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Australians go viral

Overview: So what is the cost of creating an online series or video?

"Technology is the ultimate equaliser.”

This line from SBS Viceland Manager John Beohm couldn’t be truer for people wanting to get their foot in the film and television industry. In Australia in 2017, you can theoretically get by with the basics of a smartphone, an internet connection and a good idea. You don’t need to have the money to hire cameras and lights – you might later on, but not to get started.

However, the idea of just filming something, throwing it online and having an overnight hit can also be misleading in its simplicity. For many who have carved out a career that began online, it wasn’t as easy as that.

So what is the cost of creating an online series or video? In #1 of the Australians Go Viral series, we will explore this through two case studies. In #2, we will look at some of the business strategies of different online content creators and in #3 we will speak to the broadcasters and companies who support and commission this content to understand what they’re looking for.

The purpose is to show emerging content creators what it costs to make an online series – yes, in hard cash, but also in time and personal expense. Because keep in mind these budgets don’t show the time spent writing the series, organising costumes, finding locations. Even those that revealed they were paid for writing, often put in more hours to finesse it than were on the books.

A number of producers declined to share the budgets of their projects. For some, it was because they were not able to reveal the amount of support provided outside of Screen Australia funding. However for many, it was because these small-budget projects suggest online filmmakers can continue to make content for very little money, which is unsustainable. The budgets for online content are not often reflective of the true cost, which is often partially or all self-funded, or wrapped up in other deals that help with equipment hire, post-production or locations.

Utmost thanks to writer / director / producer Julie Kalceff and actor / producer Rosie Lourde of Starting From Now, and writer / director / producer / co-star Shae-Lee Shackleford of female comedy trio SketchShe for sharing their budgets – and their experiences both good and bad – for #1.