Tag Archives: TV

Celebrities’ Crowd-Sourcing Campaigns (NSFW)


Let’s assume for a moment that you’re one of the many many people who have publicly criticized the producers of Veronica Mars, or Zach Braff, or James Franco, or Spike Lee, for starting a crowd-sourced fundraising campaign to generate a budget for their next work… YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT THE FUCK YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT. Likely because you don’t understand what these artists are bringing to the table and/or how the Internet functions.

“They’re taking money away from artists who deserve it.”

Well there are a number of things wrong with that statement.

First of all, they aren’t taking money away from anyone. They do not control the money being donated to their campaigns. They do not control the people donating that money. They have no access to anyone’s bank account or credit card. They are not taking anything. They are being GIVEN donations by people WHO WANT TO DONATE TO THEM.

Crowd-sourcing is not about the campaigns, it’s about the people contributing to the campaigns. Contributors are the heroes of this narrative. Crowd-sourcing does not exist for indie artists; it exists for contributors. And they get to contribute to whatever the fuck they want to contribute to.

You are not a shepherd. You do not get to decide what someone else wants to contribute to. You do not get to decide what they do contribute to, nor do you get to decide what they do not contribute to.

No one goes on to Kickstarter with a monthly budget to decide who they’re going to donate to this month. “Oh look Spike Lee has a campaign, I’m going to donate to him instead of Joe Schmoe because he’s a celebrity.” That does not happen. That person does not exist.

You also do not get to decide what anyone deserves. If you think you do, you’re an irrelvent asshole. And I wish you would leave this rant immediately because you don’t deserve the knowledge I’m about to impart. Seriously. If you think you get to decide what anyone else deserves, go away right now.

I’m going to assume those irrelevant assholes are gone now. Back to the subject at hand.

I can play the “deserve” game too. Try this on – none of these artists (celebrity or otherwise) deserve anything. Why not? Because there’s a fucking village in Africa that’s dying of thirst! But apparently Joe Schmoe’s TV pilot is more deserving of crowdsourced funding than Zach Braff’s Garden State sequel. If this is how you think, here’s some advice: grow a fucking soul.


Web traffic is a numbers and demographics game. It always has been, it always will be (unless someone completely restructures it, which would take years and quadrillions of dollars.) Web traffic is grouped down demographical lines. If you enjoy the works of Zach Braff, there is a great likelihood that you will enjoy the works of someone who makes things that are similar in theme, tone or genre, to Zach Braff. That’s how the web directory Yahoo became a powerhouse – thematic grouping. That’s how Amazon sells more products – “People who bought that also bought this.” That’s how the Web is organized.

They are called niches. And hey America, it’s pronounced “neesh”, not “nitch”.

When Veronica Mars is given a crowd-sourcing campaign, every other campaign that is in anyway similar to VM benefits from the presense of the VM campaign. Same with Braff. Same with Franco. Same with Spike.

Here’s a brick & mortar example:
I rent a store in a mall and I sell t-shirts. The guy renting the store beside mine sells DVDs. And he’s having a huge sale this weekend. Every Batman movie is 50% off. Now what am I going to do with all my Batman t-shirts? If I’m smart, I’m going to move my Batman t-shirts to the front of my store where they will be more visible to anyone attracted by my neighbor’s Batman sale. And guaranteed I will sell way more Batman t-shirts this weekend. I’ve taken advantage of the Batman-loving niche.

Web traffic works the exact same way.

Spike Lee is asking for $1.5M for his campaign. He’s bringing his target demographic to Kickstarter and that target demographic is, in all likelihood, worth well over $1.5M.

If I had a movie, TV pilot, graphic novel or web series that targeted the same demographic that Spike already has, I would get a crowd-sourcing campaign for it up on Kickstarter IMMEDIATELY. It’s the exact same function as moving my Batman t-shirts to the front of my store when my neighbor has a Batman sale.

As a result of the Braff and Veronica Mars campaigns, more than $400,000 was contributed to other campaigns that would not have been contributed had it not been for Braff and Mars. This didn’t surprise me because I know that’s how the Internet works. And that $400+K blows the other side of this particular argument out of the fucking water.

Done. Next!

“They’re rich! Why don’t they pay for their own movie!?”

If this is your argument, all you’re doing is showing your ignorance about how movies get made and the risk involved in making them. You’re also showing your ignorance about how someone else’s personal finances are organized. Which – it should be noted – is NONE OF YOUR FUCKING BUSINESS.

If every artist we perceive as “rich” relied on their personal wealth to fund their art, art would only be made by the exceptionally wealthy. And THAT would stifle many a visionary. (With the exception of Kevin Smith who would still be making feature-length home videos for his friends, i.e. Clerks 3 through 18.)

Spike Lee is a great example. TheSmokingGun published this article criticizing Lee’s campaign in light of the fact that he’s got a mansion and estate in Martha’s Vineyard. Ah yes the entitlement of “the little people.” How easy it must be just to judge the entire structure of someone’s personal finances based solely off the number on the bottom line. Never mind that he’s a proven artist who has made great films that are socially relevant; never mind that he has opened doors for other filmmakers; never mind that with 52 director credits, he still has to fight tooth and nail to get anything made within the mainstream Hollywood system. He’s just a number, right?

In the mid-1970s, Francis Ford Coppola put his $6M home up as collateral so he could make Apocalypse Now. Do you know why he did that? Because there wasn’t any fucking Kickstarter! If you think he would do that same thing today rather than go with crowd-sourced funding, you are an idiot, wrapped inside a moron, dipped in stupidity, and baked at 350F in a confusion oven.


Now, let me explain something to you about how web algorithms function. It’s real simple. Here’s the thing – the programming code that makes up every web algorithm does not know the difference between good context and bad context. Computers are not able to detect the subtlety of context. They are not sentient.

When you post a link to some article with the context that some asshole celebrity is stealing money from the little people, the only thing a web algorithm sees is that you are posting a link to a webpage. Again, algorithms do not know the difference between you saying “Do not contribute to this” and you saying “Yes go contribute to this”.

Google’s search algorithms count the number of links to a given page, they do not gauge the context in which you are putting those links. Every time you share a link, you are increasing the page rank of the page to which you are linking.

So if you really really really really really really don’t want anyone to contribute to celebrity crowd-sourcing campaigns, your ONLY recourse for ensuring that less people contribute to that campaign is this: SHUT. THE FUCK. UP.

That’s all you have to do – NOTHING. Don’t post a link about it. Don’t comment on it. Don’t criticize it. Don’t upvote it or downvote it. Don’t talk about it. Don’t even fucking think about it. Don’t do a goddamn thing.

The Internet is binary. There is either action (1) or no action (0). If you take ANY action – ANY FUCKING ACTION AT ALL – then you are contributing to their campaigns. If you take no action whatsoever, if you just keep your mouth shut and move the fuck along (preferably to something you do authentically care about), then you are not contributing to their campaigns.

That’s how the Internet works. Those are your choices. Decide well, or look like a fucking idiot to someone who knows better than you do how these things work.

Happy Saturday, everybody. 🙂


We’ve Outgrown Our Baby Shoes

As a young comedian, I believed that I was better than everybody else. I believed I was funnier, more intelligent and more deserving of success than every other comedian in Canada. I believed that my path was righteous and nearly everyone else’s path was not. It’s a not-uncommon trait among young artists, and some mature artists too. But for a number of years, I did have a relatively good streak of successes that only served to fortify my arrogance.

Three events in my life turned this inferiority complex on its end.

The first event was my mother’s descent into the vegetative stupor of Alzheimer’s disease in the final third of her 23-year battle with the disease – not that it was much of a battle, more of a drawn-out surrender. When that occurred, when she lost everything that made her her, nothing about my life was funny anymore. I could still laugh at other peoples’ humour but I could no longer generate any of my own. So I stopped trying.

I became insular. I was introduced to the Internet and I sunk myself into a career in web development, where I could function alone, and anonymously, in the humourlessness of programming code. Believe me when I tell you that there is nothing funny about HyperText Markup Language and Common Gateway Interface.

The second event was meeting a person whose generosity of spirit and capacity for understanding rendered my self-imposed depression obsolete. She taught me that life is meaningless until we bring meaning to it. And whether we know it or not, whether we like it or not, we are always bringing meaning to it. Her name is Diana Galligan. And until I am dead and forgotten, she is my hero.

The third event was a culmination of the first two. I became involved in the Canadian Comedy Awards, a national awards process that was still in its infancy. Ironically, years earlier, the arrogant person I once was had ridiculed this organization for all the reasons anyone might ridicule it – as a self-aggrandizing stew of mediocrity.

My entrance into the CCAs occurred halfway through the 2008 awards season. I was tasked with building a new website for the CCAs and constructing the online mechanism by which voters could vote on nominees. I had about 3 weeks in which to create this structure.

Any sane person (or team of people) would have taken several months to carefully plan the steps required to build such a thing and five figures would be charged to do so. I charged $5,000 for it. I’m not bragging, clearly. Being paid $5K for something for which someone else would charge ten times that amount is in no way something to brag about. But web development has never been my true calling, so my tendency has always been to undervalue myself. I never wanted to be successful at it. Because that would be the death of me as an artist.

In 2009, I created the online mechanism by which jurors could select their Top 5 submissions to the category in which they were a juror. And the Top 5 of those Top 5’s become the nominees.

What happened next is something I will always carry with me.

One of my tasks was pulling clips from all the submission DVDs to convert them into video files so they could be viewed online by the jurors. In that capacity, I watched every single submission to the 2009 Canadian Comedy Awards. 230 videos. I’m the only person on the planet who got to watch all of them. And I wear that as a badge of honour.

Because in those 9 days of non-stop video processing and entertainment consumption, I was exposed to the kaleidoscope – I’m sorry, I know that’s cliché, but there really is no better word for it – the kaleidoscope of talent and gifts that hundreds and hundreds of comedy artists in this country have to give. From standup comics, to sketch and improv troupes, to playwrights, TV writers, directors and actors, and filmmakers. Those 230 fifteen-minute videos transformed me.

If you were one of those submitters in 2009, thank you. You helped me disempower a fucking asshole that had taken residence inside my heart decades earlier. There is no dollar value that I could possibly assign to that – $5K, $50K, $500K, all pale in comparison.

In 2010, I created the online submission form. The total number of submissions that year was a little over 300. If you were one of those submitters in 2010 (including those that were disqualified because they didn’t meet the criteria), thank you. You proved to me that my transformative experience the previous year was not an anomaly.

In 2011, to better accommodate video submissions, I added a video upload application to the submission process. The biggest challenge was this app’s limitations to a very specific set of parameters. Without a much larger budget, it was simply not possible to create a wide berth for the various digital formats that accompanied submissions.

So in 2012, I outsourced the storage of all submission videos to YouTube, a company that has invested millions of dollars into ensuring that videos are capable of being uploaded and viewed by as many people as possible. This made it much easier and more cost-effective for artists to submit their work.

In each of these years, I found myself viewing submissions videos. And each year, I was subsequently reassured that the comedy artists who work in this country are not funnier than anyone else, as I once thought myself to be.

They are as funny AS THEY ARE.

And they are – YOU are – Really. Really. Really. Fucking. Funny.


I’m a firm believer in democracy. Who gets nominated and who wins is kind of irrelevant to me. The most important thing is the process. If the process works, the nominees will be great and consequently the winners will be great.

So I’d like to provide a few facts which are often overlooked whenever someone challenges the integrity of the CCAs, as a few recently have.

There have been changes to some criteria every awards season in which I’ve been involved. These changes are developed by the Chair of the Awards & Nominations Committee, in consultation with members of that committee and with the community itself. This list of proposals, usually averaging 10-15 each year, is then brought before the Board of Directors of the Canadian Comedy Foundation for Excellence, the foundation which guides the growth of the CCAs. If memory serves me well, the Board of Directors has at most rejected 3 of these proposals in any given year.

So while a person might have the perception that favouritism could exist in certain members of the Board of Directors, any self-serving bias that person might believe exists is easily stifled by the fact that no one has complete and undeniable control over the process. The Board of Directors – the list of which has been publicly available on the CCA website for quite some time – do not make the criteria. They either approve or reject the criteria proposals suggested by the Awards & Nominations Committee.

The Awards & Nominations Committee is made up of members of the community who volunteer their time because they believe in and feel passionately about the awards. They do not participate to childishly stack the odds in anyone’s favour; they participate for one reason and one reason alone – because it’s an honour to participate in something greater than themselves.

The Chair of this committee is responsible for assembling the juries and vetting the submissions in every category. They are responsible for ensuring that artists are not jurying a category to which they’ve submitted and that artists are not jurying a category to which their spouses or business partners have submitted.

Every awards season in which I’ve been involved in the CCAs, at least one member of the Awards & Nominations Committee has been a submitter or a nominee or a winner. Two of the three Chairs of this committee in the past 5 years have been submitters while they were Chair of the committee. That is a by-product of the relatively small size of our community, the volume of work generated by our community and the grassroots nature of our organization.

I was honoured to serve on the Awards & Nominations Committee in 2011 under chair Cory Mack, who I admire greatly. I know of no one in the Canadian comedy community who is as dedicated, fair-minded and prudent as Cory Mack. Cory was personally responsible for ensuring that hundreds of submissions met the criteria in the categories to which they’d been submitted. I was present when she made decisions that were obviously difficult decisions for her to make, to tell her peers that they couldn’t be included because they didn’t meet the criteria. This was not something that needed to be asked of her; she took it on because she knew it had to be done.

For as long as I’ve been involved in the CCAs, there has been an Annual General Meeting which all members of the community who are registered to vote are invited to attend. It is also streamed over the Internet. The purpose of the AGM is for the Chair of the Awards & Nominations Committee to hear criticisms and suggestions directly from the community. These are then used to inform what proposals that committee will make to the Board of Directors. It is the one place where anyone who has any stake whatsoever in the CCAs is guaranteed to have their voice be heard. No other platform – not a blog like this, not a Facebook status update, not the back of a bar – can guarantee that those voices are heard.

However, without a standardized annual budget, it is impossible to ensure that action is taken on every great idea suggested by the community.

Therefore, recently, the CCAs introduced an annual membership fee for anyone who wishes to submit to or vote in any of the industry-only categories. The reason for this fee is simple. The trajectory of the CCAs cannot be maintained without it.

In 2009, Harry Doupe produced a great awards ceremony at the Imperial Theatre in Saint John. In 2010 and 2011, he did the same at the Isabel Bader Theatre in Toronto. This past year, Gary Rideout, Jr. produced a great ceremony at the Royal York Hotel, a landmark hotel in our country.

In 2013, the CCAs are going to Ottawa. Ottawa fought other cities in order to bring the CCAs to their city.

In short, we’ve outgrown our baby shoes.

No one should be expected to volunteer hours upon hours upon hours (of lost time and, therefore, lost income) ensuring that hundreds of submissions adhere to the criteria of the categories to which they’ve been submitted.

No one should be expected to use their domicile as the headquarters for a national awards process.

No one should be expected to go into personal debt to ensure that an artist’s airfare has been paid or suffer the community’s wrath when they correct other people’s mistakes.

Will there always be challenges? Yes.

Will there always be failures? Of course.

Does any one person have a monopoly on integrity? No, that is impossible.

Will we always all agree on the best course of action? No. Because we’re artists, not robots.

Whether they know it or not – whether YOU know it or not – every comedy artist in Canada has the opportunity to contribute to this organization. The CCAs are not our community. To mistake it as such would be foolish. They represent our community. And every comedy artist in Canada has the opportunity to be transformed by their community in ways that could astonish them.

Every comedy artist in Canada also has the opportunity to do nothing, to sit in the cheap seats, heckling those whose heads are actually in the game.

That is the choice.

I’ve made mine.

Simon Fraser
Voting Member
2013 Canadian Comedy Awards

(Please feel free to leave a comment below if you’d like. They’re moderated only to prevent spam postings for brand name knock-off’s and poorly-designed porn sites. I don’t reject comments simply because I might disagree with the opinions they express.)


Cheating Labels

If you’re going to cheat labels away from camera and you have multiple labels in the scene, make sure that the labels are not all facing the same direction. It is a highly uncommon experience to see all beer labels at a party (for instance) all facing the same direction. It destroys the reality of the image you’re trying to pass off as real.