Monday, May 17, 2010

Skinning A Cat

Last Thursday as I ate my breakfast, I had an idea for a show. I thought it was a good idea - Hell, it's a genius idea. I thought it up, didn't I? And so my next thought was, "Okay. What am I going to do with it?"

Do I pitch it to a broadcaster?
Do I pitch it to a production company?
Do I pitch it to a distributor?

Hmm... Here's a fresh new idea - hot out of the cranium... Why don't I do something completely 21st Century with it? Let's do an "experiment". I decided to release it on the internet.

The idea is "High Concept" so I won't reveal it here. But when my teenage daughter and her friends saw the prop, the immediate reaction was, "I want it!"

I registered the name and some notes with the WGA and claimed the domain name. My production is going to be available on a YouTube Channel. Crazy? Here's a quote from a 2008 New Yorker article sourced from Mark Mayerson's blog. (If you aren't reading Mayerson's blog, YOU SHOULD BE.):

Cory Williams, 27, a YouTube producer in California, agrees. Mr. Williams, known as smpfilms on YouTube, has been dreaming up online videos since 2005, and he said his big break came in September 2007 with a music video parody called “The Mean Kitty Song.” The video, which introduces Mr. Williams’ evil feline companion, has been viewed more than 15 million times. On a recent day, the video included an advertisement from Coca-Cola.

Mr. Williams, who counts about 180,000 subscribers to his videos, said he was earning $17,000 to $20,000 a month via YouTube. Half of the profits come from YouTube’s advertisements, and the other half come from sponsorships and product placements within his videos, a model that he has borrowed from traditional media.

On YouTube, it is evident that established media entities and the up-and-coming users are learning from each other. The amateur users are creating narrative arcs and once-a-week videos, enticing viewers to visit regularly. Some, like Mr. Williams, are also adding product-placement spots to their videos. Meanwhile, brand-name companies are embedding their videos on other sites, taking cues from users about online promotion. Mr. Walk calls it a subtle “cross-pollination” of ideas.

Still think I'm crazy? "Emily the Strange" started in 1991 as stickers given away at concerts to promote a line of clothing. 20 years later its a multimillion dollar brand with a feature film in the works.

One thing that I've learned over the years - whenever I go into my studio, I come out with something that's interesting. Will it be a success? Honestly, the odds are against it. But I never worry about what will happen if I fail - I'm only concerned about, what if I win?


  1. You may want to check out Joe Murray's KaboingTV. It's not ready yet, but its going to be for exactly what you have in mind (assuming your concept is for animation). Producing original content for the internet, without having to worry about executives telling you what to do.

  2. Hi Michael,
    Thanks for your note. I'll check out KaboingTV. No, the new concept is not animation. Unlike most in the animation community I don't consider live action to be blasphemy. I like to jump around and see what technique best suits the idea.

  3. Hey, I don't consider it blasphemy either. It's just another medium, and it happens one that I enjoy working in.

  4. True, but there are many fanboys out there who can't accept that an artist might want to change-up the media they're working in. I mean, check out or the fanboy comments on or

    Of course the king of them all is John K - nothing but rules, rules, rules. "This is the only way to do a layout."


  5. Emily the strange came out in the seventies in children's book, I forgot the title though. But I liked the old one better because in the books she didn't care she was strange and she was always smiling.This version has Emo written all over it.

  6. Hi Demetre - Yes, I've heard that - but the popular usage (and different design) came from the stickers.

    The point is - they created a property out of nothing. That's the model that everyone can follow. The only thing we did wrong with Freaky Stories (IT WASN'T ME - IT WAS THE DISTRIBUTOR) is that they didn't promote it as a brand. It could have been as big as Goosebumps.

  7. Another great post per usual Steve. We're living in an amazing time where it is possible to develop and distribute your own property via numerous online sites. It's a whole lot of work but it gives control back to the creator. I have found that true fans become your own marketers as they avidly spread the word.

    I've pitched at a handful of networks and although I don't rule out that process, I see the self created online property as a more exciting avenue in a way. It would be great to hear the details about more of these types of self started shows.

    Carry on.

  8. I wouldn't rule out ANY process. This is Commercial Art - "Big C" Commercial. If you don't sell your project somewhere you'll never find your audience and... make money.

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