In this exclusive interview, Storm Surfers 3D Producer Marcus Gillezeau reveals his successful strategy in raising finance and making a return on 3D.
Storm Surfers as a brand, consists of a 3D movie, a four part 3D TV series, an interactive eBook, a game, a series of 3D webisodes and an album soundtrack. Two previous 2D Storm Surfers movies were sold to over 100 countries and territories and, since its release on August 14th, Storm Surfers 3D – The Movie, has become the eighth highest grossing local feature documentary of all time.
It documents the journey of two best friends (tow-surfing veteran Ross Clarke-Jones and two-time world surfing champion Tom Carroll,) searching for epic waves that have never been surfed before. In the movie, they find a wave 50 miles off the western Australian coast in the Indian ocean and 3D cameras follow them on their exhibition.
Gillezeau produced the project with life partner Ellenor Cox who, together, won an International Digital Emmy in the best fiction category for telemovie Scorched in early-2009.
Fulcrum Media Finance were the first to lend money to the project – a film and television finance company. This was followed by in investment from Delux. After a pre-sale from 3net, Red Bull owned satellite channel Servus TV pre-bought the show and extra funds came from Australian government agencies Screen NSW and Screen Australia, as Storm Surfers was positioned as a cultural rather than sports series.
The movie was and still is the most important and lucrative property in the Storm Surfers portfolio according to Gillezeau: “The primary property is a movie and that is what we set out to make, but when we were raising the finance, 3net came along and said they wanted a four part series so we managed to spin off a series at the same time we were making the movie.”
For both website marketing and revenue generation purposes, short high production value 3D webisodes support the brand. The quirky clips consist of various ‘how tos’ such as how to survive a wipe-out on a 40 foot wave or how to turn your best friend into a 30 foot monster surf.
They are available as paid-for content on Samsung and LG 3DTVs via the Yabazam platform and for free on the OTT 3D Experience platform on Sony 3D TVs but mobile is next on the horizon: “We are now talking to a bunch of people about the mobile distribution of those and we see the 3D autostereoscopic devices as a really great way of distributing those. That’s the primary platform we produced them for and these will be charged for.” Said Gillezeau.
We were interested to know why Storm Surfers has proven to be such a success. We recently interviewed John Grimshaw, Independent filmmaker and editor of Sawdust, who unsuccessfully tried to raise finance for a pilot via a Kickstarter campaign, after struggling to raise capital from 3D networks.
For Gillezeua, it was about timing and track record: “For the TV series it was definitely the right place right time. We came in at a time when Tom Cosgrove was launching 3net. We had already made two Storm Surfers films for Discovery so that gave them some surety. If we went out today it would be a lot harder to raise money for the TV series but keep in mind when we put the finance together, the TV series only comprised of a portion of our finance. We raised the finance as a movie and we were fortunate to be able to supplement the budget with TV finance.”
Pre-sales were also a key strategy for the 3D episodes and Sky 3D committed to the series as a pre-sale, despite a struggle to sell the first two Storm Surfers movies in the UK.
“Presales for a television network are a license. They are an investment on the part of the network but they are not an investment on the property itself. They make their money back from selling advertising or VOD rights etc but when I go to sell the TV series in other territories they are not shareholders in that property. That’s beneficial because if you have significant pre-sale finance, it puts you in a really good position as a producer.”
<<NEVER MISS ANOTHER 3D NEWS STORY. SIGN UP TO THE FREE 3D FOCUS WEEKLY E-LETTER VIA THE SIGN UP BOX ON THE RIGHT SIDE BAR>>
He continued: “In terms of 3D, clearly we have an advantage with our investors in that we are able to sell the show to the various 3D outlets and we are able to release it as a 3D movie. In a lot of territories, releasing it as a 3D movie makes a lot of sense. Then the two properties the film and TV series have a whole life as a 2D property. We started with a fantastic set of characters and a great story – that was the first thing we started with. When we added to that big wave surfing, awesome locations and ‘oh by the way – we are going to do it all in 3D’ it was a no brainer.”
Referring to Sawdust, Gillezeau suggests two approaches: “TV drama costs a lot in 2D. It’s tough to finance a drama series in any territory in 2D with the existing networks. I think to try and finance a TV drama series in 3D you would first go out and raise the finance as a 2D series and then find additional budget from 3D networks to be able to shoot in 3D and post produce in 3D. You could also try and go out there and make a 3D movie because you have your 3D theatrical rights and even if you do like we have done in Australia, with a limited theatrical release and a tour style exhibition, you still have a bunch of downstream rights including 3D TV, 2D TV and your standard 2D VOD rights. But with 3D, VOD is by far the best way to deliver it but you also need the marketing. One of the things here that has been a little bit missed is people knowing 3D on TV even exists. Certainly in America, a lot of people are not aware they can actually watch 3D television on their 3D TVs.”
3D rights are sold separately like VOD or mobile rights, but producers should not expect high license fees for such rights when the audience for 3D TV is so small. They are separated because the income is not enough for a channel to purchase the 2D rights as well, unless a broadcaster operates both a 2D and 3D channel and plans to simulcast.
Looking to the future, Gillezeau is still keen to pursue the 3D option “We are definitely planning another storm surfers film and we will definitely do it in 3D. We will probably do it as a movie first and foremost but we will be looking for those pre-sales for the movie with those TV networks that are 3D.”
FREE WEEKLY 3D NEWS BULLETIN – SUBSCRIBEFollow @3dfocuslive