[Editor’s Note: Welcome to Diary of a Web Series, the column that offers you an entertaining look into the machinations of a zero-budget web series made possible by an idea, fortitude, and democratized tools of production. For all the background on why we started publishing Diary of a Web Series – and why we think it’s great – check out the first installment right here. You can watch the web series the diary is about, too. It’s called STRAY and it’s good. Click here to watch it. And you can catch all the installments of Diary of a Web Series right here.]
Anyone looking to make a web series has the same thing on their mind: “How do I get the money to make this thing?”
Many go the crowdfunding route, including this writer. (And if you want to learn about that will-to-live-sapping enterprise, just read this.) Others try their hand at content subscription services, such as Patreon or Stareable Enrich. Some try newfangled funding mechanisms, like cryptocurrency. I thought I’d give good old-fashioned patronage a try. I attempted to nab a sponsor.
Somewhere in between “I need money” and “Oh, look, I have some money,” I was overcome with the unreasonable expectation that some profit-seeking company would want to give me, a thoroughly unproven filmmaker, a sum of money that could sponsor a well-heeled private middle-schooler for a year. The craziest part? A company with such money was willing to part ways with precisely that amount.
We set up a conference call, and I made my pitch. I explained why their brand, a whiskey distillery, would be a natural fit for the show and how the product could be organically incorporated into the story. I even contemplated shooting a series of spoof ads with the actors in character, and holding a launch party featuring their whiskey line. We never got that far.
When my contact asked me how much I needed to make the season, I uttered an outrageous figure. I immediately regretted it. I had squandered a golden opportunity. I wanted to take it back, to beg his forgiveness, to ask for a do-over. Maybe he would let me give him some money instead so that we could both go our merry ways and forgot this ever happened. But he said, “Shouldn’t be a problem,” as if someone had just asked him to open up a jar of olives.
Cue “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In.”
I would not need to submit myself to the slovenly siege that is crowdfunding. I would have a patron, nay, a partner, nay nay, a brand partner. Funding with class. No need to debase myself by begging former coworkers and high school friends for cash. No, I was moving on up. I was a (drum roll, please) partner.
Then something wholly predictable happened: He stopped returning my calls or responding to my emails. Something slightly less predictable followed: I turned into Joe Goldberg from Netflix Original Series You, which is to say, I became an unhinged, jilted, schizophrenic, psychopathic stalker who follows my target’s every online movement.
He requested a proposal, so I delivered one, a 22-slide PowerPoint tour de force that no brand could resist, except, apparently, this one. He didn’t respond. Had he even opened my proposal?? I resolved to require read receipts from that point on just to make sure. I followed up a week a later. Nothing. Then the week after that. I called his office line. Voice mail. Why hadn’t he gotten back to me??? I thought we were PARTNERS???
I never did hear back from him. I imagine that he went on to partner with some other fledgling indie web series that was picked up by Netflix or HBO, or both. It’s not like I care. My team and I ended up raising the money we needed through a crowdfunding campaign on Seed & Spark. Yep, we’re doing just fine.
Having said that, [BRAND CONTACT NAME REDACTED], if you’re reading this, I’m still open to funding if you are. There’s always season three. We can still be partners! It’s not too late!
Pablo Andreu is not a creator or a scriptwriter. He’s certainly not a filmmaker. He’s just a guy who decided to make a web series called STRAY. It’s a bromantic comedy featuring a brash gay dude and a nerdy straight guy. He hopes it’s funny. By some inscrutable alchemy, his scribblings have wormed their way into The New York Times, McSweeney’s, and Slackjaw.