The warm-up comedian was wrapping up his set. In a moment he would be announcing my name, the lights would dim, and I would walk out to a theater packed full of strangers. Cameras would be rolling. It was my first day hosting Bad News.
“Please welcome your host, Chuck Ludwig”
I was so nervous, I felt like I was going to puke. I fumbled through the curtains. My knees were weak. A thought crossed my mind, “Who let me do this?”
Then I remembered: I did.
Two days later, I pushed publish on Youtube. The first clip from the show was on the internet. It looked, and sounded great. Like a real TV show.
Me, and a group of amazing friends created our very own TV show. Not only that, we created a TV show we are proud of. We didn’t have to kiss anyones ass to get here. We didn’t have to do auditions, or call backs or even have managers. All it took was a modest amount of money, time and effort.
There is still a lot of work that Bad News needs to get it to where I want it to be. But that’s not the point of this post. Today I want to talk about getting off your ass and making your own TV show on the internet.
People rattle on about “New Media.” How the internet has changed the game and the gatekeepers of old media have been toppled. But have they?
Sure ABC/NBC/CBS don’t make the freshest shows anymore. Now it’s Netflix and Hulu. But to me, it seemed like the gatekeepers just moved online.
Or at least that what I thought, until I got the crazy idea that I could produce a TV show, made for almost nothing, on the internet, with little more than some dedicated coworkers and lots of sleepless nights.
Now I know that me, you, anyone can make their own show.
So how did I start Bad News, and how can you start your own show?
1.) Make it about something you care about
I like motorcycle racing. I watch it pretty regularly, know all the racers names, stats etc. But I don’t care about motorcycle racing. It is just fun for me. I care about comedy, politics and social issues. If I made a show about motorcycle racing, it would have been fun for a few weeks but eventually I would get bored. But for me making fun of the Republican’s jingoism or the Democrats infighting never gets old. So that’s what I did. Find what you care about and stick to that.
2.) Try Lots of Stuff.
Bad News started as a wacky, almost slapstick fake news sketch show. Think the Daily Show on mescaline. That was fun but it felt empty. We wanted to do something more seriously. So we pivoted and did a pilot run of the panel show that is our current format. That seemed to click and 10 months later here we are.
3.) Find a Good Crew
Back when Bad News was a sketch show, we had a really fun writers room. It was five to ten comics in a room with a few Dominos thin crust pizzas and enough marijuana to send you to a federal penitentiary. While it was a super fun party atmosphere, we didn’t get much done.
In our current iteration, we have streamlined the creative team down to three people. Everyone knows what the vision of the show is, and everyone is committed 100% to making it happen.
4.) Be Ready To Do It All Yourself
Wait, what about the good crew I just found?
Having a good crew is crucial. But you have to be ready, willing and able to do every part of your show your self. From sound, to camera, to editing, to writing, to marketing. All of it.
Yes. Because no mater how good your crew is, if you don’t have an unlimited budget, people are going to be working for free. Things will come up and they won’t be able to deliver that intro video they promised. Or the sound guy canceled and you will have to figure out how to mic 5 grumpy actors. You need to be able to do it all yourself, even if most of the time you aren’t doing it yourself.
So when you are doing step 2 and trying lots of stuff, take on as much as you can. That is your on the job training.
5.) Spend The Right Amount of Money on the Right Things
Not lots of money. Not a little bit of money. The right amount of money. I’m a self professed gear slut. I want the best microphones, the newest cameras. I could have blown my entire budget getting these things. Instead I found a killer theater that already had good enough equipment in it. The theater rental was twice as much as every where else we looked but it made the rest of the project easier to do. Looking back, worth every penny.
6.) Start Today
If you have an idea for a TV show, podcast, blog, web series, whatever, start on it today. It will take some time to make that dream a reality but in 6 months you might just have something to show off. And if you’re real lucky, you won’t hate yourself for it.
Do you have an idea for a show or any questions on making your own? Post it in the comments below. Maybe I can help.