A Tuatara expert has serious delusions involving his “love doll” girlfriend. His friends include a reptile handler from Queensland, a failed social worker from New York and a mutinous mother from Pitcairn. Unsurprisingly, none of them help his recovery.
This is the premise of Tina, a new web comedy series that Auckland-based Wolf Productions is trying to crowdfund. The team of writers working on the project, which includes Simon Eskow and Andrew Thompson, has finished writing eight episodes and the company is in discussions with key crew to start shooting.
The eight episode series will be shot in a “mockumentary” style and candid reactions from passersby will be key to the story.
Like a lot of good ideas, this one started with an informal chat among friends. “Ush (the director at Wolf), myself and a friend of ours were joking about a prank involving taking a love-doll to a cafe, interacting with it and surreptitiously filming people’s reactions with strategically placed iPhones,” explains Josh Borthwick, wordsmith and money man at Wolf Productions. “We didn't end up doing it, but the idea inspired Ush to create a whole story from it.”
The team is now “busily pulling together a wolf-pack of collaborators”. “So far we have writers, a graphic designer, animator, editor and director of photography,” says Borthwick. Wolf Productions pays the bills by creating introductory and product videos for business websites. “We keep it interesting by ensuring they're story driven and we expect Tina to create more opportunities for us to produce more web tv. We've also got some documentary ideas and we've been experimenting with short-form YouTube content to see what generates views and how best to market content. Our prospects are better than ever with so many businesses looking for creative video content and crowd-funding platforms like Kickstarter coming to NZ.”
Wolf Productions will take the crowdfunding road and has a number of ideas for rewards and a campaign video. “From our research the keys to a successful crowdfunding campaign are an authentic, interesting video about the key project members and the project, and innovative rewards that are priced in line with their retail equivalents,” says Borthwick. “We'll hit up every contact we have to get it shared with friends, colleagues and associates and their friends. We're banking on some of these ideas (and the web-series itself) to be interesting enough to get even more media interest and drive home our budget. And of course that's the first thing we have to get right - what is the minimum amount we need to execute "Tina" really well,” he adds.
The ultimate goal, other than successfully funding “Tina”, is to have “hundreds of thousands of subscribers and purchasers of content and hundreds of ecstatic business customers”. Also, as Borthwick adds, “having people tell you they’re blown away by your work is the shiz”.
If the web series is successful (cross those fingers), Wolf Productions may have to look at splitting between videos for business and for audience. “But at the moment we love doing both.”
The idea that “Tina” might succeed as a New Zealand-based web series, even on a low-budget, is not totally off the mark. “I think there are some really cool shows out there already. Flat3 has notoriety on a shoe-string budget and The Factory have done a great job bringing South Auckland / Pacific Island culture to life on a million bucks. Woodville was produced for $40 odd thousand and gave me plenty of laughs, so I think we're already well underway in NZ,” says Borthwick.
The issue is how to get the international market to notice them. For Borthwick, the answer involves spending most of the budget on marketing. “I don't think we've cracked how to market these shows to broader international audiences though. I think there is this hope that the strength of an idea or execution will carry it through - "build it and they will come." But that's borne-out untrue for websites and advertisers over the last 17 years. I think almost as much of your effort and budget has to go into marketing your show as making it,” he says.
Not long ago, Wolf Productions put together an experimental piece in 16 hours using just still images and a voiceover. The result, called “Happy Dog Diary”, was a video response to “Sad Cat Diary”, a popular YouTube video.
“Little did we know that the creator Ze Frank had already recently launched a Sad Dog Diary also. Our piece is at 54,000 views and 76 percent of them are from the states,” says Borthwick. “We still cringe when we hear my terrible North American accent, but it's still growing by 500 views every day. We never intended it to be viewed in NZ and we seeded the video mostly on American sites. We just went nuts putting it out there. The content itself is pretty average and we've had feedback that has been equally great and hostile - there are a lot of haters on YouTube. We think - if we can get that sort of profile for something the two of us threw together in a couple of days - imagine what we can do with Tina!”
You can find out more about Tina by visiting the Wolf Productions website.