Webseries: What NOT to do.

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but with good reason. Webseries have taken a break to feature writing, ad writing, novel writing, video game writing, and of course, vacation. But as we sweep back into Fall next week with the official kickoff of the New York Television Festival (in which my pilot “Powerless” is a selection!) it seems an excellent time to talk about the web again. Especially because, within the next month, I will have some extra-special news and quite possibly the launch of something very cool that I’ve been working on for a long time.

Anyway. I recently was talking to somebody who congratulated me on my many successful webseries (his words, not mine). I nodded my thanks, but then started to reflect on my career. I allowed myself a brief moment to accept that I had had some (small) successes on the web. But more than that, I had had tons of failures. And that’s okay. Repeated failure is the only path to success, after all (unless you’re born Kardashian).

But I realized that I do probably have a wealth of knowledge about webseries. Specifically, what not to do. Take the following list to heed. I have made almost every single mistake on here.

If you want your webseries to be a failure:

Don’t promote it. Sit and wait for people to write about you. Don’t bother contacting blogs or press directly – surely, they’ll find out about your show on their own. If you manage to get a little bit of press, pat yourself on the back and consider your job done. No need to compile your press into a package to send out as PR; everyone will remember that one article in AM New York a year from now.

If you must promote it, promote it like a movie. Spend six months just driving people to a splash page and a teaser trailer, with the inability for them to watch anything but that. Keep information sparse! The buzz will create itself. And then, when the show comes out, put all of your dollars and energy into that first week. As opposed to four or five weeks in, when audiences can come and see more of your work in one place and get hooked. Really, this is just like the movies. It’s all about opening weekend.

Don’t build a specific audience. Don’t bother reaching out and finding your audience; let them come to you. After all, your show is good, right? Not like the rest of the crap out there! Well, you can just sit back and relax and trust in the fact that the cream always rises, and if you pop your show up on YouTube and send a link to your Facebook friends, that’s enough. It’ll definitely always snowball and go viral from there. And if you have a niche show – like, say, about people from Johnstown PA or the Renaissance Faire – don’t spend time figuring out where people in that niche congregate online. Don’t reach out to webrings or Facebook groups that your audience frequents. Don’t target people on Twitter and get them to tweet about your show. Just post and pray, baby!

Do everything yourself. Dammit, you’re good enough to write, direct, produce, star, edit, compose music, design the webpage and plan the launch party. Just because that kind of raging egoism is usually the kiss of death for a movie or TV show doesn’t mean it’s the same online, right? You don’t need any help. Besides, other people will just screw up your vision. Who cares if by spreading out the workload, you create a tight-knit family who will all work tirelessly to push your show. This is your show, after all. You could probably hold the boom while doing all the above too, because a sound man is expensive. Speaking of…

Don’t worry about sound. Sound men cost money. So it’s not even worth asking. Don’t post an ad seeing if anyone will work for free. And if you can’t find someone, don’t dig deep and find $200 to pay them. Just use your on-camera mic and relax. Because no one really listens to the sound anyway. As long as the writing is good, who cares, right?

Don’t worry about writing. It’s just the internet. People want flashy-flash, zombies, a hot chick, and cats. Just give ’em that.

Don’t worry about lighting. It’s a small screen! That means you can make do with an incandescent bulb, especially if you’re shooting on a DSLR. It’s much better to just shoot it and get it done. Grips and gaffers and lights are for TV.

Just cast your friends. For whatever parts you’re not going to play, of course. Because all your friends are actors, deep down. Even if they’ve never acted before. They just “have it in them”. So don’t hold auditions. That will be a waste of your time, and you definitely won’t meet new people, expand your circle, and find better options for your show. Your web series should be first and foremost a showcase for you and your roommates.

Totally lie about your content. Does someone in your episode say ‘it’s hot out’? Is it a woman? Then grab a screencap of someone in a bikini (doesn’t even have to be her!) and title the episode HOT GIRL TAKES IT OFF. Believe me, you will get people to click. And then when they do, they will totally be won over by your snappy dialog and your well-formed character arcs, and they will forget all about the fact that they were searching for boobs. They’ll be so impressed with your witty lie that they’ll share with all their perv friends. And it absolutely won’t get you any flack whatsoever from fans!

Disable comments on your homepage. You don’t really want comments anyway. They’re nasty. You don’t want people telling you your writing sucks, or your show isn’t funny, or listing the things they’d like to do to a particular actress. And besides, spam. Approving comments is a chore. And if in the process of stifling that stuff, you also stifle legit fans who want to be part of a community, want to spread your show, want to feel like they’re crucial to its growth, or God forbid, want to start their own conversations on your site… well then, so be it. It’s worth it not to have to read criticism.

If there’s money, spend it all on production. And the launch party, of course! Do not under any circumstances keep any for promotions or buying banner or Facebook ad space to publicize your show.

Put all your emphasis on the screening. Once you watch your first episode in a bar in front of 20 people, your job is done. You’ve worked hard. Now’s the time to kick your feet up, pat yourself on the back, watch your friends laugh or cry, hopefully at the right places, and let the ensuing ripples take the entertainment world by storm. Because nothing spreads a web video like a bunch of people standing around chitchatting, not in front of a computer.

Follow everybody’s lead. There’s a show about World of Warcraft players, and there’s a show about Dungeons & Dragons players, and there’s a show about Dungeons & Dragons characters, but there’s no show about World of Warcraft characters!!! That’s clearly an oversight that you must correct. Because the internet is just like TV, only with nichier topics.

Autotune it, just because. Instant hits!!

Ignore copyright law. Use any old music or film clips you want. No one will care!

Don’t get releases for locations or people. There is no possible way this could ever come back to haunt you. Not even if you try to release DVDs.

People are really impressed with Streamy awards. This, obviously, speaks for itself.

You don’t need to know Wilson Cleveland. Or Paul Kontonis. Or Dina Kaplan. Or Josh Cohen or Jenni Powell or George Strompolos or Amber Lawson or Kathleen Grace or Marc Hustvedt. All those people are optional.

Don’t make season 2. This is a biggie. If you have a show that’s a success, by any measure you choose to define success, be it monetary, artistic or buzz-related, than stop after Season 1. Better to quit while ahead, right? Better to not keep posting episodes. Maybe you’re tired, maybe you think your fanbase will be content with what you’ve already made, maybe you want to focus on other projects. All good reasons to give up! Forget all that hogwash about shows really finding themselves after the first season.

Stop after one series. The way you build yourself into a brand, the way you build yourself into a personal mini-empire, is by doing one thing, and one thing only. Don’t make spinoff series. Don’t jump at an opportunity to do something different, or to help with someone else’s series, or to shoot a music video. You want to be known as that guy who did that one thing, even 5 years after the end of its run.

Always remember: your show is just a calling card for TV/Film. If there’s one thing that big-time Hollywood people are impressed with, it’s webseries. It’s a well known fact that when staffing writers and directors and actors, everyone from J.J. Abrams to Robert Zemeckis goes surfing through the latest webseries and finds the best diamonds in the rough. So, feel free to make one or two episodes and call it a day. They’ll get the idea; you’ll get the gig!

Always listen to the web network. If you get your show on a portal, capitulate to everything. If they don’t want to publicize your show, then don’t you tell anybody either. If they want to cut all the jokes so that it’s a dry 2 minutes when you wrote it as a hilarious 5, fair game. Better short than funny, I always say! Oh, and make sure you sign a contract granting them exclusive rights.

Always listen to your agent. If they won’t take the time to set up a meeting for you, then, well, it’s probably because they know it won’t be worth it for you. Not because they’re too busy dealing with celebrity clients and people already working in TV. And if they don’t want you to do a deal because there’s not enough money in revshare/mobile licensing/what-have-you, even if it will give you a ton of eyeballs and new fans, it’s not because they won’t make their money – it’s just, you know, not worth your time.

Always listen to your sponsor. If you are integrating products into your show, then by all means: take every bit of advice from the ad agency or the brand as gospel truth. Because ad agencies are creative geniuses, and brands always know best. Absolutely get rid of every edgy bit of dialog. Absolutely agree to throw your plot out the window to squeeze in a product. Absolutely agree to drop the product name wherever you can. Remember, you are no longer creating a piece of art or entertainment – you are in the business of shilling for Expedia.com.

Never listen to your fans. After all, this is your show and your story. If you are lucky enough to get fans, that must mean you are good enough to ignore them. If they don’t like your favorite episode, then clearly you have stupid fans. Post something they’ll hate, just to spite them. They’ll be back.

Okay, I think that about sums it up. Anything I forgot, ye veterans of the web video world?


POWERLESS is an official selection of the 2011 New York Television Festival!!

The headline says it all. My original drama “POWERLESS”, co-created and -directed by Johnny North, starring Kelli Giddish, Joachim Boyle, Sean Hudock and Richard Watson, is an official selection at the 2011 New York Television Festival. This is 2 years in a row for me, but my first real drama to make it out in the world, so I’m excited.

More info here.

Longer & More Popular (no, this is not about porn)

Last week the numbers for online video consumption in the U.S. came out from comScore (basically, the internet-video version of Nielsen, but site-specific). I found out about it through Marc Hustvedt’s great online video resource, tubefilter.tv.

Two key takeaways:
– 6.3 BILLION viewing sessions. Everybody is watching internet video, and watching more and more of it.
– The average video duration is 5.4 minutes. It’s been climbing steadily from December 2007.

Think about that second stat for a second. If you’re coming from TV land, 5.4 minutes doesn’t sound like much screentime. But if you’re coming from web video land, this is huge.

When my partners and I started The Burg way back in 2006, comScore wasn’t even around, but online ‘common sense’ was. This common sense told us, nay, SCREAMED at us, that a minute and a half was an ideal video length, and anything longer than 3 minutes was suicide. This frightened us, as a typical episode of The Burg was anywhere from 14 to 22 minutes long. So, we played it safe. We began to create shorts of anywhere from 30 seconds to 5 minutes (yes, even our shorts were longer than most people’s ‘longs’.) We interspersed our normal eps with our shorts. We fully anticipated looking at our viewcount and having much less views for our longer eps.

The exact opposite happened. Our views actually went down every time we posted a short. Why? We don’t know exactly. But after talking to fans, we have a pretty good idea: they were outside the chronology of the story. They were little jokes, standalone scenes, things that didn’t fit in the tightly plotted and structured episodes of The Burg. And so, people didn’t care as much. I knew right then that we had something good. People were hooked on the structure and the story and didn’t mind the length.

Ever since then, I’ve rigidly maintained that length should not be the top deciding factor when you’re creating your content. I’ve been mocked for this, as there are many creators who believe otherwise. In the early days, there were a lot of 90-second episodic thrillers. For me, even when well produced, the story jolted and jittered, because 90 seconds of a thriller is enough to get you to a cliffhanger, but usually seems to stop short of great character development. When working with other online portals, I’ve had to cut 5 minute shorts to under 3 minutes, and in the process, lost some of the best moments because they just didn’t fit. (This is not to say you can’t make a great episode in 90 seconds – of course you can. I just think you shouldn’t have to.)

I get why this happens in TV. You have a fixed inventory of time. 22 minutes for your sitcom once commercials are factored in. It becomes a surgical process (and to a degree, it should with all content). But on the internet, there is no such restriction. Yet content creators and programmers decided to all limit themselves to one anyway. It seems cynical, arbitrary, and a big underestimation of viewers’ tastes.

Well, it seems that common sense was wrong in this case. People are now, officially, measurably, watching longer and longer video. And 5.4 minutes is the average. Meaning, many people are consuming video that’s much, much longer.

As Hustvedt states, “If the same trajectory were to be taken forward a few years, which is probably a conservative estimate given the current market, we’d expect to see average online video duration at 10.4 minutes by 2014.”

Which means, by my shoddy estimate, people are going to be ready for The Burg by… let’s see… May 2017. Hm. Oh well. Better 11 years early than too late.

Soaps? Online? Hell yes!

Shortly after my show All’s Faire came out, I was approached by a gentleman who asked Dinosaur Diorama and I to make The Guidling Light as a webseries. To be clear, he was only a fan of the show, not a producer of any sort. He had seen our show, which starred both Robert Bogue and Mandy Bruno of that show, and likely knew about our casting of other soap stars (Kelli Giddish back when she was on All My Children, Tom Pelphrey) in the past.

I thought long and hard about this. Not because I particularly like soap operas or have any creative interest in The Guiding Light. But I was fascinated by the idea of turning an existing soap property into an online property. I went out and bought Dark Shadows and watched it to see. Could something like this be turned into a webshow? Creatively? Legally?

After doing the math, I couldn’t make it work. The most I would be able to produce might be a short scene per day. Ultimately, I realized that the people who watch soaps wouldn’t be satisfied with that. They watched soaps because they were hooked on the stories, but also to occupy time when they were at home or at work. Soap watchers are a mix of very active fans (buying magazines, talking on forums, following the actors) and very passive fans (turning it on and watching it with half your mind while you do something else).

That said, I loved the idea of the online soap. I loved the idea of event television online. I loved bringing a show to an underserved online audience. I loved the the discipline involved in crafting a daily storyline (even if it does sometimes revolve around amnesia and/or demonic possession).  I loved the absolutely seamless and meaningful integration of products into a storyline (they’re not called SOAP operas for nothing, folks). I thought long and hard about getting involved.

But I didn’t. Time went on and other projects swiftly took its place. And then today, I saw this:

Beloved Soaps to migrate online. All My Children and One Life To Live being bought by production company Prospect Park (they make “Royal Pains” among other things).

And I’m fascinated. This is a proven company. Buying a proven (if a bit faded and temporarily suffering) property. And aiming to produce for a thoroughly unproven medium. This is big. Very big.

Now that people all over the country have high-speed broadband, and people of all ages are much more used to watching video online, how will these soaps do? But the bigger question to me is, what will they look like? Will they be an hour long? Will they be a scene long? Will they be union shows (it looks like yes, the same cast and crew at least will be involved)? Will they be daily? Will they in any way resemble the shows that so many people knew and loved?

Further, they are “expected to be the first of a number of brand-name TV shows” to be programmed on a “new, as-yet-unnamed, TV-focused network”. Big. Very very big!

As some of you know, I have something sort of similar (but also completely different) in the works. But if Rich Frank and Jeff Kwatinetz can take this first massive step and make it work – and I have every reason to believe they can – then I want to be the first to welcome them to the sandbox.

Or should I say soapbox (and buh-dum-CHING and cut to commercial).

P.S. Kudos to Roger Newcomb over at We Love Soaps. This must be a big day for him. 🙂

The Death Spiral of Web Video

Not enough people are watching webseries.

I know, I know: Thom, that’s false. Look at how-so-ever-many millions of views were racked up by this show or that show… But no, stop. On the whole, nobody watches scripted, narrative, episodic webseries. Not really. Not in network TV numbers. Not even in cable TV numbers.

I’m not talking about vlogs and clip shows. I’m not talking about informationals or how-tos. I’m talking about sitcoms, about drama procedurals, about character driven epics, about straight-up Chronic Video. Episodic TV like HBO makes, like AMC makes, like the big networks used to make.  Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I can’t find one that has a million regular, unique viewers. A million people that come back every single episode. I certainly know my shows got nowhere near that. An episode here or there might get up to that many views, but not consistently.

So in the television sense, in the we-need-big-numbers-in-order-to-justify-higher-production-costs-and-survive-as-a-medium sense… no. The audience isn’t showing up.

This thought is really disturbing to me as a creator, so I thought I’d ask why. That’s when I theorized:

Web video is in a Death Spiral.

I don’t throw words like Death Spiral around lightly. (But stay tuned, there’s a surprise happy ending!)

So, the problem.  Nobody watches webseries. Why?

Because they all suck. Or at least, by prevailing wisdom, most of them do. I remember the first Streamy awards. When everything was won by Battlestar Galactica, Dr. Horrible, and The Guild, a well-known agent was heard to remark (and I paraphrase) “This just proves what we thought. The best of independent web video is still massively inferior to what Hollywood is putting out in its spare time.” Ouch.

But yeah, as I’ve stated before, there’s a lot of chaff out there, and limited wheat (and yes, I’ve made both). So the problem isn’t that all webseries suck – there are great ones out there. The problem is no one really knows that the great ones exist.

Because it’s still hard to find great content. And YouTube is terrible at it. Just try to discover a great new series there if you don’t already know what you’re looking for. Sure, there are content aggregators and curated sites. Many of which I love. Many of which are laid out quite well and do a stellar job (i.e. My Damn Channel). But still, being a destination site and successfully sorting out the good content, while still having ENOUGH content, is a massive undertaking.

So in order to make the “cream rise to the top”, many of these sites take content from anywhere, and employ the Digg or Funny or Die system. They rate the videos. Your peers – or rather, random internet citizens – vote on whether or not they are good. The top-ranked videos end up on top of the page. Works like a charm, right? No.

Because the rating system doesn’t always promote the ‘best’ content. It promotes the least-hated content. It’s the lowest common denominator again. I can go to a site and reasonably expect the video on top to be the one that the most people didn’t find objectionable. Well, what if I want something objectionable? What if I want something nerdy, or violent, or offensive, or just really niche? Look somewhere else. Well why is this?

Because advertisers are addicted to viewcount. The people paying the bills (or will, some day, at least in theory) don’t really care about the quality of the content, in most cases. (I say this as an ad man, so ad/media guys: simmer down, you know it’s true). The sponsor just wants to know how many views it got. If it has more views, that must mean it’s better, right? Right??

As I’ve written before, in the future, it won’t really be about getting the ‘most views’, but the ‘best views’. It will be about fitting the brand to the content and the community, rather than building content around a brand. So why aren’t sponsors quicker to realize that?

Because they are still using banner advertising paradigms. Web video popped onto the scene when the dominant form of online advertising was banners. And, since media guys like nothing better than to swiftly assign old tropes to new technology in order to make it tame and understandable to clients, they approached web video like it was a combination of a TV show and a banner.

And somewhere along the line, sponsors realized that they could track whether or not people clicked on their banners and video. So now the sponsor thinks: “I’m able to track directly how many people clicked on that Tampax ad in the middle of The Burg, went to the Tampax site, and bought some Tampax. If not a lot of people buy it, well then, that must be a fault of the media planners, or the show itself for not getting enough views.”

Well… Yes, you can measure that. No, it doesn’t mean what you think it does. And no, no one is clicking out of the video to go to your product’s site.

Because fans don’t click out of great content. Look, if the cost-per-click model isn’t working for Hulu, it won’t work for the rest of us. That’s my personal feeling – but it’s no secret that Hulu has some of the highest CPMs in the business ($36 last I checked) and some of the worst clickthrough rates. People know if they click on the ad in the middle of their show, then they will be taken away from the show to some godawful brand’s homepage. No thanks. I’ll keep watching the show I’m invested in.

Because it’s rare I find something I can really invest in. For all the reasons stated above. Plus, people are busy. They don’t want to just watch anything. And it’s hard to find quality that matches television.

Because for the most part, TV and Film professionals are not wasting their time in webseries. Yes, some are. But with a few notable exceptions, the professionals are dabbling, in between pro gigs. Meanwhile, you have a big class of web-only creators, talented but unknown outside the IAWTV. And again, as talented as we all may be, with a few exceptions none of us are really making our livings through web video. Which, in my book, should be part of being a professional. The fact of the matter is, the people who make the best television are not making original webseries.

Because there’s no money in webseries. The business model is too new. There’s no guarantee of ROI. The content is too short for a lot of people. Financiers are skittish. The money is just not there.

Because nobody watches webseries.

Thus, we see the spiral.

The good news?

This is a circle that can be broken. If you were to interrupt this circle at any point… with a solution to any one of these problems… you could conceivably become the entrepreneur that raises the bar. Can you make it easier to find great content? Can you break the CPM model and get sponsors hooked on something better? Can you lure more TV pros into making webseries?

If so, you could be the solution. Now get to it so the rest of us can have an industry already.

On Wheat and Chaff: What’s “Good” Web Video?

In my post the other day, I used the phrase ‘wheat and chaff’ to discuss good web video (vs. not-so-good). A few people have taken me to task for this. One even compared me to Hitler. Far be it from me to say that using the Hitler analogy when we’re talking about something as petty as web video is a little much, but… dude, it’s a little much.

Anyway, the prevailing opinion was that I was wrong to doubt that “the cream always rises to the top”, in terms of good video naturally finding its audience. Well, I remember grade school, and I was taught that if a statement contains a definite like ‘always’ or ‘never’, than you can safely guess it’s false. But furthermore, direct experience has taught me: there are great webseries that have no audience, and there are terrible webseries with enormous audiences. A cursory glance at the landscape of the industry will tell you that, no, the cream doesn’t always rise, and the wheat frequently gets lost in the chaff.

Of course, one man’s wheat is another man’s chaff. Taste is subjective. And I won’t sit here criticizing the chaff-eaters for liking The Annoying Orange or anything like that. (And actually I have to admit that even that much-maligned show has been, at times, mildly humorous). So I thought I’d take the opportunity to explain what I consider to be the hallmarks of a good web production. This is what I look for when I’m evaluating shows. It’s what I aim for when I create my own (whether or not I succeed is a different story). It also happens to be the set of qualities that I think make good or great traditional television as well.

Great Content Should Be:

1. Chronic, not Viral. I talked about this last week, and it’s what the whole blog revolves around. But just to recap – it’s the idea that it’s video you keep coming back to, again and again, rather than seeing once. It’s myth vs. meme.

2. Episodic, not One-Off. Nothing against sketch comedy. Nothing against Funny or Die. I just want something longer form. I like long story arcs, developed characters. I like not only wanting to watch the next episode, but having to watch it to find out what happens to the characters or what they get up to next.

3. Quality, not Quantity. I would rather the show had 3 great episodes, like Timothy Cooper’s Concierge, than 12 mediocre ones. And I would rather the length fit the actual storytelling requirements, not an arbitrary 90-second or 3-minute cutoff like so many webseries I see. I don’t think you need to put out content every day, if it’s sub-par content (unless it’s your actual job). That said, I feel that 3 episodes is the bare minimum number to call it a series, and even then, that’s pushing it. I think 6 makes a first season. Otherwise it runs the risk of being just some sketches around a common theme.

4. Collectable, not Disposable. Similar to Chronic/Viral, but it revolves around the question of whether or not I would want to collect this show. If this were on TV, would I buy the DVD set? Would I pay for it on iTunes? Content collection is one of the big psychological factors of internet programming – that’s basically what our iPods and iPads are. Is this something that I’d want taking up space on those devices? Or would I erase it for something I like better?

5. Evergreen, not Hypercurrent. This requirement is what makes my work not so successful on YouTube. I don’t want content that is only relevant for one day or one week. To me, that’s news or talk show commentary. That’s not collectable, chronic content. I want to go back next year, two years from now, and still be able to laugh at it without trying to remember what now-obscure event it was referencing. I know I am in the minority on this one; Barely Political and The Gregory Brothers and even The Onion make their bread on the hypercurrent model, and pretty much every video portal that’s paying for original programming wants it. And any show wants to at least have some degree of timeliness. Still. I think a show should be evergreen at its core.

6. Specific, not Lowest Common. This is the big one. When I say ‘lowest common denominator’, I’m not being elitist. I’m not sitting here saying ‘so and so show is for plebians’. I’m not that guy who hates something because it’s popular (although I have been known to get jealous). My list of favorite movies would not be complete without entries from series as everyman as James Bond, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, the X-Men, and Lord of the Rings. I am not a film/video snob.

But I am a story snob. If the story isn’t good, if the characters aren’t on some level identifiable and believable, if the setting is generic, and if the pacing is off… I’m just not interested. For me, specificity is what makes good writing, and good film/television. I once had a network exec tell me that my show The Burg would never make it on television because it was ‘too specific’ in the location, the characters and the comedy. Uh-huh. Every great TV show out there is great because it’s specific, in character, in setting, in universe, in tone.

I’m using ‘lowest common’ to mean anything that is crafted specifically and calculatedly to appeal to the largest amount of people possible. We see this all the time in TV. A risky line that might offend a few hundred thousand is not taken. The edges are dulled down. The jokes are broadened. The storyline is simplified so that everyone can get it. The product is made to be so palatable that it has not even the whiff of flavor, and no one actually desires to consume it.

The internet has the potential to not need this type of desperate pan-pandering. A webseries can exist with an audience of 1,000 viewers or less; it can thrive with 50,000; it can launch its creators into Hollywood proper with 100,000. A show like All’s Faire will never bring anything close to television numbers, but its core audience is dedicated to it beyond belief. And this is why it’s so frustrating to see online shows that just recycle old TV tropes, or are one-gimmick riffs off existing memes.They don’t improve on TV, they just imitate it.

Ultimately, it’s a snack, and if I’m investing the time to watch, I want a meal.

Kickstarter Addendum 1: What Fred Seibert thinks.

After all that talking about Kickstarter and IndieGogo yesterday, Fred Seibert (of Channel Frederator, Next New Networks, and, originally, MTV) has summed up pretty well the argument FOR it. (Fred was also a part of the panel I was on with Yancey of Kickstarter). And I have to say, like most things Fred says, I tend to agree with his view.

In the world we’re living in, if you don’t get something made and in front of an audience there’s finally no one else to blame but the person in the mirror. If you’re talented, don’t wait for someone else to tell you so. Go out there, find your own audience. They’ll tell you what they think, and after all, aren’t they more important than Viacom, or DC Comics, or Random House? You’ll have satisfaction in doing what you think is right, and if you hit the bull’s eye you’ll make some money too.

[Full post]

This is, at its core, the argument for capitalism. Entrepreneurial spirit, equality of fundraising allowing for fantastic innovations to be made. Agree, agree.

Once I was giving a pitch to Fred, and it was going badly. I think I said something about pop music – how I didn’t really have much interest in it. He told me he loved pop music. And more importantly, “most people do”.

I’m all for giving the audience what they want… And if you don’t know the audience, making the damn show and finding it.

That said, and in defense of my previous post, we’re talking about a bullseye that is getting ever smaller and smaller in a sea of fragmented attention. There’s so much other stuff vying for space, and sometimes the ‘best’ stuff is the least ‘viral’ (often, I actually think). I don’t believe that just hitting the bullseye artistically is going to be enough. This mythical ‘bullseye’ has to encompass executional quality, genuine appeal, just enough money/resources for you to get it done, but most of all, two things to separate your work from the thousands of other series we see launch every month.

One of those is controllable: your level of tenacity and drive.

The other level is not controllable: luck.

And frankly, satisfaction is the ultimate goal of the artist, yes. But satisfaction doesn’t pay the bills. So sooner or later, someone who will has to come into the picture. That’s my chief concern as stated yesterday – the dual problem of creating more ‘snow-to-signal’ and of artifically deflating budget expectations.

(Thanks to Fred for being smart, and Zadi Diaz for posting it originally).

PS – Was this, historically, a problem? Talented indie filmmakers waiting for people to “give them permission” to make something? It’s the third time I’ve seen someone say that in 24 hours.