Anyone can start a blog (and so many people have). But producing a internet-based video series – that’s a different beast. There’s a lot more work and expenses to take on, which means there’s that much more at risk.
Caroline Shin is a multimedia journalist who has had all kinds of success “offline” (such as helping with the production of a JayZ video for New York Magazine). Recently, with the help of a Kickstarter (crowdfunding) campaign, she’s preparing to launch a web series called “Cooking with Granny,” which is a cooking show that aims to feature recipes for traditional dishes and stories that have been (and are being) passed down for generations. Personally, I think it’s an amazing concept.
In this interview, we not only discuss the story behind this web series, but we talk about Caroline’s experience using Kickstarter to raise over $11,000 (including her tips for anyone else thinking about crowdfunding a project), what her plans are for the distribution of the web series, and how she plans to actually make money from it.
It’s an interesting story – check it out!
Caroline, after stumbling across your Kickstarter campaign for the “Cooking with Granny” web series, I knew had to learn more about the project and what you’re planning on doing. But first, tell us a bit about yourself and your journey. What gave you the idea of starting a web series on cooking grandma’s recipes? Outside of this project, what else do you currently do “for a living”?
My admiration for my grandma, my love for eating, and my video, web and storytelling skills culled from Columbia Journalism School and New York magazine all came together to form the concept for this show. My grandma has that special knack – a certain cooking intuition so that even without the measuring cups, she would create flavors that hit all the taste buds spot-on. Korean soups that meld all the tastes and bring out all the right textures of the squash, potatoes, onions, tofu, soy bean pastes, spicy pepper pastes.
And while Korean culture is a foodie culture to begin with, my grandma is influential within my family for imparting cooking skills and an appreciation for food down two generations. Back in 2012, with the launch of my first episode, I initially planned to focus the show on my grandma, Sanok Kim. She had escaped North Korea and the Japanese military during the Korean War (she was one of the original North Korean defectors) only to decades later become a lonely immigrant in a foreign place (New York City) taking care of her grandchildren to then becoming one of the most popular grannies in her assisted living home.
I mean, wow, what a journey, right?
But the thing is, in New York City, and well, the rest of the U.S., you have this delicious assortment of cuisines, cultures and unique stories a million times over. So why not expand the show to cover them? Lots of next-level, world-war madness went down in the 1930s, 40s, 50s. And who can tell those first-person reports? Our grandparents. And food is always a delicious enticer of stories. And grandmas’ recipes? Now we’re talking. And I’m still freelancing on the side.
What do you consider to be your greatest success (or successes) so far as a multimedia journalist?
Becoming a video producer at New York magazine, my favorite magazine since reading age AND starting my own cooking show, my dream since watching Julia Child. Specifically, in regard to the former, that means having been able to pull through for NYMag during Hurricane Sandy because, living in Harlem at the time, I still had access to power and transportation.
I scored a taxi ride-along during the gas shortage when cabbies would be lined in the dark for miles from the rare working gas pump. I was right up at the head of culture, food and fashion whether I was producing a Blurred Lines-Fat Albert mash-up; an “autobiography” of Kenneth Parcell parsed together from binge-watching 7 seasons of 30 Rock; these fast, fun New York Fashion Week model supercuts, or GrubStreet’s In Season videos.
Oh, and my crowning bragging rights?
I was working (and twerking) with art critic extraordinaire Jerry Saltz on two NYMag videos he’d hosted, and while watching my work, he exclaimed that I was an “artist!” That still has me beaming! (In case you’re wondering, we twerked in the video room while I was working on his JayZ “Watch the Throne” piece.) And NOW, I’m starting up a whole season of Cooking with Granny. I’m writing, hosting, directing, shooting, editing and producing my own show! To fit my own vision that blends a traditional cooking show with a docuseries. It’s really so awesome for me right now.
As I write these questions, there are about 48 hours left on your Kickstarter campaign, and it’s too soon to tell whether or not the campaign will meet its goal. Regardless of whether you meet your goal, how was your experience using Kickstarter? For someone who might want to launch an internet-based project like your planned web series, what suggestions would you have for them if they want to try funding it with Kickstarter?
I’m a different person from before and after the Kickstarter campaign. Coming from a creative standpoint, it really pushed me way, way out of my comfort zone into this aggressive marketing, promotional, fundraising mode. I really recommend it to anyone who wants that well-rounded professional growth.
Some insights that I’ve learned the hard way? Now these are probably no-brainers for many people out there, but I’ll still share my own experiences. Have a plan in place. For PR and for fundraising. Contact media ahead of time. Get a plan in place for all social media accounts and strategies for what/when to post. Get over your shy respectfulness. Go guerilla on your friends, family for your fundraising efforts. Contact nearly everyone you know.
Cast a wide, wide net.
Get people with clout in your related industries behind your back with tweets and/or Facebook posts about your campaign. In my case, that would be the people behind the Museum of Food and Drink, New York Times partner, food.curated., Kimcheelicious, American Food Roots.
As for working with Kickstarter, their efforts (newsletter, home page, staff pick) brought in a substantial 18% of pledges. Just take note that it takes about 24-48 hours for them to get back to your support ticket. Once, it took 6 days to get an answer! Maybe you could expedite this if you foster some sort of relationship with a Kickstarter staff person beforehand? Not sure. Also, funding peaks towards the beginning and end of the campaign period. Slow days can drag by anxiously. But if you’re working by yourself, you just gotta keep at it.
As a fan of cooking, I’m really hoping you move forward with the web series even if the campaign doesn’t meet its goal. I think it’s a great idea that would resonate with a lot of people. Once the series has launched, do you have plans to directly monetize the views of each video? If so, what do you plan on doing?
I’ll set up my “Cooking with Granny” YouTube channel as a YouTube partner that allows for those five-second pre-roll ads. I’d also love to sell the series to Yahoo, Netflix, Hulu or Amazon if not for this season, the next.
Given that the web series is only intended to be 10 episodes, do you have any other plans to continue this idea in another format? (Perhaps a blog or other type of online media?) If not, what else is on the horizon for you?
Well, these ten episodes make up just the first season. Depending on the show’s reception, I’d love to produce more episodes and cover any cuisines and cultures that I couldn’t fit into the first iteration. I’m building out a website, CookingWithGrannies.com (hiring web designers now!), and that’ll house the video embeds as well as Granny recipe contests and a blog with photos, GIFs, and behind-the-scenes extras kind of like those in my Kickstarter post updates.
What’s your favorite inspirational quote?
I have several for different occasions so I’ve listed them from most to least used:
Reach for the stars. If you miss, at least you’ll be on top of the world.
Mistakes are just lessons that hit you at the gut. – Me [Click here to tweet this]
You only live once.
Never mind what haters say, ignore them til they fade away. Just live your life. – T.I.
What are your favorite online resources as someone who is really into video/multimedia?
Vimeo for its Video School, its creative community as well as all the beautiful visuals and storytelling methods of the videos uploaded there.
YouTube for VEVO and all the flashy effects and story lines synced to music in these music videos as well as uploaded tutorials for quick video and photo tips and tricks.
Tumblr for GIFs. Vine for viral clips. Digg Video for its best-of-the-Web picks. Flipboard’s Design and Photo categories to get inspired by all that’s sleek and cool out there.
Finally, where can people find you online?
Thanks so much for your time today, Caroline!
What has your experience been like with video production online? Have you ever used crowdfunding to launch a new project? Leave a comment below!
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