Festivals and the Internet

I am a relic of the pre-internet age. At 31, I’m not that far out of the loop, but I still instinctively react to things like I did pre-internet. Streaming video and people garnering online audiences for creating video content was popularized with YouTube and YouTube is only 7 years old, but that sucker was a fast-moving game changer.

Like, 9 weeks ago I had the core PoPS contributors over for the filming of the video update and we all reminisced for a bit. It was a lot of fun, but during discussions I mentioned that I submit every episode of PoPS to a couple of film festivals. There are a few film festivals that I always submit to, Fantastic Fest—the geek Mecca of festivals in Austin, TX, The Burbank Film Festival—because their screenings are on the Warner Bros. lot and I just want to go back there (I LOVE LOVE LOVE backlots, I’d love to screen on one and just hang out there), and, of course, the NexTV ones, because of the simple fact that industry eyes are on your content and I’ll take that pill as many times as I can. But after we stopped recording, my buddy Craig was like, “Why do you submit to festivals? You already have an audience.” That blew my mind. It got me to thinking.

People at one time submitted to festivals in the hopes of getting selected so that people would watch their stuff. Prior to the internet, it was one of the only routes open to everyone who wanted the eyes of strangers on their passion project. Pay an entry fee and at least SOMEONE is going to consider your work, if they liked it, they’d project it on a bigger screen for more eyeballs. Damn it, that sounded beautiful. I’ve had stuff in some smaller festivals and I’ve familiarized myself with that crowd. The folks dropping their rent money into making stuff just because they want to tell their story, the actors performing for nothing but credit who shake your hand after a screening with that little glint in their eye that just wants to hear someone say they did a good job, the one guy who sold his mini-dv opus straight-to-dvd and barely makes eye contact because he’s sure that he’s now a luminary (and to us, he was). I’ve been in the aspiration trenches with all of them, man. I went to my first film festival with a pocket full of business cards that had perforated edges that my mom designed and printed off for me at work. I’ve been the guy slouched so low in his seat while his movie tanked in the room. I’ve been the douche bag who groaned at some serious low-budg writing without realizing the filmmaker was sitting behind me. There are a thousand small festivals and million big dreamers at every one of them.

I run into the same folks today on the local scene. People just looking for a break, who are acting, directing, and writing their hearts out with whatever they can afford. To them, our show is a huge opportunity.  It’s a series with a guaranteed audience of thousands of strangers who will finally see their work. When I think about it like that, it’s outstanding. But they’re coming at it from a place I tend to forget about. Now, I know the kind of numbers that other people and projects draw on YouTube and suddenly I forget that 35,000 subscribers is a great number for a guy whose largest audiences previously ran about 30 people in a room at a festival.

So why do I still submit to festivals now that I have what I wanted out of them? A few reasons: One, the withoutabox submission IMDB page clause. Outstanding. Two, I still long for the eyes of the actual industry to land on the flickering pictures I made up. Three, all of those people that watch our show do it in the privacy of their own homes. I’m unbelievably grateful that they spend their time watching us and that they enjoy it enough to leave comments for us, but I still want to sit in a room with them and hear them experience it as it happens. I want to feel the energy of it working in the room. That’s why.

Since I always include a bunch of embedded videos on the blog when we’re in post production on an episode, I thought I’d include a different example of how a webseries keeps their audience entertained between seasons. Why not use the example of the most successful webseries ever, The Guild. Whereas I do weekly updates that get around 4,000 views compared to the 30,000-ish regular views the episodes get, The Guild’s episodes get somewhere around 500,000 to 700,000 views and their in-between-seasons music videos get MILLIONS of views. They just put out another one this week. A very catchy tune that their core gaming audience can relate to with a great video directed by Jed Whedon, Joss’s very talented brother. It’s awesome:

And because we were talking about seeing things play in the room, The Guild practically broke the internet with their awesome “Do You Want to Date My Avatar”video, but even before it was launched online it killed in a room at Comicon. Someone posted a video of the audience’s reaction to it. I just love it.

Thanks for reading, guys.

–Jarvi

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