The chatter about Next New Networks this week started with rumors of layoffs at the New York-based web studio Yesterday, then came news that the studio has hired The Burg and All-For-Nots co-creator Kathleen Grace as head of programming. The studio also announced in the release that a reorganizing of the company, creating two new divisions, an Audience Development Group and a Programming division. Grace will head up programming along with Barely Political founder Ben Relles while NNN co-founder Tim Shey will be managing this new “audience development” team.
While the layoffs were confirmed by the company, mostly due to redundant job responsibilities with the reorg, there were some bright spots in the news, particularly on the success of its filmmaking and movie buff content vertical, Indy Mogul.
Last week, the channel launched a new series, The Reel Good Show, promoting host Bobby Miller to a more regular gig. This week marked the return of the Streamy Award-winning web series that started Indy Mogul, Backyard FX, which kicked off its third season. Indy Mogul founder Erik Beck is back as host of the indie filmmaking channel’s flagship show.
I talked to Beck about the Season 3 launch, which started with an aptly-timed Harry Potter makeup effects build episode (above). Beck noted that the third season will see a return to weekly “build” episodes, which are essentially the how-to tutorials showing in detail how to pull off each low-budget effect. Following each build episode which come out every Monday is an original short film (on Tuesdays) that incorporates the episode’s effect.
Also new this season is the addition of a specialized three-person “Build Team” that was recruited for their specific effects skills—makeup, props, VFX. For the Harry Potter episode, the team tapped makeup artist Julie Langer to build the Voldemort face. The subsequent original short, a dueling rap battle between Harry Potter and their newly minted Voldemort (below) is “one of the most elaborate films we’ve done,” said Beck, who guest directed the short.
Often a measure of a show’s success, particularly within a specific niche like filmmaking effects, is how active its audience is at making and sharing their own content. For Backyard FX, Beck and his team found that there were thousands of aspiring (and accomplished) filmmakers using his tricks in the field.
“The biggest thing is how important our community is to us we wouldn’t be where we are without them,” added Beck. “They continue to show us how passionate and engaged they are.” So engaged apparently that the daily video submissions from viewers prompted them to create a monthly show, Your FX, which is completely made up of effects from fans.
“We see professionals using Erik’s tutorials,” said NNN’s Vanessa Pappas. “We always assumed it was for the up-and-coming filmmakers, but it’s so funny to see professional filmmakers out there that are learning from them.”
Beck cited an example of a viewer using a tutorial for The Sarah Silverman Show on Comedy Central to pull off a face metling effect on Dick Van Patten. Apparently the show staffer went to a Hollywood effects agency and was quoted $8,000, but then remembered the effect on one of Beck’s episodes and ended up doing it for for a fraction of that.
The active sharing amongst the show’s viewers also meant that they needed to create an outlet for all this chatter. The site eventually launched a full-on forum, and the Backyard FX discussion now has almost 30,000 posts. Beck promoted two of the more active members—Arissa Beck (no relation) and Wes Scoggins—into the moderators.
The new season will include tie-ins to relevant movie launches, though at this point these aren’t sponsored deals with the studios according to Beck. He hinted at a rocket launcher being built for an upcoming GI JOE episode and a Brad Pitt scar for Inglorious Basterds. Also on the docket is the show’s popular MogulWeen in October, which means a month of spooky effects.
Views have been spiking upward for Indy Mogul, which is reporting that it more than doubled its monthly viewership from around 1.2 million views a month to an average of 2.4 million. Overall, Next New Networks boasts a monthly reach of around 10 million unique viewers.