By Steven Pressfield | Published: July 15, 2014
In today’s conversation with Jeff Simon, Jeff explains how he and his partners put together their new web series, Camp Abercorn; where the series will run; what it’ll cost; and how the team is trying to raise the money. Jeff and I talk about Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Jeff explains how crowdfunding works and opens my eyes to a world that was unthinkable “back in the day.”
(This video is the third of eight, which run in this space on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The transcript for today’s video is below.)
Steve: In my day, if you were starting out and you wanted to be a writer, you would never think of mounting your own production. You would think, “well I’m going to have to write a screenplay that I’ll sell to Warner Brothers,” or something like that. But did you think of that as an option or did you immediately go to, “I’m going to write something that I’m going to shoot and produce myself?”
Jeff: Immediately I went to producing it myself.
S: Why? Why didn’t you think about the other route?
J: There are so many screenplays in Los Angeles that never get made. I honestly figured if I wrote something, it would never happen if I tried to sell it off or something. Cameras are so much cheaper than they used to be and lighting equipment. Plus, we can distribute it online for basically free.
S: So this is a whole different world from my era, and really you’re sort of embodying Seth Godin’s concept of don’t wait for somebody to pick you, pick yourself.
J: You talk about writing spec scripts. Don’t wait for some proposal to go through and get money before you start writing. For us this is like an extreme version of that. We’re making a spec show.
S: Let’s get into this world of Vimeo and web series and stuff because I don’t even know what a web series is.
J: The word ‘web series’ sort of has a bad connotation. People think of Funny or Die videos or cat videos, things that you see on YouTube, and I knew that I didn’t want the show to be anything like that. I wanted it to be authentic stories of working at camp. I knew it was going to be a drama which immediately is weird for a camp show I think, or different, and what we were trying to do is really bring a professional level of content to the independent television/internet sphere. If we can create something that’s really great, and publish it online, it doesn’t matter that it didn’t come from a studio and it doesn’t matter that it’s on YouTube or Vimeo…people will watch it.
S: So that’s how it works? You just post it on YouTube?
S: And tell me, where is Camp Abercorn now in terms of the process of going forward? Where do you stand?
J: At the moment, we have written the show, and we’re working up a campaign to fundraise.
S: When you say, “written the show,” you have all seven episodes down?
J: Well, more or less. I mean, they certainly all have work to do, but we’ve been writing for a year already, and now what we’re doing is we’re putting together an Indiegogo campaign.
S: Now what is Indiegogo? I have no clue. It’s sort of like Kickstarter?
J: Exactly. Indiegogo is a platform where you can pitch an idea to the crowd, “crowdfunding,” and other people can donate small increments with a goal in mind.
S: What’s your goal? How much money do you need?
J: Which is crazy if you think about it by itself, but if you think about how much a normal television show costs, it’s just a fraction.
S: Let’s see if I can understand this right: you’ll cast, you have a cast?, you’ll pay them, you’ll shoot real episodes that are just like TV quality or close…
J: As close as we can get.
S: …and then put it up there on the web. Is the hope that it will get picked up by a cable network?
J: There are a number of shows that have started as web series that have transferred to cable, but it doesn’t have to be cable in the traditional sense. I think networks don’t matter as much any more. You can watch things on Netflix and on Hulu. I mean you can even watch YouTube on your television. The distribution beyond YouTube or Vimeo would be great and it would sort of legitimize the project in a way. Separate us from the cat videos!
S: Obviously a series that’s on cable or something else appears at a certain time. Now that doesn’t apply at all to a web series, right?
J: But if you think of House of Cards which you could consider a web series because it’s on Netflix, it doesn’t appear at a certain time, you can’t watch it on your television. You would have to log into your Netflix account and there they are.
S: I see. Are you going to put all seven episodes up at once when you have them or how will that work?
J: That’s under contention. We’re debating it. I think we’ll probably release them a little bit at a time. We don’t have Kevin Spacey to give us the momentum, so for us spacing it out is, for marketing, probably better.
S: Are you having fun doing this?
J: Yeah! You get to see all the sides of it.
S: I mean, in a way, these are the good old days for you whether you realize it or not. You’ll become a big success, you’ll look back and say, “remember when we use to do this stuff?!”
S: How do you let people know that it’s out there?
J: Indiegogo is interesting. Not only is it a fundraising platform, it’s also a marketing platform. You build your audience. All those people are invested in a little way.
S: Makes sense.
J: They love the project before we’ve actually filmed it.