Susan Miller and Tina Cesa Ward aren’t afraid to mix it up and try something new. The two New York-based creators of hit indie drama Anyone But Me spent most of the summer drumming up fan donations in their Web-a-thon fundraising drive to raise enough money to shoot a third season.
With a final count of $33,088 raised, Miller and Ward are calling the drive a success, even if it didn’t hit the amibitious $120k mark they set to fund the entire season. It’s enough to fund at least three episodes, and another donor has stepped in with a bridge loan to cover another two. So come January the cast and crew of the coming of age drama that notched four Streamy Award nominations and a Best Actor win for star Rachel Hip-Flores, are heading back into production.
Asking for fan donations can only go so far, even for a show as showered with press as Anyone But Me. The next tactic is to turn to the social contract of old—creating content that viewers will pay for. In this case it’s the release today of an exclusive new music video for folk singer Rachael Cantu starring Hip-Flores, Nicole Pacent and other cast from the series.
The video (below) costs $0.99 for a 7-day rental, using the in-video payment system from Dynamo, which sends 70% of the proceeds from sales to content producers, in exchange for hosting the video and taking care of the bandwidth and support costs.
So with still several months to go from now till we get to pick up from Season 2’s cliffhanger possible-breakup of Vivian (Hip-Flores) and Aster (Pacent), the music video serves as a mere amuse-bouche for what’s in store. I had a chance to talk to Miller and try to pry out some hint as to what’s to become of Vivian/Aster romance.
“They’re young and they are going to explore some things,” said Miller. “But, they’re a couple. And in the world of on screen romantic relationships, theirs has a passionate following. So, we don’t want to abandon this couple. If we’re being honest to the age, teenagers do act out when they get their hearts broken or battered and they can’t see the future at that moment. They can’t see far enough ahead.”
“But,” she added a few moments later, “people should not lose heart about Aster and Vivian.”
I asked Miller, herself a former producer of Showtime’s The L Word, about whether her and Ward are hoping to see the show hop to TV in the next year. “We never set out to do it as a pilot or a sample for TV,” answered Miller. “But we want the show to have a life, and if that’s how it happens then we’d be open to it.”
As for the the experiment of the $0.99 music video, it remains to be seen how many fans, either of the web series or of Cantu will chip in for the rental. The idea of an extended payment plan for the full episodes was considered by the ABM team, but so far they have focused on growing the audience.
“We weighed in on the subscription model and ultimately decided against it,” added Miller. “Our thinking was that it’s going to limit the number of fans we’re going to accumulate. This is about growth and I think numbers will be weighed differently for a series like ours. With the music video we’ll experiment with the $0.99 charge to see it, and possibly try something like this with the episodes in Season 3.”I also was curious about the delicate line the series has ridden in facing risks of being pegged by would-be buyers or sponsors as a ‘lesbian drama,’ despite finding a championing supporters within the gay and lesbian media. Does this in any fashion detract from the broader coming of age stories of the series that are unfolding?
“We don’t use that label [lesbian] to describe it,” said Miller. “We see the show through a larger, more inclusive lens. As part of a larger conversation. Maybe we take a risk putting two women as girlfriends at the center of the story. I don’t know. Certainly the lesbian press wants to focus on that angle. Which is fine. We’re appealing to people who aren’t used to seeing themselves or having their stories told in film or television.”
And maybe that’s what really strikes a chord for me with Anyone But Me. I feel as though as I’m watching the characters of my high school in front of me. Not the pop-comedic archetpyes of something like Glee, but the kind of real people you actually passed in the halls.
“High school lives in all of us,” Miller quipped. “Those dynamics still very much exist.” How wise she really is.
Having watched the music video, I think $0.99 is well worth it on this one. And at the same time, you’re supporting a true indie web series drama that is beating the odds and actually pressing on to make a third season.