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This blog post by Thom Woodley, creator of the "All's Faire" web series, was dropped today. I def have my opinion (in disagreement - many web series were bad LONG before crowd-funding), I would love to your hear thoughts:
By Thom Woodley
I can feel most independent webseries creators already notching their arrows in my direction. How could Kickstarter/IndieGogo possibly be bad for webseries? It’s often the only way webseries can get funded!
Well, yes. That’s true. Often it is. And I have nothing against either operation. I use them both and have supported friends’ stageplays, records, films and webseries. In fact, I have sat on a panel with Kickstarter’s kickstarter, Yancey Strickland, and found him a great guy with a lot of great motivations and a really fantastic success story. He and his colleagues are doing wonderful, altruistic work for many, many people. Much better work than me, in fact, so I should probably just shut my damn mouth, right?
But what I’m most interested in is quality of web video. Let’s try that filter out.
It used to be (in the aulden dayes of 2008 and before!) that if you wanted to make a webseries, you either had to find some sponsor willing to pay for it (in which case, most of the time, it turned out crappy), or you did it yourself on credit cards (in which case, most of the time, it turned out cheap). Today, everyone can get their shit together, put together a pitch, and send it out to 100+ friends.
Everyone can do this. That is the benefit, and that is the problem.
ISSUE 1: Kickstarter pretty much funds everything. Because it’s social. If you are reasonably popular, you sell your pitch reasonably well, and your friends are not all reasonably homeless, you can count on milking 10 or 25 bucks from them each to do pretty much whatever you want. Extend that to your colleagues, your Facebook friends, the people on Twitter, and probably a couple of older and wealthier relatives, and you can pretty easily get your $5,000.
But just because your friends are willing to support you doesn’t make it good. (In fact, experience has taught me that sometimes folks are willing to support projects just to get their creators to shut up about it already). The money is now available – for everybody. Which means people who were too timid of spending money, too afraid of taking a risk, or too unsure of the quality of their ideas are now jumping in. Because what’s to lose? It’s not my money, and it’s not real money. Right?
I don’t mean to be aggressive or Randian on anybody here. But I do think that if you have a good idea, you know you have a good idea, and you do whatever it takes to make it. If it crashes and burns along the way, congratulations: you’ve failed, the most important step in success. If it doesn’t crash and burn, then congratulations: you’ve just taken one massive, exciting step towards your next failure.
With crowd-sourced funding of yet-to-be-produced projects, there is little natural weeding of poor ideas. It used to be a little easier to separate the wheat from the chaff, webseries-wise, in that there was just so little of either. Now there’s a lot of both. The meritocrats believe that good content will naturally rise to the top. I don’t believe that anymore. I believe that a glut of chaff will continue to hide most of it, and we keep shoveling in that chaff.
(At least until we have better filtering, which will be the subject of several future entries).
ISSUE 2: These sites are unwittingly setting the standard rate of production for webseries. It seems to be, most people are asking for $5K to $10K for a 6-to-10-episode season. With most webisodes clocking in at 3 minutes these days, let’s do some terrible math and estimate that we are producing our webseries for a rate of about $300-$500 per produced minute.
Now, I’m all for low-budget video. I haven’t really done anything but. My highest budget for an actual webseries (excluding commercial projects) was a half million; yet, that was for about five and a half hours of broadcast-quality content (roughly 3 feature films). I love low-budget, and nothing makes me more angry than “directors” who think they can’t shoot a single frame without a crane, gib arm and pyrotechnics.
Except for being undervalued. That makes me madder. And I’m starting to get afraid here. Because we were producing The Burg for $100 a produced minute, and no one got paid. We shot 60 pages in 3 days for All’s Faire. But that’s supposed to not be the case anymore, in 2011. This is supposed to be becoming an industry. Kickstarter/Indiegogo is setting a potentially dangerous precedent here: 1, you have to have money, but 2, it should only be a little money. If this is defining what webseries are and which ones get made, then should we be concerned about the motivation for more professionals to really get into the business (and thus, real audiences)?
Now before anyone accuses me of being mean, elitist, curmudgeonly, needlessly antagonistic, or just a douche, I want to make it clear: I am indeed doing the online equivalent of throwing a bunch of darts into the air at the holiday party, and hoping they don’t hit me. Everybody loves Kickstarter and Indiegogo, and they’re making a lot of great stuff happen. I’m just asking questions.
Nor do I have alternatives to suggest. Although I do have interest in a different kind of crowd-sourced model: the audience-supported one. By which I mean, the actual audience that you know you actually have, because you made the first season on your own and built it up. Anyone But Me is the constantly cited example of this, but they’re not the only ones. Reason I like this is it combines the feel-good-social-video model (which we all love to embrace in theory) with the hardcore-objectivist-meritocracy model (that’s what actual business runs on). I, personally, think that’s a more viable longterm trend for web video.
What do you think? Does the good done far, far outweigh the bad? Disagreements? Darts? Throw ‘em my way.
Exactly, Double Espresso, the way in which creators get funding does not factor into the quality/skillset into the way in which the web series is created. You're right when you say he seems to think that if a person is validated by sponsorship through AT&T, that creator has "earned" the right to make a web series...balony! For every bad web series Thom can name financed by Kickstarter, I can name 10 HORRIBLE web series financed through credit cards or a local dentistry. My attitude is create your art "By any means necessary"!
As for the "digital panhandling" swipe...if you think crowd funding is panhandling then so are all those pledge drives by PBS, so is every political campaign fund raising drive, so is every charity event held for kids with Leukemia to raise funds...heck, why even pay taxes at all, that's the government forcibly panhandling, LOL
At the end of the day, no one is forced to pledge on Kickstarter...However we are constantly forced to see ads everywhere we look. If I'm forced to see one more print/billboard/digital/web/commercial/theatrical ad for "Falling Skies" on TNT I'm gonna vomit. LOL
No problem Thom, the blog definitly sparks discussion! I'm coming from the TV/FIlm world but its all interconnected.
The problem with the entire argument though is that its all subjective. There are some that would look at all the web series you consider to be great and consider them mediocre themselves.
Most people I personally know, would NEVER watch The Guild (with its millions of views), yet that is considered by many to be a web series standard for excellence.
Lastly, as Double Espresso said, "The cream always rises to the top." If your $40k-$100k series doesn't stand out to the $5K mediocre IndieGogo funded series, the problem is not with crowd-funding or an over crowded market...
Rich MBariket repeatedly says on this site, the creator has to take responsibility in marketing and driving awareness for their show. If you have a diamond and you can't sell it because there are too many turds for sale, you may need to rethink your selling strategy.
You're right, I'm being totally subjective. One man's wheat is another man's chaff. I'm actually posting about "good" vs. "not good" in a couple of days.
As for "The cream always rises to the top"... I don't buy it. Don't you remember grade school? If a statement contains 'always', it's usually false? :) Seriously, it sounds like you don't consider The Guild to be 'the wheat', but you can't deny it's risen to the top. And I know an awful lot of really, really good series, well written, well shot, well acted, and overall well conceived, that just haven't found their audience.
But overall, you're right. It's better that we have Kickstarter/IndieGogo than nothing. It's better that people make stuff than don't.
True Thom, seems like there really are no RIGHT answers, just our own individual opinions.
The Guild may have millions of viewers but so does Dancing With the Stars...I say that to say, having an audience does not equate to being the best of entertainment, even for the web. LOL.
As for the great web series that can't find their audience, I blame the creators. I think the best thing we can all learn from Felicia Day and The Guild is showmanship and marketing. She adds a "face" to the promotion of the show. A likable one at that :)
I'm currently running an IndieGoGo campaign, while I am falling short of my goal I disagree Rich's panhandeling comment. (By the way wasn't there a conversation about free t-shirts not to long ago).
If creators are giving something back to people who donate, such as a t-shirt, DVD, posters, etc, it adds value to the contribution.
Good discussion though and Donnie make s a good point about Felicia Day's contribution to the Guild.
There's always a flipside, and in this case I feel that an unsuccessful Kickstarter or IndieGoGo campaign can kill a good series before it even gets started. People not backing your project can really make you question if your idea is as good as you initially thought. I've personally seen some atrocious looking projects get boat loads of money via these platforms while great looking concepts and pitch videos have been squashed.
To answer your question, I really don't think they are hurting the format. At least not in the way that you present. There will always be good and bad of any media or art regardless of where the money comes from. There's always two sides which helps to maintain the balance.
Just say no to panhandling
wait what are we talking about here?