Digital Series, Mental Health, Crowdfunding and Going Viral


(Angela Gulner) #1

Angela Gulner and Yuri Baranovsky are the Co-Creators of BINGE - a dark comedy series inspired by Angela’s decade-long journey with bulimia. Over the past year, the pilot episode has garnered over half a million views on YouTube, write-ups in Indie Wire, Elite Daily, Bustle, Bust, Buzzfeed, and more, and the attention of such high-profile industry professonials as Rachel Bloom, Bassem Youssef, and Jonathan Slavin.

BINGE is in the final days of it’s IndieGoGo Campaign to fund a full first season and has raised 106% of it’s goal.

Angela Gulner is an actor, writer, and producer who earned her MFA in Acting at the American Repertory Theater/Moscow Art Theater School Institute at Harvard University. In addition to starring in BINGE, she’s appeared in Silicon Valley, Stalker, Glee, as well as on stages all over the world. She co-hosts a feminist podcast called Welcome to the Clambake and volunteers with the eating disorder advocacy group Project HEAL.

Yuri Baranovsky is one of the partners at Happy Little Guillotine Studios (www.hlgstudios.com) where, as head writer and director, he has directed successful, award-winning digital series like Hulu’s LEAP YEAR (Streamy Award, NATPE, “Luminary Award” winner, sold to USA Networks for a third season), multiple episodes of the TruTV sketch show, SIX DEGREES OF EVERYTHING, the branded hosted series, the SLURPEE UNITY TOUR (Pro’s Campaign of the Year winner, over 1.2 billion media impressions), and, most recently, DAN IS DEAD, a yet unreleased series for Disney Studios, starring Drake Bell, Mark Boone Jr., Fred Melamed and more.

Aside from his work in digital series, Yuri has directed commercials and branded campaigns for companies like Arby’s, Samsung, Reebok, Purina, 7-Eleven and many more.

Things We’ve Grown Pretty Good At:

  • Creating something from nothing
  • How to make high quality digital content
  • Running your own PR
  • Running a successful crowdfunding campaign
  • Harnessing a community
  • Branding

We've got an AMA for that!
(Meg Carroway) #2

Holy crap I remember watching your pilot like a year ago and being BLOWN AWAY! I can’t believe you guys are here right now. Kind of geeking out.


(Bri Castellini) #3

Hey guys! Thanks so much for being here today! Figured I’d start with a background question- When did you get into filmmaking, and into web series/digital series in particular?


(Meg Carroway) #4

What is Happy Little Guillotine studios? Are you both members or just Yuri?


(Jaime Lancaster) #5

Hi Yuri and Angela!! I remember watching your pilot a while back too! Can you talk about your PR strategy, and maybe how it’s changed since you guys have been doing stuff online for a while?


(Angela Gulner) #6

I did a huge PR push before we launched the pilot – I started planning and reaching out about a month and a half in advance, and really targeted outlets that focused on women, feminism, mental health, and body image — finding the people who will genuinely respond to and be excited about your project is key. And then, like with everything in this industry, it’s about forming real connections. Keeping up with those who featured us, thanking them, updating them on the project – inviting them to partake in the entire journey, not just a one-and-done type thing.


(Angela Gulner) #7

Yay! That makes us so happy to hear!!


(Yuri Baranovsky) #8

Thanks for having us, Bri!

I originally wanted to draw and I acted as a fun side hobby. Late in high school and early in college I realized I really had a knack for writing (plays, specifically). I wrote a couple and one got published when I was around 18-19 and I realized this might be something that I can turn into a career. Around that time I met Daniela (Kate) and Justin (our director of photography). Justin liked one of my plays and after a while we decided – let’s make this thing into an indie film.

I had never made anything other than a bunch of stupid sketches on a camcorder. Justin was a big film guy, so, somehow, SOMEHOW, we put together an entire (TWO HOUR) film, called Life Noir (which never saw the light of day). That sort of got us started as a little production company… and then in 2006, we stumbled into making one of the first web series (Break a Leg – www.youtube.com/breakalegtv – IT’s REALLY OLD NOW) which really blew up for us back then and created HLG as we know it!


(Jonathan Hardesty) #9

Thanks for joining us. Curious how you guys go about doing your own PR and what that looks like for you guys these days with the constant noise of social media.


(sam lockie-waring) #10

hey guys- really love what you’re doing. i think i saw a pop up shop series by you guys a while back? awesome production design. i’m def interested in the “how to make high quality digital content” thing on your list… especially on leaner budgets.


(Anna Bateman) #11

Can you expand on this a little? I’ve sent press releases out before, to pretty niche/targeted places, but before a show goes up I’ve rarely had success. How do you promote something that isn’t out yet, made by people who aren’t “big names”?


(Angela Gulner) #12

It’s definitely a challenge, and with a small team, we have to be really specific about what we give our energy to. But reaching the community that this show is for – mental health, eating disorders, young women – is key. We’ve been doing an interview series called BINGErviews where we interview different individuals who have struggled – this has been a nice way to continue to provide content while also giving back. We’re working hard to authentically engage with this community as much as possible!


(Yuri Baranovsky) #13

HLG Studios is composed of me, my brother, Vlad (he writes with me often, though not on Binge, and he made the “Never Met” song in the cake-making scene), Justin (our director of photography), and Dashiell (our editor). Daniela (Kate) is a part of the HLG family as well and a producer on Binge.

HLG is a bit like a theater company – if you watch our stuff, we’re using the same actors quite often, etc. I’d say Angela is 100% part of that company.


(Joseph Steven Heath) #14

I remember Break a Leg! It was one of the web series that made me want to make my own! What did you learn from that show that you’ve applied to later shows? Specifically, what are some things you learned not to do or to do better?


(Bri Castellini) #15

That’s really, really cool! So after the success of Break a Leg, you pretty much focused on digital? What were the challenges, especially in the early days, of making an online video career (that wasn’t vlogging) viable?


(Meg Carroway) #16

Is it complicated, running a company as opposed to “just” being an artist? Do you wish someone else was in charge sometimes, so you could just be creative?


(Sunny Larkson) #17

Omg I loved Binge!!! This is so cool! I was wondering… How did you fund the Binge pilot? This most recent indiegogo is your only crowdfunding for it, right?


(Yuri Baranovsky) #18

Thanks, yeah! Pop-Up was something we produced (and Justin filmed) but it was the two creators, Rachel Morgan and Jessa Zarubica who really made it what it was.

This is a much longer discussion, but the long and short of it is:

  1. You need a lot of experience. Helps you cut corners, helps you know what you need, helps you know when you got something, not to overshoot, etc. etc.

  2. You need to have people who trust you and who you trust. People you maybe have hired before and who want to do you a favor. Or people who truly believe in what you’re making. If you don’t have that, you can’t make anything.

  3. You need to write/make something that not only you love but that other people love. That excites them. People in film have to survive by shooting real boring, unartistic things. Offer them an alternative and, if they’ve got free time, they’ll lend their services.

Hope that’s a start!


(Angela Gulner) #19

I reached out to very specific individuals many, many times – and each reach out was personal. I didn’t spend time submitting to places that had email addresses like SUBMIT@_____ or SUBMISSIONS@______ – I sought out women (mostly) who wrote about feminism, eating disorders, mental health, and entertainment in a way I responded to. Blanket press releases, I’ve found, can be a bit of a waste of time (I COULD BE WRONG! this is just my experience). We also had a cut of the pilot to show when we began our outreach, so they could see what we were talking about. I think the personal touch really helped!


(Blair Hunter) #20

Why did you guys decide to use IndieGoGo as your crowdfunding platform? Did you look at Kickstarter or Seed&Spark or anything?