How To Be Your Own Marketing Department Pt 1

Meme_Jan_2There is nothing like having to handle all of your own marketing (as most independent content creators must do) to make you appreciate what it is that the studios and networks do. Effective marketing is such a massive undertaking that I’ve had to divide what needs to be done into two parts and even that will just be breezing across the surface, which is why I will say with all sincerity to our future network and/or studio, thank you! We appreciate you! And we are so thrilled that you will be taking over.

Part 1 – Creating your marketing collateral and online presence.

So as you know, Mhairi and I produced our first season of the show, edited it and then decided to self distribute on the web, but that was only a 1/3 of the work that still needed to be done. You can’t just slap your show up on youtube and call it a day “no darling” you’ve got to create a proper online presence that shows you mean business. You have to treat your show like what it really is, a small business, a start up, that needs cohesive branding across all platforms.

Thanks to the fact that I have been through this several times before with my other web shows (The Sex Trade, GG’s Java Joint,) and that Mhairi and I’s creative tastes are so cohesive, we breezed through it all rather quickly, but it can be a real stumbling block and test of creative partnerships, given how much there is to know and how many decisions there are to make, so I thought I’d try to help make it a little easier by sharing what I’ve learned with any of you who may be going through this process right now.

First things first, you have to have a logo (and this is probably one of the few things you shouldn’t try to do yourself, unless you are a graphic designer). The logo is going to be with you for a long time and needs to work on everything from the web, to print, to merchandise, and nobody understands the unique challenges of this better than the ones who were trained to know it. Luckily for us, Mhairi was friends with the lovely and talented Ted Meyer and he kindly created the perfect logo for us. Thank you Ted!!

The next bit of advice I will give you is to create a specific gmail address for the show and use that email address for every account you are going to create from this point forward. (There are many headache reducing reasons for this that I will be happy to get into if you ask, but the main reason is that Google owns everything, including Youtube and therefore they are going to make you create one anyway when you open up your youtube account so you might as well make it easy on yourself and use it across all your accounts.)

Next you have to have a website. Imdb requires it in order for them to consider you a legit show, but also its important to have a home base for your fans. Your website is the place where you can have your blog, share your episodes, and even set up an online store if you’re ambitious (which we are).

The good news is creating websites has gotten ridiculously easy thanks to WordPress and the like. The real trick of it is taking the time to think about how you want your website to look first and what content you want to include, and then taking the time to search through the cajillions of templates out there, without settling, until you find the perfect one that matches your vision.

I’d be lying if I said the tech aspects of the set up weren’t a little challenging at first, depending on the template you choose, particularly if you’ve never attempted to create a website before, but it is not even sort of impossible, if I can do it, you can do it. I used the help of my good friend WordPress For Dummies. I followed it page for page and it was all I needed. Well, that and google. (for those that prefer video, you can use tutorials like this one here or search for one you prefer better.)

(***Also important point here – do not use for the purpose of promoting an original show. You are going to need to pay for your own domain name and hosting service, with a company like Hostgator or GoDaddy for e.g., and then use to purchase your templates. If you use, which is free, then they are paying for your hosting service which makes them essentially your partner. This is totally fine for a personal blog where you are not looking to make money, but not okay for an original IP)

Then of course you have to set up your Youtube Channel (for a basic tutorial click here) and customize your homepage, keeping in mind it should feature your best trailer and playlists leading your fans to what you most want them to see. (for a great tutorial on how to accomplish that click here)

Once your website and youtube channels are set up, then you’ve got to create what I like to call the social media package. There is no getting around the fact that you will need the big 3, a Facebook page, Twitter account & Instagram, and then, depending on the audience you want to reach, you may also want to consider creating an account on Pinterest, Tumblr, Vine, Snapchat and the list goes on and on. It gets me tired just thinking about it. 🙂

But the one thing that every single one of these sites you are creating have in common is that they are going to need consistent collateral material in the form of copy (loglines, synopisis, bios) and artwork/promotional photos in the form of banners/profile pics etc or in order to look good, so this brings me to my tip for the day…

Industry Tip #5
Always take Still Photographs while you are in Production, of both your characters in action and your crew Behind The Scenes, as you will need these across all your various promotional platforms.

You will need square photos for Instagram, profile photos for potential postcards and/or movie posters (Imdb, Festivals), and you will need landscape photos for Facebook, Youtube and Twitter banners. Also, when you take your photos, make sure you leave some empty space on either the right or the left hand side in order to add show titles and laurels to what will eventually become your banners. Trust me you will kick yourself later if you don’t have these.

I spent hours creating banners to fit all the various platforms (because they all have different size requirements) but of course now there are free apps that can help you do it in half the time. To check out one of them click here (And if you need a referral, our Stills Photographer is the amazing Katie Nolan. Much more to come on her in future blogs. We love you Katie!)

So that’s it for today. I leave you with Episode 3 of Season 1 of Feathers & Toast, the sensual tomato salad, where Tallulah utters what might be one of my favorite lines I’ve ever heard her say to Diego. He accuses her of saying something that might be a bit racist, to which she replies “Alright darling, I don’t know who made you the UN Police or whatever.” What is your favorite line from this episode? Would love to hear.

Disclaimer: I guess I should mention that all the companies & tutorials I mentioned above were based on my own personal experience and use. We are not affiliated with them in any way, nor have we received any sponsorship.

How To Avoid Becoming “Click” Obsessed

Meme_S1E2_1Yeah I got nothing on this one. Still trying to figure it out myself. 😉 I’m kidding. I have a few tips to share, but first I’ve got to make a few confessions.

I would love to say that Mhairi and I simply put up our freshly minted episodes online for all to enjoy and didn’t proceed to obsess, waiting for every like, share, comment and retweet to come in, like a dog waits for his bone, but that would be a lie. A big one. At least for me.

I spent endless hours clicking refresh to see how many people had watched. Who was liking our posts? Were they enjoying it? I even analyzed the stats to see how many of my Florida people were watching and for how long (by the numbers it looked like probably just my parents – yes I am watching you Florida people – ha!)

I guess the thing is when you create something you love, it becomes like your little baby and you just want everybody to look at it and love it too. Then when you add to that fact the very real pressure of knowing that if you don’t get those clicks and subscriptions up the industry folks will never consider investing in you, and you have a real pressure cooker of need my friends, one known all too well by all our fellow content creator friends.

You really don’t want to force your friends and family into watching and essentially doing your PR work for you, but at the same time you have this nagging truth breathing down your neck, and that is that in this new digital age of entertainment you really need them to. So you spend hours testing out ways to get people to click, trying to be endlessly fun, creative and clever, without being annoying (tricky dance), all in the hopes of that coveted experience of going viral (yes my friends, in 2015 going viral is a good thing).

When I say you can go down the rabbit hole, I mean you can go down the rabbit hole. It starts with a Facebook post here and then a Tweet there, and then, oh crap I forgot to post to Instagram, then, do I really have to create a Google + account too? Fine, what banner am I going to put up? Oh crap, now I need to put the google + link on my blog. The Blog!! Wait, who unsubscribed? Do the blog numbers really matter, or just youtube’s? Maybe I should just direct everyone to our Facebook page, oh but wait..the algorythms. Ahhhhhh!!!!

I spent months like this. I became a hermit and didn’t even know it because I was so busy being “social”. There were many days when I never even got out of my jammies because I had “so much to do” but at the end of the day I wasn’t even sure if I was accomplishing anything other than making myself depressed. The needle really hadn’t moved that much and this was no way to live.

Luckily salvation came through a realization of what actually does get results (which were witnessed first hand through watching my lovely partner Mhairi’s steady efforts and subsequent successes) and its an annoying little truth somewhat akin to the whole “if you want to lose weight, eat less and exercise more” thing that nobody wants to hear, but I’m going to share with you anyway, now…

Industry Tip #4

The best way to promote your show through social media is to be generous, be authentic and to make peace with the fact that its going to be a long haul.

Unless you are already wildly famous, a good, solid and engaged social media following doesn’t happen over night, it just doesn’t, and trying to rush it is only going to stress you out. So if you don’t want to go insane like me, you should just accept that fact right from the start, and then create a plan and work the plan. (meaning set a social media schedule of how many hours you’re gonna work on it each day/and also set a “I will not even look at my phone, I promise” schedule so that you can maintain sanity & keep your friends through the marathon that has become your social media life)

And then while you are on social media you should treat yourself like a guest who just showed up late to the party (because that party has been raging on long before you). Don’t just expect to pop in and start telling all your stories. You have to find out who is in the room first, say hello, listen to their stories for awhile and then you can share some of yours. (This is especially true of twitter, but if you think about it it makes perfect sense.)

If everyone is just talking and nobody is listening, then there are no conversations to be had, and therefore no genuine connections to be made. And if you don’t make genuine connections, there will be no engagement, so you will just be posting for no one.

And one last thing, you have to be authentic. People can smell a phony who is just supporting others in order to get attention a mile away, so if you’re not going to be authentic in your interest and support just don’t do it. The simple cheat to help yourself with this is to go ahead and find and follow all the people you would honestly be interested in listening to anyway. There are loads of amazing and interesting people sharing themselves on social media everyday, find the ones you like and create your online community by customizing your feeds using lists (If you don’t know how to do this, just ask, you’ll thank yourself.) This will set you up for a situation where you have endless info that you are quite happy to promote, share and talk about.

So that’s what I’ve got for today. And please let me know if there is a topic here I’ve touched on that you’d like me to go deeper with.

In the meantime, I will leave you with Episode 2 of Season 1 where Mhairi’s kitchen antics brought us treasured quotes like “Don’t just start punching your avocados” and “There’s really no point in learning to dice, just hack into it.”

To Youtube or Not To Youtube, That Was The Question

Hot under the FeathersSo here we were, Mhairi & I, with 6 episodes and 2 teasers in the can and seemingly lots of options (since the Digital Revolution was now in full swing) but unsure which direction to go.

There had been some initial excitement, as several big name production companies had seen some of our material and were interested in working with us, but that excitement faded pretty quickly when we realized that they wanted to go in a different direction with the show than we had in mind.

Maybe it was due to Mhairi’s brilliantly dead pan delivery, but it seems many in the early stages saw Feathers and Toast as an actual cooking show, and wanted to steer it in that direction (in fact one even suggested cutting the Behind The Scenes part) but as tempting as it was to go where the money was, and shape our show into what was currently working on the digital platforms and MCN’s, Mhairi and I knew this was a full blown comedy destined for television and that even if it meant we were going to have to go it alone for awhile and forego any financial support (that we really could have used), that was just what we were going to have to do until we could effectively show them the trajectory we envisioned for ourselves and why it would work.

The decision was made to go ahead and put the episodes up on our own Youtube channel (more on how we prepped for that at a later time) and pretty quickly thereafter we learned what will become a series on insights I will share with you about Youtube, but the first is…

Industry Tip #3
Youtube is a powerful creative development tool if used effectively.

Almost immediately after we began releasing those early episodes of Feathers and Toast, we started getting invaluable feedback from the people, not industry people, but viewers, fans, the people we would be creating the show for in the first place, and one of the first bits of invaluable information we got is that they absolutely loved the back and forth between Diego and Tallulah.

This was music to our ears because the Behind The Scenes part was where we had chosen to hint at the fact that there was a larger story with Tallulah, and the fact that people were responding to it gave us encouragement to go even further with this aspect, in fact it altered our entire thinking as we headed into developing Season 2. (so thanks all you early supporters like Linda Eubanks, Bob Burns and Icerunner to name a few)

So I guess the answer to the ancient question “To Youtube or Not to Youtube” for us ended up being a resounding yes! To Youtube.

And now without further ado I will share with you the very first episode of Feathers and Toast to ever grace the web. (awww) As you watch it I’d love for you to appreciate as I do how serious Tallulah is about what she is up as I happen to know how not serious Mhairi herself was. (She may be straight faced for the camera – because she is truly a brilliant actress – but inside this was all hilarious to her as this is definitely her unique brand of humor)

And also I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge Diego for literally just being himself. Right before we had begun filming our Director, Barbara Stepansky, had suggested Tallulah have someone to talk to, like the camera man, so we had attempted to cast one of my Second City friends to play the camera man and that fell through, but then I had one of my crazy ideas.

I asked Mhairi what she thought of just letting Diego be the “camera man.” I knew, even though he wasn’t an actor that he would have no trouble getting into character because he literally was the camera man but I also knew how naturally funny he is and how incapable he is of being anything other than himself. To my surprise Mhairi embraced my crazy idea immediately (another reason I love her as my creative partner), and the rest, as they say is history. (And btw – we gave Diego literally no direction or explanation of what we were up to at all. We just told him to feel free to chat with her on that second part and just as I suspected, he gave us gold)


How Three Weeks of Editing Changed Everything

Meme_S2E1_3I’ll never forget when Mhairi uttered the 5 words that would inevitably change my life “Will you be my editor?”

Up until then we had just been dear friends helping each other out. I had loved her idea for Tallulah and wanted to see her succeed so I shared a few resources (my notes, my kitchen, my husband) and the result was a Hard Drive full of precious footage just waiting to be edited by someone, but I never imagined that that someone was going to be me.

“Will you be my editor?” That question brought up all kinds of issues for me. Editing is a commitment, its time intensive, its mind consuming (particularly when your dealing with unscripted footage) and its personal (as you can get very attached to what you create) and I knew I needed to think long and hard before I made that kind of commitment to a project that I knew was so personal for her, essentially her creative baby.

To be honest, I was still reeling from a creative collaboration that had gone way south, with people who didn’t seem to value me or my ideas at all, and so the idea of working with her in this capacity scared the bejeesus out of me. Friendship has always been more important to me than business and the older and wiser me was very worried about letting the two mix. Plus there was this extra little fear lurking inside me, “what if I’m not a good enough editor?” Gasp. 🙂

It turns out that all my fears were unfounded. From the moment I said yes, Mhairi couldn’t have been more grateful, wonderful and collaborative. She sat right next to me every step of the way, making sure I had an endless supply of healthy snacks, water and laughter. She had insights, I had insights and all were applauded. Inside of this nurturing environment I discovered yet again (as I had with my writing partner John Connon) the joy of true creative collaboration and I also discovered that I did indeed have a gift for editing. (A fact that Mhairi generously and repeatedly pointed out)

Over the course of those several weeks, not only did we mold that footage into 6 episodes and 2 teasers, we created what would become the signature Feathers and Toast style with the old timey music, the title cards and the structure of an opening, a recipe and a glimpse into Behind the Scenes (something we had no idea we were going to do before we started editing). In fact, over the next couple weeks I will be sharing each of those early episodes with you again and show you how our now structured show was formed after the fact from the clay of Mhairi’s brilliant unscripted Improv. We still find it quite amazing.

All was not easy cheesy peesy however, which leads me to my second industry insider tip…

Industry Tip # 2
Don’t try to edit the trailer/teaser for your show before you have edited the show itself. Trailers/Teasers are hard, there is just no way around this. When making a trailer you are tasked with not only telling your story in the most concise way as possible, but you also have to reach into the minds of your potential fans and guess which few quick seconds of your show will catch their eye and make them curious and/or excited enough to want to take the time to watch it. Essentially you need to be a mind reader on mass scale.

So with all that said, it is hard enough to create a trailer in the best of circumstances, when you know your footage and your story well, but to try to create it while you are still getting to know your footage and still forming your style is darn near impossible. We know because that is precisely what we did the first time around, but never again.

Based on this, maybe you can help us answer a question we have always wanted to know. We ended up creating 2 teasers for Season One, the first one we did on our own based on our guess of what people needed to know, and the second one was based on notes (from mostly the men in our life) who suggested that the teaser needed be less wordy and more visual. I will put them both below and am curious, which one would be most likely to peak your interest and why? Do we need both? Are women more drawn to the verbal and men to the visual? These are things we would love to find out. (There is no wrong answer as we love them both)

Teaser #1

Teaser # 2

It Starts With a Solid Idea and a Great Team

Meme season 1 ep 1 #4In the early days Mhairi and I were just two friends with similar dreams who met at a Women In Film breakfast and started a goal group for two. We would get together every Monday evening, discuss what we learned from the previous week, share our goals for the next and then wax philosophic about things like the importance of a performer not waiting around for someone else to give them that career-changing role and what success really means.

Both of us had had “success” in the past, with some impressive credits to prove it, but had not necessarily been happy in the process. Upon further exploration we realized that for us, the entire reason we were drawn to this business in the first place was because each of us had had moments in our past where we got the chance to feel what its like to be a part of an amazing creative community, to feel the incredible warmth, passion and intimacy that comes when you are working with a community of great artists who know how to put their egos aside and work together to create something better than they could have created on their own. We craved that feeling, so much so that we realized having it was our definition of success and we committed to each other that night that one way or another we were going to create it.

At the same time we were having these discussions, Mhairi met a man who would become our Feathers and Toast guardian angel, Gideon of Paramount. (haha – I couldn’t resist Gideon, just love the way that sounds) Anyway Gideon had come to see Mhairi’s stand up and afterwards suggested that maybe she choose one of her characters and build a show around it (as so many comedians have done before – Seinfeld, Ray Romano etc). Well this just sent Mhairi’s imagination a flying and later she shared with me an idea for a character she had percolating called Tallulah Grace.

Tallulah fancied herself the savior of the lonely cook, encouraging single women to dress up and play in the kitchen even if they were just cooking for themselves, especially if they were cooking for themselves, but what Tallulah would never want to admit to anyone was that she was that lonely cook.

I fell in love with Tallulah immediately and, me being me, suggested that Mhairi not just put together a pitch but rather that she go ahead and shoot something so that the powers that be could see her as that character.

We talked at length about what she could shoot that would show off the potential arc of this character but would still be cost effective and high quality and, as has been the case since the beginning of this project, help started jumping on board.

Before we knew it we had a Director (Mhairi’s very talented friend Barbara Stepansky), a Make up artist (Lygia Orta), a kitchen (mine) and a Cinematographer (my lovely husband Diego Torroija – who would inadvertently become “the Diego” even though he is truly a camera guy and not an actor) and the next thing you know the plan was put in place for what eventually would become the first season of the web series Feathers and Toast (although we did not know that at the time.)

Industry Tip #1
Do not wait for someone to come along and create the perfect opportunity for you to show your unique brand of talent or you may die waiting. If you have a story inside you that you are inspired to tell or a character you were born to play, then do what you have to do to make it a reality based on whatever resources you have at your disposal. If you don’t have much then keep your idea small for now, or shoot the piece of the idea you can afford and still do well. Enroll your friends, borrow equipment, make it happen. In this business if you want people to believe in your story or see you as a certain type of character you are going to have to show them, especially if its unique and original as those are ultimately the most memorable but initially the most difficult to sell.

Next post will talk about the importance of loving your editor, but in the meantime here’s a memory of the humble beginnings of Tallulah Grace.

How We Went From Youtube to a Television Deal

Screen Shot 2015-09-01 at 8.45.18 AMSo a funny thing happened on the way to starting this blog…

In the vein of true Olympic Athlete style thinking, of visualizing the intended outcome and then going after it, the plan was that I would begin sharing Mhairi and I’s story in blog form (how Feathers and Toast was formed and all the steps we’ve taken along the way to go from youtube to television) and that by the end of the telling of this story our readers would have experienced the answer to that question “How We Went From Youtube to a Television Deal” because we would have caused it to happen in real time. (A risk for sure, but this business is nothing if its not risky, and one thing Mhairi and I both wholeheartedly agree on is that one has to be clear, bold and brave when going after one’s dreams.)

So off we went with this goal. We planned our strategy and then, in an effort to promote our new direction, made an announcement to all of you. We shared with everybody about how we are expanding to TV, how we’ve written a pilot script and are working with an attorney, how we’re shopping for the perfect production company, and that we would be starting this blog and a vlog to keep you in the know and the feedback to this was amazing, heart warming, so heart warming in fact, that as time went past and the congratulations started to rack up we began to wonder, first silently and then out loud, “does everyone think we already have a television deal?”

Well the idea of this just made Mhairi’s “feet start sweating”, in fact she said it left her feeling “a bit queasy darling.” Our intention was to be bold for sure, but never to deceive people, and for a second I’ll admit I got a bit worried too. Had I worded things in such a way as could be misleading? Is this my fault?

I wrestled with this for a while wondering if I needed to make a point to clarify that there is no deal written in stone yet and that we don’t know with any certainty when we are going to be on television, but if I’m honest I found myself really not wanting to. In fact, I found myself loving that you believe, fueled by it even, and not because I find any enjoyment in tricking people, but because I really believe it too and its been so nice to have some company.

The thing is Mhairi and I’s creative partnership has been the single most successful creative partnership I have had. Thus far every goal we have made has been achieved and I have no reason to believe that that won’t continue. The secret to our success has not been about the results, its been about the process. We work well together, we respect each other, our strengths cover each other’s weaknesses and there hasn’t been a single challenge we haven’t been able to laugh our way through. For all these reasons its been easy to achieve another well known secret to success: Never Giving Up. We won’t give up. Why would we? We’re having too much fun.

So we’re going to call this little misunderstanding a happy accident and ask you to stick with us in the believing that we do have a deal, its just not quite officially here yet. I will continue to share my posts and starting tomorrow Mhairi will begin sharing her Vlog and together hopefully we will make history by making a dream come true in real time through this blog.

***In the future I will end each post with an industry tip based on things we learned throughout production and a video example but for today it felt apropos to leave you with a little Behind The Scenes moment from Mhairi & I. Much love to you all – enjoy!