When Al and Stuart began working together in 2001 their starting point was making tributes to the TV shows that they loved: Trigger Happy TV and Brass Eye were particular favourites. Over the years they produced a variety of sketch shows, sitcoms and web series that developed their love of comedy until, in 2008, they started to work with Nick Long on a web series called ‘Becoming Batman’: a sitcom about a pathetically under qualified man attempting to become Batman for a small English village. In 2009 Turtle Canyon Media was officially formed and Stuart, Nick and Al could apply their love of comedy and creativity to a wealth of new corporate clients, with some of the biggest companies in the world. It is often the case that comedy and corporate video aren’t appropriate bedfellows and so in 2012 Turtle Canyon Comedy was officially created as a subdivision. In reality all this meant was that they could get a nice new logo designed, then sit back and let the Benjamins roll in. Head of comedy Stuart tells us what else Turtle Canyon Comedy has got up to in 2012.
The world of comedy is an interesting and uncertain place in 2012. YouTube has enabled people with no budget and no major backing to become bona fide stars and to be able to step into the world of TV and film with an enormous amount of control and say over what they want. The previous model of TV being the big break is not necessarily always the case now. At the same time TV and film are trying to work out how best to embrace the internet and utilise a new generation of comedians and writers and performers who can create their own content. Turtle Canyon Comedy was established with the express desire to provide comedians that we love with a legitimate way of getting their vision made, by a production company with 10 years of experience and a comedy mindset and understanding of their own. The process would be collaborative and about getting stuff made, not just talking about it. The next stage was to take those films and videos to distribution networks, such as TV, film festivals and video on demand services, and to make bigger and better shows. This is how 2012, or stage one, of that process went.
The first major project that we undertook was a sketch show pilot. Overactive Solutions is a sketch show disguised as a workplace orientation video and was a vital part in the establishment of Turtle Canyon Comedy. The 14 minute taster displayed our ability to successfully produce a longer show with a large cast of comedy performers. With a production budget of less than £1000 (cast, crew and ourselves all working for love and lunch) and a shooting schedule of two days it was a hectic weekend and a process that we are so proud to have been involved in. David Bussell and Matthew Stott were the creators and writers of the project, along with myself, and we were delighted to be able to attract a cast and crew of such talent. The show features Isabel Fay, Nick Helm, Sarah and Lizzie Daykin and Tom Toal, along with many other superb actors and comedians and has been praised by Graham Linehan as being “hilarious” and by Peter Serafinowicz as “really funny”.
The show was pitched to all major UK channels with dedicated comedy commissioning and, despite receiving some glowing feedback (along with some mediocre feedback), it hasn’t been picked up for further development as of yet. The project is still one that we are passionate about and will be developing throughout 2013, with a focus on comedy festivals, online distribution and competitions in both the UK and USA.
TURTLE CANYON COMEDY ONLINE
A major part of our comedy business plan was to establish an online presence and to generate our own audience; YouTube, as the largest video site in the world, was the natural host for this presence. Our plan was to work with comedians we loved to create short films and sketches that were very much their own expressions, we didn’t want to dilute them by always aiming to create a viral or by attempting to target specific demographics. We want Turtle Canyon Comedy Online to be the place to go for seeing different, new comedy. Making esoteric videos will only get you so far and I have deliberately striven to create content that has the potential to go viral: short, smart and courting popular news stories or events. The thinking being that the virals will attract subscribers and viewers so that the more niche videos will also get a wider audience.
Over the past 10 months the videos on our channel have garnered 436,266 views in total and we have been shared worldwide through news outlets, blogs and social media. An accepted definition of a viral video is one that gets over 10,000 views in a day: in 10 months we have created four videos that have gone viral in such a way; each of which is decidedly different and appealing to very different demographics. Our Mario Balotelli/Postman video appealed to football fans and through a concerted effort to direct relevant, large Twitter accounts to the video we were able to rack up thousands of views from all round the world, US news reports, UK news reports and even pirated copies of our original. Now That’s What I Call A Game Of Draw Something was our attempt to get in on the wave of news stories that were being written about the smartphone game at the time. Through trawling through YouTube and discovering what blogs and playlists were effective at getting videos views we were able to get the video featured on various “viral websites”. A similar approach with our two “Thinking Shower” videos enabled further viewers to be introduced to Turtle Canyon Comedy. Getting a video to go viral is not a guaranteed or easy job but there is a plan of action that I use for each video we release: from sending it to major comedy news sites, to using Twitter and Facebook to target the video at accounts that will appreciate it and then share to their thousands of followers, to hoping that sites such as Reddit, b3ta, 9gag and the like pick up on the video at the right time. Luck, perseverance and the right type of video are the keys to getting views. Making a good video is the most important part.
Further to the viral success of those videos we have seen 4 other videos gain thousands of views and prominent features on leading UK comedy sites, as well as the production of two new web series that have introduced new characters and new scripted comedy that we are very proud to be responsible for. It is sites like The Poke, The Daily Mash, Chortle, Such Small Portions, The British Comedy Guide, Cracked, London is Funny, TimeOut and the like that are great for getting videos out to a targeted demographic. Some of those sites are also commissioning their own productions now, thanks to the possible advertising revenues that can be made online, and are therefore creating a new avenue for comedy production to pursue.
Just as important to developing a reputation and body of work in the UK is also exploiting the potential we have in being based in the USA as well. Victoria Ramon, at our Seattle branch has been instrumental in getting exciting new projects up and running in America, with plenty to come this year. For us the channel isn’t about just getting the viewcount higher and higher, it’s about making videos we love and that we feel deserve to be given the best chance to be viewed by as many people as possible. 2013 will see continued expansion of our online platform and a chance to work with new comedians and further development of our existing relationships. I’m excited about what is to come.
As a stand-up perfomer myself I am keen to see Turtle Canyon Comedy involved in the live circuit and being able to bring our abilities and experience to new areas. Last year we sponsored the fantastic Laugh Out London comedy nights and podcast because we think that they love the same comedy as us and they put on fantastic live nights with some of the best acts on the alternative circuit. We also were heavily involved with the set up and running of a new alternative comedy night called “Natural Disasters“, a themed night that takes place in a makeshift storm shelter constructed in a room above a pub. We produced the video content that features in the night and co-produced a featurette about the gig with the very talented ComComedy.
At the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2012 we ran a mixed bill comedy show on the PBH Free Fringe and got some of the acts we’ve been lucky enough to work with in our first year on to perform comedy to a mid-afternoon crowd of festival-goers. We were delighted to have the opportunity to run a live night and, although it won’t be a regular thing, is something we will look to do again in 2013. Across the ocean Victoria has been developing comedy in Seattle; teaming up with some of the most exciting names in the city and has producing a web series, sitcom pilot and developing a variety of projects, live and filmed. This month a Turtle Canyon produced feature on the local comedian Barbara Holm is due to air on Seattle TV.
In December 2012 we worked on one of the most outlandish and unbelievable live shows ever committed to stage. That is not hyperbole. The Weirdos Comedy group put on a live production of the Stephen Spielberg film ‘Hook’. We produced some pre-recorded content for the actual show and filmed the whole performance for online release in the near future. The show was in aid of Great Ormond Street and raised around £5000, as well as wowing the sold out audience for its three-night run. Take a peak at our contribution here and get ready for when the full show makes its online debut:
Turtle Canyon Comedy aims to have productions distributed through major distribution channels. In the past this was terrestrial TV, now it’s a multitude of digital channels, film festivals, video-on-demand and download sites such as iTunes and Amazon. We currently have a sitcom taster almost complete called ‘The Human Resource’, three sitcoms that we are in discussion with TV channels and other, larger indies about producing, as well as a long list of other projects: Overactive Solutions, The Thinking Shower series, 3 completed short films (FRANK, Chubby Bunny, Rebuild Me), a trilogy of short films about stand-up comedy (The Slow Death Trilogy), four short films in pre-production, two features in development, a couple of web series and two sketch shows. We’re ambitious and we like to think that all of these projects are not only ready to be made but that they will be made. Some of them need financial backing, some of them can be made in-house, some of them we can manage the distribution, some of them need interest from a major distribution channel, but all of them excite us and we believe in each and every one of them.
Before we’re trusted with the budget for a primetime multi-location sitcom, starring Chevy Chase, we know that we have to do the groundwork, to attack every opportunity with the vigour and determination that has defined our company thusfar. Film festivals, comedy competitions and online initiatives such as Comedy Blaps and Feed My Funny are areas that we are working on, with varying levels of success, hopefully 2013 will see an increase in the successes. Our work on the online platform, collaborating with live nights and in self-produced pilots and tasters all go towards the long-term goal of proving our quality, commitment and ability to deliver. It also continues our desire to be making comedy, we want to make shows, sketches and films and that’s precisely what we do. Now we want to expand and make more comedy, for bigger audiences and for nicher audiences. We’ve spent ten years delivering to corporate clients, under intense pressure and with every single penny needing to be accounted for and represented on screen, we believe we have everything needed for the next generation of comedy production online and on our TVs.
To find out more about a variety of the projects I have mentioned here take a look at the Turtle Canyon Comedy website and the various other specific links below: