overshare: the release
For over twenty-one years I’ve been sharing my personal stories online. First I started with simple web pages, then I tried videos and video games. Then somehow I backed my way into an 18 month project to assemble 1500+ media objects into a 40 minute documentary about myself, the secrets I shared online, and an interview with my Mom to prove that not everyone is still angry with me.
With no producer no deadline and no venue it was up to me to self-motivate to finish and publish as I saw fit. overshare: the links.net story finally went live on the web in August 2015, for free everywhere and for sale on VHX. Here’s my distribution strategy:
I’ve published the video for free viewing wherever I could maybe find viewers. I created a basic web site at overshare.links.net. I sliced the film up into episodes between 2–10 minutes long, and uploaded the episodes and the whole thing to the Internet Archive, YouTube, Facebook, Vimeo and dailymotion.
Good news: I can reach people where they might be watching videos, and overshare can pop up in more varied media search results. Bad news: I have viewers, stats, and comments distributed across many platforms which makes overshare appear less popular in any one venue.
Initially I was thinking to tease the film with episodes and trailers, and then sell the whole production only on VHX. But my mentor and instigator for this project Howard Rheingold pointed out that one paid article, or speaking opportunity or consulting gig resulting from this film would be worth hundreds of video sales. If the film is a calling card, then I want it to reach as many folks as possible. Plus overshare is about free sharing of stories on the internet, so it seemed more thematically appropriate to scatter the whole thing to the winds.
So why even offer the film for sale? I enjoy playing with media technologies, and I want to give people a chance to use their dollars to encourage me to keep making weird stuff. Plus I had a chance to interview VHX co-founder Jamie Wilkinson back in 2013 and VHX just sounded like fun. If I take the long view, that this video will be for sale for years to come, I think I can look forward to occasional surprises when someone decides to pay to support this unusual cultural production. And I can enjoy VHX’s tools for selling and promoting the film, as VHX teaches me about online video distribution in 2015.
Today, the deluxe “TMI edition” of my film on VHX is the only place to find past versions, outtakes, deleted scenes and so forth. It’s nice to have a place to feed media to folks who might be extra-interested. So far I’ve sold 34 units: 25 of the TMI edition and 7 paying over the minimum price.
I first saw the web in 1993, when there were 600 sites. I proceeded to experiment with radical honesty and personal…overshare.vhx.tv
For other projects like The Justin Hall Show, I’ve used crowdfunding to support my efforts. But for overshare, I didn’t know what the scope or shape of the project would be. I didn’t want to overpromise and underdeliver: being on the hook for making an unknown film and for pleasing my supporters at the same time. My last software job helped me save up enough money that I could afford to stay working at home with my head down, not asking for money online.
But crowdfunding is not just about money — it’s about revving people up who might be fans and promoters. When we buy in and support a project with our monies, we become naturally interested in helping other people see the wisdom or beauty of that project. Perhaps I missed out on an opportunity to amp up some viewers and get more attention on my project here! But I was mindful that crowdfunding, if successful, demands outreach and upkeep. As a one person team heading into a difficult project of unknown boundaries, I wanted to stay focused on my core film not on audience relations.
I started work in earnest in early 2014 and I didn’t arrive on a title until a few weeks before release in mid-2015. Accordingly I did minimal advance promotions before I had a title and I knew the movie was going to actually be finished. With all this advance quietude, I had exactly 1 pre-sale on VHX. Thank you Kevin!
Without a crowdfunding audience demanding updates, I was left working largely in my own head. I was tempted a number of times to publish some “behind the scenes” videos and posts to VHX and my personal weblog. But again as a one-man band making an increasingly elaborate media object, I wanted to keep my focus on finishing and polishing one large work, and not feeding a bunch of small films and text updates. It was an unusually strict approach to media production for me — I’m normally throwing off all kinds of media bits. Never having made something this long with this many moving pieces I came to enjoy having the razor to slice off ideas that weren’t part of the main attraction.
This meant beavering away in silence, largely alone, with my family and friends asking “is it done yet” and some caring folks saying “you should stop smoking pot and leave your basement and go out and meet people already.” And it was probably true — this was a pretty lonely affair, editing footage of myself telling stories about myself. Long days working on footage about suicide or divorce had me glad for my cannabis prescription to provide some evening mood lightening.
Out, and now?
Now the movie is live in public. The great question mark of “what is this thing” has been finally drawn on a glowing screen. Now it’s up to me to push that question mark across many glowing screens.
It’s strange to have a video that is so much about myself — it makes promotions a little bit awkward. “Check me out!” cries the manchild, “You should pay attention to me and my past!” Perhaps strangers should pay attention to their own local stories, stories of greater need and suffering than this tale of one young man who lost his father and found the web.
But it turns out my coming of age happened in parallel with the growth of the popular internet, so for my overshare marketing I’ve largely focused on an academic audience. Already teachers have said they will use this film to help their students understand more about the early web and the advent of widespread personal media sharing. I made the titles and credits and information about the film in basic HTML and posted them freely online to serve as possible study materials. My promotional efforts mostly focus on telling academics the film is freely available. Schoolfolk are not as sexy as Hollywood but they’re an audience of the future.
Uploading to so many places, and choosing Creative Commons distribution, I have set myself up for some surprises. Already other people have reposted the entire film of overshare on their own YouTube accounts. I think of the Judeo-Christian bible: media products only stay alive if they are copied. The entire film is an advertisement for or warning against me, so anyone else sharing it around should mostly serve to draw still more attention to me and my stories. I should relax into the web of sharing, or else I’m in the wrong line of work.
My goal as a personal filmmaker was not to create a profit fountain, but rather to self-promote over the long haul — finding my way to new conversations and opportunities that will tickle my brain and occupy my fingers. Now that it’s live in the world overshare: the links.net story might tickle someone else as well.