Day Job Cowboys Activate
so we submitted ep3 to the NexTV competition, in which the judges are a bunch of real entertainment industry folks. part of the contest involved a “shortcut to the finals” option where people could vote for a show to make it past the initial selection process and head directly to the finals and in front of said industry folks. a large group from our audience came out on our behalf, voted, and pushed us into to the top of the list.
the fact that we beat the second runners up by a large margin led to Randy Becker, the President of nextventertainment.com, asking me if i would write something about self marketing for their blog. i sat down and wrote a short novel. he then asked if i would like to make it a regular thing.
so once a week i’ll be blogging about no-budget filmmaking and things i’ve gleaned from my years of doing it. i’m thinking the middle of the week, like, wednesdays. and then hopefully i’ll remember to re-post my entries here. i realize that i’m lame, but i like the idea of the guerrilla filmmakers of the digital video-internet generation being called “day job cowboys”. we’ll see if that gets nixed by Randy,
so here’s the first one…
My name is Jake Jarvi. An episode of my show, The Platoon of Power Squadron, Part III: Transition won the latest round of the NexTV Shortcut to the Finals Voting Competition. Over the three weeks that we petitioned to get votes, over 4,000 people visited the site and voted on our behalf. I couldn’t feel more honored that people took time out of their day to come out and support our show. The reason we could get that many people to come out in the first place is simple; we have an audience. The reason we have an audience boils down to one simple word: Youtube.
A bunch of people reading this just rolled their eyes. Youtube has gotten a bad rap. People say time and time again that the Youtube audience only likes to watch cute animals and stupid people doing stupid things. There’s a lot of truth in that. Those are the videos that get embedded on Facebook and sent to friends in emails. It began as a lowest common denominator website, and before Google bought it, the quality was awful–they didn’t even have a 16:9 display window for the love of God. Vimeo was the place for filmmakers to display their stuff in high quality. But now that Youtube has the 1080p option, there are people doing some truly exemplary work there. And Youtube has something that Vimeo just doesn’t…a community.
It was our Youtube community that came out to support us. For three weeks we asked them to come out and vote. About a quarter of them did. That’s how we ended up here.
The ability to interact with an audience is a luxury that low-to-no budget filmmakers have never had before. What Youtube gave me is something that I had hoped for all of my life, but hardly ever dared to dream of actually having: critical audience feedback and a loyal following. These people know the names of my characters and they root for them. They speculate about plot developments and analyze for hidden meaning. For the first time I’m creating content for someone other than myself. I post a video and thousands of people I’ve never met tune in and talk to me about it.
I’ve been making video content since I was 12 and aspiring to get it in front of an audience since I was 21. Finally at 29, I have a worldwide audience, and Youtube made that possible.
But it’s not as simple as posting something on Youtube either. As discouraging as it is, a majority of people still don’t want to watch a web series. We had the benefit of casting a Youtube celebrity–a popular vlogger who calls himself wheezywaiter. A small portion of his audience tuned in and then spread the word about a cool super hero show amongst their friends. That’s how, over the course of three episodes, we grew our audience to over 17,000 subscribers.
Our episodes are about a half hour long and with our day jobs and the fact that it’s an effects show (and we’re doing all the effects ourselves), it takes months to complete an episode. So once a week I post a video telling our audience about our latest progress on the current episode. That’s another part of the process. Once you have an audience, don’t let them forget about you. You have to constantly interact with them and connect with them or they’ll forget you exist. That’s also the nature of the internet.
So get yourself a website, a Youtube page, a Facebook page, and a blog, and then keep up with all of them. Making content isn’t enough; you have to do constant audience upkeep. And the thing is, once you get started on it, you actually enjoy it. Like, a lot. I know some of these user names by heart now. I know the ones that are really supportive and go out of their way to spread the word (one particularly supportive Youtuber has vowed to send a high priority email to Entertainment Weekly with the release of every episode) and I also know the user names of the people who show up just to shoot me down in the comments. That’s the other thing about an audience; it’s 97 percent people who love what you do, 3 percent viciously angry bastards. And I think we all know which faction aims their comments for maximum impact.
Once you have all those things in place, get yourself an IMDB page. Submit your work to at least two or three festivals using Withoutabox (who was bought out by IMDB), pay enough in entry fees (too many early-bird deadlines won’t get you there, I think it’s somewhere in the 60 dollar range), and you’ll get an email about setting up your project’s IMDB page. Nothing says legitimacy like IMDB. Plus, maybe a festival will accept you and those are always fun to go to.
Anyway, that’s my two cents. I don’t make a living producing my own content, but I do have an audience. And that’s worth an awful lot. Especially when it comes to online voting contests.
I hope this short novel of self-aggrandisement helped in some way. Getting an internet audience can be agonizingly slow and frustrating, but in the end it doesn’t matter if they ever show up or not. You either keep making the content because it’s what you do, or you don’t.
so until next week–take it easy, guys.