some recorded numbers. “We speak the dominate language, English, so even a niche audience can be sizeable and profitable,” said Dixon. “There are two keys, a product people want to view and a way of breaking through the clutter to build your audience.”
It is comparatively inexpensive to produce television programs and they are getting cheaper. Broadcast quality editing equipment and Hollywood standard camera gear can be purchased for $10,000.
But are there really great opportunities for television producers on the web?
“They all have the same problem – profile. How do you get people to know you exist, then search for your site, then sign-up, and then pay money? Many will get burnt trying to answer that question. Companies are now taking a punt with internet only television channels springing up.”
Audience does matter. He challenges young video makers to find a niche and build on it. “That’s where I’d point young video makers today. At the end of the day you make product for a particular audience and that’s pretty much it.”
In terms of producing Christian content in a secular world, it also depends on audience.
Mr. Dixon thinks there will always be a divide between Christian and secular, “either imposed on us by the secular media, or imposed by ourselves when we end up preaching to the converted.”
His own Christian documentary wasn’t picked up by any secular film festivals. Meanwhile the documentary received a very good reception on Shine TV and it got a mention in the Florida Christian Festival. “I suppose the secular festivals would say it didn’t meet their very high standards, but at the end of the day their public needs to want to see it too. I can understand why they wouldn’t want to take a risk [with a Christian product].”
Film producer Grant Bradley is an example of a Christian making a good career in a secular film industry, but this sometimes also means compromises along the way.
At the present time, channels are still forming on the internet. The story itself will often determine whether there will be a divide or not, as You Tube channels don’t filter content.
Mr. Dixon’s choice of secular subjects is motivated by love for neighbor. His 1996 earthquake documentary 10 minute recut went “viral” on You Tube. Then it was picked up by television and radio, which pushed it to 124,000 views.
He could have made money from it. “If I’d thought about it beforehand, I could now have a steady income from YouTube royalties and return visits by loyal followers. My numbers were better than many current broadcast television shows. “
The documentary was originally longer and made through his own production company, Dixon Productions, which operated from 1990-2001.It was broadcast on TV3.
He has resigned from his day job to devote his whole time to making documentaries.
Published 2015, faces.org.nz