Monday, July 23, 2007
HEY, KEVIN REILLY!
Kevin Reilly (KR) has just started managing programming at FOX as entertainment president .
On The LOT (OTL), the (potentially) best summer show on FOX, is languishing in the ratings; and the (potentially) valuable web site thelot.com is shooting itself in the foot, preventing itself from becoming an established destination site for filmmakers.
That’s two projects just crying for some TLC, some attention and some fixing, with a large upside possible, really quickly.
Here’s my memo to KR:
On The Lot (OTL) has a great concept: New directors competing their hearts out for a $$$ Million dollar deal with Dreamworks, making short films (like those that get gazillions of hits on YouTube).
And three problems:
1 – Short films are not by themselves an audience draw – only certain kinds of films get lots of play on YouTube, and that’s not the kind of films these directors have been making -- the filmmakers have limited time and some constraints that make the films fair to middlin, at best, and not the kind that get the webonomic eyeballs.
2 – The “judging” is lackluster, the show format has little originality (it was terrible and completely derivative for a while, but it has improved to mediocrity). And the previews before each film are wrongly conceived – they don’t help the film, or hype the contest, and in some cases even contain “spoilers” that defang the films before they’re shown.
3 – There’s no publicity anymore. (There were a lot of billboards – and not much else -- when the show started.)
To fix these problems:
1 – Apply some muscle to up the energy on the show: Make the candidates into star personalities. Improve the preview films. Get the actors talking about the films. Explore the magic of filmmaking. Use rehearsals to get the judges to be more precise both in their praise and criticism. Ditch the phony boos from the audience when a judge criticizes – that’s been done to death on Idol. Set it up so the contestants can explain and defend their films, so they sound strong, intelligent and opinionated, and not defensive and argumentative.
2 – Improve the films themselves. Sprinkle in some name talent. Get the candidates working now on the films for the semi-finals and the finals, so they can be as good as possible: pre-production and script development can start on the final films, even while films are being made for the early rounds. (Some candidates will not get to make these semi-final and final films of course.) Encourage the film makers to write and direct films that are different, personal, edgy, interesting and controversial in some way, not bland and careful.
3 – Business, Show Business, and filmmaking in particular, live and die with publicity. Even feature films need lots of promotion to get viewers. With the show itself improved, and the short films improved, (and the weaker directors out of the competition), hype the remaining shows. Get the audience back. Create publicity for the contestants. Make the directors into stars. Create publicity to make the the films “important” so that people will come to watch something important happen. It can be done. The ratings are way down, which means there is a lot of room to go up!
The website is very well designed, and very rich, but very badly executed.
There are forums, blogs, lots of short films, classified ads, a gallery of actors, profiles of filmmakers and actors, contests, news of the show, news of filmmaking, all well organized with front page promos and clear tabs. And there are many more features, too...
- ? There’s not enough real news about the show – the producers are absent from the website; news often comes from other sites copied to a board post by a user.
- ? Information on the site is often wrong. One week, the next show (actually coming on Monday) was said to be coming on Tuesday for the entire week before.
- ? In fact, at this moment the home page says, “Two contestants will be voted off and five new contestant film premieres!” Five? There are supposed to be six. Is that an error? Or did something happen?
- ? Either they should fix the error, or discuss the change.
- ? The search function is terribly incomplete.
- ? There is no list of posts, no search of blogs.
- ? There is no useful search function to go along with actors’ pictures.
- ? Online voting has not worked well at all.
- ? Posting classified ads hasn’t worked well.
- ? And many more issues.
At one point there were more than 100,000 people on the site (according to the sitemeter), now it barely gets to 35,000. At one point there was a lot of activity on the boards (a lot of it expressing frustration -- a sign of a passionate fan base that isn't getting what it needs), now there is only a little. The traffic and the excitement is there, and it can be brought back with a well-run site.
Fixing all the problems on the website, and adding a few more functions to appeal to people serious about film, and other functions for film fans, could make this one of the most valuable web properties on the Internet, for FOX/BURNETT/DREAMWORKS, film fans, and filmmakers.
The thread “HELP IMPROVE THE SHOW” has over two hundred posts. Kevin, you can HELP more than anyone else!