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Old February 9th, 2012, 05:11 PM   #1
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I Finished a Series; Now What? -- My Story

Not sure if anyone on here can point me in the right direction, but after reading some of the very detailed and well-though-out posts on this forum today, I figured it's worth a shot to at least see. There's a question down near the bottom if you want to bypass my story.

If you want to read it, kick back, grab a hot tea, and travel with me in my journey into the world of video production.

If you're new to this business and are hoping for a nicely laid-out road-map so you can get into this business too, I'd suggest looking in the books section on Amazon (where I should have started). My journey has so many detours and wrong turns, it's certainly not something you want to imitate, at least entirely.

What started out as just a hobby and something fun and meaningful we could do in our leisure time, has slowly now turned into a full-time job for myself and 4 people for the last 1.5 years.

I had a vision of producing a high-quality TV show for kids through our 501c3 non-profit as a form of ministry, totally unique from anything else that's on Christian TV today.

I invested my family's life and essentially all the money I've ever made and had a studio built, spent six figures in miscellaneous camera and editing gear and hit the ground running... learning the hard way that it takes more than just being good on computers and having good shot composition behind cameras... it's a lot harder to own and operate a production studio than I thought being the simpleton on the outside.

"Ahh... just get a couple cameras, slap up some lights and out will come an awesome TV show," is what the typical outsider thinks. Then once you're up and running you look at the two lights you slapped up and say, "dang, that doesn't look anything like what I see on TV--even on PBS... in the 1970s!" So, instead of being satisfied being a simple (read, cheesy) show not really intended for a large market, we decided to do what your mom and mine always told us. You know it by heart, don't you? "If something is worth doing at all, it's worth doing right." Ahh, mom. Gott'a love her! But the phrase she didn't say right after, which she SHOULD have is, "easier said than done."

So we wanted to do it "right" and got more and more gear (and a LOT more knowledge and real-world experience, thankfully) and the next thing you know, we were fully committed to a much bigger operation than ever envisioned at first.

Looking back on how things have gone, I see clearly how this has become a cart-before-the-horse scenario. What seems like millions of man-hours later, we now have six 28:30 minute shows 100% done and another seven shows ranging from 80-99% complete to make our 13 show series.

My big question, you ask? I thought you had forgotten! Thanks for the reminder.

I know I did things backwards. I invested a fortune into a specialized product without having a buyer. (What exactly DID I learn in Marketing 101?) If you're not a Christian, I admit this part will sound silly and dumb, I'm sure. If you are a Christian, this should make perfect sense. So many doors opened up for this to morph from a vague concept to a tangible reality (too many to be just a streak of good luck), that as the doors opened before us, we knew we had to step through. We felt that even though we couldn't see how this would end up, and that most times we didn't even know how were were going to pay for next week, the Lord always came through and here we are 3 years later with a nearly completed series. During the process, we didn't know how we would ever finish one show (let alone thirteen) and what we would do when we got here, but here we are nonetheless. At the start, we certainly didn't see all the doors open before us. We saw just one at a time. But we got here, 100 doors later, by passing through each, one by one.

But the question!?! Oh yes, sorry. The question, ahem... questions:

Now that I have a series done, HOW do I get it out there on TV networks? How do I find a buyer (or buyers) for the show to help offset all the expenses? How much do Christian networks pay for a season series? How can I take this show from just sitting on a Bluray disc to something the TV viewers can watch?

"Well, duh, these are the very questions you should have asked before buying your first light bulb, genius!" Yeah, your right. I know. But here I am now, TODAY, with a finished series in my hand and another mysterious door before me. What's my next step? What is that door?
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Old February 9th, 2012, 06:06 PM   #2
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Re: I Finished a Series; Now What? -- My Story

Wow. Usually the horse goes in front of the cart. It's possible that your show will never see any form of broadcast (or, maybe it will...?) In spite of what you've been through already, making the show is really the easy part. Selling it... well, that's the real challenge.

I'm personally a little more than 1/2 way through producing my first broadcast season. This, after spending the last 6 years producing my show as a web series. Essentially, we had 6 years to seriously screw up before I even took a stab at television.

In my case, I had an agent first. Second I shot and edited a Pilot for about $40,000. Third, I was turned down by all the major networks that I thought would be a good fit for the show. That part kind of sucked.

So I took a leap of faith, signed with a different agent (one that specializes in global syndication) and I pushed ahead with self-funding a Pilot season. A very low-budget season. I have the benefit of shooting cars, however, and aside from crazy specialty rigs (I already own for commercial work), we film in mostly available light and in all weather. We have no need for costume, effect or set budgets. Another perk is that car makers provide us with all the cars we need at no charge through our long-standing press relationships. That said, I really look forward to having budget to shoot with helicopters again.

With five of our episodes now complete, three more in post and and final 5 in production we've already managed to sell the show to a few broadcast markets internationally as well as to a Netflix-style competitor. It's also on YouTube as a rental (http://www.youtube.com/drivingsports) and I've monetized it a bit more by re-distributing some of the segments as shorts on YouTube (ad-supported). We're thankfully a production partner with YT and have a good size online audience already, so not everyone has that opportunity.

Television works very, very, slowly compared to the online universe. That's the hardest adjustment for me so far. From Pilot to first sale was about 8 month - and I think I've been pretty lucky. My deadline for distribution is to have the entire series complete by April this year... so pressure is on right now. And, as if I'm not already busy enough, we're shooting another pilot - this time for Animal Planet - next month.

My (relatively inexperienced) advice would be to start shopping for an agent right now. One that specializes in the type of distribution you hope to achieve - then pray they pick you up. Keeping that in mind, a friend of mine has a show that is syndicated to over 100 broadcasters world-wide and has been going for more than 20 years straight. His agent sold only a handful of those channels - he (as the host and producer) sold the rest.

Another option option for you may be to ignore traditional broadcast and instead make them as a DVD and sell them as a fundraiser item through an affiliated interfaith network with a mission you believe in (likely connected to the subject matter of your show). Faith marketing can be pretty powerful when done right.
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Old February 9th, 2012, 09:48 PM   #3
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Re: I Finished a Series; Now What? -- My Story

Ryan, thanks for the awesome advice! Very helpful!

In the case of your friend who sold his own show, how did he do that? Just the old-fashioned way of calling up networks and cold calling?

Also, I liked your ideas of internet promotion. I've never really considered that.

I'm going to chew on this tonight and I might hit you up tomorrow with some more questions.

Thanks so much for your time. Hoping some others can chime in here! :)
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Old February 9th, 2012, 10:03 PM   #4
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Re: I Finished a Series; Now What? -- My Story

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lloyd Ubshura View Post
Now that I have a series done, HOW do I get it out there on TV networks? How do I find a buyer (or buyers) for the show to help offset all the expenses? How much do Christian networks pay for a season series? How can I take this show from just sitting on a Bluray disc to something the TV viewers can watch?
Did you try calling everyone and talk to them? If your product has any market value it will find a buyer somewhere. Also try film festivals.

I live in India, and there are a few Christian networks here, too. I don't know much about that market, but you should start by collecting a database and start calling/emailing. Your buyer can come from anywhere.
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Old February 9th, 2012, 10:08 PM   #5
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Re: I Finished a Series; Now What? -- My Story

I'm happy to help with what I can.

As for my friend. 20 years ago the broadcast landscape was quite different. He worked on some local TV productions as a writer and actor and that gave him contacts for starting his own show. I didn't know him back in the beginning, but he said that a lot of his growth came from programming execs that saw his show on a different channel (when traveling) and ordered it for their own station. Even with fairly broad small-market syndication, so far as I know he makes a modest living from the series (no rock star mansions). He also repackages them for DVDs that are sold through another distributor through Best Buy, etc.

You can't go wrong if you start making cold calls yourself. I've pitched to a few big guys that way (most recently, friends of friends of acquaintances.) Just be sure to hear "no" a lot - and have a good screener DVD and single sheet ready to send for when they say "maybe."
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Old February 9th, 2012, 10:14 PM   #6
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Re: I Finished a Series; Now What? -- My Story

Thanks again, Ryan. And thank you, Sareesh. Great ideas.

We have called up a lot of Christians networks and most of them say something along the lines of "looks good. Talk to us when you 13 and then we'll REVIEW them and see if they're even something we would want on the air."

So I guess we're close to that point. Seems kind'a silly to work this long just to see if someone will even like them. I guess that's how it is in this business? Fork up a ton of money and then we'll see your wares and if we like it, then we'll talk. Yikes!
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Old February 10th, 2012, 02:04 AM   #7
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Re: I Finished a Series; Now What? -- My Story

Maybe someone has already mentioned this, but the first thing you should do is make a great trailer.
And post it here first...
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Old February 10th, 2012, 03:30 AM   #8
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Re: I Finished a Series; Now What? -- My Story

Quote:
Originally Posted by Lloyd Ubshura View Post
I guess that's how it is in this business? Fork up a ton of money and then we'll see your wares and if we like it, then we'll talk. Yikes!
Um, no. It doesn't work that way at all. In fact, that's the opposite of how it usually works.

There are already many threads about selling your show and I think everything's already been said in those.

While you are to be commended for making and finishing a show, you did yourself no favors, business-wise. You never spend any money until you have a buyer. But I think you knew that.

Nonetheless, it's where you are now, and I think the advice above is about as good as it gets.

Here's a thread that links to most of the other relevant threads on this:

How to get a tv series produced?

Not all of them deal with producing a series first and then trying to sell it, but may contain useful info anyway.
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Old February 10th, 2012, 09:23 AM   #9
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Re: I Finished a Series; Now What? -- My Story

We seem to run into each other quite often on this board, Adam. ;)
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Old February 10th, 2012, 10:35 AM   #10
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Re: I Finished a Series; Now What? -- My Story

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill Thesken View Post
Maybe someone has already mentioned this, but the first thing you should do is make a great trailer.
And post it here first...
Although not exactly a short trailer, here's a 7 minute promo that we put together that tries to encapsulate the show and its message.

Check it out HERE.
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Old February 10th, 2012, 10:55 AM   #11
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Re: I Finished a Series; Now What? -- My Story

Wow Lloyd!

That's really good work. You know, churches are always looking for good (not boring) Sunday School curriculum, and materials for Vacation Bible School etc. And again, your stuff looks really good!!!!

And they pay good money for it too. How many churches do you think are in the United States? In the world? There's also the Diocese level too. We have summer camps, and other short camps too.

There are a lot of ways your material can be used. It doesn't necessarily need to be broadcast on a Christian television network.

Mind if I share the link to your demo?

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Old February 10th, 2012, 11:41 PM   #12
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Re: I Finished a Series; Now What? -- My Story

Good looking stuff. If the whole series looks like that, you're set.

I don't know much about Christian TV except that they have different standards than traditional TV, and that will work to your advantage (I think).

My first thought was the straight-to-DVD market, but I don't know the $s you're trying to pull out of this. I think in a best-case scenario, the DVD market would cover a couple hundred thousand at best, and it sounds like you need more than that.

That said, I think the distributors for Christian stores would jump all over this.
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Old February 11th, 2012, 05:15 AM   #13
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Re: I Finished a Series; Now What? -- My Story

I would certainly look to sell that type of video directly to churches.

Great job Lloyd.
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Old February 11th, 2012, 10:29 AM   #14
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Re: I Finished a Series; Now What? -- My Story

Thanks, guys, for your comments. I really appreciate them, and still welcome others.All very good comments and cover things I hadn't thought of. I'm glad I did, in fact, post this here. Your comments are opening my eyes to other outlets beside TV networks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Van Duyn View Post
Mind if I share the link to your demo?
Certainly do! Sure appreciate that! PROMO VIDEO LINK.

I have also posted a few completed shows on that Vimeo Channel.
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Old February 11th, 2012, 12:44 PM   #15
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Re: I Finished a Series; Now What? -- My Story

Lloyd.

It might be wise to put only one full length show up as an example. Don't let enthusiasm cause you to make unwise business decisions. It's a stewardship issue. You and everyone else who did the work deserve to be paid.

You will need capital to produce more work.
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Last edited by Roger Van Duyn; February 11th, 2012 at 12:46 PM. Reason: comment
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