The Cost of a Webseries

In September of 2011, we decided to try running a Kickstarter campaign for the first season of our feature-length webseries Video Game High School. If you can believe it, at that time most people had never heard of Kickstarter – after all, this was several months before the behemoth campaigns of projects like Tim Schafer’s Double Fine adventure game or the Ouya console popularized the concept of crowd-sourced funding.

We had already had a tentative budget locked in place secured through private investment, but it wasn’t enough to execute the script to the degree of production design and polish that we wanted. The purpose of the Kickstarter was therefore to raise additional money for the project, as well as to start to generate excitement and anticipation for the series itself.

We set our Kickstarter goal at $75,000 and blew our goal out of the water by raising $273,725. Of that $273,725, $222,498.92 went into the production of VGHS (While Kickstarter and Amazon take 5-10%, we found that an additional 10% was not accounted for due to declined credit cards). In the next couple of weeks we plan on breaking down all the challenges and lessons we learned from running and successfully fulfilling a large-scale Kickstarter project.

All said and done, VGHS Season One cost $636,010.71.

While this amount initially seems like a lot of money, the truth is, it’s not. VGHS was a six-month project with a cast and crew of over 160 people. We had over six hundred visual effects shots, shot in numerous locations throughout Southern California, and a significant portion of our final two-hour runtime were high production value action scenes. This was a tremendous undertaking, on par with the scale of commercial Hollywood feature films, and we executed it at a hundredth of the cost. Frankly, we could not have done it without the generous donations from our Kickstarter supporters and our extremely hard working cast and crew, many of whom are friends of ours (that we now owe favors to!)

We believe that the future for content-creators such as ourselves lies in being able to source project money from an audience and deliver on those projects in a timely and cost-effective manner.

However, we realized to do this effectively, we must be completely open and honest about the money we spend and how much things cost. Simply put, we cannot expect our fans to support us financially if they have no idea how much things actually cost.

So we’re doing something that, to our knowledge, no other film company has ever done: we’re going to put a cost breakdown of every penny we spent on a film project. We’re posting the cost breakdown for the first season of Video Game High School online. Together with our friends at The Danger Brain, we’ve put together an infographic of how much VGHS Season One cost.

We hope that this information will enlighten and inform those who wish to support our future projects, will educate this new generation of filmmakers raised in the digital age, and will shed valuable light into the raw costs of the filmmaking process.

PS: Due to contractual obligations and wishing to maintain privacy for our cast and crew, we are not disclosing how much we are paying each individual. Instead, we have lumped together costs into logical categories. If you have any questions, we’d be happy to provide more information, provided we can maintain the privacy of our friends.