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Sky Fighter Watchgraph

As of this morning (June 7, 2022), we are at $6,430 for the WeFunder for FSM Studios. I am so appreciative of the people who made investment reservations—thank you!

To recap: This is not a Kickstarter. It is not donations. It is public investment in a for-profit company that I would use to finance films and television shows.

DISCLAIMER: We are “testing the waters” to gauge investor interest in an offering under Regulation Crowdfunding. No money or other consideration is being solicited. If sent, it will not be accepted. No offer to buy securities will be accepted. No part of the purchase price will be received until a Form C is filed and only through Wefunder’s platform. Any indication of interest involves no obligation or commitment of any kind.

I have a confession to make: I personally would be highly dubious about any such investment!

Most film projects lose money. Most filmmakers just aren’t very good. And the ones who are good get quickly identified and gobbled up by “the system.” So they’re not raising money on the Internet—because they have agents to push them out to big-time producers.

Why am I different? Two reasons: One is that I like to do things myself. I’m an entrepreneur. I’ve been making things on my own since I was 16.

And the other is that, because I’ve spent 20–30 years in film music fandom, I’m getting a pretty late start. Who wants to give a 47–year–old rookie a shot?

It basically means I have to prove myself—but because I’m happy do that, maybe it’s for the best?

If I were investing, the single-biggest thing I’d be looking at is: can this person make a good movie?

Because those people are like unicorns.

As people know—because many of you generously contributed to my crowdsourcing campaign in 2018—I wrote/directed/executive produced a sci-fi short called Sky Fighter.

And forgive me, because I roll my eyes at people’s self-promotion—and I’m sure I’m getting close to that line (if I haven’t already passed it)—but here’s some more:

We got the short distributed by the DUST channel (Gunpowder & Sky’s platform for sci-fi shorts) and it’s done pretty well: 1.7M views on YouTube, making it their 32nd most-watched video (out of around 500).

I knew I’d get a lot of views because they told me their videos with either bikini babes or spaceships on the thumbnail get the most clicks. I said, “Oh, I have the spaceships!”

The video got a lot of nice comments and likes—and that was satisfying. It seemed to be consistently well-received and generally popular. (DUST also distributes to Facebook, Instagram, and other places. See their site.)

But I’d see a lot of positive comments online, and some of them were literally from my mom. (Hi Mom!)

So, you much does anybody like anything, really?

I think it’s an entertaining short but I don’t claim it to be perfect or groundbreaking. It certainly didn’t cause the filmmaking world to beat a path to my door.

But last week I saw a metric that I couldn’t believe. I had to make sure I was interpreting this correctly.

YouTube now has a feature where, for a video with enough views (I don’t know the cutoff), they will show you a “watch graph” if you roll your cursor over the timeline.

For example, here’s a funny cat compilation from 2018 with 36M views:

The video has all sorts of peaks and valleys. The peaks are where the cat does something super cute. And the valleys are the boring parts that people skipped in order to get to the good parts.

The only good reason for there to be a peak is that something is so cool, people have to rewatch it. But otherwise, most of the time, peaks are bad: they’re skipping ahead.

I checked Sky Fighter and I did a double-take to make sure I was reading this right:

There is a peak in the first 5–10 second, which I understand is normal viewing behavior: people go to the link, it auto-plays, and they’re like, “Oh, I’m not going to watch this now.”

But after can barely see it.

That’s because it’s ALMOST ENTIRELY FLAT.

I was shocked as I realized the only conclusion: people are watching the whole thing! They are not tuning off or skipping ahead.

I have done, now, a ton of research on other videos. Believe me when I say: this is super rare. Most narrative shorts are full of peaks and valleys, even some with millions of views.

This was, truly, the single most–validating thing I could have seen!

We all know, YouTube is a wasteland of garbage and frivolity. My own video-watching habits are pathetic. I get instantly bored by anything. The modern Internet has destroyed our attention spans.

So to think that people are checking out our 15-minute short—a piece of original I.P. made by nobody they’ve ever heard of—and they’re watching the whole thing...?

That is solely due to the movie performing.

The viewers get invested in the characters and the narrative. They learn about the world and what is happening—and they want to know the outcome!

This is not a small sample size. At 1.7 million views, this is a very significant one.

And it does mean that well over a million people have watched the film in its entirety.

I hope some of my colleagues on the project read this—because it’s really the best compliment you can get from an audience. (And thank all of you for your great work!)

I checked around 30 other DUST videos, including all of the top ones—and I don’t want to single out any of my counterparts—but there was only one that had a watch graph anywhere close to Sky Fighter’s. (It was encouraging in that its filmmaker went on to make features.)

And I’m sorry to say I’m not surprised.

I watched a lot of short films online—both when I was about to make Sky Fighter, and since—and, well, there are a lot of amateur mistakes.

Most of the time, the beginning is really slow (with filmmakers’ vanity credits) and you just don’t know who anybody is or what is going on. You give it a shot to get going, you check the timeline...and it’s been only three minutes? Oy! (I wrote more observations here.)

I was so paranoid about failure going into Sky Fighter—this might be my one and only chance to direct something—that I was obsessive about two things: clarity and emotion.

In the end, our short wasn’t groundbreaking enough conceptually to go viral—but I think there’s a lot to be said for pure watchability and audience engagement.

It is not easy. It is, in fact, very hard.

And this I actually will take a moment to say, yes, I am very proud of this. This was not an accident or a fluke. And believe me, as much as I would have loved to have some big-time director on a set as a consultant—there was nobody there but us chickens.

So, now that I’m soliciting public investment, I do assert that I know how to make a good movie. And I’m eager to do it again!

Thanks everybody!

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