Meet Mike in the video below, then read our interview where he offers fascinating tips on ways to engage your web series audience, innovative approaches to making money off your series, and more!
What experiences prepared you for co-founding Creator Up! ?
I went to USC for film school, so there I learned writing, directing, producing, do all of those ‘make the project’ type things. After graduating, I went into the business side of the film world where I learned more about distribution and sales. I worked at CAA for two years in the film finance department, and and it became clear to me that there were more opportunities to get close to original content in the digital space, and that’s what my passion has always been.
Next, I was lucky enough to work at Vuguru* in the creative development department and worked there for a year with Kristen Jones, who’s a great creative mind. She was at Miramax and did Tsotsi and The Queen and some really cool features. But I realized there, too, that I still didn’t fully understand digital distribution. I had an opportunity to work at Blip in their content partnership department and I took it. While I was there, I thought, ‘Wow I’ve really learned a lot in the last few years, stuff I think people would really like to know about how to do this correctly and how to make money.
Can you give us an example of some of the insights your experience offers?
I think what people don’t realize is that it’s not just about making something good and uploading it. You have to run your show almost like a business. The revenue you receive is not all through add sales, it’s through other things. If you look at the music market, now with things like Spotify, people almost feel, now adays, that music should be free. But if they want to go to a concert or they want to buy a T-shirt, that money goes back to the musicians.
Web series aren’t that different. Merchandise is a way you can make money back. Live events too. In fact, a year ago, there was a YouTube live tour where they toured around some YouTube stars. It’s about looking at web series as property that has more value than just advertising revenue.
When is someone ready in their creative process to go to your Web Series School?
We have two course options. You can take a video tutorial for a particular project or area of interest for you, for example, for Funny or Die, or How To Edit for Story. Or you can join a LAB, which is a live experience through Google Hangouts where the teacher will teach the course live to the students. It’s interactive and solves one of the main issues with online education, which is accountability. You can sign up for an online course, but are you going to finish it? With ours, it’s interactive and there are a lot of other people there enthusiastic about your project. your project
Sneak Peek of CreatorUp! Course: How to Develop and Pitch a Web Series by Mark Gantt,producer and actor of popular web series The Bannen Way on Sony’s Crackle.com.
How did you decide what courses to offer on the site?
We talked to our potential customers, figuring out what people want to learn for the digital space. Some people were more interested in the more traditional film school skills: how to edit, write, direct, etc. Others wanted to know things like, ‘How do I make a website for my web series for free?’ We have a class on that now. You can do it with Tumblr.
A lot of people had questions about funding, and one of our upcoming courses is with Kickstarter’s marketing director on how to crack the kickstarter code.
At Blip what did you learn was the most effective format for short storytelling?
For scripted content, the #1 thing is, you’ve got to have enough content. You can’t build the momentum to have an audience with just four or six episodes. You need at least ten or twelve. In addition to that, you need your version of DVD extras. That means behind the scenes, character vlogs. Viewers can watch episode one and then if they like it get all this other content as well to fill out their experience. So I’d say frequency and engaging your audience on different levels is key.
This medium is interactive fundamentally, so don’t just use it like it’s TV. People can comment on it, they can share immediately. That’s why I think there’s a lot of buzz right now around Social TV**, because they’re realizing that consumer habits around digital content are starting to bleed into more traditional formats. So I think you are starting to see some conversions happen
There seem to be three types of web series networks emerging: subscription sites, where you pay for short films and web series and watch without ads, sites that select supposedly ‘quality’ web series for you to watch, and free sites that accept all content like youtube and blip. Which do you think will prevail?
I think they’ll probably all co-exist. It’s interesting to see how they’re all changing, actually. For example, right now you have direct pay platforms called Vuier, where, as a content provider you can set your own price. So you say, ‘My webseries is going to cost $2.99 and I’m going to get 90% of it, as opposed to getting $1.00/1000 views that YouTube will offer you. If one person buys it, that’s one view and you’re getting paid what you would for 2000 on YouTube. The problem is, getting that one person to buy it is a lot harder than putting it up on YouTube and having people find it.
What web series do you enjoy watching?
Video Game High School – Freddy Wong directed. I’m not necessarily the target audience, but it just has a way, through the editing and the writing, of keeping people engaged in the show and excited about the next episode. If you’re not doing that, then you’re just creating one-offs, you know?
Also, one we developed at Vugaru, Little Women, Big Cars that’s now on AOL is really great.
**Creator up was co-founded by Mike Tringe and Sarah Akhteh. You can learn more about them HERE. And watch their intro video below**
*Vuguru is a new media studio that produces and distributes narrative content for current and emerging new media platforms. Michael Eisner (former Disney CEO’s) head’s the company.
**Social TV refers to the two screen experience of watching TV and checking in online through a phone or tablet to either interact with the actual show via a website, fan sites/live twitter feeds of the show, etc.