Because He Can
I was hesitant about writing this column because I was worried about becoming known as the guy who hates on Blind Ferret Entertainment. I’ve commented on a few of their decisions that I found questionable in the past, but I don’t really hate them. I think a lot of what they try to do are good ideas. The problem is the way they go about those ideas.
Last year, BFE launched a kickstarter for a show called Con Season. In the vein of the Penny Arcade Series, a camera crew would follow around the team at various cons and record their adventures, mostly Sohmer’s. It failed, and many people pointed out their reasons for not donating. The main one being that they tried to do a kickstarter during December, when everyone was spending their money on gifts rather than donating to KS projects.
So when Sohmer announced he would be repeating history, many pointed out this was going to also be a problem again. And it would be worse because now he was asking for an extra $100,000 to fund an animated pilot for Looking For Group. And Sohmer listened… to the people who told him to do it. His explanation for this was that the animation studio would not be free to make the pilot until October 2014 and so it was now or we would have to wait another year.
Which leads me to my big question: Why not wait?
And the answer, my friends, is simply that he doesn’t want to. He wants it now.
Sohmer has always been a quantity over quality kind of guy. He lambasted webcomics creators who were even a minute late, even though Scott Kurtz pointed out that more time allows for a more quality product (Forums were taken down, so I can’t link to that post). During the Gutters KS, he said he would do the comic daily if he could afford it, despite the fact that he doesn’t have enough knowledge of the industry to do so properly. He’s launching new comics and projects on top of his already large plate, and apparently we don’t even see most of what he’s working on.
What really irks me is that there really is no proper planning going into his projects, especially the Kickstarters. For the ad for the LFG series Kickstarter, we hear Sohmer’s voice narrating about the original plan for the LFG movie and how it was poor planning. Very, very poor planning. He cannot describe how poorly planned it was. It was the poorest of poorest planning This is then followed by the representation of disappointed fans asking where the promised movie is. That stops and we then hear Sohmer say that he now wants to do a series, with a bunch of actors who apparently we’re supposed to know. Oh, and if they get any extra money, that’ll go to the series. Like how last time they promised any money on top of the This Is War short would go to the movie, but this time they mean it. Then he goes into rewards. At the end, he thanks for TIW supporters for the motivation
This is not encouraging me to contribute. He tells us it was poor planning, but what about it was poorly planned? He doesn’t tell us if any lessons were learned, for all we know he’ll just repeat the same mistakes. And if the KS video is going to be filled with a bunch of cheap adobe effects, narrated by a guy who sounds really bored and disinterested in his own product, how does that reflect positively on the final animated pilot?
Now, the smarter thing to do would be one of two things. The first is have TIW and Slaughter the World in the background while the actors for the series give enthusiastic performances as their characters shilling the new show. It gives potential backers an idea of what the series will look and sound like. Now these were included below that video, but why not make them part of the pitch video? The other idea, take the left over money from TIW and use it to make the first few minutes of the episode, showing what people can expect from the final product.
But really, that’s easily forgivable. Honestly, I rarely watch the pitch vids on a project, the only reason I did this time was for this column. I just read the text pitch, look at some of the stills and make my decision. And I made the decision not to in this case.
In the text, it’s explained that after the This Is War short, they got to work on pre-production, but realised it would take a long time to get the movie out and a series would be quicker. With a pilot that would cover the first four chapters, or first volume, of the original webcomic that it is based off of.
Yes, that’s right. He actually wanted to try to squeeze 116 pages of material into 22 minutes.
The first issue? I could see that. You just expand a few elements of the story and you could even save time and money by including the This Is War short into the pilot. It’s a solid self-contained story that gives you everything you need to know about the ongoing series. But, Sohmer wants to do as much as possible, so it has to be all four chapters, no matter how cramped and rushed that would make everything. That just tells me he still plans everything poorly.
It also reflects negatively on the comic. Now I knew it was poorly paced, though I mostly chalked it up to Sohmer still following the old format he was using for when he wanted LFG to be a print comic series, as well as just making it up as he went with a vague idea of where it’s going. Now I’m just questioning his skills as a writer, unless he was planning on cutting out most of the story arcs. And I do sorely hope not, because that’s his best writing in the series.
I should also talk about another common criticism: the use of kickstarter to fund all of these projects. Honestly, it doesn’t bother me, if people want to fund something it’s their money to do so with. No, my problem comes from the sheer lack of quality for the money raised. The LICD pilot snippet we saw was quite glitchy, and one reader pointed out the issues with TIW. After con season, a few readers pointed out just how low quality the footage was, even though $80k was being asked for.But this is an issue I mentioned back in my CAD review, Sohmer just doesn’t have the training or experience to properly judge his final products and just blindly trusts that they are professional level because that’s what he’s paying for. And he won’t get someone who knows better because it’s his project.
As much as people complain that he’s not giving his fans enough time to save their cash for the next project, Sohmer and Blind Ferret will continue to create kickstarter campaigns because there is no limit to how many they can do. And it’s not surprising KS won’t stop them, since it means more people coming to the site, who may potentially back other projects.
So really, I answered my big question in the title of this article.
Professionals cartoonists aren’t beggars, we don’t need handouts. Earn your money, don’t pan handle for it.
- Ryan Sohmer, Advice for Webcomics, 2009