The StepsIt takes a village. Or in some cases, a whole city. Chattanooga, Tennessee loves to rally to support its own, especially the talented creatives who call it home. Dylan Kussman is one of those that the city wants to keep around, and to keep shooting his works locally. So in what could a model to watch for independent web series creators around the country, Kussman and his team have pulled together their series with help of all kinds from their native city— financial and a whole lot else.

Tonight at a live premiere screening, indie drama, or as they call it, “noir mystery” web series The Steps will debut to a sold-out audience at what they are calling a “Device Party.” Guests are encouraged to bring out their laptops, smartphones and other internet devices to watch and share the show with peers. Sound like a big virtual street team rally. The event will also live stream on UStream tonight starting at 9:00 PM EST (6p PT).

While the specifics of the budget weren’t shared, they did tell us that the series used all local Chattanooga cast and crew was funded by production partners in concert with a financial grant from Create Here, a local program to build Chattanooga’s cultural economy through arts, economic and cultural development initiatives.

The Steps is a noir mystery web series that tells the story of Charlie Madison, a lowlife private investigator from Los Angeles who’s forced to live under an assumed identity in middle America to escape his criminal past. A key player in the blackmailing enterprise of Dante Pelinsano (based on the infamous “P.I. to the Stars” Anthony Pellicano), Charlie has to split town when the Assistant D.A. who put Dante in prison seems to determined to take him down as well. Charlie takes on the name “Ron Harlin” and starts driving east, stopping when he feels he’s gone far enough, which happens to be the midsized city of Chattanooga, TN.

Create HereAcademy Award winning screenwriter Christopher McQuarrie (The Usual Suspects) commented on the independent nature of the project: “It was only a matter of time before someone realized you don’t need anyone’s permission to make a good series. The Steps is the future.”

The marketing and promotion of the event is one of the most ambitious we’ve seen for an independent web series, using a number of traditional entertainment media buys and outlets to make a splash this week. Radio interviews, local TV crews, pre-roll on Hulu videos, even local bus wrap ads are in the mix. Can you name another web series that launched with bus ads?

Space Truffles Enterainment is handling the marketing and sponsor integration for the series. Space Truffles’ Gennefer Snowfield (who has been a guest author on Tubefilter News) shared with us a full run-down of the launch-week marketing plan:

  • Device Party where attendees will bring their smartphones and devices to view the 1st four episodes Dell and Mac Authority on site to demo products and show the series on their laptops, as well as offer discounts for attendees — goal is to reinforce the association between electronics/digital and entertainment
  • Local coverage in Chattanooga newspapers with print press and TV stations like ABC 9 and others attending the event on 2/19
  • Bus Ads on CARTA buses promoting the series and their free WiFi
  • Coasters in the bar where the series was filmed
  • Posters throughout the city, and heavy on local college campuses
  • College radio shows
  • Hulu pre-/post-rolls in the drama genre with snippets of the show to drive an audience pre-disposed to watching online content to the show
  • Regional spot cable buys to drive consumers to the web to view the series to open up new pockets of the market and elevate visibility for the web series category by harnessing the TV medium’s reach
  • Twitter hashtag plus clues for generating buzz and ensuring viewers tune into every episode to look for clues; winner will receive a grand prize
  • Contest for bands around the world to submit a cover of their version of the theme song, ‘Red Dress’ (you can download a link to the mp3 on the show’s site) where the winning version will be the official song used in the Season 1 DVD and Season 2.

The Steps - bus ad

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