How To Build an Audience for a Web Series

How To Build an Audience on YouTube

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 great that it quickly goes “viral,” but that’s outside the scope of what we’re talking about here.

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How To Make a Web Series: The Gear

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.
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Introducing: Hilah Cooking!

2010 is going to be the year I do lots of new and different things creatively. 2009 punched me in the face, so I have decided to karate chop 2010 in the throat. First up, Hilah Cooking – a new internet cooking show starring my good friend Hilah Johnson. The fact that I’m producing a cooking show seems a little weird – even to me. But I am having more fun with this project than anything I’ve worked on in quite a while. It’s definitely a refreshing change of pace from 2009.

Now, let me give you a little back story on this project.  After the big moviefail of 2009, I found myself broke, unemployed, seriously depressed and stranded in Oklahoma City. I knew I wanted to be in Austin and was applying for lots of jobs but without much luck. After a month or two, I finally started to get some interviews. During this time, Hilah was awesome enough to let me stay with her for a few months until I was able to get back in action.
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2009 wrap-up

Andrew, Hilah and me on the green screen. (photo by Liz McCormick)
I guess it’s kind of customary for people to write a year-end wrap-up. I’ll do my best, but 2009 was an incredibly strange year for me. I feel like I accumulated at least 5 years worth of life experience in the past 12 months.
The Spider Babies Austin
Last day of the Austin shoot. (Photo by Liz McCormick)
The first few months of the year were spent on pre-production for The Spider Babies. Script polishes, storyboards, schedules, costume design, casting, production design, location scouting, etc. Regardless of how things eventually turned out, I remain incredibly proud of the team we were able to put together for this project. The cast, crew and creative team were all top-notch. It was truly my dream team.
Shooting at the Scoot Inn in Austin, TX.
Shooting at the Scoot Inn in Austin, TX. (Photo by Kyle Terry)
However, early in the year we began suffering a series of setbacks that started with our leading man getting hit by a car and culminated in losing the warehouse where we were going to build all the sets a few days before we were supposed to shoot.  This meant we had to completely rework the shooting schedule. You can read about all of this in previous posts, so I won’t get into it again. I’m just going to give you some highlights from the rest of the year.
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Making THE SPIDER BABIES (Part One)

This is Part 1 of a series and it is going to be longer than I had intended. You’ve been warned. I get asked about The Spider Babies every day and I get tired of hearing myself tell the story. Now, I’ll be able to just forward a link.

Michael Lange and Christopher Sharpe on the Lonely Road
Michael Lange and me on the Lonely Road. Eric G. looks on. Photo by Taylor Rea.
I always have the best intentions to keep a regular blog going during the production of each movie. It never happens. Working on a movie is all-consuming – even if you’re not the director. So this recap will have to do. This was a really hard shoot. Some of our problems were just the normal obstacles that the universe throws in your path when you are trying to create something… other problems were internal, and I will gladly take my share of the blame.
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The Spider Babies is wrapped…

Polly puts on eyelinerI am working on a much longer post about THE SPIDER BABIES for later this week, but here is a quick update. Principal photography is wrapped. We managed to get about 80% of the script in the can. We are now in the process of cutting together what we shot, assembling a trailer and figuring out the logistics and finances of getting the rest of the movie shot.

Ethel eyelinerIt’s definitely disappointing to make it through such a challenging shoot and end up with only part of a movie in the can. The good news is that the footage and performances are spectacular. I am so proud of what we pulled off and it continues to astound me that we were able to put together such an amazing team for this project.

Greta DrinksI will go into lots more detail later this week. Meanwhile enjoy these screen shots of The Spider Babies getting ready for their rock show.

Demons attack!

We just wrapped up shooting for several days at a beautiful ranch in hill country. Here are a few photos. Girls in bikinis and an attacking demon. Pictured in these photos are Adriene Mishler, Sarah Rodgers, Joel Moody and that is the amazing Kelli Bland rocking the demonic contact lenses. Kelli scared the hell out of everybody.
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Dancing Midgets and Cowboy Rappers

Apparently I live a sheltered life, because I had no idea that country-rap even existed. But last night I experienced it first hand. Some of you may know I’ve been bartending part time between creative projects. Last night I tended bar at a huge event for some upscale Austin Rodeo organization. I have no idea how many drinks I poured, but I’m guessing it was close to 1000. It was actually a pretty fun time.

There were many surreal moments during the night, but the most surreal was when I noticed I was listening to rap music in a room full of white guys wearing suits and cowboy hats. One of the cocktail waitresses asked me if I had seen the midget. I thought she was crazy, but she pointed to the stage where there was indeed a dancing midget with a furry hat surrounded by UT cheerleaders and a rapping Cowboy.

“I didn’t know cowboys liked rap,” I remarked to the next customer, a wild-eyed lady with big hair.

“It’s not RAP, it’s HICK-hop,” she laughed. “I’ll have another Crown and water, easy on the water!”