Cafe Witness

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Must the Show Go On?

Now that I'm moving to Baltimore, I'm faced with a very tough decision: what to do about Something to Be Desired, the web series I've been producing here in Pittsburgh since 2003.

If you've never seen STBD, you're not alone -- although we're the web's longest-running sitcom, we're also one of the smallest, due mostly to my own inability to properly promote the show WHILE producing it (WHILE also making a living). Because our extensive (and talented) cast all work for free, our only actual expenses for the show are equipment, hosting and time; otherwise -- and if we didn't enjoy it -- we never would have lasted 6+ years.

Now, since the cast can't relocate to Baltimore with me, continued production of STBD becomes nearly impossible without major restructuring. As I see it, I really only have three options:

* Keep producing the show in SOME format, which would require lots of advance planning, remote scheduling and copious amounts of driving (or flying) time -- which obviously inflates the cost of production.

* Let the cast (and whomever else would like to volunteer their camera services) continue to produce the show themselves, and I could advise / assist (within reason) from a distance.

* Cancel the show.

Still Ready for Their Close-Ups?

So far, most of the cast members I've heard from have fallen into 2 categories:

* The veteran cast members would like to see the show continue, but they don't particularly mind if it shuts down either. After 5 or 6 years, they can accept that this particular creative outlet may have reached its end. They would just prefer to see the show end on a high note, rather than as a mass of jumbled loose ends.

* The newer cast members are more vocal about wanting the show to continue, since they've only begun exploring the experience (and their characters). Then again, they also tend to be the cast members who are most actively pursuing stage and film work in Pittsburgh, so they admit this makes them even harder to schedule -- especially from a distance.


... this question of the show's future comes at a time when things have been going quite well for us.

* The fashionistas at Pittsburgh-based ModCloth have offered to outfit some of our cast members for next season's episodes.

* Last year, we were nominated as one of the Top Web Series on Yahoo's annual web video awards. (We lost to The Guild, but that's okay -- so did everyone else.)

* YouTube had begun promoting last season's episodes on the front page of their Entertainment section, resulting in thousands of new views we wouldn't have enjoyed otherwise.

* Web video press like TubeFilter and TilzyTV gave us some ink (or pixels, if you're a purist).

We'd even begun filming some scenes for Season 7 in HD, which would be a big format change for us (and would hopefully help highlight those new ModCloth outfits).

And Yet, in the End...

... it all comes down to me. Over the years, I've struggled annually with the decision of whether or not to keep the show going. Some days (or years) have been harder than others, but the fact that I was collaborating with a talented cast of actors to create something WE controlled was always enough to power me through the down times.

And now, just when it seems like the show may be finding its footing, all signs point toward how logical it would be to shut it down and start anew with something fresh in Baltimore. (Which I'm sure I'll explore regardless of the future of STBD -- there's something to be said for a local creative outlet.)

I know that as long as I have at least one actor and at least one viewer, I have at least one reason to keep producing STBD. And as long as I'm still interested in telling the ongoing story of this cast of characters -- and I am -- I also have a personal reason to continue.

The question I have to ask myself now is: Is it worth it?

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  • I have really enjoyed your show over the last few years. (I also enjoy your tweets)
    As a producer and owner of a production company what you have accomplished is just short of amazing with this show. I have to wonder though if you need to move on to something else. If you are questioning keeping the show going maybe that is your answer. Maybe a new show with your new life in Baltimore.

    Regardless of this choice thank you very much for the show thus far. I love it and I really look forward to what else you produce in the future.


    By Anonymous mike mcallen, at 12:22 PM  

  • Tough question. It's always hard to let a show go (something I've had to a decision about recently). And it would be great if you could continue. But this might just be the impetuous you need to start something else? I'd miss STBD, though. But, like Mike said, I look forward to possibly seeing a brand new venture in the future.

    By Blogger Robb, at 1:17 PM  

  • Although I'm ignorant to a lot of details of STBD's behind the scene's workings and the general state of the production business here, but it seems like a fourth option would be to sell/give the show to another person or group interested in producing it. Seems like Filmmaker's, one of the University's, or the folks who are building the movie sets in the Strip might be interested.

    By Anonymous Brett, at 1:34 PM  

  • Yes, the show must go on, you really don't want to have me to have to resort to horrible /fiction to get my STBD fix.

    By Blogger SexCpotatoes, at 12:20 PM  

  • Whatever you decide I'm sure it will be for the right reason. I know that when life throws us these curve balls decisions have to be made. I've enjoyed hosting you at AiP over the past year or so as it has brought me closer to the show and cast quite literally.

    By Blogger Norm, at 9:59 PM  

  • I've followed the show for a few years now. I would love to see someone else take over Justin's role.

    While the series definitely reflects his maturing, it also reflects his waning passion.

    Justin, I wish you great succcess in the future and thank you for all your work. I have really enjoyed your creation.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:09 PM  

  • I've really enjoyed the show and the characters. I've never been to Pittsburgh, but I feel like I know some of the characters. I hope if you do decide to end the show, that you are able to give us an episode or two to wrap things up.

    Leni in Texas

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