Hayden Black first channeled a local area news anchor with career ambitions far beyond reporting on your local area Chuck E. Cheese’s way back in 2006. Gordon Winston-Smythe, Black’s Manchester-born news man trying to make it in a city that’s not quite Los Angeles, is one of just two major components of the web series Goodnight Burbank that haven’t changed in the past five years. The other is the sereis’ premise.
The show is still about all the awkward workplace hijinks that take place in, around, and about the local area newsroom before, during, and after daily news broadcasts. And the focus is still on the back and forth banter between the anchors, who compete for attention from the camera and affections from their crew. But the other major components of the series (namely the cast, the length of the episodes, and the distribution platform) have changed.
Today, Goodnight Burbank debuted a new season of 30-minute episodes starring Black alongside Laura Silverman on Hulu, making it the second comedy web series to stream episodes on that site that last that long. I caught up with Black over e-mail to get the scoop on who’s picking up the tab for production, how the series landed at Hulu, and what he’s learned in 5+ years of being in the business of faux news.
Tubefilter: This is the fourth iteration (after the original series, Breaking News, and Hollywood Report) of Goodnight Burbank. How’d it come to be?
Hayden Black: It was born from two separate conversations I’d had; one with Hulu who were interested in promoting but not paying for a half-hour version of GNB, and one with Channel 4 in the UK who were interested in a half-hour British TV version. Channel 4 asked what a half-hour version would look like and I thought the best way of answering them would be to shoot them myself.
Tubefilter: Who’s funding the series?
HB: Men in black.
Tubefilter: Why the half-hour format? Was that your vision and you found partners who agreed? Or did you find partners first and then decide on the length of the episodes?
HB: Why? Why not? It was a concept that always worked, a show (in it’s original version) thats biggest complaint from the fans was that it wasn’t long enough. It certainly had challenges such as finding a way to shoot a studio-bound show in a way that made it visually arresting and telling a story in 30 minutes of real time (it takes place during a half-hour newscast). But I think I overcame them. You tell me.
(Editor’s Note: I like the longer version, and actually see myself more likely to watch episodes at this length than if the installments were shorter.)
Tubefilter: How’d you find a home on Hulu? Will the episodes be distributed anywhere else?
HB: Hulu is a lovely place to put a show – especially a half hour one. I think right now it’s the best. No one thinks of any other platform when they think of half-hour series.
We’re also signing a deal for global TV distribution rights with Zodiak so it will show up on TV too, as both the finished series and in different formats for each country that buys in. And on top of that, we’re looking at various means of world-wide distribution on both mobile and the web and we’ll pick the best deal when we see it.
Tubefilter: You originally started Goodnight Burbank way back in 2006. How is this iteration different?
HB: Basically there’s an entirely new cast starting off with the unbelievably talented Laura Silverman and an entirely new way of looking into these news anchors worlds – a sort of cinema verite-styled approach to the “behind the scenes” moments. But the basic premise remains; who are the people that bring us the news each night, these people who decide what we need to know and how scared we need to be. This isn’t a webisode anymore – it’s a webcom.
Tubefilter: How many episodes are you slated to produce?
HB: We’ve wrapped 6 episodes. We’ll also have tons of extras like deleted scenes, out-takes, etc. We shot about 31 minutes per episode then edited them down to the traditional commercial half-hour format (23 minutes) so there’s loads of bits we’ll share later on DVDs, etc.
Tubefilter: You must have a ton of insight after having been involved in this online video space for so long. What’s the one best thing you’ve learned in the past give or so years of making Goodnight Burbank?
HB: How obsessed Tubefilter is with wanting to know how much money is spent on productions. (Editor’s Note: ZING!)