Oh Look A Surprise Ending

Meme_S1E6_9Its weird. As I sit here writing this blog this morning I am acutely aware that this feels like the ending to the story I set out to tell of “How We Went From YouTube to a Television Deal.”

Its not the ending I had planned. I had imagined I would cleverly be revealing to you some grand fireworks style ending where I announced our signing of a deal and where you would be able to find us on TV, but as I sit here now I realize that that type of announcement pales in comparison to what has actually happened.

See a funny thing transpired on the way to me boldly declaring that we would get a deal; I became a woman who can make deals, the rest is just the details.

Despite my willingness to publicly declare my future success, when I started this blog I was suffering from a yet undiagnosed, but chronic, case of fear (at least where my career was concerned.)

I wasn’t fearful of the work, in fact, I loved that part as you can likely tell from my endless amounts of posts about the process where I shared with you tips about development, writing, production, shooting for Improv, editing, social media, marketing pt 1, marketing pt 2, networking, and the benefits and rules of YouTube (which are all still there for you to learn from if you like.)

No my fears began where the creation process would inevitably end, that moment when you’ve done all you can do and its time to start selling. I had developed an almost phobic level fear about selling, but I couldn’t see it because every time I finished a project I would just make up another excuse that I was happy to believe and then get busy with a new project.

I didn’t know it at the time but starting this blog was the beginning of the end for my 15 years plus phobia because I had given myself no way out. As I inched closer to having nothing left to do but sell I got squirmy, seriously squirmy, like a caged animal squirmy, but with nowhere to go, and lots of willfulness and camaraderie (thanks Mhairi, Stephanie, Anne and Shonda Rhimes who doesn’t even know she helped but boy did she) I pushed through.

I doubled down, bought books that inspired me (The Year of Yes, A Carlin Home Companion, The Comedians, Sick in the Head and Small Screen Big Picture), and finally took the time to develop some important sales tools like pitching. I got serious about networking and really honest with myself about some pretty serious career missteps that needed to be corrected.

I faced my fears head on and what I was left with was that feeling one has after breaking the spell of a bad relationship where you’re suddenly able to see things you could never see before, only the bad relationship was with me, and what I could now see was that I’ve had the ability to do everything I’ve ever wanted to do all along. It was me that told myself I couldn’t and like it or not there is just no way to sell people on the idea that you can, when deep down you believe you can’t.

So that’s where I sit now. I know in a way I’ve never known before that I can do whatever I set my mind to and that its only a matter of time before Mhairi and I succeed in our mission to produce & distribute what will become a beloved show about a girl who saves the world one sandwich at a time.

So without further, here is your last…

Industry Tip
If you want something, declare it, and then be willing to do whatever it takes to make it true.

And I leave you with a song that just about sums it all up. Enjoy!


The 40 Day Networking Challenge Begins Now

Shot08-022AYou know that whole saying “If Nothing Changes, Nothing Changes”? That’s right where we are now in our journey of “How We Went From Youtube to Television Deal.” It’s time to make a major change.

There is nothing like simply declaring that you will achieve something, to put you on a collision course with the very thing that has always stopped you, and, for me, that thing is networking. Boom. There’s my road block. Only this time its got flashing lights and a not so subtle sign across it that reads “Make no mistake, there is no avoiding me.” I might have been blind before, but now I see.

I can see that I have spent the past 20 years completely satisfied with my own excuses that “I am just not that good at the networking thing.” No need to try. Not my area. And instead, wildly overcompensating in the areas of creativity (writing/producing etc), all while attempting to convince myself, and anyone who would listen, that as long as I’m good enough at my craft that my lack of networking skills won’t matter.

The trouble with that is, its just not true. Networking really does matter. And avoiding it will only lead you to becoming that weird lady who could have been.

The even harder truth is that I have had several projects over the years that likely could have gone to television. Great projects, created with some amazingly talented people, but as always, when it came time to sell I had no people I could sell it to. I let them and myself down.

I hadn’t spent the time to build relationships with industry execs, and as it turns out, industry execs don’t spend a lot of time listening to the ideas of people they don’t already have relationships with. They have plenty of creators they do have relationships with and they are busy listening to them.

So what did I do about this? I went back in my shell and created more.

Starting today this pattern is over. Done. I owe it to my amazing co-creator Mhairi, to our show, to my family & friends who have been rooting for me, and most importantly to myself, to once and for all face this fear head on and win.

In light of that decision, and in light of the fact that this is way past due, I have decided to take radical action. I have cleared my schedule and will be committing to a 40 day challenge.

The plan: for the next 40 days I will meet as many industry executives as possible (and that includes everyone from executive assistants to studio heads) and spark relationships with them that I will then maintain for a lifetime. Like the oh-so-brilliant Shonda Rhimes, I am going to starting saying Yes! (Thank you Shonda – deeply and truly)

Does this scare the bejeezus out of me? Hell yes it does. But am I going to do it anyway? You better believe it. I welcome any and all support. If you have someone you think I should meet, please share. If you’re a fellow artist realizing you are just like me, get on board.

Which leads me to…

Industry Tip #38
Content creators must spend at least 33% of their time actively building a network, or they will have no one to share their work with when its done.

And without further ado. I leave you with this great interview from BTR Productions where I share what its like being a female comedy writer in Hollywood and why I am so excited about our show.


If Digital is The Wild West, Why Not Be a Pioneer?

Meme_S1E6_9Today, literally right now, might just be one of the greatest times in history to be a visual storyteller.

In the past, if you wanted to see your story ever make it to an audience (whether on the big screen or television) you had no choice but to get it past the gatekeepers. Production was so cost prohibitive, and distribution outlets so unaccessible, that green lighting yourself in any professional manner was near impossible.

Your only hope of finding an audience was if the gatekeepers decided you were worthy enough for them to merit giving it to you. And even if you were the chosen one and your story was produced and distributed, there was no 2nd and 3rd screen, no bonus content, no audience interaction. Your story lived in one form and one form only.

But now, sweet beautiful now, all that has changed. Technology has advanced so much that even your phone is a high quality camera and sound department. You can have advanced editing software on your laptop to the tune of $20 a month. And Distribution? There are 15 year olds out there right now who have used Youtube to garner literally millions of loyal fans. They didn’t have to ask for permission, they just did it, often times with a team of one. The restrictions are gone.

And to top it all off, we are no longer confined to telling a story simply for the big or little screen, no, there are storytellers out there, as we speak, who are telling stories across 5 platforms at once (for e.g Emma Approved which recently won an Interactive Emmy.)

For all intensive purposes Emma Approved is a web show, a clever re-telling of the classic Jane Austen novel Emma, where Emma Woodhouse, this time a lifestyle coach, has decided to film her successes (Vlog style over 72 episodes) for a future documentary of her life. But the storytelling doesn’t end there. Just like any real lifestyle coach would, Emma has her own blog, twitter account (as do all the characters on the show), photo gallery of fashion tips, and even Music Club Videos created by her assistant Harriet.

The team at Emma Approved even went a step further, truly breaking the 4th wall, when they allowed people to bid for real on the fictitious bachelor auction “Emma” was sponsoring to raise money for charity. (they raised $4k and the money did actually go to a charity so its all good)

My point in sharing all this is simply to inspire you with the possibilities which leads me to….

Industry Tip #13
We are living in exciting times where our imagination truly is the limit. There is still so much room to be a Pioneer, to go where no one in storytelling has gone before, and I really hope you will seize it. Carpe diem.

As many of you know, Mhairi and I have been enjoying the new possibilities as well. We have Feathers and Toast (the web cooking show starring Tallulah), Tallulah’s Vlog Tallulah Talks Back, twitter accounts for Tallulah, Holster & Marge, Behind The Scenes Blogs and Vlogs, the Memes series, a Boutique (which we intend to expand to sell Tallulah’s favorite things) and the soon to be 1/2 hour comedy Tallulah, Darling.

Plus you can actually see “Tallulah” live and in person every month, as she attempts to hijack, I mean host, the French Cabaret show known as FEMMES by Cabaret Versatile at the Sofitel in Beverly Hills.

Have I inspired you yet? I hope so because we need the stories that only you can tell. So get cracking and let your imagination fly. Virtual Reality is the next untapped frontier.

Without further ado, your videos for the day are of the first time Tallulah hosted the Cabaret show (both before and during her show). It also marked the first time we brought the Holster character into the storyline.


The First Rule of Youtube is You Don’t Quit Youtube

unnamedI learned this lesson the hard way with my first web series, The Sex Trade. We created 6 episodes and then released them. Everything went well, in fact, phenomenally well (we ended up with over a 100,000 views in those first 6 weeks) but then that was all she wrote (literally, the she was me, and that’s all I wrote).

We didn’t have any more episodes and weren’t going to have any more episodes, only now I had strangers out there that were literally mad at me for not finishing what I had started so to speak, which was both hilarious and guilt inducing all at the same time.

I’m not sure what I had thought I was doing. At the time, I was mostly just trying to prove my writing ability. I figured it would be easier to get Execs to click on a link and watch than to read a script, and so I just produced the show and put it out there, but things did not go at all as I had expected. I never even factored in the possibility that there was a legitimate youtube audience that might get attached to it, and frankly it didn’t turn out to be any easier to get Execs to click than read (at least not for me) and so as time went by it became increasingly more obvious that I needed to come up with a different strategy.

What I eventually learned was that regardless of whether you intend to use Youtube as your primary business model (creating content specifically for youtube in exchange for ad dollars/sponsorship etc) or whether you use it as I do, as a development/marketing strategy for projects you’d like to eventually expand to TV, you really have to be in it for the long haul, ready to be consistently releasing new material over a long stretch of time in order to gain any sort of real momentum, traction and brand loyalty, and for me this meant creating content that was more practical in terms of time constraints and budget.

These lessons directly affected my opinions on how to move forward when it came to producing Feathers and Toast. Even though right from the beginning, Mhairi and I always knew there was a bigger story we wanted to tell, we intentionally narrowed it down to the aspect of the story we could reasonably afford to produce, meaning content that didn’t require fundraising, asking anyone for favors or endless amounts of our time but could still be done well, and the answer to that turned out to be Tallulah’s cooking show (which of course is only one piece of Tallulah’s larger life.)

Once we got into it, we realized even the cooking show took up an extensive amount of time, more than we could extend over long periods of time without throwing our lives out of whack and eventually dreading the process (which was unacceptable to us) so we made the decision not to jump into Season 2 right away. Instead we embarked on what I will call, our experimental year.

We started producing short, almost Vlog style videos, except they were entirely in character. Our schedule became getting together once a week and in about 4 hours we would come up with the idea, shoot it, edit it and post it (and pretty much laugh all the way through.) We never knew what we were going to do before we would do it, we went off on mad tangents, dipped into politics, threw in some wacky Monty Python-esque stuff. I was practicing directing, and Mhairi was practicing being a one take wonder. We were just being comedians, trying stuff, as if Youtube was our virtual comedy club, where we could see what people responded to and in the end really learn who Tallulah was.

I’d love to say we intentionally spent an entire year throwing Tallulah into all manner of current affairs and life experiences because we knew that it would be a really cool way to deeply develop her character while simultaneously building a really strong brand (which did happen and we are grateful) but the truth is we just did it out of an organic need to create more content. Hind sight being 20/20 however, I would definitely do it all over again.

The result was a series of videos we called “Tallulah Talks Back” and the “Top 10 Holiday Tidbits” which I will be sharing with you over the next couple months (in no particular order) which leads me to…

Industry Tip #10

If you are planning to use Youtube to build your brand, consistent quality content is key, emphasis on the consistent, so make sure your ideas are ones you can afford to produce (time/money) over the long term without getting yourself burnt out.

So without further ado I leave you with the first Tallulah Talks Back episode that popped into my mind to share where Tallulah teaches you “How to meditate and quiet the Mime.” Lol. We loved this one.


Never Underestimate The Benefit of a Juicy Delusion of Grandeur

Meme_S2E1_1When I was 22 years old I moved to NYC to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up and one day as I was wandering down those busy streets the answer came to me in a flash: I was going to make movies.

I saw the whole thing in my head. My first film was going to be a comedy about a daughter who outs her closet writer mother. Goldie Hawn would play the mother, Meg Ryan would play the crazy Aunt, Alfre Woodard would play the mom’s best friend, Jack Nicholson would play her mom’s unrequited lover and I would play the daughter.

Never mind that I had never written a script in my life, nor had any contacts in the entertainment business, nor any experience Producing, I had passion and creativity on my side and I was going to go ahead and write this script, and then co-produce it with whichever studio picked it up (so that I could still have some control creatively) and cast myself. I gave myself about a 2 year time frame.

Go ahead and laugh. Seriously, have a hearty laugh because this, my friends, is a delusion of epic proportions. A 22 year old unknown back in 1992, with literally zero experience in anything and not a single connection in the business thinks she is going to get Hollywood to produce her largely all female comedy and that they are going to happily let her co-produce it with them and cast it, giving herself one of the starring roles? It’s hilarious! But at the time, I really believed it and I am so glad I did.

See here’s the thing, that delusion was my rocket fuel. It was my carrot keeping me running around the track. I would never have spent the nearly countless hours I have spent over the last 20 years disciplining myself to hone my writing skills and complete scripts if it hadn’t been for the hope that delusion would become real. I would never have gone after and landed all the jobs I did if I hadn’t thought I needed those experiences in order to service that delusion and I am certain I never would have been able to shield myself from all the well meaning dream doubters along the way if it hadn’t been for the warm embrace of that delusion. I would have given up long ago.

My lovely little delusion served me quite well. As the years went by and pure dreaming slowly got replaced by actual skills and real connections that initial delusion slowly changed, morphed, in fact I became completely aware that it was a delusion, I just didn’t care. It had lead me down a path I wanted to be on. I created more of them.

Eventually the delusions no longer served me, in fact they started to get in the way. They became the thing in the way of realizing that my dreams are no longer “dreams” but simply my here and now and that if I didn’t start seeing it in that context, and speaking of it in that context, and being in the very real moments that were happening to me right here in the now, then I was going to unintentionally push them away. This leads me to…

Industry Tip #8

Allow yourself to dream big audacious dreams, but don’t let it stand in the way of you realizing and fully participating in the successes you already have.

And without further ado I will share the final Episode of our very first season of Feathers and Toast. The one where our lovely Tallulah first develops her own delusions of grandeur. She saves a life and now thinks this cooking show might just be her mission in life, that she’s meant to “Save The World One Sandwich at a Time” (Apparently Mhairi, who created that storyline, appreciates the power of a juicy delusion as well)

What delusions have served you well?


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.”