WASHINGTON, D.C., August 13, 2011—Entertainment consumers are cutting off their cable at a record rate. The way we consume entertainment is changing.
As we start to consume entertainment differently, TV show creators are making them differently. Gone are the days when three or four network channels had the best shows and got all the awards and accolades. These days, the networks hardly turn out anything worth watching.
Recently, an innovative production company developed a show using unconventional methods for development, marketing, and financing. I had a chance to interview some of the people involved in the show. Here is my profile of Divine: The Series.
Production company Maple Blood Team, developers of Divine: The Series describe the show as “based on an adaptation of a comic that Ivan Hayden wrote, but never created, when Ivan was a Teen. Divine: The Series is an action packed and dramatic exploration of the philosophic debates of God as defined by man and the existence of Evil.”
The show stars Dan Payne, who plays the main character “Cesar Divine”; he is supported by Chasty Ballesteros, “Jin”, his street wise sidekick. The audience experiences the story through the point of view of veteran actor Ben Hollingsworth, whose role is the troubled “Father Andrew”. Father Andrew mentors his flock under Deacon Jim, the sagely Deacon of an inner-city mission and shepherd for Divine in modern times.
What makes Divine: The Series different from other shows this season is the way Maple Blood Team raised money for production. Divine used the money-raising site Kickstarter for funds. This served two purposes. The first, of course, was to get funds for the series. How did that go? “100% [funded]. With only a trailer, and the Kickstarter video out there, we reached our goal and then some. We love our fans; they make us feel like anything is possible.”
The second purpose was to raise awareness, both among the fans and among industry professionals. On that count, the Kickstarter campaign was an even bigger success. Ivan Hayden explained, “It’s all about marketing and getting exposure. It was a way to get fans involved with something at the ground floor. What we at the Maple Blood Team are trying to do is show that the format can be monetized. To do this we needed proof to show that the viewing public is who, and what, we say they are. They are smart, active, plugged in and passionate.”
Since the series won’t be on regular network TV, the question becomes how to bring this new series to your fanbase? Creator Ivan Hayden said that they are open to all options, including a feature film, domestic and/or foreign TV, and online. But their dream is to keep Divine a web-based series. To do that, the team will have to pitch their dream to an entertainment company. With their method of monetization of web-entertainment as a marketing tool, the Maple Blood Production team has a good chance of making that dream a reality.
The regular route to get something produced was to write it, sell it, produce an episode, hope it gets sold, then make more. Ivan explained that the current business model for recouping money from visual entertainment doesn’t work in the web-based environment. Web series are able to throw away the whole instruction book. Ivan agrees, “The internet is the future of entertainment, it offers so many options for aspiring film makers, story tellers, and artists. We went with the internet because it is the next evolution in storytelling and we want to help shape that advancement.”
One thing a web series does lack is promotion. Without a studio or network financing promotion, raising awareness is a big challenge. Traditional advertisements don’t work with online content. That means trying a new approach. Divine: The Series has taken to trying out a savvy social media campaign. The producers are using social media as their public relations arm.
Divine: The Series is only a 6 part pilot program meant as a “proof of concept.” The producers and creators think that the time has come again for the “if you build a better mouse trap the world will beat a path to your door” idea. The Maple Blood production team is hoping its forward thinking will enable it to capitalize on the global community. For Maple Blood, success is measured in happy fans. If we have happy fans, the rest will come. Divine is using social media to gauge reaction to the series. How can you know if that’s successful? “One million views in the magic number,” Ivan says. “That gets your phone ringing.”
Divine may very well be the new paradigm for consuming video entertainment. The industry, and fans, will be watching closely. If it succeeds, expect to see more series like this. If not then, well, Ivan sums it up nicely – “We’re doing our thing and if it works, we’ll tell you later what works around …if not, we can tell you one more way how not to sell a web series.’”
Here’s a look at some of the special effects behind the series;
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