Today, our first original series goes live on Chill. Entitled “Vigilante Diaries,” the new series stars the bombastic Jason Mewes (“Clerks,” “Mallrats” and “Jay and Silent Bob”) alongside a knockout cast. It’s been in development for two months, and it’s finally available right now. This is an exciting milestone at Chill, since we’ve only been distributing and marketing films and comedy specials up to now. (See below for a sneak peek of the first episode.)
But there’s more—we’re going to be doing things very differently for this series (more below).
How did we arrive here? Jason, Christian (the director) and Paul (writer/actor) came to us with a great concept, yet didn’t want to shoot another traditional TV or Web series pilot. They wanted to do something different that brought the audience closer to the collaborative experience. After many long chats together pacing Sunset Blvd., we were certain that Jason’s hardcore fan base needed to be a integral part of the creative process. Jason’s always maintained a very honest and open relationship with his fans. What if we could extend that earned love into this new project and throw an exponent against it? It has my longstanding belief that the most interesting, touching and powerful content will be created, distributed and remixed on the Web.
The old entertainment platforms simply don’t offer a true two-way engagement channel — in fact they are absent of this notion. And that’s a significant disadvantage over the medium/long-term. The Web has all the properties that can aid in the formulation of world-class entertainment: real-time feedback, rich engagement, niche community, immediacy, personalization and on. The great Shane Smith (founder of VICE) further influenced my thinking here with this extemporaneous rant last year, “We just have to do it better. Online is a revolution. The Internet is a revolution and we should be revolutionary when we think about the content we put on it rather than derivative and mimic the shit on TV and make it worse. Let’s say fuck it because the Internet isn’t TV. It’s different. It’s better.”
So, here’s a few details how we can all make it better.
First, we are being totally public about how much gross revenue the first episode of “Vigilante Diaries” generates. The money counter will increment in real-time. (I know. I know.) What if we bomb? What if we make $5M? So be it. I think Jason’s fans will appreciate our transparency and, more importantly, see that we’re all in this together. Because we are.
Second, Jason and the entire cast and crew have agreed to make at least two more episodes — provided they reach $50,000 in gross sales in less than 30 days. We call this episodic funding. The idea is simple in theory: audiences will rally around creators —and will support ongoing production with true, old-fashioned patronage. Our episodic funding model represents a new direction for digital series. We’re working outside of the ad-supported world, which lets the creators take risks without answering to brands, networks or agencies. In its purest form, this a model for series that cannot be cancelled as long as viewers are willing to support them.
Third, everyone involved with this project is incredibly open to real-time feedback. We are literally going to be asking for help in making each new episode, and it’s clear to all of us that our greatest asset is our audience. We can’t wait to make this series with them. We’ll soon be rolling out more tools to make this process easier.
Let’s be clear: this is not crowdfunding (but does share some similar psychological properties). If you support “Vigilante Diaries,” you’re buying the first two episodes and will be able to view them on demand (it’s not a promise for a future product) via the Chill platform. “Vigilante Diaries” will be available immediately. And to help it be even more successful, we’re launching a new feature called Patronage, which lets you support the creators even more if you are so inclined. The catch? With greater monetary support comes the ability to gift DRM-free copies of the episode to friends. For example, you can choose to support Jason and the crew at the $18.99 level which allows you to gift 3 copies to friends.
We’re fascinated about this approach to social distribution but frankly don’t know it if will work. Can you imagine a film or series going viral in this way? I can. Could that be you?
If we fail to reach these goals, it will be on full display for all of you to chuckle at. But that’s okay. We’re open to risk. Countless creators have come through our doors and are interested in this new model because they too see the power of what can happen when an audience gets behind something special.
If you’re excited about Chill for your series, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.