***This article originally appeared in the December ’22 issue of Animation Magazine (No. 325)***
So you’ve spent countless hours, days, or even years, developing, perfecting and producing your very own intellectual property — now what?
Intellectual properties, also known as IPs, are well-developed ideas or concepts that have been actualized on paper and/or digital media such as patents, inventions, trademarks, software and as, it pertains to the animation industry, movie scripts, characters, stories and other original creative content.
Keeping your idea in your head or floating aimlessly in the ether doesn’t qualify as an IP. In the case of intellectual propertyism, it’s not the thought that counts — it’s the clear, documented expression of that idea that can be copyrighted, legally protected and monetized.
Here is a list of IP outlets that have made countless billions for their creators. Try putting your IP in these scenarios and see how many you can make happen:
Seeing your intellectual property turned into a feature film is more than likely the ultimate, if not somewhat obvious, dream target of creative types. However, the time, money and giant bag of feral cats that have to be wrangled in order to make and distribute a feature film is extremely prohibitive to independents which is why it almost never happens.
For the privileged few that are lucky enough to make all the necessary vectors coalesce, your IP can earn you a flat fee if you were to sell it to a film studio, you could earn a salary as a writer, director or producer, not to mention royalties or residuals from the earnings of the film and merchandise. This also opens up the possibility of generating additional revenue from just about anything listed below.
Streaming services and TV (remember television?) absolutely love a good series. A series comprises multiple episodes that range in length from approximately 15-60 minutes each and maintain relatively high production value, sometimes eclipsing even a feature film.
Here, your IP will be produced as multiple episodes in a season where the audience gets to watch the cast encounter a variety of plots, storylines and jokes — but (often) keeping the primary cast unchanging so as not to mess with the formula and risk losing the fan base. Monetizing your IP with a series is akin to a feature film, where you can earn a license fee, a buy-out, royalties or even salary for helping produce the series.
Yes, we live in a digital age. However, books — actual printed books — are still sold in the billions around the world every year; almost a billion annually in the U.S. alone. See if your IP lends itself to any of the following: Comic books/graphic novels, novels, short stories, coloring books, children’s storybooks or e-books/downloadable PDFs.
Print Ads/Online Ads
Ads, now more than ever, need to jump out and grab the viewer. Maybe one of your characters could serve this purpose for the right advertising or marketing agency. Try selling your characters outright or licensing them for limited use. And when the licensing term is up, you have the option of renewing or seeking other offers.
Clothing & Accessories
Analog, real-world products rule! So much so that global clothing sales’ $3 trillion annual earnings last year towered over even the global entertainment and media’s earnings of $2.3 trillion. This being the case, it would be fiscally prudent to review the list below and match as many as possible to your IP: T-shirts, hats, socks, sweatpants, active wear, bean bags, towels, bathrobes, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, watches, pillows/pillowcases, pajamas, etc.
Many a programmer has made millions creating apps — even modest ones. If your IP lends itself to an app or phone game, by all means explore this option. A great app can still be very profitable and also keep you connected to your fans.
Post your IP content on all the free video and content sites you can find, promote it very well, and you may be able to earn passive income from the traffic that views your work and clicks on advertiser’s links.
Think Outside the List
While feature films and series are the obvious targets for aspiring intellectual property owners, there are many other ways to earn an adoring fan base and multiple revenue streams with your well-developed ideas. In addition to the ones listed above, commercials, music videos, PC/Console games, board games, toys, stuffed animals and more, are all potential outlets for your IP to be seen, heard and rewarded with earnings.
Martin Grebing is the president of Funnybone Animation Studios. He can be reached at funnyboneanimation.com.