I spend a lot of time (probably way too much) thinking about the difference between directing for film/television and directing for a web series. My background and education is in motion picture and narrative directing. In my previous work, I worked hard to create for the audience something that worked like a “vivid and continuous dream.” Now, I am using the same tools and techniques but actively working to create the opposite effect.
(Since I am currently focused on producing non-fiction work, this post won’t concentrate on narrative series, but there are a few takeaways at the end of the post that could be helpful for scripted web series producers.)
We are still in the very beginning stages of this medium and we haven’t established a terminology that we can all agree on yet. So let’s work with what we’ve got. For the sake of this post we’ll use “the internet” to describe the network that can deliver any kind...
Since starting up Hilah Cooking, we’ve been very careful about keeping our production costs low. I am a firm believer in low-overhead and zero debt, so we try to keep our gear as minimal as possible.
We started out with a camcorder we had laying around and our only real upgrade was gear we won from YouTube. But when we lined up the deal to do Hilah’s Texas Kitchen, I knew it was time to (hopefully wisely) invest in a little more gear. This is still a micro-budget project, but we needed a little more firepower. I would be a one-person crew, and we would be shooting in awkward situations with very tight time frames.
My goal was to put together a run-and-gun travel video kit that would be easy to transport and allow me to shoot really fast whenever the opportunities presented themselves. This is the package I put together and it’s worked really well for me so far.
I wanted something that could hold safely...
Yesterday afternoon I shut down my iMac, flipped the switch on a fluorescent light and – for the last time – walked out of the cubicle where I had spent most of my working hours for the last 3 and half years.
I don’t have a big dramatic “Take This Job and Shove It” story to tell. I’m one of the lucky few who actually liked their day job. I had great supervisors, awesome people to work with, plenty of freedom to experiment, a decent salary and killer benefits. To top it all off, this was a state job which means I would have had to really screw up to ever get fired.
Once you get a job like this, you tend to stick around until retirement… if you’re smart anyway.
But I am a restless entrepreneurial spirit. As soon as I landed solid full-time employment, I immediately began working on side projects. Some of them brought in some decent money. Some of them were total failures. All of them were valuable learning...
If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you’ll know I’ve been traveling even more than normal and going to some pretty strange places. I’m happy to announce that the reason for all the travel is that we’re making a travel show. Or… kind of a travel show. It’s definitely a show with a lot of travel in it.
Some of the most popular episodes of Hilah Cooking have been our field trip episodes where we go meet up with local farmers, BBQ experts and other interesting characters. Last year we started pitching the idea of a travel show to some of the new YouTube networks. Nothing came of it until our recent trip to the Tastemade Studios. Now, I’m happy to report that we are moving full-speed ahead on Hilah’s Texas Kitchen: a new travel/eating/cooking show that will launch next month. This is an exciting opportunity to not only build on the Hilah Cooking brand but to stretch ourselves creatively.
When we brainstormed the...
In addition to cranking out episodes for my two web series, last year I found myself increasingly interested in how to use YouTube for small business marketing. I wanted to do a small scale experiment to see what might work. I immediately thought of my friend Laurel, a personal stylist here in Austin Texas. I’ve known Laurel for awhile, she’s made a few guest appearances on Hilah Cooking and we even did one of the Learn To Cook photo shoots in her kitchen. She was the perfect guinea pig for my YouTube marketing experiment.
Laurel’s personal styling business actually grew out of Trophy Boutique, her fashion blog. She’s awesome at what she does and has tons of very satisfied clients, so word of mouth was already working well for her. Her blog already did a great job of explaining her services and offering photographic proof that she knew what she was doing as far as fashion. I wanted to build on this with a small no-budget video campaign.
The #1 question I get from readers of this blog is usually “What camera do you use?” This is quickly followed up by a question about how to make money with a YouTube channel or if it’s even possible. The quick answers are: “a Canon 60D” and “Yes it’s possible, but it’s complicated.”
All “make money online” questions are tricky to answer because there are no clear-cut answers that work for every project. If somebody tells you they have a magic bullet, they are lying. Unless you are already backed by a company with lots of money, the topic of monetizing internet video content is something we’ll all be exploring for some time. I’ll tell you up front that all the projects I’m currently working on are completely boot-strapped and self-financed. There are no investors and we have zero outside financial backing.
I have a long-term strategy for these projects so I’m not looking for any...
Yesterday, we released the 200th episode of Hilah Cooking (technically the 201st, but we screwed something up on our calendar). This is a pretty big deal for us because it also coincides with the three year anniversary of the show. When we hit these kinds of milestones I can’t help but do a little bit of reflection.
In some ways the 200th episode doesn’t feel like quite as big a deal as it was when we released the 100th video. When we started the project, my goal was determined to produce 100 episodes and then evaluate whether things were working or not.
It took us about 2 years to do the first 100 and that was right around when things started to feel like they were starting to work. All the numbers (views, comments, revenue) were moving in the right direction. If we had quit at 50, it would have been nothing more than an interesting and fun experiment.
This is a chart showing the growth of the Hilah Cooking YouTube channel growth since we started. The Blue line is the average of our daily video views. I’ve left off the specific numbers because the big picture is what I want to show here.
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...