The New Zealand Genre Content Network
genrenz is the beginning of something – the precursor to an in development website genre.net.nz whose aim is to become a hub for New Zealand based creators of genre media and fiction to post what they are developing, make available their prior works, and most importantly connect the fans of the work they are making with the work of their fellow NZ genre content creators.
Warning – this is a bit of a read – I’ll do a concise elevator pitch version later when genre.net.nz is closer to launch – for now consider this me thinking out loud (that’s what a blog is for, right?).
The idea is this:
As genre content creators in New Zealand, especially those starting out, we have an opportunity but we face a problem:
The opportunity is this:
We know who our audience are right at the beginning of a project – our pre existing audience is fans of that genre. Knowing your audience is our advantage, one that comes when you appreciate that genres aren’t just a classification, but a cultural short hand that can allow us to bring people with similar interests and sensibilities together.
The problem is this:
To turn that rough knowledge of fans into ticket sales, youtube views, e-book purchases or app downloads those genre fans need to be made aware of your work and kept up to date with it persistently – they need to be marketed to and engaged in the process even when you are too busy doing the work they’ll eventually want to watch/read/play.
Traditionally, this has been done with media saturation leading up to release- just ask Hollywood, they are really good at this. In fact they are so good at it, that with our small budgets and limited resources in New Zealand, they can very easily drown us out. They are persistent, they are marketing to us all the time, they currently do drown us out – but we can do better at standing out to New Zealanders if we watch each others backs.
One answer could be legislation, if you are the political sort then feel free to email me about that. Hollywood is great at lobbying our government, (see Section 92A) maybe we should get better at lobbying back. But politics is not what genre.net.nz is about.
One answer would appear to be the internet – make your work, put it online – where anyone in the world can see it with just a click – and build your own exposure. This is part of the answer, but it’s not the whole answer.
Because it’s hard to both make the work AND market it well, even if you are giving your work away freely online.
Because making content and marketing it is two different disciplines.
Despite this I am happy to see that determined New Zealand content creators are doing their best to do both. They are doing their best to make and market at the same time. But I see flaws, and waste, and I think we can fix that.
Currently, NZ content creators can build a local fan base for their cool genre project, and maybe it even goes a little viral or gets some press and they have friends of friends of friends looking at it on Facebook. Maybe a few thousand, or tens or even hundreds of thousands of people view their work and everyone is really excited and maybe they even then raise some funds to get onto the next thing – so they get stuck into that and meanwhile… their fan base evaporates.
The fans disappear not because they don’t love the work, because the content creators have changed, but because making stuff takes time and it’s hard to make work and develop ideas and market them at the same time and other people are doing cool stuff and the website/blog/facebook page you made for your project has become badly out of date and… Well… there is no persistency of experience for the fans. And, being in New Zealand, there are no studios, or publishers with big marketing dollars, or giant media corporations to constantly remind the fans of that creator and their works existence. No money for publicists to push work out to reporters on a regular basis to do articles – none of that, there are just us creators trying to make our work and get it out there.
And the worse thing is, the same thing happened to that other great project that you heard about happening in Christchurch, or Dunedin or where ever. They couldn’t keep the fan base up and make the work at the same time. Which means either they end up with a great work or no fans, or they keep up the fans while putting off the work (which begs the question why have fans in the first place?)
If a creator never reaches the critical mass of fans required to make the fan base sustain itself until the next thing is released, then it is much harder to market the next thing. It’s why name brand content creators exist these days (Think J.J Abrams or Judd Apatow, or even bigger like Spielberg and Lucas), because studios found they could more reliably predict the chances of future films if they sell the directors and producers like they sell stars.
Without cross project support and marketing, a creator might make slow incremental gains from one project to the next – but it can easily be like starting from scratch every time. Reinventing the wheel.
But – if you let your fans know about these other guys doing this great work in the same genre, and then when your work is about to be released, they let their fans know your work in the same genre was coming out, maybe the fans of both creators would help sustain each other. Maybe they wouldn’t evaporate onto the next thing, because there was a big enough pool of content, in one place, for them to attach themselves to and get updated info – a pool of content and information that matches the sort of content they like, with the sort of people making that content, who are in or from (or maybe even just love) New Zealand.
Creating that pool of content and information is what genre.net.nz is about. It’s about creating a space for genre content creators to let their fans know not just about their great projects, but to also come across other great content from like minded genre content creators from New Zealand.
As this project develops I’ll be posting more on this – You know, little things like details on how this will work – in the meantime if you have any questions you are dying to ask or want to know how to contribute to this crazy scheme you can email me.
Now, you may be wondering why just creators from New Zealand – why not an international site with the same intention for everyone? After all this the internet, we are all connected these days.
My answer is, because I love New Zealand. I also, think most content creators from here, whether still living here or not, also love New Zealand – and while I could get into a discussion about patriotism and its pros and cons in an increasingly global world all I am really looking to do is to get to live – at least some of the time – in this amazing spot between the Pacific and the Tasman that I call home. And while living here I’d hope I’d get to both make some of the work I want to make in the genres I love and share them with other New Zealanders as well as the world, and that other New Zealanders have the same opportunity to do so – and I don’t want to have to spend 10 years overseas first to get that chance.
Also, I don’t want to have to ask “Is it New Zealand enough?” before I try and make something – I just want to ask “Will enough other people enjoy this?” and have my understanding of audiences tastes, and a little bit of genre knowledge, help provide that answer.
I must also explain that it is not the mission of genre.net.nz criticize the fact that incumbent policy setters and funding agencies have either a mandate or simply an inclination to support content that I would describe as inward looking – i.e. content made by New Zealanders for New Zealanders about New Zealand, because certainly in film and tv, such work is currently being paid for by the New Zealand tax payer/lotto player, so that New Zealand has a way to talk about itself in narrative form without getting drowned out by our louder, larger cultural neighbours.
In my view it is great that as a society we do that. I often want to be part of telling those stories – and am fortunate enough to have been part of telling those stories on a couple of occasions – and I will continue to be grateful for those opportunities. But I also often want to look outward, out into dreams or fantasies or dark places – maybe a mythological London or an alternate reality New York or a world that doesn’t even exist – and tell stories set there about imaginary people who live there who are nothing like New Zealanders – even though I don’t choose to live in their real world equivalents (or in Los Angeles, which is great at telling stories about other imaginary places maybe because as a place it seems to have no real world equivalent, not even itself.)
I think New Zealanders want to experience those stories too. In fact I know they do because they shell out hard earned dollars on a regular basis to get stories set in those places and more, they just weren’t conceived or made here all that often, and that’s something I think we can start to change.
Let’s see if we can help minimize some of the very practical issues such an audience has in regularly finding and enjoying the content that we want to make, and whether they, in turn, will prove to be a loyal audience that wants to help us make that content by being our patrons and fans.
Finally (and special congratulations and thanks for having read this far):
By being New Zealand creator centric, we can hopefully build a team and network of people who can take all this internationally appealing, outward looking content, and then collectively get it out there to the rest of the world in a major way. Not in dribs and drabs, not as the littlest of fish with no bargaining power – but as serious content creators with libraries of work and cross platform content creation skills who have what the rest of the world thirsts for – good stories that relate to something they already know, yet from a unique and different perspective. (Actual stories, not reality TV – if we’re already responsible for Pop Stars thus Pop Idol thus American Idol do we really need to make it worse?)
L.A. does this already (although lately they have given up on the unique and different bit), New York does this already, London does this already. All NZ content creators undoubtedly think about moving to one of those places at some point, because of the perception that those are the places where these things happen.
Well, technology is giving us the tools to both create and market our content in the same ways from New Zealand, what we need is a pool of people with the talent, drive, determination and collective networking ability to say we can do this here as well, and not make us move over there one by one to get assimilated into their talent pool and their way of thinking.
But we have to get kiwis to become fans of our genre content first, because if we can’t take steps to break Los Angeles’, New York’s and London’s strangle hold on media in our own backyard – then we probably all do need to move to those places permanently. And I’d hate that to be the case.
From my point of view the NZ music industry has had a good crack at it – New Zealand Music month, significant kiwi content airplay, and the creation of acts that kiwi’s and international audiences like. As NZ content creators we should strive to do the same.
So that, in about as many words as I could have possibly used, is what genre.net.nz will be about.