We are Back To The Future Too

Panel 1About 2 months ago we started these weekly Blogs/Vlogs for the purpose of sharing with our fans the Behind The Scenes world of Feathers and Toast.

We had this knowing feeling brewing in our bones that it was time, that we were now on a collision course with our destiny of Feathers and Toast expanding into a half hour show, and we thought, the only thing that could make success sweeter was if we took you with us, so that’s what we did.

We backed up to 2 1/2 years ago when the journey began, and started sharing everything that had happened along the way and it has turned out just like we hoped. You know us better, we know you better, and we do in fact feel like we are not alone, that any victory we have from this point forward, will be a victory shared by you as well. Yay!

So here we are. All caught up. And from this point forward I will be sharing our good news in real time, “Breaking Feathers and Toast news” (as well as continuing on with industry tips, and highlights of what all our favorite peeps are up to – as mentioned in yesterday’s blog.)

So here’s the good news. Feathers and Toast had an amazing week at Digital Hollywood last week. For those that don’t know, Digital Hollywood is a really cool bi-annual conference created by Victor Harwood, where those working all sides of the digital realm (from techies, execs, marketers to content creators) all get together to share and discuss what’s next and how to succeed in what is often referred to as The Wild West of entertainment.

Mhairi and I have been going there for years, starting as hopefuls still trying to get the lay of the land, to seasoned digital content creators, to finally speakers sharing what we’ve learned with others.

This time around we were asked to lead a workshop sponsored by Women In Film and moderated by Karene Jullien. Well, part of a workshop. It was a 3 parter and we were asked to lead the first portion which would be “How to Develop your Idea”. The second 2 parts were, “How to Gain Traction” and “The Do’s and Don’ts of Pitching” and they were each lead by an impressive line up of execs (from companies like Yahoo, New Form Digital, Comedy Central International etc.)

Needless to say we were feeling pretty blessed, and maybe just a tiny bit nervous, to be paired up with these powerhouse ladies, but our nerves were eased the second we decided to focus on being an inspiration, rather than who might be listening and what we might get from this opportunity.

We were told it would be an intimate group, so we were picturing about 8 women around a conference table, but when we got there we actually had to fight our way into the room. It was packed, standing room only. Mhairi and I were stunned. We quickly gained our bearings as we focused again on being a contribution to all the shining faces now staring at us and it turned out to be a rousing success.

Several people mentioned it was the best panel they’d been to at Digital Hollywood, there were requests for Women In Film to do more of this, and we ended up making some amazing new friends and fans, including some of the execs.

We both left with the feeling of “this is how it’s suppose to be.” You give from your heart, you make friends and then opportunity expands from there. We don’t know who our future partners are supposed to be, who will help take our show to the next level, but we do know it should be rooted in a spirit of friendship and understanding, and we feel last week was a giant leap closer to that.

Which leads me to…

Industry Tip #24

It really is all about relationships. Conceiving, developing and birthing a creative baby is best done with people with whom you share a mutual respect and likeminded goals. Your networking energy is best spent genuinely trying to find your people, rather than superficially searching for who you think can get you what you want at the moment.

Thanks to one of our participants in the workshop (Christine Marie K), there is actually video of at least 1/2 of the workshop. So without further ado, here we are, in all our glory, sharing what we’ve learned from the heart.

Not All Advice is Created Equal

Meme_S1E3_1After Mhairi and I had released the first season of Feathers and Toast, and were in our experimental year where we were playing around with social media and attempting to build an audience, we began receiving a lot of advice from many diverse sources about what we needed to do to enhance the show and get our numbers up, some we listened to and some we did not, because as I said before “Not all advice is created equal.”

Now I am not saying this in order to give myself and others an excuse to just throw away any advice you get that is not to your liking, in fact, I think you should listen very carefully to all advice, particularly the advice that’s hard to hear, there are gifts in there, I am saying this because advice is something you need to treat with caution.

The thing is, it is the rare person that can step out of their own life experiences, needs and wants, and listen to yours purely and deeply in order to give you unbiased advice tailored just for you and what’s best for achieving your specific vision.

More times than not the advice you are going to get will be based on the advice givers view of how things work, or the brand of success they themselves are seeking, their personal area of expertise, or the style of entertainment they like the best.

All of this information is very valuable and should not be overlooked, its just that when listening to it, it needs to be placed in the right context, particularly when you are a creator at the early stages of your vision.

The early stages are a precarious time for content creators. You haven’t even worked out all the answers yourself yet and already there are opinions about the direction you should go, opinions that are often presented to you with great confidence, as if they are fact, at a time when you are anything but confident, and if you are not careful they can alter your vision in a direction you never intended for it to go which leads me to…

Industry Tip #12

When receiving advice regarding your content (particularly in the early stages) it is important to remember 4 things:

1) Always be grateful to those who take the time to give you solicited advice. (those who give you unsolicited advice, you can do whatever you want with them 🙂 )

2) Always consider the source (what their personal experiences and biases are) so that the information they give you can remain in proper context.

3) Give yourself permission to trust your own gut. Regardless of the stature of the advice giver, if the advice given doesn’t jibe with the direction you feel you are going, give yourself permission to respectfully follow your own intuition.

4) If in following your own path, you discover that one of your former advice givers was right along, its okay and encouraged to admit that, readjust your course and become all the more grateful.

As some of you know, this particular topic became fodder for a good portion of Season 2 of Feathers and Toast as we delved into the age old battle between Art and commerce. But even earlier on it came into play with the clip I am about to show you that comes from our Holiday Tidbit series.

We had been given advice from a senior exec in the Youtube world who had suggested we needed to incorporate topics that were trending into our show, like twerking. Naturally the Tallulah side of Mhairi was like “twerking? Does he really expect me to twerk darling?”

But after much thought, we decided, yes, let’s have Tallulah twerk, but in her own Tallulah way. The result was our most viewed video to date. I guess that guy did have a point, particularly when it comes to increasing your views.

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.

The Third Vlog

Thank you for watching and commenting on last weeks vlog. Amazing how many people share my serious fear of rats. When stopped in traffic the other day I glanced out of the window just in time to watch a rat streak out from under a bush and run, unseen into some grass. I gripped my steering wheel a little tighter and realized that I had by no means hit total zen with the rat phobia thing to be honest. But perhaps I am a little closer to calm. At least my Prius wasn’t subjected to my screaming in abject terror…so progress has been made. Anyway, here is this weeks vlog. Hope you enjoy and let me know how you manage to keep a lid on sweating the small stuff.

Please click HERE to watch video

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 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!