Digital Series, Mental Health, Crowdfunding and Going Viral

(Angela Gulner) #21

Correct! We… well… we didn’t really fun the pilot. It was pretty much out of our pocket to feed our cast and crew, and calling in literally every favor that we could. What helped is that Yuri, with HLG, has such an amazing group of crew members who enjoy working with him – HLG studios is able to employ people pretty consistently, and so calling in favors becomes easier when you’re taking care of your co-workers. I think the subject matter was a big draw, too. 1/10 people suffer from an eating disorder, but they are very un-talked about – money is money, but at the end of the day, most artists just want to make good work. Having a script that gets people excited is the most important piece of the puzzle!

(sam lockie-waring) #22

did they hire you to produce it, or did you approach them? curious about that end of things.

secondarily, what do you think the best way to build experience is? shooting in different genres/formats for years? shooting one type of thing and getting really hard core about it? pa-ing?

(Anna Bateman) #23

How did you not lose your mind?? haha. I get, like, fatigued after a while

(Angela Gulner) #24

We did! Indiegogo has an option that allows you to keep the money even if you don’t hit your goal. That was ultimately our reason for choosing them. Kickstarter has a much wider audience, though, so there are pros and cons to both… ultimately, most of the money comes from your audience and your network – what you’ve worked to build BEFORE you launch. I think different projects are better suited for different platforms!

(Yuri Baranovsky) #25

Holy shit, that’s amazing!! YAY! We love Break a Leg fans, you guys changed our lives, man. We’re forever indebted to all of you. Fun fact: I met my wife thanks to Break a Leg (and now we’re expecting a baby). That show was magical for us.

ANYWAY! I Digress. It taught us EVEEEERYTHING! Seriously, everything. In no particular order:

-How to organize a shoot
-How to work with actors
-How to shoot QUICKLY and cut corners
-How to be brave (we wrote a cowboy town into the final episode and were like, how the hell are we going to fake this? And then through sheer hard work and luck WE FOUND A FULLY BUILT COWBOY SET and the owner let us shoot in it for free – lesson? Be fucking brave and bold and challenge yourself).

I mean, just… everything. We experimented a lot on that show – if you watch Ep 1 to the final episode, you can see how much we’ve learned (and then more and more on other things we made).

So, the lessons are almost too countless to explain but the biggest one I think I keep having to re-learn is that: we have to keep making our own thing. Break a Leg made our careers. When we stopped, things took a dip and we were a little bit dismayed and bummed by, you know, NOT BEING IMMEDIATELY FAMOUS. But as they picked up, and as they go up and down and up and down (and with the creation of Binge) we keep learning the same lesson:

IF we want to succeed in this business, we have to make our own art. We can’t constantly chase the next job all the time, we have to make what we’re passionate about. Even if it means calling in a million favors and shooting a Pilot like Binge.

Does that answer your question at all? That answer felt… wandery.

(Bri Castellini) #26

In kind of this vein, when you have to do a shoot with only volunteers, how do you pitch that to collaborators/ make it worth their while? And for creators without an HLG that consistently hires outside of passion projects, what do you recommend?

(Blair Hunter) #27

What about Seed&Spark? They let you keep any money after 80% funded, and are a super female-focused platform which seems to kind of align with your whole thing. Just curious cuz they all seem to have very different pros and cons!

(Blair Hunter) #28

Also, have you guys ever done crowdfunding before, or is this your first time?

(Angela Gulner) #29

It came about a bit more organically! Yuri and I have been friends for years, and when I came to him with a script idea, he was really excited to develop and write it with me. And the other members of his company loved it, too, and we decided to make it as a group! Aw, friendship!

Great question! I think there are infinite paths up the mountain – working with people smarter and stronger and more experienced that you, work with people who excite you, who are cool under pressure, and who make being on set a pretty enjoyable thing. This industry is TOUGH and it’s a real slog… being with people you can enjoy the ride with is so important.

(Angela Gulner) #30

First time! And hopefully last…

(Jimmy Johnson) #31

Angela have you seen the comment section of your The Couple | Open Relationship skit that was posted by the Netflix Youtube channel?

What’s your opinion on that?

(Angela Gulner) #32

Yeah, we went back and forth for a long time but at a certain point, we just had to make a decision. Perhaps a different platform would have been better, but we’re feeling pretty good about where we are at!

(Blair Hunter) #33

How else have you funded projects? Cuz I would ALSO like to never crowdfund again!!

(Angela Gulner) #34

woof. how could i miss it??? we’ve got work to do, america!!! (or, world, as i suppose this is the internet…)

(Jaime Lancaster) #35

Other than money, what’s the hardest part about independent producing, in your opinions?

(Yuri Baranovsky) #36

Yep, after Break a Leg, we got a few branded jobs and then one HUGE one called the 7-Eleven Road Trip Rally (you can still find some eps online if you try hard). It was a silly reality show-thing for 7-Eleven and (now defunct) but the budget was the biggest we had ever gotten and it was kind of a big deal. That show lead to another 7-11 show that won a bunch of awards (Slurpee Unity Tour) and finally to our very big branded/original crossover: Leap Year, which was a branded series that was fully scripted, on Hulu, and co-starred awesome people like Eliza Dushku, Steven Weber, Josh Malina, etc. etc. Vlad and I wrote two seasons of it, won a few awards and got great press from it, so it really put our names on the digital map, so to speak.

And challenges! oh, man! So many challenges! The same ones as now, weirdly! The industry keeps changing every year, so we kept being like – okay, what are we this year? Do we make branded? Do we make originals? We’re constantly having to adapt.

We also wanted to push the envelope always, one big thing we always pushed for is higher quality (in a vlog world this was unheard of) and longer episodes (someone told us, “I don’t watch anything over 90 seconds” when we were making Break a Leg… which had long episodes).

The other big challenge is that once TV and film people started really entering the arena, the competition really spiked. It’s much harder to sell a show now if you don’t have a TV showrunner attached – which is how traditional TV works. The problem is, of course, that showrunners don’t know how to make digital series (lower budgets, different audiences) and networks need to realize that it’s the digital creators, who have figured out this space a long time ago, who can help them make successes.

In short, it’s been challenging to succeed in an entirely new genre, you know? Money constantly comes in and out and we have to fight for every job. But HLG has survived and weathered the storm, done well for ourselves and I’m quite proud of that!

(Jane) #37

So I read through that and was really inspired and then really, really anxious. I’m someone who really doesn’t do great with asking strangers for things… how do I get over that/ know when it’s ok to ask for things? I know there’s easier ways to produce than how I do it but I’m so paralyzed by the thought of asking…

(Hailey Harper) #38

Do you have any advice about working with brands? How to make yourself/ your company appealing to them, how to reach them, etc?

(Angela Gulner) #39

hahah! I’ve lost mine many, many times…

(Jaime Lancaster) #40