This book is going to be a genuinely useful resource for discovery by film fans. When a Roku owner (or the owner of any device that can access public domain streaming channels) wants to find out information about an old movie and he reaches for my book, he will be treated to more than just the names of the principles and a twenty word synopsis. Anyone looking for skimpy information on the basics can go to IMDB. This is not going to be IMDB in a Book.
When someone comes across a movie on a streaming distribution site like Pub-D-Hub or Moonlight Movies or Movie Vault or Creepster or Retrovision or Vizz Classics (getting the picture…public domain streaming is already one of the most popular and plentiful channels types on the Roku and more of these channels are being added every month) the movie fan is presented with as great a wealth of choices as if they were looking in the Classics section on Netflix. Often, in fact, they have significantly more choice. But these movies that mostly fall into the public domain arena have never been fairly represented in books containing movie reviews and they certainly have not been the sole subject of a book that is inclusive of all the myriad genres into which they fall.
Even books devoted to categorizing any movie made during the studio system era as a "classic film" have been notoriously dismissive of the bulk of movies available for free or just a nominal subscription on these Roku channels. If they merit any mention at all, it is usually in the form of listing the main cast and crew and then providing a vague plot description that provides no context of quality or interest.
In too many cases, someone subscribing to these public domain movie channels on their Roku come across a treasure and want to find out more about it only to discover that books and web sites that provide completely inaccurate information. Because so many of these movies have similar titles (and in many cases share the exact same title!) it is far from unknown to read a synopsis attributed to one movie that actually refers to an entierly different movie.
Another scenario that too many who subscribe to channels like Archive.org can relate to is coming face to face with an ever growing selection of movies with similar titles, plots and strs. In the world of public domain distribution, titles that contains word like “Prison” and “Murder” run rampant and it can be difficult distinguishing one from the other based merely on the paltry information provided. The similarity of poster art does not help things, either.
I want to appeal to these needs. When a movie fan comes across a film that makes him feel as though he’s the first to find a hidden trove of gold, I want him to reach for my book and find something in my review that makes him understand a little better what mysterious element he saw in the movie that touched him deeply. Or I want her to discover that the actor who was so impressive in that 1930s mystery delivers an even better performance in a 1940s film noir.
Most of these movies are available for companies to distribute freely without royalty payment because they were made by studios collectively referred to as Poverty Row studios. They were made cheaply and the studios were often long out of business by the time copyright renewal came up. Because they were made on low budgets and because they didn’t have the marketing blitz behind them that movies made at the bigger studios enjoyed, these films quickly earned a reputation for inferiority. And while many of them do suffer from cheap sets, bad video quality and horrific acting, they also have much to offer the fan of film.
More money does not equal more quality. Some of these films contain more imagination and creativity than the biggest Hollywood blockbusters. Faced with getting a picture out as quickly as possible and without the ability to merely demand more money, the filmmakers were forced to use their imagination that today’s directors of 200 million dollar budgeted movies can’t imagine. In other words: many of these movies actually exceed those more famous classic movies precisely because they were made so cheaply. When you don’t have access to more money, you have no option but to get more creative.
My goal is to produce an e-book and paperback volume that makes sure every Roku owner knows exactly what to expect when they decide to take the gamble that lack of production values results in imaginative artistry rather than low budget crud that can be avoided without losing a treasured experience.
Risks and challenges
Raising the money is going to be hardest part for me because it's the only part of the process with which I am unfamiliar. I have published over 10,000 articles (for pay, not as some kind of blogger just dreaming of being a professional writer) and over 4,000 of those articles have been about movies.
I have gone through the process of publishing in both e-book format and publishing a paperback. I have already watched more than three-quarters of the films I am going to be reviewing so I will need merely to refresh and remind myself on the content for the bulk of the work.
That leaves me with the biggest challenge I am facing and the reason I am looking to fellow movie fans for financial assistance. IThat challenge has to do with finding the time necessary to write the kind of full, comprehensive, insightful reviews I desire and which currently does not exist in a book form of any kind.
In order to fulfill my goal, the bulk of money I am raising will go to supplement the income I will lose by spending that time writing articles for publication and payment. The Pub-D-Hub channel alone provides a few hundred titles for streaming to its subscribers. Fortunately, there is a great deal of crossover among the channels, but accounting for slight variations in each channel's catalog, fitting in every single movie available will number in the hundreds. The good news is that a great movie of these actually run less than an hour.
The next largest amount will go to self publishing a paperback edition. I plan on going through Amazon CreateSpace.
Needless to say, the greater the excess surplus beyond my goal that I raise, the more time I can devote to this project. More time will translate into both more complexity in individual reviews and the inclusion of more titles. My plan is to prioritize inclusion based on completely unscientific and and subective calculation that takes into account availability and quality.
A solidly crafted movie that is offered on ten public domain streaming channels will definitely make it into the book before a film of lesser artistic expression available on only three channels. At the same time, however, a movie that is unusually high quality that can only be found on one channel will get priority over a piece of dreck that is offered by just about everybody.
A significant surplus that exceeds the supplementation of lost income would ideally be spent on upgrading the quality of the printed book. With more money, I could afford things like a professionally designed cover, advertising and/or the inclusion of high resolution images.
I also intend to spend time trying to convince Roku, the individual channels and other outlets devoted to older movies to advertise the book, sell the book directly on their web site or become actively involved in some other way.
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