Nowadays, it is not surprising that YouTube shows are being taken seriously by entertainment industry professionals. However, the process of getting a popular webseries noticed, much less, the process of making a webseries popular at all, is not something that happens by following hard and fast rules. Therefore, each success is unique and has its own interesting story and process. Today, we interviewed Baby Isako, writer of the comedy web series Venus vs Mars, which has recently been picked up by Sky Living. We asked her how the show got started, and how Sky Living got involved.
Baby Isako: My background is in theater, so I developed a few plays. From my theater plays, everyone was asking me to go into television, which I knew wouldn’t be so easy and straightforward, so I said I had an idea of a webisode called Venus vs Mars. I approached Purplegeko, run by Victor Adebodun, and said, “This is the idea I have, what do you think?”
He and his partner Will looked at the script took some bits out and said “that wouldn’t be great for TV,” or, “that’s too long of a scene.” So they changed some things around a bit, and then we said “Why don’t we film one episode and see the reaction?”
Once we filmed one of the episodes, the reaction was great. A lot of people loved it, so we carried on filming 6 episodes, which were all 13-15 minutes long. And then we filmed season 2 after. With a bit of investment from a family member, we filmed 8 episodes, 22 minutes long. But between filming season 1 and season 2, I was contacting different broadcasters, and Sky eventually said they were interested in doing it.
We went to a meeting with them. They said, “We would to like to put it on Sky Living.” We were just ecstatic.
So Sky Living getting interested in your program came about from you taking the initiative and really showing what your program had to offer to different broadcasters?
BI: Yeah, I think that was definitely what happened. Basically, we were all just very tired about the negative portrayal of black actors on television. We were kind of tired of the stereotypes and the perceptions, so we wanted to change that. We decided we needed to do it ourselves; to show that there is an audience for [positive portrayals]. And exactly what you said, that’s what we went out to do. We showed the demand.
After Sky Living got involved, was it a quick process to change the format of the show from a web series to TV or did it take a while?
BI: Before, when they got involved to put everything together, everyone has told us that the process was quite short compared to any other show put together. We started re-filming new material in October/November of last year. So overall the process probably took 5 months when we filmed and then post-production.
You mentioned material, did anything need to be changed or edited for TV in terms of what was/was not allowed on air?
BI: Any material that was reshot was because we wanted to make it look better, or the audio wasn’t quite correct in the first online episodes, so it wasn’t that anything wasn’t allowed, it was just a quality [thing].
Can I ask you how you shot and edited the series for the Internet verses how it was done for TV?
BI: Well previously when it was online, it was literally just Victor and William were the two man band who edited it. We had favors in terms of grading and sound audio. When we went into Sky, obviously you had a bigger post-production team. So you had the editors and sound engineers who then combined everything together.
From a writing standpoint, was there a difference in what you wanted to do with the show and the characters once the show got picked up? Is there anything you got to do that would not be possible in web series form? (That you can share without telling spoilers, of course!)
BI: Yeah, I mean, there was lots I wanted to do cause I had brand new ideas, but we had to remain true to our original online audience, so I couldn’t change that much because the story was starting from the beginning once it was on Sky. So I think the original opening got changed but it was still the same lines and we just added one or two scenes which I was really excited about.
If you were going to say there was one thing that surprised you when you started working with Sky Living, it would be____?
BI: Definitely how supportive they’ve been. Cause we’ve always heard lots of stories about broadcasters getting involved and maybe changing everything and not being supportive, whereas we have a completely different experience with Sky. We have a great experience. They’ve been supportive non-stop from beginning to now. And they’ve also let us have some creative control, well mostly creative control and made sure our voice wasn’t lost in the process. We were able to speak up and actually do what we wanted to do.
Now I know the show just premiered last week on TV, but would you say that the show is still geared towards the audience it was reaching on YouTube (which I’m assuming was a 20’s-30’s internet using crowd,) or do you think that it has a different audience for television?
BI: I do believe the show is still geared towards the audience it was reaching on YouTube. I thought that was one of the reasons why Sky picked up the show, to reach those audiences.
Finally, if you were going to give web series creators and advice about getting their own series on TV, what would it be?
BI: I would definitely say just to focus on your craft, and not just focus on getting it on TV. I mean, online is a great platform to start with so it’s a great way to build your audiences up.
Venus vs Mars airs every Thursday after Scandal on Sky Living HD.