Here is the final part of the inteview with The West Side creators Ryan Bilsborrow-Koo and Zachary Lieberman that ran in our internal C3 Weekly Update newsletter last weekend. I am posting the interview sections here on the C3 blog a week after they run in our newsletter. You can see the first part of this interview here, the second part here, and the third part here.
JM: Zack mentioned that you decided you didn't want advertising - why not? I can think of a lot of reasons that might play into it, but I'm curious how it particularly shaped your plan. And given that, are you by default investing a ton of time and a bit of money into a project that cannot be "monetized" (to use an industry buzz word), at least initially?
ZL: We decided that we didn't want advertising for a few hard-to-explain reasons, but primarily because we wanted people to know we weren't making this for the money and that is a labor of love for both of us. So to answer your question, we are indeed sinking a ton of time and money into something that we're not trying to monetize. Whether it finds itself monetized in the end remains to be seen...
RBK: If we were interested in making money with this project, The West Side would be a comedy wherein hot girls run around wearing nothing but gunbelts, and then proceed to take off the gunbelts. Our subject matter, our pacing, our episode release schedule--these things aren't designed to maximize pageviews on our site, but rather to allow for quality storytelling through moving images--what some might call "filmmaking." At the end of the day, no one remembers how much money you made.
JM: What do you see as the "endgame" for the series once its finished in terms of distribution? Do you have plans or ambitions for it beyond its own website?
ZL: We have ideas and we've thought plenty about revenue streams once all is said and done, but for now, we're trying not to think too much about it.
RBK: With a web serial of this nature, we're not trying to make a few bucks, we're trying to put ourselves out there and launch a film career with our bare hands. In that way, the "endgame" is, in fact, the beginning.
JM: So would it be fair to call this a "calling card" project, showcasing what you can do and inviting someone to hire you into the traditional industries? Or do you see it as a pilot for a type of creation that might invite industrial investment? If you're scripting a happy ending for the creators of The West Side, what happens over the next year once those "enablers" see the project?
RBK: I suppose I didn't mean "enabler" in the sense of one individual, necessarily--I meant that this project will open doors to further opportunities for us as filmmakers, be that in the form of starting an independent production company, producing a new series for an established media company, writing for the screen in one form or another, shooting music videos for bands that people have actually heard of... We always said throughout the writing process that this project will open doors, but there's no way of knowing which ones those will be, so we'll just see what happens. But yes, it would be fair to call this a calling card project, albeit one of those very cheap, four-cents-a-minute-to-Mexico calling cards.
JM: Finally, for anyone reading this who might have their own ambitions as an independent producer using online video to facilitate their career, what advice would you give them? What advice do you wish someone had given you a year ago--or maybe that you heard but ignored?
RBK: Not that we're savvy industry veterans by any means, but at this point I would say the most valuable lesson we've learned so far is to take your time and really put out the best quality production you can. With as much video as there is out there flooding the internet every day--and, indeed, independent producers getting picked up by talent agencies or signing production deals--it's easy to feel pressured into putting out something tomorrow. But if we'd rushed through the scripting, shooting, or post process, you wouldn't be interviewing us, because we'd be just another set of aspiring filmmakers who put out a home video that no one noticed. As an independent producer, you might not have any money, but what you do have is time, and if you spend a lot of it you can overcome many of the obstacles that normally stand in the way of getting a film project produced.
Also, on a more personal level, I would say that it's rare to be in a situation where you can make a decent film all by yourself. You need collaborators and allies, so if you're stuck in a town where you're having trouble finding talented people to work with... move.
ZL: Get out there and do it.