I made my first book when I was 4-years old.
I saw it again for the first time just a few years ago. My mom had kept it safe all those years, tucked away in the bottom of her jewelry box.
It was a tiny thing made from a single piece of paper, cut down into tiny pages, folded over and â€œsaddle-stitchedâ€ with a sewing needle. Appropriate for something spawned from the brain of a 4-year old, it was the story of a frog. A picture book. The captions were written in my mother's handwriting.
I continued writing books and drawing comic books throughout kindergarten and the early years of elementary school. Several wire-bound notebooks were filled with horror stories and the adventures of an assortment of super-hero characters. The kids in my class particularly loved LASAR MAN.
5 notebooks of Lasar Man stories later, somebody finally told me I was spelling laser wrong.
I wasn't into sports so I spent elementary school making up stories and kissing girls...
Just a few years ago I would have never predicted I would be spending almost all my time creating “lifestyle” content. Back then I was totally focused on making bloody low-budget horror movies. But I was feeling really burned out after my last feature and decided to give myself a year to just explore and experiment with what interested me. I spent a lot of time getting my internet skills up to speed and learning about the world of internet marketing and online video.
Before I knew it, Hilah and I had launched Hilah Cooking. Learning how to make a successful YouTube channel was a lot of fun and I found myself completely obsessed with internet video. I felt like I had found the perfect combination of filmmaking, publishing, marketing and the geeky search engine stuff I had spent so much time studying.
Perhaps the most gratifying part of it, was that there were a LOT of people who actually wanted to watch this stuff we were making.
There were many reasons for my hatred. The quality was terrible. The commenters were idiots. The interface was ugly. And particularly insulting to me: we didn’t get very many views.Â For all of these reasons, I spent very little time optimizing our YouTube videos and at the end of the first season we decided to ignore it altogether and just use it as one of our many upload destinations.
But during our summer break between season 1 and 2, I started to look at YouTube a little differently. Slowly but surely our videos had started to gain some traction and the comments were actually improving. Instead of just dropping by and writing “NICE TITZ” we started to get some very helpful feedback and questions from people genuinely interested in how to make the recipes in the videos. Even better, we started getting a lot...
One of the highlights of 2011 was being selected as one of the winners of the YouTube Next Chef program.
The Next Chef program evolved out of YouTube’s NextUp Program. Basically, the idea is to cultivate the next wave of up and coming talent on YouTube. The original program was not focused on a specific content niche. The second wave focused on cooking and fitness. The goal of the program is to help content creators take things to the “next” level and ultimately make a full-time living via YouTube.
As part of the program, winners received $5,000 worth of gear, training sessions conducted via Google Hangout and $10,000 in YouTube advertising.
Since I am a geek, I was most excited about the new gear. We shot for a year and a half on very low-end gear. It was an intentional decision to work with what we had and it worked for us for almost 100 episodes.
But, I was starting to get a little restless. After hanging out with some shooters for the Food Network...
We recently hit two important milestones with Hilah Cooking.
#1. We released Learn to Cook – our first digital book.
#2. We released our 100th episode. We’ve produced a new episode pretty much every Tuesday (except during our summer vacation).
With these two milestones, we’ve completed Phase one of our initial plan.
Yes, there has actually been a plan all along.
When we decided to start this project, I felt like we needed at least 100 episodes to decide whether or not the project had serious potential. I knew it would start out as something that was just fun to do on weekends – but would eventually start to feel like a lot of hard work. So I was committed to produce and release 100 episodes no matter what – and after that, we would step back, evaluate whether it was working or not and either stop doing it or figure out how to proceed.
While most of the feedback we've received about Hilah...
We spent the New Years holiday on the beach at Port Aransas.
This was my first visit to the “Texas Riviera” and even though the weather was cool and mostly overcast, it did not disappoint. It may sound like a strange choice for a vacation destination, but we needed to get the hell out of town. We found a great condo with a kitchen right on the beach. And it was dog-friendly so we didn’t have to leave Daisy at home.
It was a very low-key few days – a rarity for us. We spent most of the time like total nerds – writing screenplays on the deck while drinking margaritas. We ate a lot of seafood and made a wicked beach fire, but spent New Year's Eve itself watching TV with the dog. In fact, this is the first New Years Day I can remember that I wasn’t totally hung over. It was actually pretty awesome.
For me the trip was a complete mental “re-boot.”
2011 was a roller-coaster of a year filled with lots of emotional highs and lows, a...
We launched Hilah Cooking about a year and a half ago and we’re still going strong. In fact, we’re going stronger than ever. I thought this seemed like as good a time as any to update everybody on our progress and share a few more audience building tips that we’ve learned along the way.
When I wrote the first post in this series – we had about 400 YouTube subscribers, 1,000 Facebook fans and were happy anytime an episode hit 100 views in the first 24 hours. As I write this almost a year later, we are about to hit 4,000 subscribers, we have over 2,300 Facebook fans and reliably exceed 1,000 views in the first 24 hours. Our website traffic has tripled and subscriptions to our email newsletter have exploded.
These numbers might not blow your mind – but I am extremely proud of them. We started this show from ground zero – with little more than a second-hand camera, an ancient iMac and a used shower curtain. We also had no idea what...
This post is about 2 months late, but the launch of Season 2 of Hilah Cooking has completely overwhelmed my world. Things are going really well with the show and as we approach our one-year anniversary we have managed to hit all the milestones I put into the original crazy “business plan.” From the very beginning, I wanted to do some kind of “live” event.
There were a few reasons for this:
Since launching Hilah Cooking a little over 6 months ago, we’ve built up what I consider to be a pretty impressive audience. The numbers aren’t astronomical, but we definitely have a group of avid viewers who are very engaged in the show. They really do make the recipes at home and send the videos to their friends. The numbers are growing at a slow but steady pace. For our first few episodes we were happy if we just hit 100 views, but now 3,500 is our baseline for a successful episode and we are always inching that benchmark forward.
As our Facebook following and YouTube subscriber counts have started to grow, I’ve had a lot of people ask me about how to build an audience for their web series. Keep in mind, I’ve only been doing this for 6 months and definitely don’t consider myself an expert. In this post, I’ll be talking about web series and not one-off videos. Everybody still holds on to the dream of producing a video that’s so...
The #1 question people ask me about Hilah Cooking is what kind of gear we use. Since I am a behind-the-scenes guy, I get all the tech questions from camera and filmmaker geeks. (Hilah gets the fun questions about food and cocktails and girl stuff.)
Usually, I hesitate to go into too much detail about our gear because our setup is so low-budget, but also because I am a huge believer in using what you can get your hands on. Filmmakers and photographers are notoriously geeky when it comes to gear. It’s easy to waste incredible amounts of time reading camera forums instead of actually producing anything. I have been personally guilty of this. But, if I’m going to do a series on how to make a web show, I should probably start with the gear.
When we conceived the idea for Hilah Cooking, I was unemployed and almost homeless and neither of us had any cash to invest in the show. We decided to scrape together whatever we could and start producing episodes...