Postmortem: Big Idea Productions (Veggie Tales): What really happened...

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Old 02 February 2013   #31
Why would he even keep those producers and marketing team? The more I read the more I found Phil annoying. Ridiculous quote from the producer over and over and over and over and yet he kept them on the team to spend his money. Why?
 
Old 02 February 2013   #32
Let's all be honest here. He chipped on God and rolled snake-eyes. As many pointed out, business is no place for faith or creativity.


Which, is unfortunate because I quite liked the VT movies. :P
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Old 02 February 2013   #33
Wink

Originally Posted by CGIPadawan: There definitely was something different in B-grade film making when you consider that B-grade in the 80's included stuff like "The Wraith" and (to some extent) James Cameron's "The Terminator" and "Battle Beyond the Stars".


And Evil Dead!

I wonder how the remake will end up being.
 
Old 02 February 2013   #34
Originally Posted by CGIPadawan: There definitely was something different in B-grade film making when you consider that B-grade in the 80's included stuff like "The Wraith" and (to some extent) James Cameron's "The Terminator" and "Battle Beyond the Stars".

It also helps that back in the day producers of B films
like Roger Corman had an incredible eye for talent.

From wikipedia
"Corman has been a mentor to young film directors including Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, Ron Howard, Peter Bogdanovich, Jonathan Demme, James Cameron, Curtis Hanson, John Sayles, and many others. He has also helped launch the careers of actors including Jack Nicholson, William Shatner, Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Talia Shire and Robert De Niro."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roger_Corman

the guy was and is cheap, but he knows how to spot talent.
He has famously been quoted stating that he has never lost money on a film.
Hell his bio is titled:
How I Made a Hundred Movies in Hollywood and Never Lost a Dime

And he also helped develop cool IP
Like Death race, Little Shop of Horrors and Piranha
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Old 02 February 2013   #35
Originally Posted by CGIPadawan: Or maybe they do have a basement.. where they are in fact pirating other movies? *Ka-Ching!*

I know of a few animation studios in Japan (surprisingly high-profile AAA ones) that retain a second identity making pornography.... That one explains their ability to survive.


WHO would... ahem... ever do such a thing?!

Asylum keeps going because they make their movies fast and cheap. It is almost impossible to lose money on the SyFy movie level. Also these movies sell for nickels and dimes all over the world TV and DVD market. People (well broadcasters and publishers anyway) are hungry for cheap, simple shoot 'em up, or monster eat 'em up movies.

Some German TV channel may only pay $20,000 for that kind of film. DO that in every major market, though, and you can see how easy it is to make your money back. Of course, when I say easy I mean for a businessman like my boss, when I worked on that stuff. The guy knew how to wheel and deal!
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Old 02 February 2013   #36
Originally Posted by AangtheAvatar: Can you tell us a little more in dollars and cents about the Japanese market vs the market you are in now? Was it all that differant?


That's easy. In Japan you can put a single, half hour, 2D cartoon on a DVD, sell it for $75 bucks a pop, and thousands will happily buy it. You can sell the digital download for $40 bucks and people will still happily buy it. In the US, people complain that a half hour cartoon is $1.99 on iTunes.

M Dot Strange is selling his feature length movie for $5. How many has he sold? In Japan he would probably be rich now.

Originally Posted by AangtheAvatar: I've searched every interview and read everything I can about the Asylum. Basically the key to their success is make a lot of movies, make them fast, ride the coat tails of big budget marketing, hire a has-been actor and keep the movies cheap. Most of their movies are 250,000K and down.


SyFy alone pays a lot more than that for the films they buy. Sell to every little channel in every English speaking territory around the world and you literally can't lose.
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Old 02 February 2013   #37
Originally Posted by teruchan: That's easy. In Japan you can put a single, half hour, 2D cartoon on a DVD, sell it for $75 bucks a pop, and thousands will happily buy it. You can sell the digital download for $40 bucks and people will still happily buy it. In the US, people complain that a half hour cartoon is $1.99 on iTunes.

M Dot Strange is selling his feature length movie for $5. How many has he sold? In Japan he would probably be rich now.

SyFy alone pays a lot more than that for the films they buy. Sell to every little channel in every English speaking territory around the world and you literally can't lose.


Yep.... all it needs is a small dab of that secret sauce .

And it's not just in animation. There's that "Metal Hurlant" live action show with the same thing.
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Old 02 February 2013   #38
Originally Posted by CGIPadawan: There definitely was something different in B-grade film making when you consider that B-grade in the 80's included stuff like "The Wraith" and (to some extent) James Cameron's "The Terminator" and "Battle Beyond the Stars".


As a general definition a B movie can include any of those. George Lucas once described the Godfather as a B movie story dressed up as an A movie.

When it comes to limitations on budget and professional skill, then a B movie can be separated from a Z movie. Plan Nine From Outer Space or the Beast of Yucca Flats would be considered Z movies.

I have a questionnaire running on a private cinephile forum asking if they feel there are any Asylum/Sy Fy movies that are somewhere in the New World (Battle Beyond the Stars), Cannon, Empire (Re-Animator) sphere or significantly lesser in quality--my quality benchmark is Dracula vs Frankenstein--truly dreadful film with no redeeming values except perhaps that the Dracula was better than the rugby player version in Blade 3.

Right now the only two Asylum films that are getting positive marks are 100 Feet and When A Killer Calls and some people couldnt believe the first was put out by the Asylum given that it was deemed higher quality than the rest of their catalog. Other Sy Fy made movies got a better reception than the Asylum but no specifics were given yet.

I have only seen one Sy Fy movie--Bloodsuckers and it was definitely a Z movie (but unlike Plan 9 it doesnt have much entertainment value).

If the quality standard could be boosted I wouldnt mind working on such a low budget film though. In theory it seems like a good income stream if one could set up the business properly and economize.


Bloodsuckers space ship set looked like a kindergarten cafeteria.
If the story was better made with more interesting characters maybe it wouldnt have mattered so much. Even the alien planet was just a regular forest.
Its all coming back to me now--I wish it wasnt.

Last edited by kelgy : 02 February 2013 at 01:55 AM.
 
Old 02 February 2013   #39
Originally Posted by kelgy:
Right now the only two Asylum films that are getting positive marks are 100 Feet and When A Killer Calls and some people couldnt believe the first was put out by the Asylum given that it was deemed higher quality than the rest of their catalog.


There definitely are a number of films that fit that category that they "break the mold".... Not because they have some kind of deep award-winning story or whatever... They just "feel like a better movie".

I've noticed some of the best ones are able to do that. Like Spielberg did for "DUEL", a plot that's really hopeless on paper, but in motion... it really has the aspiration to deliver an experience.

The same thing with "The Terminator", which I once always assumed was some big budget mega-production.

Seeing the trailer for "100 Feet" I also got a vibe that it was "a guy doing a lot with very little". Many of the effects seemed creepier because of the grain in the pictures and because some of it was optical double exposures and the old-fashioned "off-putting whistle" or eerie song.

Recent examples would include "Pathfinder" which is big budget compared to these Asylum pictures. But it was a 45 million dollar picture that felt more like a 145 million dollar picture because of the level of care and "scale" put into it.

It's partially artistic I guess.... If you can make something seem like a bigger picture, I think that comes across as a great gift for clients and viewers.... Because you're getting them more than they expected.
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Old 02 February 2013   #40
Quote: My strengths built Big Idea, and my weaknesses brought it down.

That's it,
nuff said.
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Old 02 February 2013   #41
Originally Posted by Kanga: That's it,
nuff said.


I'd hate to disagree with you but that is not enough said....

What strengths built Big Idea?
Which weaknesses brought it down?

What Opportunities, threats, and risks occurred or did not occur?

There's a laundry list of things needed in this case so that we can all do better than what happened here.

But it's really a LOT of things.
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Old 02 February 2013   #42
Originally Posted by CGIPadawan: I'd hate to disagree with you but that is not enough said....

What strengths built Big Idea?
Which weaknesses brought it down?

What Opportunities, threats, and risks occurred or did not occur?

There's a laundry list of things needed in this case so that we can all do better than what happened here.

But it's really a LOT of things.

When you get down to the core of what is a very detailed 10 page account, the very essence of what happened is a creative idealist allowed himself to be lead by the nose. Those leading him had everything to gain and it sounded like no problem with running a business into the ground and hurting individuals who could very well have invested their hearts and souls into the venture. The man details the very first problems right at the beginning of the process when management was hired. He knew it was going south right there and then yet he was too weak to take his business in hand.

My strengths built Big Idea, and my weaknesses brought it down.

This is what destroyed his dream. I think it is the ultimate lesson.
Identify your weaknesses and act on them.

I read ten pages and was curious if he would say what I quoted above. But he did.
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Old 02 February 2013   #43
What is interesting here is if you make lists (particularly of Big Idea as it was in the first 1 or 2 pages of the article):

Originally Posted by At Sunrise: STRENGTHS:
1) Strong growth in "Veggie Tales" DVD home market.
2) Small, Agile Team
3) Visionary leadership and adequate artistic direction
4) Good Liquidity

WEAKNESSES:
1) Lack of Business Savvy
2) Inexperience with larger scale productions
3) No clear avenue for diversification

OPPORTUNITIES:
1) Potential partnership with PAX for Television
2) Large market in 3D animated theatrical releases

THREATS:
(Not Applicable)
[Masked]: Veggie Tales Distribution Deal Not Official.


The threat assessment in their early life is very poignant. There were NO THREATS. There was no competition from another Christian Children's DVD producer.. there was no danger to their market... Nothing. There's a note there about Veggie Tales Distribution Deal. But it wasn't a real threat while Leach was alive.

If you look at it this way, there was very good reason to be brave. The sector for "educational children's Christian DVD's" was not under threat at all. It was a booming business. The author gushed many times in the early paragraphs about how well it was going. And if you think about how small the operation must have been. It was basically a Bull Market.

The Weaknesses were also addressed very well at the start of Big Idea's journey. They knew they wanted to be in other markets, which meant in a strange way the author did know in all honesty, that infinite growth in Home DVD's wasn't possible. They knew they wanted better management teams that could steer them forward.

Most importantly they identified the two potential avenues they wanted to be in: TV and Cinemas.

Very encouraging.

What they looked like by the end?
Originally Posted by At Sunset: STRENGTHS:
1) Veggie Tales valuable as an Intellectual Property
2) Bank savvy management team

WEAKNESSES:
1) Leadership team only focused on Financials or only knowledgeable in Packed Goods Sales
2) Slow growth in "Veggie Tales" DVD home market.
3) Bloated, over-crowded Team
4) Vision not instilled into management team or to lower levels.
5) Low Cash Flow

OPPORTUNITIES:
1) Large market in 3D animated theatrical releases

THREATS:
1) Lawsuit from Lyrick's new owners locking down Veggie Tales' distribution rights/rights left undefined and settled in court in favor of Lyrick's new owners.

2) Budget Overruns in the feature film projects threaten the Opportunity by making the required achievement of the theatrical release more difficult to achieve.


What happened? If you note the list.. the remarkable thing is Big Idea managed to turn ALL of its former Strengths into Weaknesses. And they didn't cover the threat that lay masked all those years.

That is to say even the quote:

"My strengths built Big Idea, and my weaknesses brought it down."

Is not entirely accurate... the author wasn't the only one who failed. A LOT of people have to fail for something like Big Idea to totally fail.

More to that, they had two main opportunities for growth. The TV opportunity was "let go" after some small disagreement about direction and the cinema opportunity became tied to the growing threat of budget overruns and high costs.

They did gain one new strength. Their team was very skilled at getting loans from banks. But in mimicking the style of large corporations of the late 90's and early 2000's, Big Idea ended up resembling one of the large automakers that relied on credit to survive. However, unlike that market, the largest cost of their core operation was not something that could be quickly transmuted into product that can be pushed into selling at volume. Having a team that can convince a bank of anything is good, but they cannot make up all the money by themselves.

So the following quote is more precise in my view:

"OUR Strengths built Big Idea, but allowing our Strengths to become Weaknesses, not countering old threats, and letting go of our Opportunities brought it down".

================

I must also note something else I observed now that I look at the lists.... I find it surprising that Phil never setup a plan for "Veggie Tales" itself. If money coming in had gone to improving the core product, improving the animation, the technology, expanding the cast of characters, or getting it more involved in other religious organizations... then the growth in Veggie Tales DVD's might have had more substance behind it.

Even if Lyrick got sold later or Leach died... it the property was very valuable and Lyrick's new owners recognized Big Idea's unique value as the Veggie Tales' maker... they could have closed a new deal if sales remained strong after "growing" the core property with the earnings.

Could have easily worked - in spite of all the miscalculations.....
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Last edited by CGIPadawan : 02 February 2013 at 04:25 AM.
 
Old 02 February 2013   #44
Originally Posted by CGIPadawan: "My strengths built Big Idea, and my weaknesses brought it down."

Is not entirely accurate... the author wasn't the only one who failed. A LOT of people have to fail for something like Big Idea to totally fail.

It depends on how you look at it. I stand by what I wrote. I see this as the reason. Failure and blame are also relative and we could talk about that all day. One thing I will say though is I would have booted that kid who related to the author that his friends were still angry, right up the butt.

Also perhaps the world was not ready for a Christian Disneyland.
Saints preserve us.
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Old 02 February 2013   #45
Originally Posted by Kanga: It depends on how you look at it. I stand by what I wrote. I see this as the reason. Failure and blame are also relative and we could talk about that all day. One thing I will say though is I would have booted that kid who related to the author that his friends were still angry, right up the butt.

Also perhaps the world was not ready for a Christian Disneyland.
Saints preserve us.


Sorry, I was just.. trying to learn from the case study... and I didn't think a short poetic quote was enough (which is why I started firing out that list-based view).

You might say a good marriage of our views is Phil's weakness was that he can sometimes turn Strengths into New Weaknesses....
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