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My First Job in Film: What is digital content

What is digital content?

In its broadest term, digital content refers to data (video, written, information) that can be viewed on a digital platform. Within the spectrum of filmmaking, digital content refers to the variety of film or video content generated for specific online use. Free digital content can be accessed by anyone with a computer, tablet or mobile phone. YouTube and the television networks all have online outlets that can be viewed for free and streamed as real time or downloads. There are also online subscription services that provide access to a host of films and television programs for a nominal payment each month.

This has become such a popular way to view content that Amazon and Netflix now output their own productions, attracting talent from the film and television industry to work on their original content. Amazon’s Amazon Studios operate their film and original series development, with filmmakers from around the globe contributing ideas in the hope of a development deal. Amazon operates an open door policy with the aim of providing feedback in 45 days; anyone can apply. Their shows such as Man in the High Castle, Transparent and Mozart in the Jungle have received critical praise, and viewing figures some broadcast stations could be envious of. Netflix original series Orange is the new Black, and House of Cards have also been lauded as compelling original productions, attracting A-list talent on both sides of the camera.

The meteoric rise of branded content and content marketing has seen a significant shift in the work of the creative agencies and corporate production companies. Companies realised they could reach out to their customers in a personal and engaging way using online commercials and content created specifically for their market. Video content creators are in high demand, primarily produced by corporate and commercials companies who understand the how to output a message using creative media, new start-ups are entering the marketplace regularly and the trend has shown no sign of slowing down. The Dollar Shave Club is an example of one of the most effective forms of a film for content marketing to date, their ‘advert’ going viral with 4.7 million views in the first three months from shares on social media. After 48 hours on YouTube, the company had 12,000 new subscribers, which crashed their servers and had them advertising for a logistic manager. Alongside a few adverts on Google, this was the only marketing output costing $4,500.

The concept of webisodes, or if you are using your phone to access - mobisodes, started in 1995. They refer to a repeated web series as an alternative to TV, featuring A-list talent (producing similar content with a significant reduction in cost) and by brands who seek to engage their consumer base through active web content and social media. YouTube has been the natural home for webisodes, Steve Coogan's Mid-morning Matters, Mike O’Brian's 7 minutes of Heaven and Jerry Seinfield's Comedians in cars getting coffee, have all been immensely successful web series, producing multiple episodes of only 4 - 7 minutes in length.  

Who makes digital content

Digital content is made by a host of companies such as corporate video companies, broadcasters, independent production companies, some commercial enterprises and newly formed start-ups. Online subscription VOD companies such as Amazon, Hulu and Netflix make their own original drama.

how much does digital content cost to make?

Overheads for digital content are relatively low compared to other mediums in the creative industries. Due to the change in technology and relatively cheap to buy/hire camera equipment you can make filmic, high-quality productions without employing a full film crew. The drama series output by the VOD companies operate on another level; House of Cards reportedly cost over $100 million for 13 episodes.

What crew is involved?

See feature films when looking for crew on original VOD drama series. Drama being produced in this capacity is treated very much like a TV drama, or a feature film. Previous to the rise of online programming, TV drama in the UK and US began to attract a host of A-list talent to the small screen. Scripts and series have evolved, and the long run of work gave actors a chance to explore their characters over years, rather than months.  

If working for a production company producing a web series, the crew become more refined as the budget will not be as sizeable as the VOD companies

Who hires the crew?

Currently, the VOD studios are based in the US, but they do have publicity branches in the UK.  Production managers at production companies are the most likely people to hire when crewing up for specific productions. If you are looking for office junior positions look for the office manager at larger companies.

Images from The Man in the High Castle © Amazon Studios