Beached Az: turning digital into dollars

By Emma Brown

Beached Az has grown from a $16 animated sketch to a franchise that grossed more than $2 million.

The iconic kiwi whale – and its ‘beached az bro’ catchphrase – was picked up by the ABC last year and has spawned a huge array of merchandise since it began in 2008.

However, Handsomity Institute director Jarod Green says Beached Az doesn’t fit into existing TV revenue models, which are still evolving. Each episode premieres on the ABC’s website a week before TV.

“We take the web audience and bring it to TV,” he said. “It doesn’t work for everything. If you’ve got a film that you can’t merchandise it’s hard to build a brand out of that.

“But at the same time, the model is an opportunity, without big budgets and avenues of getting deals done with TV networks, is a training ground that is financially rewarding.”

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Money fight: Jarod Green, Nick Boshier, Anthony MacFarlane.

Green shared his insights about generating online revenue and building brands from free online content at a Sydney Film Festival Industry event yesterday.

“The power of ideas is really where it’s all at,” he said.

“Production values don’t really mean much. Beached Az is a testament to that. It was probably the most poorly made film we’ve ever made but seems to be the most successful.”

The Beached Az brand has produced thousands of merchandising product including the first ever men’s line in Supre for a male beached whale t-shirt.

The online animation has received over five million hits and the content has also grown and diversified to a fake ‘Making Of’ program and an ipod application and game.

The content is available online and will be on the upcoming DVD release, which features mock auditions by John Clark, Josh Pyke and Sam Neil.

“I had to fire Sam Neil in the ‘Making Of’ as his New Zealand accent wasn’t good enough.”

The second series of 10 new episodes of a minute duration was launched on ABC2 last night.

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Filming: Jarod Green shooting Beached Az.

“The quirky idea of a beached whale, usually only people on crack can normally think of. Luckily my business partners can come up with these ideas,” he said.

Their plan was to turn ideas into video reality to hyper distribute and then generate revenue from merchandising to invest back into making more films.

“It’s about making a piece of content and throwing it out there for as many people as possible for free and then trying to make money out of it,” he said.

The original animation was shot in two days for a total budget of $16. One mini DVD tape and two coffees for the talent was the total expenditure on the film.

The original plan was for it to be shot as live action, but the papier mache whale didn’t quite work.

“The giant papier mache whale outfits we were trying to make were quickly attracting ants and rats so we quickly jettisoned that idea.”

The naive artistic style of the film was not a creative choice. “That’s as good as I can draw,” he said.

A month later after the animations release on the net it had over a million hits. Green and his partners did the sums and decided to turn the You Tube phenomena into a business.

“We figured out if 1 per cent of a million people gave us $1, we’d have $10,000; if 0.1 per cent, we’d have a $1000; a one-thousandth we’d have $10 – that’s two-thirds of the budget covered.”

The group decided to open an online merchandising store to capitalise on the projects strengths, of an iconic image, a growing online geo-diverse audience and fully owned copyright.

“If we don’t do it, someone else is going to so we might as well earn some cash,” Green said.

To view the latest series of Beached Az click here.

Recording: Jarod Green in the studio, soundproofed with Beached Az merchandise.