Category Archives: Follow Networks

How Writing A Comic-Book Changed my Business

I never planned to start a comic company.

Selling Comics

I never even thought about a comic. I thought about reaching people, entertainment, and giving people a great experience. Those were the things that I was most interested in and the things that I was interested in betting my future on. That’s what drove me to starting a podcast.

You probably know that already. After starting MadChat, it became clear to me that doing something creative was extremely important. I’ve always been interested in business, and specifically running my own. I’ve sold things on eBay, worked as a consultant, written books and stories, all because the drive to be myself and be in control of my life strikes me often.

For a while I thought building a Podcast Network was the way to go. Podcasting is a hot property right now, and it’s something I really enjoy. I’m a huge podcast fan. That made me dive in really hard. That was the first time that something I was doing really grabbed ahold of me. Entertainment is important to me. It’s the industry I expected to work in. It’s the world I spend the most time thinking about. The podcast network had all of those things. It was a real concept, something that made an impact and was gaining an audience. Plus it was able to produce some revenue right out of the gate. That wasn’t something that I was looking for, but it was a pleasant surprise. It was fun, there was a business model, and it seemed like something that could really become big.

But it wasn’t enough.

I immediately started looking at more ways to create. With the podcast network running, and the framework in place to create an environment where creativity was being encouraged, the idea for Horrible Prequels was born. We ran a successful Kickstarter, and from nothing we created a cartoon series. We were even able to relaunch the YouTube component of our podcast network that existed in the early stages, but was lost as we tried to grow. It was a lot of fun. It did a lot for me as a person:

It showed me how much I like to write.
It let me manage a project with multiple moving parts.
It got me WAY out of my comfort zone.
It brought me closer to the people I enjoy working with.

It also brought something to light. The idea to create a comic-book was born completely from the creation of Horrible Prequels. It was clear that we needed to do things different. Comics are pretty common. We wanted to bring in the rest of the world into our process. You can’t tell the writer of X-Men what you want to happen. We wanted to change that.

That is where the idea for community-focused comics came from.

It’s from that place that we went to Atlanta one year ago with a drawing of a cow and asked people what they thought about the idea. We asked if they had any ideas or thoughts about what a zombie cow would do. We asked them what a zombie cow comic would look like. We had conversations. People were interested. We got stacks of notes. We took most of them and put them into the basic outline.

Those notes were used to create our first indie comic release, called B0VINE. The entire process was fascinating. As a group, we had collaborated before and we knew that there was great power in it. They also formed the basis of where Follow Networks would go as a company. (note from Chad – We changed the pricing of B0VINE this week to Pay What You Want. If you haven’t picked up a copy yet, go get it for free)

So here we are, 1 year later, and today we are launching a new chapter in our company. The idea of community collaboration has been expressed and talked about in our community for awhile now, but starting today, it is who we are.

We are set up to do something that no one else can do. We have the opportunity to work very fast. We have the opportunity to help each other and create something special. Those are things that we are going to focus on.

It all starts with projects. Projects are the heart and soul of what we’re going to do. Each comic starts as a project. Every project will have a different scope and scale. Some will have opportunities to develop every aspect of a story, while some will be more focused on individual details. These projects will begin, and live, in the Follow Networks forum.

Each project will get it’s own post in the forum, which will serve as a place to share ideas, work them out, interact with the rest of the community, and watch as projects take shape to become full fledged WORKS OF ART! Or comic books. Or maybe movies. Or shows. Card games? Apps? You never know. Probably comics though.

Community is at the heart of the whole concept.

I’ll comment more on community in a later post, but I want to be perfectly clear that we aren’t here to steal people’s ideas, profit off of people’s ideas, or generally bullshit our community in a way that makes this whole experience shitty for everyone involved. I’m personally staking my entire reputation on this concept. With that in mind, here is what you can expect.

We’re going to have a fun time. We’ll have different projects, different styles, and Follow Networks will do everything it can to create an environment where you want to share, give input, and be involved with what we are doing. The key to this is giving you ownership of the things we are doing.

Contributors to projects will earn an ownership stake in those projects.

When those projects profit, we will split the profits 50/50 with you. Half will go back to the company to keep the foundation strong, and the other half will go to the contributors. It’s super simple, and it’s going to be a blast. With that much at stake for you as a community member, we want to make sure we are holding up our end of the bargain. We’ll be doing as much as possible to increase your share. As we grow, we’ll be working on biz dev to get into the comic shops in your communities so you can more easily share with your friends, and we’ll also be creating a one-of-a-kind online comic shopping process, which allows easy and inexpensive access to those just looking for a quick read and a great piece of entertainment, and also rewards the most loyal fans and community members with fun extras and deeper experiences.

We’ll also be doing other cool stuff to help make you feel at home in this little community. The first 100 members are going to get something special, outside of the exclusive comic we’re working on, called The Weird Ones. We’ll have giveaways and games. All sorts of the things you’d expect from a group of fun-loving people.

Comics are something that I have always loved. I fell out of love with them for a while, but the classics have always been cemented in my mind. Writing B0VINE took me to a new place.

The opportunity here is limitless. The comic audience is an incredible one. The passion and fandom that exists in this world is extraordinary. What excites me the most is giving those people the chance to help shape stories and concepts they are excited about. The thing that makes this work is speed. We are a small company. We have the ability to quickly work through ideas, build new ideas, and get them in front of an audience in half the time it takes for the publishers you already know. As we scale up to releasing more projects, we want the ability to go from idea to fully-realized comic-book in weeks, not months.

Story is something that is also extremely important to this idea. The key thing I want to get across here is this: We will not be doing things the way others do, and, at first, we won’t be doing things the way you expect. We are in a world of short attention span, and while part of me wants to do everything I can to combat this as a creator, I know that I am fighting a losing battle. As such, we are going to focus on creating what I am calling comic seasons. Each project will result in a story that we will lay out in a way similar to a TV season. Each season of a comic will be a certain number of episodes. The goal here is to create an amazing experience that is contained in a smaller package and gives you a chance to catch your breathe, or discover new stories, or head into the forums and help form the next season of a project. Initial projects will have first season runs of 6-8 issues, or episodes. We will also have an opportunity to create graphic novel length stories that function more along the lines of films. Something to think about for the future.

The last piece of this puzzle is being seen. We’ve begun holding panel events at comic-cons, and we plan to continue to grow our presence. We’ll be doing more panels, events, exhibiting, and doing everything we can to get these projects into the hands of as many people as possible. Again, we want to make this worth your while. If you have a place you think we should be, let us know. Be everywhere. That’s the idea. That includes creating content that fits with our goals that will exist only on digital, on Twitter and Facebook and Instagram, as well as special physical editions that will give those looking for special features or amazing experiences an opportunity to get something really special. It’s important to note that currently, our strategy with physical comics will be greatly focused on exclusivity and limited releases. We’ve got some big plans for future releases. I’m crazy excited to show things off.

Our community is just starting, but there are projects already underway in the forum. I’ll be in there, working right along side with you. Look for more interesting stuff here on this blog. We’ll be diving behind the scenes and showing you everything that goes into what we are doing.

One of my highest priorities is to be extremely transparent. I believe that you should be able to see as much of what we are doing, and planning to do, as possible. Now, there are going to be sometimes when we launch special projects that may have some secrecy to them, but that will just add to the fun.

So what now? I suggest heading over to the forum and joining up. We’re working on a new collaborative indie comic called The Weird Ones that is all about a cult. It should turn out pretty great. Follow us on Twitter and Instagram. We’ll be updating the website and all the content in realtime, so be on the lookout for changes.

See you in the forum.

Time Travel

This idea of time travel is one that has been played out hundreds of times across multiple mediums and continues to be of interest to sci-fi and fantasy fans for a number of reasons.  First, it is something that could change the world and answer a lot of questions, so we think about going back and learning new things and unlocking mysteries.  Second, it would be a key to unlimited wealth.  Third, it’s just freaking cool.

We are going to be writing a Time Travel comic-book here at Follow Networks and we need your help.  Be sure you are subscribed to the YouTube page and Like the Facebook page.  We’ll be reaching out to you there to put this thing together.  Then we’ll go out and sell it, and share the profits with those involved.

On this week’s MadChat, we look deeply into the concept of Time Travel.  Take a listen, and enjoy.

 

Clerks Poster

Thoughts on the 20th Anniversary of Clerks

January 22, 1994. Park City, Utah. The Sundance Film Festival.

A black-and-white movie about a convenience store, a video store, and the antics of the employees.

At the time, I barely had an understanding of what an R-rated movie was. But 3 years later in the Summer of 1997, on a trip to the local video store, I would make the decision to rent Clerks. Something about it was special. But I still didn’t understand. The next time that Clerks would enter my VCR would be 2 years later, and that would be the point when things would change.

Clerks Poster

Clerks Poster

I had just seen Mallrats and laughed a lot. I remembered Jay and Silent Bob, and had to go back and find where I had seen them before. The was pre-Google. It took a couple weeks to find Clerks, and watch it again. That was it for me. It would be another few years before I would discover the rest of the directors that I would transform me into a film lover and sometimes snob, but it all started with Kevin Smith and Clerks.

The different between a movie and a film is something that has always interested me. Obviously there really isn’t much of a difference. Most people understand that a movie is a film, a film is a movie. I’ve always loved watching movies. Clerks made me appreciate film.

I always appreciated that the movie was shot in black & white. It made it different. On the first viewing I thought it was a cool change. Now, I understand that it was both an artistic and a budgetary answer. Part of the beauty of Clerks is the sense of real life, the every day minutia, presented in a classic film look. It’s a brilliant juxtaposition.

Kevin Smith has taught me a lot about being a filmmaker and being a creator. I’d be lying if I said that his work, his films, his podcasts, and the way he does things hasn’t influenced me. It obviously has. To be perfectly honest, Follow Networks wouldn’t exist without Clerks and Kevin.

Clerks put an image of the everyday man front and center. It challenged the audience with its honesty and realism. This was how people talked and acted, and it here it was on the screen. No explosions or unwarranted effects, just realistic people talking and living their life. It was the perfect amount of dirty and nerdy and free. It had hockey. Limited by budget and time, it had a great “choose your own what happened” scene in a funeral home, which would later be animated but still works for me, even after knowing exactly what happens. Most importantly, something in Clerks produces a creative spark in a lot of people (Smith included) that has given us even more brilliant content.

I’ve introduced a lot of people to Clerks. “You’ve never seen Clerks? What are you doing tonight?” Plenty of situations like that. They often lead to Mallrats and Chasing Amy and Dogma and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and eventually Clerks II (which I love). Then they lead to the rest of the catalogue of Smith films. They all still get me. But they all rest on one thing.

January 22, 1994. Park City, Utah. The Sundance Film Festival.

On January 25, 2014 in Park City at Sundance, they celebrated the 20th Anniversary with a midnight screening and Q&A of Clerks. I celebrated by finishing a script, and planning how I was going to film a movie. Without Clerks I would have never become interested in making movies. I would have never cared about dialogue. I wouldn’t have made the distinction between what makes Smith or Rodriguez or Tarantino or Scorsese so impressive to me. Finding Clerks helped to shape what I loved. It made me into a creator.

I can’t think it enough for that.

Later this year Clerks III will enter production and I’m extremely excited to see what happens with it. Clerks II worked really well for me, and I believe that the third can have all the magic again.

Take some time this week to rewatch Clerks. It’s on Netflix. It’s been 20 years, but great movies are always great.

The Future of Follow Networks

It’s time to talk about the future of Follow Networks.

I started Follow Networks as a place to collect all the collaboration that was happening around the idea of “creating” that was started when Matt and I launched MadChat, and continued as we expanded the Podcast Network side of Follow Networks.  At a certain point we started searching for something that we could do to give this power to our friends, and to be able to create the scale of project we wanted to create.  When we launched the Kickstarter project for Horrible Prequels, we heard from a lot of people who wanted to contribute ideas and be a part of the process.

Today, we are taking the next step towards launching a community around that idea on a much bigger scale.

As long as we’ve been podcasting at Follow Networks, we’ve also been gathering ideas, writing, and developing plans for a number of projects.  This has included web-series, shorts, mini-series, comic-books, and even a feature length movie.  We have put endless amounts of time and effort into working together and developing these ideas.  Now, we are bringing you into the process as well.

Welcome to Follow Networks.  A collaborative entertainment community.

What does that mean,” you say?  It works like this.  Our goal is to provide high-quality entertainment at the same level as what you already watch and view and read, all on the web.  We’ll be producing all kinds of video content as well as some print and art content, and we’ll be releasing it to the world.  And you’ll be helping.

Here is how it will work.  The Follow Networks team is loaded with creatives and writers and thinkers and makers.  We will be developing concepts, themes, stories, scripts, whatever each project happens to call for, and we’ll be releasing details to you on a regular basis.  Each week we’ll put out a call for your ideas and submissions.  It will look something like this:

“This Week’s Theme is Zombies.  Tell us everything you like about zombies.”
“This Week’s Theme is Zombies.  Tell us everything you don’t like about zombie shows.”

With each post, which will appear on our website and on our Facebook page, we’ll be looking for you to give your thoughts and opinions.  The examples above are for early stage ideas.  When you see something like that, you can assume we are working on something zombie related.

Here is where things get really interesting for you.  The next stage will be the actual development of a project.  You will see a post like this on our webpage.

“Let’s Make a Zombie Series.  We’re looking for an interesting male and female character.  Pitch your ideas.”

This is where your contributions will start influencing the finished product we are creating.  We want your ideas to be a part of the story.  We want you to own a piece of the projects.  We want you to care about the success and failure of what we are making.

Also, we want to pay you for being involved.

With each project, we will be paying contributors for their involvement.  We will be very transparent with you about the cost to produce each project.  We’ll also be publishing very clear information about who has contributed to what project.  Our team will make determinations about the level of your involvement while we piece together the finished project and we’ll make it very clear how and why you are credited in the project.  Then, you’ll get a share of the profits based on your involvement.  It’ll look something like this:

Original Video – We’ll split the profits with you 50/50.
Design (T-Shirts, Merch, Extras) – We’ll pay a flat fee based on the project, and if we can share profits we will.
Music – Depending on the project, we’ll pay a flat fee for your music from the projects profit.
Other – We’ll address other needs as they become available and used.

Obviously, we are still working out the kinks and the details, so those numbers will be subject to change based on the situation but, in most cases, we are going to work our asses off to make sure that those numbers are held true.

This is a super exciting concept, and our goal is to build a large and thriving community around it.  But I can hear your questions already.

“How do we submit shit?”

Wonderful question.  We’re working on a fancy-schmancy system that will allow for it, but in the meantime, we’ll be using comments on the website, comments on YouTube, comments on Facebook, as well as our info@followthe.tv email address as the main sources.  We’ll be creating some other spots as well as we work towards launching the Follow Networks platform.  When it comes time to submit finished music and production pieces we’ll be using email, Dropbox, and whatever it takes to include your content.

“That sounds awesome, but how are we going to make profits?  How are these projects going to make money?”

Through a lot of hard work.  First, we’ll be offering all projects for sale and making sure that they are affordable for everyone.  We’ll also be creating exclusives and extras and creating deluxe and limited editions for each project.  We want to create the best experience and reaction possible surrounding our projects.

It is also important to us that you feel like you are contributing to something big.  So we’ll be touring around the country showing off projects.  We’ll hold premieres and showings at the major events where you are already attending.  We’re talking about comic-cons, film festivals, and other appropriate venues.  We’ll also be doing a tour each year to celebrate what you’ve done.  Again, we’ll include these events in the profits for each project on a case by case basis, as determined by our team.

We’ll be making payments at the end of each quarter for projects, and we’ll make sure that we are giving you everything you need.

How do we succeed?  Well, on our end, we need to make the highest quality finished products and work with the best people available on all projects.  We also need to be 100% transparent about what we are doing and what it takes to do it.  We’ll be doing both of those things.

On your end, you need to be our street team.  You need to get all of your friends and peers involved, and let them know you are a part of this community.  We’ll still be putting out podcasts and YouTube videos, because those are a big part of who we are, and we want you to know that we are having fun and doing everything we can to get more eyes, be inspired, and make sure the projects that you are working on and contributing to are getting seen.

We can’t wait to start this next path.  We’ve got a number of projects lined up to kick this thing off, including Sideshow Zero, where we’ll be needing help from you with providing images, designing costumes, and working on bonus material for the project, and B0VINE, where we’ll be looking for story and character ideas, and creating some amazing bonus materials.  On video projects, we’ll be inviting people to be a part of the shoot and be in the project.  We’ll be introducing more projects and more conversations and more chances to be involved regularly until we hit our goal of releasing at least 8 projects a month, and at least 4 major projects a year.

It’s going to be a lot of fun.  We’re going to be releasing a ton of fun stuff, traveling, showing off your awesome ideas, and doing everything we can to get your work seen.  We’re ready.  Are you?

Be sure you are following and subscribed to all the appropriate places to get the most from the process:

YouTube
Facebook
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