On 9/9 (or, for those of you outside the US, “9/9”) MewNowTV will be doing something pretty ambitious: simultaneously launching a new platform and 9 brand new shows, each with its own dedicated app. We’re always interested in new platforms on which we can watch our stories, but the sheer insanity of launching that many series on a single day really caught our eye. In keeping with the theme, we asked MewNowTV CEO Kyle Valle 9(ish) questions about just what the heck is going on over there.
WebVee: How did this all happen? Where did the idea come from? How did you find 9 artists willing to work on different projects, but held to the same schedule?
Kyle Valle: You know, I’ve given that question a lot of thought. It’s a very ambiguous story but, boiled down to its roots I saw a huge disconnect between the level of tech that was out there (in terms of being able to give the independent producer the ability to create a high quality product) and the projects that were out there on the internet. And you had a lot of really cool stuff, a lot of really innovative people doing their thing on YouTube and Vimeo and you really could find, if you were searching with a fine tooth comb, a lot of great material out there, but it was in no way organized, it was kind of all over the place. Some things that were low production value had a huge following and, equally, some things that had a great production value and a great story to tell had a really low following just because of the noise on the internet. We wanted to create a space utilizing the new technology out there, giving story creators and artists a way to have their voices be heard in a way that would funnel traffic back to them. And that’s kind of where this whole idea came from, and it was built up show by show for over a year and we eventually found ourselves here.
This all happened so organically. It’s not something you could really imagine happening at any other point in history because the tech was what allowed all of this to happen. One of the artists is my now-fiancee. We started dating before this project even got off the ground and we kinda saw it through together and she’s been with me every step of the way. Another one is a good friend of mine who happened to be an intern for my former manager out here, and I just saw how talented he was and when that relationship ended up dissolving, I reached out to him to see if he was interested. I’ve got a neighbor who lives 2 doors down who just happens to be an editor. We just kept running into him around the building while we were shooting things, just coincidentally and he was like “Hey what are you guys doing?” and I’m like “Well, we’re doing this, want to join us?” and he joined the team. Just finding quality people, friends that we’ve had out in LA and really just through happenstance or through friendships we’ve sort of pieced everyone together. I’d say that we just got extremely lucky with the talent and the skill level of these people. We’ve interviewed a number of interns, and now those interns have become partners in the company itself just because they’ve applied themselves to all aspects of what we’re doing. Manny Luke Alvorado is one of them where I’d say we found this guy in complete obscurity and he’s one of the most brilliant writers and film technicians that I’ve ever met. So we just kept getting lucky and finding great people. Out here in LA there is a lot of enthusiasm, especially within a younger demographic, people who are really highly trained, and they’re coming out of colleges and there are no opportunities, really. With the studios, and there’s always going to be an Ivy League gatekeeper who’s going to keep you from getting that job because unfortunately, you know, a Harvard business degree doesn’t necessarily qualify you to be making artistic decisions. And that’s the industry that we’re living in right now. We’re being run by a bunch of Ivy League business people and they’re looking at the bottom line and they’re not really looking at ‘okay, is this going to be a good story’ right? I mean, Shakespeare’s not running Warner Brothers.
WVG: Nine series debuting on the same day sounds extremely challenging from a logistical standpoint. How’s it going? Are you pulling your hair out?
KV: It’s been a struggle, for sure. But it’s all about the artist. By empowering the artist and pulling in people who I saw as crazy talented but just weren’t getting opportunities, and offering them a platform to show the world what they’ve got, essentially, it’s been easier than you might think because, although I’m kind of producing all 9 of these series, and I’m doing a lot of the writing with the help of my team, the workload’s taken off me just because of how talented the artists themselves are. We shot Talkin’ Points, which is one of our series, with The Comedy Store’s Punky Johnson. We knocked out 6 episodes in a matter of 4 hours because she was prepared, she knew her material and for her it’s like doing a long couple hour stand-up performance, and going through different topics of the day and engaging the audience. If you’ve got those talented people, you can do it.
WVG: What will the apps do? Do you see them as enhancing the viewing experience or helping with audience outreach or both? (Or neither?)
KV: Well the apps will do a number of things. I really would like them to act as a brand ambassador in certain circumstances. We’re doing this on a shoestring budget, and we originally had much larger plans for the apps and we’ve had to basically scale them down just to keep them in a character driven format. It takes a little bit longer to create them because they have to be specifically themed for the shows, but eventually the apps will not only allow you to connect with an interactive user forum, your scores will be kept and kind of transferred over to the website, and those points that you earn using the different apps will actually allow you to influence decision making processes within specific shows and they will also qualify you for rewards. Say for example you’ve gained 80,000 points in a matter of a couple months, you can redeem those points for a number of different items. And that of course is the next step after we get this initial launch out there and we get a few strategic investors. But the goal of the apps is to really bring the audience member, bring the viewer into the show and give them a way to feel really connected in a way I don’t think has ever been done before. I think that connectivity between the user and the product, or the show, in this case, is really important, especially with how everyone nowadays is super connected in every single way to everything they’re doing. It seems like the only thing they’re not connected to is the media they’re watching.
WVG: 9 shows, 9 apps on 9/9 is a cool way to start things off, but do you plan to grow beyond 9 shows? Will each new show require its own app?
KV: Ideally yes, we’d like each new show to have an app or some kind of application that reaches out to the public. It would totally be show dependent but we would also like to move past even one app per show and have a number of apps per show. But yes, the goal would be, any new show that comes onto our programming is going to have a new app assigned to it.
WVG: How do you work with the show runners on something like app design? Did the content creators provide the apps themselves?
KV: Well actually as of this point, there’s a very strange set up over here, I’m technically the showrunner for all 9 shows. I have to say I’ve got a close friend of mine who’s joined me on this journey. He’s in a number of the series, and he’s doing a wonderful job producing a show called Tremen2 which is a completely Spanish-based talk show. It gives you kind of a fun, energetic atmosphere where you’re actually talking about relevant things within the Latino community, and it’s all in Spanish, talking about relations and situations that Latinos and people just coming to the United States are dealing with. That culture clash between a kind of hostile United States and people who are so excited to come here, and how to merge these cultures.
WVG: On 9/9, will you be releasing all 9 series in their entirety, or will we be getting premiere episodes?
KV: For our main series, Journeyman, Class Act, Jobless, we will be releasing everything we have to this point. For Journeyman you’re getting a full season, for Class Act you’re getting a full first season. I think Journeyman’s first season runs about 30 minutes, you’re looking at 10 minutes+ episodes, just because these are science fiction stories, very heavy special effects work all. Class Act, I can tell you that’s gonna be the one to watch out for, and those are looking about 17-20 minutes per episode, and we’re putting out the full first season there with accompanying vignettes and musical numbers because the cast in that show is so incredibly talented we had to do a few musical numbers with them. The other shows Tremen2, The Magical World of Voxx, The Joe Show, Manny’s World of Color, Talkin’ Points, will all have 3 episodes, with the exception of the only one we The Tune Up, because it’s a fitness challenge. We’re getting 2 episodes filmed prior to launch, but we want that to be a very interactive, live thing that allows you to kind of connect with the contestants within the show. It’s the very opposite of The Biggest Loser, not an agitating atmosphere, not an angry atmosphere and the drill sergeant is yelling at these people to lose weight and they achieve results only to then slip back down the slippery climbs as soon as they leave the show. This is focused on really changing the lifestyles of participants and changing the lifestyles of the people watching. They’ll be using Periscope to keep viewers updated on a daily basis and reaffirming that message that fitness and making a lifestyle change isn’t about a 20-minute workout, not about one decision that you make a day, it’s really about changing the way that you view your life, the way that you view your food and the way that you view your fitness, and you really have to be committed to it. And it’s really not easy for anyone, because if it was everyone would be doing it. And these contestants are great stories and we’re really hoping that they can inspire people to get healthier because, as a country, we all could use that a bit. It’s always nice to have that information out there.
WVG: When you describe your platform as “fully immersive,” what do you mean? Are you referring to the apps?
KV: Well yes, in a way, absolutely, but in another way we mean something completely different at the same time. By “fully immersive,” I wanted to relate to the fact that our channel, the way that I would like to see it, is a very refined internet space for high quality media, a quality level that we haven’t necessarily seen on the internet before. And I wanted to invite other artists to come in and use that space in the future. As of now we obviously only have those 9 shows being produced by us but hopefully we’ll be looking to expand. But even within just those 9 shows we have every genre essentially covered. It’s fully immersive in the sense that it doesn’t matter what age you are, what demographic you fall into, if you’re a fan of slapstick comedy or you’re a fan of highly intellectual science fiction, whatever you want we’re gonna have it for you. Now in terms of the interactivity as being fully immersive within the application and different processes within the internet, yeah we absolutely want to strive for a place where the user is immersed within this world, and we’re looking into using all kinds of virtual reality technology, facial recognition software and other things that, as we continue and get some seed money and some more money to play with, we want to take this thing to place where…there’s not even a template that I can reference right now in order to describe it. Essentially you’ll be within the media that you’re interacting with. I know this is slightly ambiguous but I just don’t have a great way to describe it and some of it is proprietary at this point.
WVG: You’ve built a sort of online artists’ collective here. Figuring out how to handle profit sharing has been the downfall of many a collective. How has your group decided to deal with financing, payouts etc.?
KV: Every project that we have done, we’ve tried to do everything through SAG, so we have contracts that are already signed and taken care of in that regard, because obviously we have people coming on our shows and they’re a huge part of the success of the shows. We’re all struggling artists and I want to make sure that everyone sees a piece of whatever happens. We’re going to be using a couple of crowd funding techniques within our own platform to try to raise a little bit of money for different projects etc., but through those programs, through investments we’re going to portion out an equal share to every single person involved based on the amount of time they’re putting in and the number of shows that they’re doing. And then anything that falls under each one of those SAG contracts, we’ve already worked out what I think is a very fair hourly rate, obviously, for the actors, well above anything that I’m aware of in the New Media realm, and while it is deferred, as soon as we see that money come back to the productions, we’ll be able to pay them out. As far as bringing on other executives or raising people up within the company, I hope to see everyone that I’m working with today be a lifelong member of this company and have all the rewards that go with it when this company does reach the level that I’m planning on it to reach. Apart from that we don’t really have any figures because, I believe in balance and fairness, I’m not a greedy guy myself and I don’t think anyone we’re working with is greedy and that’s kind of the mark of our generation, I’d say, that, as opposed to the Gordon Gecko “greed is good” thing, we’re a bunch of artists living out in LA and we’re kinda like “Hey, let’s put this thing together and make sure everyone gets a piece of the pie, because it doesn’t happen without everyone.”
WVG: What advice can you impart to others who might be thinking about launching their own platforms? What have you learned from this experience so far?
KV: Well first, come to me with your idea. [chuckles] No but, in all seriousness, I think these microplatforms, which will eventually replace all the television channels that you’re watching. I don’t think that TV is going to be around for more than a couple more years. You can see that the cable companies are kind of converting everything over, and you’ve got your Apple TV and your Roku and your Amazon Prime, and you’ve got all those small icons up there, and I see these microchannels really taking over that space and becoming the television channels of the future. I think it’s a great time, it’s really the only time that people are going to have a couple year window to start these before the big companies start to catch on and start to push out the smaller indy artists with their huge bank accounts, which they so often unfortunately do. I’d say advice-wise: find the best group of people you can, before you start it make sure you’ve got a solid group of people who are honest, talented, hard working and that will have your back. The money that you’re going to need in order to get something like this off the ground is going to be substantial, but if you’re doing the right things and you’re taking it step by step and you’re not just saying “well we need to have the site before we can do the work” you’ll get there. You just need to kind of start with the shows, start with the work, start with your team most importantly and build up from there. It is a constant building process and if you ever think that you’re going to reach an end point, then you’re going to have to take another look at this as something that you want to do, because creating something like this you need to fully immerse yourself and be prepared to give up everything else you’ve got in order to get there. I mean, you’re not really giving anything up, in a sense, because you’re trading things that you would have been dong, that I guess the normal person would consider fun, going to a bar, going out, having time to relax or go to a movie, but here you get an experience which is wholly unique, which is getting to spend your days with the coolest people on the planet, and you’ve basically chosen them and they’re like “Let’s create something fun together.” So your team, I think. Most importantly create a great team. And don’t be afraid to rely on them and trust them. Always trust your team. You have to be able to trust your team.
WVG: Okay, well that was 9, but we have 2 more follow-ups so…just pretend it was 7. How many people are on your team? And what other cool projects are on the horizon for you folks?
KV: We really have about 9 people. I think my mother started doing some embroidery on shirts for us, so she could count as, you know the 10th person who’s coming on and off the field. We’re looking to institute a competition type format later down the road where we’re actually going to invite other artists from around the country to put up something similar to a Project Greenlight submission. Create a short video with your friends, pitch us a story idea, pitch us something, we’ll have people vote on them, and then from there we’re actually going to help mentor and provide logistical support to whoever that monthly winner is. We’ll give them a channel on our site that gives the indy artist a space where they’re not having a big company like Google/YouTube oversee what they’re doing. If you’re show’s successful, we’re not going to be skimming 60% or 40% of your advertising off the top, we’re not going to own your show. This is something that you own and that you’re creating, and I think that [spinning up?] and allowing other people to be successful that success is only going to come back to you in different ways. You don’t need to own people in order to have success.