Which Medium is The Best For Filmmakers: Cinema, Television or the Internet

As part of the independent filmmakers’ society we always dream about participating in a big budget Hollywood-like production made for the big screen. Unfortunately, it’s not the typical case for many of us.

However, do we really need to produce content only for the big screen? How do we know which medium would work at best for us? Cinema, Television or the Internet?

Here is a great excerpt from a blog post produced by wolfcrow.com‘s creator and author Sareesh Sudhakaran where he explains some of the variables on the topic that  are important according to him:

  • Eyeballs – Which medium will generate the most eyeballs? Which medium is ubiquitous and can reach all corners of the earth?
  • Money – Which medium offers the greatest return on investment? Which medium offers the most advertising revenues? Which is the most sustainable business model?
  • Failure threshold – Which medium is the most resistant to failure? In other words, can you test a product and improve it as you go along? E.g., you can write a play, have a rehearsal and keep making it better. Movies don’t allow that unless you’ve already shot enough footage. Therefore, the market should be tolerant of failure, and your business must be able to sustain a few without going bankrupt.
  • Threats – Which medium is the best for long-term archivability and data retrieval? Which medium is in danger of becoming extinct itself, by nature of the technologies used?
  • Pain – Which medium offers the most painless and fastest ‘find and watch’ experience?
  • Opportunities – Which medium offers to support every type of film and video making out there? Which is the most democratic? Which has the least barriers to entry?
  • Scalability – Which medium can become automated, diversified and involve more individuals?

Knowing the answers to these variables should tell us which medium is the ‘best’ for us and our own business.

Further, if a medium is wanted by most of the population and they are willing to pay good money for it, and it is sustainable, then that’s the medium for the profit-minded filmmaker. Let’s take a look at the chart below:


Television is watched by 96% of the US population. Cinema viewership is way lower, though not a small number by any means.

However, the actual numbers of Youtube viewers combined with the Netflix users are almost equal to the number of people who watch television annually. The Youtube viewers worldwide potential equals to the astounding 1,000,000,000 people. That’s 1 Billion! 

Those are great reasons to take a close look at the following case study. Imagine that you produce an independent feature film with a very limited budget, in the $10,000-25,000 price range for instance. Probably, you would shoot a lot of behind the scenes material during the making,  you would take interviews of your lead actors, you would join social media and try to generate a fan base etc.

After you finish your project you could sell the product to your audience offering your content in different price packages. If you sell your film for a $10-15 for a single digital download to 10 000+ people your gross would be more than $ 150 000 at least. And, this in not a hypothetical situation. There are many examples of filmmakers who have succeeded in a common case scenarios.

Indie Game: The Movie – Special Edition Trailer from IndieGame: The Movie on Vimeo.

Take a look at the creators of Indie Game: The Movie Lisanne Pajot & James Swirsky for example. A month before they release their feature-length documentary on the Internet, they recouped more than $150 000 from preorders only. Make sure you check Indie Game: The Movie The Case Study where both filmmakers explain the whole process of creating the film and how did they manage to pull it off.

In this example we suggest you have fan base of 10, 000 people at least. 10,000 people out of 1,000,000, 000 potential worldwide viewers is definitely an attainable goal. You can calculate on your own the ROI and the time to recoup your investment.

Internet is infinitely scalable, and is only limited by the number of humans and the hours they watch content online. You can collaborate with any person on the earth, and offer programming to any market. Anybody can start making and publishing videos online, and can also directly monetize their projects.

If you’re a filmmaker looking for the widest possible audience, and a future potential to monetize your business, Internet video or distribution your content online, is where you should be focusing. Cinema is the riskiest business model of them all.

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