Case Study

Humor in Angst: 'The Writers Room'

Stun Creative Teams With Sony's Crackle on Web Series

By Published on .

The Creators: Mark Feldstein and Brad Roth, co-presidents of Stun Creative, an advertising, branding and promotion agency in Los Angeles that is also producing Web series. Mr. Feldstein and Mr. Roth created the Web series "The Writers Room" that was acquired and distributed by Sony-owned online video destination Crackle this spring. The first season ran from March to June and Stun Creative is talking to Sony about creating a second season. Sony is keen on adding a celebrity cameo quotient to a second season, Mr. Feldstein and Mr. Roth said. They are working with their agents at William Morris and Sony to line up stars for quick appearances in the second season. "It's more competitive now and when it comes down to why will someone watch your shows versus someone else, like TV or film, star power will take on a significant meaning," Mr. Roth said.

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The Distributors: Crackle distributes the show on its comedy channel "C-Spot." Crackle then syndicates that comedy channel to YouTube, MySpace, AOL and Hulu.

Backstory: Stun Creative opened shop eight years ago. In the last few years, Stun began producing short comedic content for networks such as Showtime and TBS. In Stun's role as a "microstudio," Mr. Roth and Mr. Feldstein developed the idea for "The Writers Room," shot an episode, and showed it to their agents. "It's becoming incredibly difficult to sell anything just on paper," Mr. Roth said. "So we wrote this mini-pilot and shot it in our offices and then went to William Morris and they knew Sony was searching for something like this to launch on its comedy channel on Crackle."

Content: "The Writers Room" is a 10-episode Web series that depicts the inner workings of a group of TV writers as they brainstorm ideas for the show they work on called "Super Late with Kevin Pollack." Each episode is about five to seven minutes. Actor Kevin Pollack plays the star of the fictional TV show and only appears via voiceover on speakerphone as he barks directions to the writers. The show was shot over five days in the kitchen and conference room at Stun Creative. The first season's cast consisted primarily of actual showrunners and TV writers to give the show an air of authenticity. If Sony picks up a second season, it will handle the casting for the show, Mr. Roth said.

The Sponsors: Crackle ran pre-rolls and overlay ads against the show for movies such as "Get Smart" and "Don't Mess with Zohan," as well as consumer products like Rogaine. Stun Creative was paid a per episode fee by Sony that covered the costs. Stun Creative just about broke even on the deal, the company said. Mr. Roth and Mr. Feldstein said they produced the show to get a toehold in more creative storytelling for digital venues.

Endgame: "This is the space everyone wants to play in," Mr. Feldstein said. "We have an opportunity and no one has figured it out yet and no one knows the answer as to how to make money so we have the opportunity to figure this out." Mr. Feldstein said the pair wants to develop more digital series to learn the profit and revenue potential. They have also been commissioned to produce a 35-episode series with two major sponsors attached for a broadband destination.
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