Full confession: I get really excited about creative project ideas.
I do so particularly when they are associated with things I’ve toyed with making for years. In short, I get a kind of tunnel vision when the green light flashes, and I throw myself at the work without looking at the periphery.
That’s bit me in the ass a fair few times. Too many times, to be honest. I’ll be in the full run of producing something, only to see that, no, it’s not hitting those meager margins of success that I had intended for it, be it in terms of support, or my ability to prolong it on my own.
Coupled with the algorithm-driven landscape of social media notice, it can get insurmountably difficult to attract attention to whatever it is that you’re spending your energy on making. This isn’t a commentary for or against, it simply is.
I bring that up because after the initial announcement for Black Chords, I threw myself at preproduction. It’s what I do. Research, script treatments, and collating every little thing I’d need to launch this puppy. Why? Because I was really excited for it. And at the time of the announcement, a fair few of my friends that I hold in high esteem were excited, too. The banners unfurled, and they read, “This is a cool thing worth making”.
I even tracked the timeline of production for a single thirty minute episode. From any given script, the audio drama would take about 4-5 days, working alone, for recording, editing, final mastering, and release. Not bad, given the complexity I was aiming for in this kind of show.
But I noticed something during the release of the show’s theme music, and the teaser: crickets. Which, really, means nothing. One short tune and one teaser bit doesn’t give anyone something meaty to really chew on while they wait for the pilot. Given the initial reaction from some of my peers, however, it was telling.
But the truth is that I found myself, sitting at my computer, prepping more notes for work on my new novel, and realizing that I was working on yet another slice of entertainment (Black Chords) that would, largely, go unnoticed due to simple social-feed clutter, and would take up full working weeks of time to produce on my own.
Then there was the looming problem of talent for the show. each one could not just be me. I would need other actors involved. I made it plain that I had no intention of anyone working for free. As a creative, the one thing I refused to participate in is the bullshit “for exposure” culture that rips off hard working, talented, and fiercely professional creatives out there. I’ve been there. It sucks. I won’t do that to another person.
But looking at the Patreon, and keeping in mind that hard fact that my books don’t cover much, and then looking down the road in six months at what money my wife and I would need to save to move back home to Colorado, the reality became inescapably clear.
Not only would the show go largely unnoticed, but I was in no position whatsoever as a single operator to create exactly what I wanted, and I could not find the appropriate funding to give any other actors that participated in it fair compensation—even those who chimed in telling me they would flat out work for free.
I talked with my wife, as I often do concerning hard choices, and given everything in front of us, she understood what I was feeling, and agreed that perhaps this simply wasn’t the right avenue.
So I did the only thing at that point that I could, responsibly. I killed the project before more work could take place. Better to know now, then six months in. And that’s kind of the lesson learned, when looked at as a whole.
I’m taking some down time, because while the decision was the best one to make in those circumstances, it was still a blow. It’s frustrating on a level I can barely describe. My wife knows it, because she’s seen me go through it too many times. It feels like failure, even though nothing was really failed.
I’m going to think about things. I’ve got this new book to finish and kick out, firstly. I’ve also toyed with the idea of still doing at least SOME manner of podcast, even if it’s just little old me talking about creativity, writing, and geeky things into a mic. I’m also still fully intending to do a live QnA video on my Facebook page later this month. If folks want to chime in with their thoughts on a podcast then, then more the merrier, as they say.
To those who were looking forward to Black Chords, believe me, so was I. You’ve got my sincere apologies, AND sympathies. But sometimes, things don’t click into place. This is one of those times where, at least, I noticed it before it had gone further.