Mount DoomWell, tomorrow marks the end of a year of hard work for me and two of my best friends: Web Zeroes draws to a close with its final episode. I’ve got some mixed feelings on this, some of which I can share at the moment and a few that will need some time to sort out and file in the appropriate boxes for later use.

I think the thing that I’m feeling most of all is relief. We’ve had a fairly brutal schedule over the last ten months or so, one that is finally letting up and giving us a chance to get our heads out of the production hole. The most analogous thing I can conjure up when it comes to producing a series is that it is like throwing the ring into Mt. Doom at the end of Lord of the Rings, but not as cool or dramatic. Also I don’t really look like a Hobbit, and I hope that nobody shows up to bite my finger off once the show’s over.

If you rewind to a year ago, we were on the verge of calling Smooth Few Films quits. We set out to make a mark on the Web with a goofy Counter-Strike: Source machinima series called Leet World, which ultimately got flattened because of Valve’s hard stance on licensed machinima. Namely, that they are not interested in it, nor will they ever be. After putting two years of work into that show, it was a fairly decisive blow to morale, and we had already made a few episodes of Web Zeroes and tried to pass that around with no luck as well.

And then out of the blue, we got contacted by Revision3. It turns out an intern at the time saw an episode of Leet World on YouTube, and followed it back to our site, where he caught one of the original (and now lost in the Web ether) pilot episodes of Web Zeroes. We were floored: one of our favorite networks wanted our show.

I’m not sure what our expectations were once we started production, but we knew it would be a grueling amount of work. It was more than we anticipated, really. We did everything we could to have half of the first season filmed by the time the show released in October. The result was a hammer blow to the nethers that almost completely deflated the experience for us within the first six episodes, which were all filmed in about four weeks’ time.

If I’m being totally honest, I’m surprised we didn’t quit after that first run, especially once the show debuted and didn’t click right away with some of Revision3’s audience, or ours. Some of our fans didn’t like the direction of the reboot, and some of Revision3’s fans didn’t care for the show for a variety of reasons. The main reason though, was that those first few episodes were pretty damn rough, crazy rushed and there was no story to be had there initially. But that’s the tale of almost every show ever produced. Eventually we found our footing, got into our rhythm, and the show started finding its audience, and continued to grow weekly.

Could it have grown more? A discussion for another time. Viewership never quite hit the marks that we were hoping for personally (enough to live on), but that was a pretty lofty bar we had set. Which is really what the whole Smooth Few Films experience has been like so far. In some ways, we’ve wildly exceeded any expectations of success we had when we first started putzing around on our computers three years ago. And in other ways, we’re still far shy of where we hoped to be after so much work. In the end, we wanted to take a step back and take a few months off to put ourselves back together again, as they say. We’ve essentially been running ourselves raw for a few years now, and the thought of a break to figure out what’s next is more than welcome. Fresh perspective and some distance will be like a phoenix down.

Here are the things I think I’m going to be ruminating over most of all, and will more than likely be posting about over the next few months, in addition to all of the other nerdery that goes on here. These topics are more specifically related to online content:

  • Value of viewers vs. fans?
  • The monetary dilemma: sell your product to an audience or your audience to a product?
  • Network vs. self-distribution?
  • Is YouTube the devil and is it worth your time?
  • Do people truly want original online content?
  • Can Web video survive in its current format?
  • The job of the producer vs. the job of the network?

I’ve got some opinions on each of those things after a see-saw of peaks and valleys over the last few years. Like I said, I need a bit of time to collect my thoughts, and there are some things I won’t be able to say outright, but I’ll do my best to be candid and hopefully informative. And don’t worry, I won’t be throwing anybody under the bus. There are plenty of things I wish I knew about online video creation before we started, so hopefully I can share a few dirty nuggets of not so much wisdom.

In the meantime, I’m about to start enjoying approximately 20-30 hours more freedom a week for a couple of months. Already kicking around some ideas on how to properly spend that time.

To anybody that watched any episode of any of our shows: thanks. It means a lot. And a special thanks to Revision3 for giving us a chance to be the first scripted show on the network.

Looking back, we’ve produced over 10 hours of scripted story-based video content, with myself having penned 400 plus pages of those. Our videos have somehow gathered between 10-20 million total views. I’ve had the privilege of meeting and working with people I used to follow as merely a fan. I don’t say all this to brag, but it’s just a little capture of the kind of stuff our nerdy hands have wrought by luck, blessing or both.

Are we back to zero now? Who knows? But it’s been a heck of a ride.

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