Guerilla Showrunner

Make your webseries. Better. Faster. Now

Do This, and your work WILL get more views/comments/fans. I promise.

Heya, everyone!

OK, it’s practical, actionable advice time. By the end of this article - IF you actually DO IT, not just read and move on - you’ll have a New Plan to get more of whatever you want - comments, fans, viewers, money - for your show or film.

So, let’s get started.

Note: this is a practical tutorial. As I say above, you need to do more than just read here. When I tell you to write stuff down or do something else, if you want to get more viewers/fans/comments/Crunchie Bars, you need to actually do it. Do so, and I virtually (see the end of the article) guarantee More Good Things.

Job The First: Get Very Specific

OK, you presumably know what your broad goal is for your show. (If you don’t, some guy not too far away from this keyboard wrote an article on figuring out your show or film’s goals a while back).

It’s easy to get paralyzed on publicity. Often we’ll end up with really broad-strokes stuff, try a bunch of different things once, and get disheartened.

So, the first job here to get things going is to get very, very specific about what you want.

You want comments? From who? What sort of comments? Do you want “this is awesome”, or “I didn’t understand BLAH” or even “I think it would be better if you’d dropped 3 beats from Scene 2”?

You want money? How much? In what quantities? Regular or one-off?

You want viewers? Great. What sort? You just want massive numbers on YouTube, or you actually want repeat viewers? Do you want people who will stick around for the series, or one-time drivebys? Do you care if they leave nice or nasty comments?

Seriously, write this stuff down, now, then come back and read the next bit.

Job The Second: List Your Assets

Not your ass. I don’t want to know if you own a donkey. Unless the donkey’s key to the series, in which case, stick it down.

Here’s where you list everything that’s of interest about your film or series. I do mean EVERYTHING. It’s very easy to assume you know what will make your series stand out - but you probably don’t know everything. Did I realise that because I cast someone with a very non-Receieved Pronunciation accent in BloodSpell, I would end up with a small but enthusiastic Liverpudlian following? No I didn’t.

So. What’s interesting about your show or film? What’s the story about? What challenges do the characters face? How is it different from every other YouTube vid? Is it funnier? Prettier? Covering a different group of people? Who are your characters? What characteristics of theirs would people like? What hobbies do your characters have? What accessories are they seen with? (Seriously, this stuff matters. Google “Smallville Cars” and look for the Lotus Enthusiasts’ Forum - the Superman show got free publicity from a wide variety of sportscar enthusiasts because one of the characters is super-rich and so drives interesting cars. And more publicity because another character runs a coffee shop. And rides horses. And so on.)

What’s unusual about how the show’s made? What’s unusual about the people in it? Or the people making it? Or where it’s made? (Never underestimate the power of local press).

And so on.

You should end up with PAGES of material - if you haven’t got at least one page’s worth, keep going.

Job The Third: Combine The Two Lists

You’re probably starting to see where we’re going with this one now.

There are actually two mini-jobs here. First of all, you need to look at your “stuff I want” list, and turn that from stuff into people. Who would be likely to do, give or leave the things you want?

In contrast to everything so far, you DON’T want to be too specific here - just get a general idea. Most importantly, you need to know your dealbreakers. For example, if you want constructive comments, you don’t want people who never comment, and you don’t want people who leave “LOLS TIHS SUXXXX MNW3 PWNS NOOBS” comments on YouTube. If you want money, to quote Naomi Dunford, they have to have some money, and they have to be at least theoretically willing to give some of it to you.

You should end up with a paragraph-ish long description. For example, if I was looking for more repeat viewers for Kamikaze Cookery, I’d be looking for people who want to be entertained, are at least vaguely interested in food, who watch video online, who aren’t totally turned off by science or geekery, who have the time to watch every week, and who have an attention span of longer than 30 seconds.

Note that I’ve not said they HAVE to be interested in science or HAVE to be geeks. I’m keeping my field broad here.

Now, it’s brainstorming time. Turn off the critical part of your brain. Accept that there is no such thing as a stupid idea. And get ready to write a LOT of ideas down.

Now, look at your assets list, and write down any route you can think of that would let you contact people who fit your criteria and would be attracted by, interested in, or feel fellow feeling with something on your assets list. ANY route. No matter how daft or impossible-sounding.

One of your characters wears hats? Great! What type of hats? Maybe you could find a forum for people who like that kind of hat! Maybe you could find shops that sell that kind of hat and get them to give you free advertising, or a mention on their blog, or just get the shop owner watching. Maybe you could do an Ebay auction of the hat and link to your show. Maybe you could contact a celebrity who also likes that kind of hat. Maybe you could invite hat shop owners in your town to a free screening. Maybe you could start a Twitter account for the hat and look for other people mentioning hats in their Twitter feeds. Maybe you could get people to stick adverts for your show to the side of their hats. Maybe there’s a hat blogosphere? And so on.

Again, you should end up with PAGES of this stuff. If you can’t get started, start by writing down stuff that would definitely not work, and see if that sparks any ideas. Or just concentrate on one part of your asset list, or one item. Or free-associate from a word (“Blue”, for example - could you make a news story about the hat turning blue? Could you make a blue movie featuring the hat? And the guy in the hat? Could you contact Blue’s Clues about the hat?)

Job The Fourth: Do Eet Now.

OK, you have pages of ideas.

Turn your critical faculties back on. Look for the ones that seem the most likely to work to you. Make a shorter list of them.

Try and find a grouping of 4 or 5 similar ideas - for example, if you’ve got 2 great hat-related ideas and 3 pretty good ones, go for those. Don’t stress about quality too much - you don’t know what ideas are good yet. Do bear in mind cost (if it costs more than you can afford, you can’t do it) and time (If it takes longer than you can afford, you can’t do it). Also, look for ideas with certain results (posting on a forum = definitely going to do something. Contacting a news outlet = more of a gamble) and wide scope (Forum with 50 readers? Definite but limited scope. Oprah? Unlikely but HUGE if it works) and try for a balance between certainty and potential impact.

Put those 5 on a list.

Congratulations, you now have a new marketing plan. Your job now is simple. Do Them.

Then, once you’ve done them, look back and see how well they did. Well? Keep doing more things like that. Badly? Do something else off your massive ideas list.

Keep doing this, and you WILL build your viewership up.


And that’s it!

OK, so, here’s the deal. I hear a lot of people getting quite despairing about publicising their work. And I know it’s hard - but I also know, from a lot of experience, that if you follow this plan it WILL work.

So - if you try this, and have ANY problems at all, from “I don’t know what I want” to “I can’t think of enough ideas”, to “I tried it and nothing worked”, comment below, and I’ll help out, and keep helping out until you’re actually getting more viewers in.

Seriously. I want you to succeed.

Read more →

Why behaving like the contestants on “The Apprentice” could make your series amazing

Oh, ye gods. What a horror.

I watched an episode of “The Apprentice”.

For those who don’t know - “The Apprentice” is a UK reality TV show where a bunch of alleged experienced businessmen and women compete in a variety of allegedly business-related tasks to become the “apprentice” to alleged business guru (and, to be fair, successful tycoon) Alan Sugar.

It’s horrifying. “Normal” business practise is presented as a mass of sniping, backbiting, and bullying from Lord Sugar on down. The tasks bear about as much relation to actual business as that dude in the bear suit at your local mall does to an actual grizzly.

And the contenders are both spectacularly odious - sexist, overbearing, pretentious, backstabbing - and incredibly stupid. Stupid to the point that a team of seven of them, in an entire day, couldn’t figure out what a “cloche” was in the context of a posh hotel. (To be fair, they weren’t allowed to use Google, which would have put my personal time on that task up from 30 seconds to, ooh, about 3 minutes).

And yet these guys and girls are all very successful in business. One had made 70k a year whilst studying at the same time. Another ran a not-that-small company.

And this got me thinking. If you forced one of these morons to run a web series, would they do as well at that, in spite of their deficiencies?

Quite likely. Why?

Balls.

If you’re smart, sensitive and empathic, as most web series creators are, it’s very easy to assess the risks. Very easy to get into other peoples’ shoes and figure out what they might think of our little web series. And so we’re “realistic”, and focus our efforts on stuff we have assessed we’ve got a good chance of succeeding at, and avoid things that are doomed to horrible failure or serious embarassment.

Meanwhile, if you’re dumb as a post and cocky as something that can’t be mentioned on primetime TV, your first reaction to “How do I publicise this series?” is “Call the New York Times and tell them it’s awesome!”

And actually, that’s a very, very good idea.

I’ve been working very hard in the last few years on differentiating between situations where I’ve got no chance at all, and situations where I’ve got a pretty small chance, but a good chance of feeling embarassed too. The latter are very, very easy to mistake for the former, because it gets you out of scary stuff.

Scary stuff like seriously pitching the New York Times film section about your web series - not sending a generic PR, but actually calling them up and saying “I’ve got this thing and it’s AWESOME!”. Like taking your dream cast list and actually calling their agents. Like phoning a major theater chain and saying “Hey, guys, fancy showing the pilot of my series as a trailer to Pirates of the Carribean 4?”

Now, you’re probably sitting there thinking “yeah, but there’s no chance that would ever work.” Wrong. There is SOME chance that would work.

I’ve been featured in the New York Times. And on CNN. Entertainment Weekly. About half of the UK’s national newspapers. And various other places. It’s doable. Hell, I pitched one of the biggest name casting agents in the UK the idea for a World of Warcraft fanfilm and she agreed to work on it. And subsequently a whole bunch of very famous people also agreed to be in it, thanks to her. (Joanna Lumley. Brian Blessed. Jack Davenport. Anna Chancellor. Think they’d agree to be in a tiny webseries? Turns out, yes they would.)

Does this mean that I’m awesome? Not especially. It just means I made a bunch of phonecalls that I thought had almost no chance for success, and it turned out my risk assessment wasn’t as good as I thought it was.

What stuff could you do for your web series (or hey, I know we have non-webseries readers, your film, or your iPhone app, or your ebook) that would totally revolutionise its success? Which ones are clearly stupidly impossible?

How confident are you that they’re impossible?

Confident enough that you’ll take 10 minutes of embarassing telephone conversation over the chance for an A-Lister as your lead actor?

Confident enough it can’t happen that it’s not even worth TRYING to get the Hollywood Reporter to cover you?

Are you really so sure that you’re right?

Or can you pretend to be dumb enough that you believe it might work?

Smart’s good. But sometimes, to achieve remarkable stuff, you’ve got to pretend you’ve got balls of steel but a brain of lead.

Good luck.

P.S. Oh, and don’t just do it once. Hollywood Reporter told you to shove it? Engage dumb-but-cocky mode again. They’re clearly morons who don’t appreciate your genius. Time to phone Variety.

Read more →