August 27, 2015 § Leave a comment
When I joined the New York Neo-Futurists (NYNF) in 2006, one of the most joyful aspects of the experience was being able to recommend the show (Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind) without hesitation. Up ’till then, I’d done a bunch of plays here and there in NYC, but they often suffered one way or another from being off-off-Broadway productions (lack of time, lack of money, etc.)*. But the Neo’s were different. They had figured out how to make those limitations work for them and it felt so good to be so proud of something I was a part of.
I feel the same way about Gemma & The Bear. Like Too Much Light . . . , Gemma & The Bear (GATB) is actually for something of a niche audience and I don’t actually think that either is for everyone; certainly neither is perfect. I do think both are, in turns, innovative, delightful and well-made and I am uniquely unabashed in my promotion of GATB as I was with Too Much Light . . . .
So, it has been a bit of a frustrating surprise to grapple, these last couple of months, with just how difficult marketing a (micro-budget) web series can be. I recently watched a popular vlog that argues that the internet creates a meritocracy in which “if the video you’re making is interesting to anyone . . . all you have to be concerned with is making something that someone else wants to watch.” This was more or less my assumption going in to Gemma & The Bear, but here in the episode-release-and-marketing phase, where the measure of marketing success – views on YouTube – seems to have been equated with the quality of the content (at least as far as generating press, industry attention, etc.) and where spending money to boost posts seems like the only way to be seen at all, that argument about meritocracy feels a bit false . . . or at least naive.
I’ve been naive all my life. Also: impatient.
The other night, at a birthday gathering for a neighbor, I had a conversation with some people I’d just met about the social norms of meeting new people (how meta). I was expressing my frustration with the apparent taboo of asking people what they do. They countered that “what are you up to?” or “what’s new?” or “how do you spend your time?” are completely acceptable alternatives. I’m not sure I agree but, in any case, those alternatives don’t address my real want which is to grab these new acquaintances by the lapels (maybe just figuratively) and say something like “who are you?! what’s your story?! tell me everything!!” I don’t want to be coy, making small talk and teasing out the information slowly; I want the story up front! (Looking back, my entire first date with my husband was just me interrogating him the entire night including important questions like “what are your three favorite sounds?” I guess his tolerance was an early good sign?)
Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind wasn’t an overnight success; the company has gone through tremendous growing pains and, while they’ve come incredibly far, they’re still working hard to grow and improve. And, of course, that’s the story almost everywhere.
So maybe it isn’t that the meritocracy of the internet is false (although marketing dollars certainly play a role, albeit a complicated one), maybe it’s about staying the course so we can find our audience . . . or they can find us.
I really wish they’d hurry up about it, though.
*To be very clear: I think off-off-Broadway is great and of tremendous value. All artists need a place to practice, experiment and grow and for theater artists in NYC, OOB is often it. Furthermore, over the past decade, I’ve seen the OOB community as a whole grow and improve the quality of its work. So, no dig at OOB. I love it, in fact.
August 20, 2015 § Leave a comment
Do you listen to On The Media? It’s really good. Before I had a kid I listened religiously to the broadcast; these days I keep up with the show via their weekly podcast. Listening the other day it kind of reminded me of a non-satirical version of The Daily show: smart, nuanced analysis of the media from the past week.
Along with reading the NY Times on my phone instead of looking at Facebook, listening to On The Media always feels like I did something good for myself AND I always like it better than the alternative. It’s like choosing the healthier breakfast option that’s ALSO more delicious. Anyway . . .
I have not been able to stop thinking about last week’s episode. It’s a great episode – they start with Trump, they end with David Foster Wallace (well, David Lipsky who did the interview with DFW that became the book and then the movie) but in the middle, almost hidden, is the thing over which I am obsessing: Bob Garfield’s interview with Charles A. Allen, Deputy General Counsel for International Affairs at the Department of Defense, about their recently released Law of War Manual’s problematic implications for journalists.
WAIT! COME BACK! I know that last sentence was full of wonky/nerdy/soporific words but that’s not the point. THE POINT is that Bob Garfield, in that interview, does the hardest thing: he keeps asking questions – pointed, challenging questions – without becoming either aggressive or apologetic – and, at the end, holding Charles Allen to account, he asks when they can speak again to follow up on their conversation. WHO DOES THAT?! IT WAS AMAZING!!
Listening to Bob Garfield conduct that interview made me feel so many things: it made me feel safer than I’ve felt in a long time, like someone smart is watching out for what’s fair and right in this country; it made me feel SO impressed with his skill as an interviewer; it made me wish he could be my tough-conversations-mentor (aka Dad?).
There has been more in the media lately about how women undermine themselves and are undermined by others in conversation. There’s Mansplaining, 10 Simple Words Every Girl Should Learn (side note: “Girl?” really? Not “Woman?”), and Amy Schumer’s amazing “I’m Sorry” sketch. I think that’s all great and valuable. Being effective and powerful as a woman in conversation (not to mention negotiation), having been socialized in the standard U.S.A.-way, is something I think about and struggle with. However, I think Bob Garfield’s example pertains beyond gender divisions; I know plenty of guys who don’t know how to “disagree without being disagreeable.” I guess I just think that, in this particular way, Bob Garfield is a great role model and most of us could stand to learn a thing or twelve from his example.
August 6, 2015 § Leave a comment
I read this article recently about Facebook and video.
It talks about how Facebook’s algorithm strongly favors “native” video (that’s video uploaded directly to Facebook, not a link to video on a separate site like YouTube) and how that’s resulted in videos being ripped off of YouTube and posted by other folks in such a way that robs the original creators of both credit and income. It also talks about how Facebook counts views and what that means for online content. Spoiler alert: it’s not great news.
As a creator, it’s frustrating because being a “little guy” was already tough and this makes it all tougher. As an individual Facebook user and YouTube viewer, I’m not excited about what content may be dropped from my feed because of the algorithm. Sure I’m not psyched about “overly promotional” content in my feed (Facebook’s purported reason for the change), but I also don’t want to miss out on cool, independent content because the creators don’t have a big budget to advertise on Facebook.
On the one hand: Facebook is free, so what right do we have to complain? On the other hand: Facebook has become so culturally central that it isn’t exactly optional any more.
If you’re on Facebook and/or you ever look at videos on YouTube, it’s worth a read.
The video content itself may remain unchanged, but the extent to which content is pushed or buried and credited or not credited has an impact on viewers (you. me. us.) as well as the creators. We are savvier consumers of media when we understand these machinations.