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Shangri-LA Chases Streaming Video Success in Paradise: A Q&A

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What was the total budget for this project?

We really had two waves of finance for this, one for production and then one for marketing and distribution. The first one was a crowdfunding campaign we did through Kickstarter, and we raised about $15,000. By the end, we needed to raise more money to really get it out there and do a marketing promotional campaign. I’ve been a member of an organization in Los Angeles called Film Independent, which is a nonprofit company. What they do is [offer] a pretty extensive application process, and it allows you to raise money for your show through your own means, but all the donations go through Film Independent, which is a nonprofit 501(c)(3). Then, anyone that donates to your film project will get a tax write-off. We were able to raise another $10,000 through that, which is basically the bulk of our marketing distribution budget.

Shangri-LA is available on Amazon Video and Vimeo. How did you work with them?

With Vimeo, it’s really the on-demand service. You just need to have a Pro account, and you can then create an on-demand page through them. They help you with all the analytics and tracking and setting up the finances. With Amazon, we went through the Prime Video Direct program. Basically, it’s an application process that Amazon allows to find new content that meets their quality standards, and it’s a little bit more of an involved process of submitting and getting approval. It took us a few times to get everything technically right to meet their standards, and then we were able to get up on Amazon. Both of them are situations where you really need to do the bulk of the work. They will host the project on their platforms, but it’s not like they’re going to spend a bunch of money marketing for you.

Scripted short-form episodic content isn’t that huge online, but every once in a while there’s a big hit, like High Maintenance, which became a show on HBO. What are the challenges of this format?

High Maintenance is a great inspiration for us. A few other shows like Broad City, Workaholics, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, all these shows started online as short comedy streaming shows, and then were able to build an audience. We really tried to make this a legitimate TV show that you can sit down and watch, and it stands on its own two feet as it is. The main goal for us is a cross section of growing and building an audience we can then nurture and bring more content in the future, as well as gaining some professional contacts that would lead to a larger version of this show or a different project that we can create.

If you make it cheap enough, it’s really pretty attainable to get your money back. We started with raised funds, and we don’t have any major investors. Everything we’re doing is already a profit for us.

The main struggle is just the ocean of noise that is online content now. More content is uploaded to YouTube every day than any one of us could watch in a lifetime. The biggest struggle for us is how do you cut through that noise and stand out among everything else? We’re really trying everything that we can think of under the sun to cut through and get people to take notice of our project, because we strongly feel that if people do give us the time of day and sit down and watch it, they will like what they see.

Is there any talk of adapting this into another form?

Not yet, though I do have a couple meetings lined up ... so hopefully that goes well. Had some bites, but it’s really a noisy industry.

Will there be a Season 2?

We absolutely would love to make a Season 2. We have a ton of ideas for it. We haven’t scripted it, but we have an ongoing list of really great plot points and scenes and fun stuff to do. We’d love to do it, although I’m not positive we could do it the exact same way because we cashed in all of our freebie favors on this season. If we did a Season 2, we’d have to finance it in a more legitimate way. So if we had the right partnership with a production company or distributor that was interested in helping us do Season 2, or expanding the show into a full-length show, we definitely would love to do that.

[This article appears in the July/August 2019 issue of Streaming Media Magazine as "Chasing Streaming Success in Paradise: A Creator Q&A."]

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