I should say that Bob does all the Twitter stuff for us and he’s been a Miracle at getting he word out. I think it’s all about a persistent drumbeat - The kinds of people who would love our show often have no way to have even heard of it. Since we don’t have a budget, social media is how we lee people in the know about us. It’s really our only current route to new viewers.
The fact that you’re already concerned about being authentic is much of the battle. If you can only be on part of the time, just be as sincere and generous as you can while you’re on. And we don’t mind doing auto-tweets during the day, as long as they’re well thought out and now just “come see our show!” Honestly, we’re lucky that I’m a writer and work at home and can post throughout the day. But it also can take over your life and you have to find a proper balance. That’s the rest of the battle, really, figuring out that balance.
Can you talk about your deal with Seeka a little? What makes them different/unique? What’s the benefit of streaming with them? I’ve seen their name around a lot but they’re so new I guess I worry about them not existing by the time I have a show to pitch them, because for the most part no one makes money in web series really.
Do you guys use special hashtags or something? What kinds of BTS pictures/content seems to work the best to bring in new viewers/keep old ones coming back?
I got started before there were a lot of tools that are available today. I worked with a young producer in Orlando who moved to LA and became a Manager. When I moved out, he signed me and helped develop the script that got me my first agent. People hate to think it’s “who you know” but relationships are so important. That, and writing constantly. I’d written over a dozen scripts before i went “pro”. I’d made films, done plays and improv, made tons of friends and collaborators. You can’t just write and send out emails. You have to connect with people and when they give you a shot and read something of yours, it has to be fantastic.
When you work in the industry for studios or clients or whatever, you can be stuck developing stuff (often for me - unpaid) on projects for months or years. Sometimes those projects get made, often they don’t. I don’t want to speak for Bob or Cat, but I came out here to MAKE things and talking about stuff that never happ ma makes me want to kill myself. Making webseries is a great way to make what we want to make and in our own terms. There’s no money involved really but there’s infinite creative freedom.
Hi both of you!! WOW you guys are so impressive! I’m like star struck! No one has asked about crowdfunding yet so I guess I will! Why do you think you were successful, and would you do anything different a second time around? Or would you ever consider crowdfunding again, for 20 seconds or anything else?
A lot of the Webfests will tell us which episodes they want. Some of the more traditional festivals will say something like “no more than three episodes or 15 minutes for a single episode” - and for each one of those we might put together a “mixtape” of episodes that we think might fit their programming.
Ben and I have worked professionally in film & TV, which is a lot of pitching, trying to get money or book gigs. It can be relentless and grinding. To keep sane, Ben and I would do theater at Sacred Fools in Hollywood. We collaborate on many shows together at a late night show they have called Serial Killers. That’s actually where we created our aesthetic that we brought to 20STL. At one point, Ben called and suggest that we could take the energy we put into theater and actually shoot something. We both love old-school horror anthologies. He pitched me the idea for 20STL and I was in! I can’t say this enough…the power to say yes to yourself is incredible. I wrote a couple scripts, we met with our producer Cat Pasciak, she was in, and we started shooting. Now we’re creating a body of work that belongs to us and no one has to give us permission. It’s pretty wonderful.
I think everyone’s trying to figure out how to create a platform that allows people to watch various web series. We signed with Seeka.TV mainly because their VP of programing George Reece is a really smart, engaged guy. He knows the challenges they’ve set out to overcome and doesn’t bother making empty promises. He’s honest and straight-forward and we liked that. They’re non-exclusive so we didn’t really have anything to lose. If Seeka.TV cracks the code of being a successful web platform (which I think they can do) then we’re on the ground floor with something amazing. If not, well, that’s one more place for people to find our show. But I have high hopes they’re gonna make it.
Crowdfunding was a LOT of work, but it was a great experience. We got to directly connect with people who like the show, and frankly to introduce it to a LOT of new people. But the best advice I was given and will pass along to anyone who asks is this - just be yourself. The videos we posted just honestly thanking people for helping us got a ton of views and I think brought us closer to our audience.
The other thing I decided when we started is this: I had to be willing to ask literally ANYONE to look at our Indiegogo page but in return I had to be okay with ANY response. Only one person out of thousands responded negatively. A lot of people don’t respond at all, and those who respond are often encouraging.
And even though we’ve been done for a while, I’m still getting responses from people about it. The first priority of the campaign for me was to get a fuckton of people to check out the series for the first time or to check it out again, and theater worked.
What are some mistakes you made during your first season (or the beginning of your careers) and how are you changing things to sidestep them in the future?
We were lucky to get some great actors with strong followings in the horror community such as Derek Mears (Jason in the last Friday the 13th) and Graham Skipper (Beyond The Gates). So I’d tag them occasionally, post pics from their eps, and then follow their fans. Some would come over to us, some not, but that’s fine. Also, Adam Green (the Hatchet movies) “presented” our show on his site Ariescope.com so I made sure we were liking his posts, retweeting, be-friending his fans. On top of that, we’d just have cool BTS stuff with demons and evil dolls so if people gave our page a glance, they’d be like “what the hell is THIS?” and give us a shot. I honestly only used hashtags for making jokes.
What excites you about web series right now? As an art form, as a community, as fans?
So you followed people, and that brought them to your show? Even by just following their accounts and continuing to tweet as normal?
One rule I’ve heard is that you should spend twice as much time promoting your stuff as you do making it.
That really starts with friends and family, but also using tools like social media to reach a larger audience. Use tools like Crowdfire to follow the people who already follow the kinds ignorant projects you’re making, some will follow back and then ENGAGE with them. Put out a lot of high-quality graphics and stuff.
Use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram a lot. I don’t get Snapchat but I know it’s a giant big deal. Make a podcast. Write a blog. It’s a lot of work, but it’s the only way to get your message out as far and wide as you want it to be.
Making things - no matter how good - is never enough. You’ve got to be willing to ask people to look at whatever-it-is. And believe me when I say that every avenue that’s helped us is open to you as well.
I think our biggest mistake was wasting a lot of energy on debating how to release our show. We debated youtube vs vimeo for a thousand years it seems and then ended up on Ariescope anyway. How you release your show is important, but honestly, it’s better to make decisions from your gut and just move. I also wish we’d spent a bit of money making a better website. We’re at 20secondstolive.com and it’a s simple squarespace page we made. It gets the job done but I wish it was more a true hub where people could connect with us better. But that’s something we can fix in the near future.
I LOVE that there’s no “right” or “wrong” way to do it. The format can be a thing. Some are like a comic strip (“The Other Kennedys,” “Ball or Nothing”) - some are like TV series but with topics that would be hard to get on TV (“Her Story”). Some are sketch comedy-ish (“Hat Trick Bitches”) and everything in between. There is a great deal of innovation and fresh storytelling going on in he web series world, and I’m consistently surprised and impressed with the new voices I see there.
Ben and I came up as filmmakers back when you had to go to a film festival to see awesome cutting edge stuff. Now, you can just turn on your computer and go. That energy we used to see from people making short films and building a community around that is now seen online as people make a series. There’s a feeling that anything is possible and we love that. It really connected with me when we started attending web fests. Ben went to Seattle Web Fest last year and I went to Vancouver Web Fest. Two amazing fests, with many shows at both of them, and we realized, this is a real community of passionate filmmakers. Now we have friends all over the world who have made incredible shows and being a part of that is very special.
What advice do you wish you could give your younger selves?