Independent online video enthusiasts may recall the early 2010 noir mystery web series based out of Chattanooga, Tennessee. The Steps told 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.” And The Steps was able to tell that story (as well as promote it by way of billboards on Chattanooga buses) because its writer/director Dylan Kussman received a financial grant from Create Here, “a local program to build Chattanooga’s cultural economy through arts, economic and cultural development initiatives.”
For the second season of The Steps, Kussman and his production shop Giantleap Industries wanted to take Madison’s story back to the town where Madison came from, and give the character a 24-hour action-packed window in which the former Hollywood PI attempts to find evidence that would clear his name and instead finds trouble.
“Charlie Madison, is a man defined by his polarities…sober versus drunk, loving versus violent, being of service versus inflicting damage, recovery versus addiction,” Kussman said. “ We thought Season 2 was a great opportunity to illustrate the geographic manifestation of his internal tug-of-war: Chattanooga versus Los Angeles.”
One logistical downside to showcasing that geographic manifestation was Kussman would no longer have access to Chattanooga-based Create Here funding. So, in order to finance the second season of his indie series, he did what every independent online producer does who’s in need of cash to create a piece of content. He started a Kickstarter campaign.
The Steps beat its $17,000 Kickstarter goal late last year and uploaded the finale of its six-episode second season this past March. And although there’s absolutely zero things wrong with local programs created to foster local artists and develop local economies, getting funding through Kickstarter does have its benefits.
Kussman noted the Kickstarter campaign only covered a portion of The Steps’ budget, but the real value was in upping his fans’ interest-level in the show. “We are a series fueled by word-of-mouth,” Kussman explained. “ What better way to encourage people to let the friends and family know about us than to be able to say, “This show is literally yours. We paid for it. Won’t you help us help it succeed?”