Why you must now pay money for Season 2?

Ooooh boy!

We knew we would get some complaints and possibly lose some fans when we decided to make Season 2 VOD (Video on Demand), despite the fact that we kept a low cost of entry. Nothing prepared us for the flood of angry emails we have received. It seems that people did not read the prior announcements. So in the interest of transparency and good communications, here is the whole reasoning that informed our decision:

- FUNDING: The show is privately funded. That means it comes out of our own pockets. No grants. No tax credits. No mysterious silent investor. Nothing. While there is some funding available in Canada for web series, those are few and far between and most have a lot of constraints. Despite what some may think, nobody gives free money without strings attached. In some cases, we just do not meet the requirements and in others cases, we would lose partially or totally control of the editorial line of the project. So it has to keep coming out of our own money… Which eventually led to ---

- DELAYS: For the first Season, to get the show known and see if it had traction, we decided to give it away free. Which means sometimes we have to do other things instead of working on the show. Which lead to several months delays between shows, after a run of eleven regularly scheduled episodes (which was already an heroic pace to maintain). Then we got complaints: why does it take so long between shows? Well, we need to live and pay our bills too… Since the show was free, well, it had to take a back seat to the essentials of life. And it was not fun for us. Or for the fans. It is already hard enough to get the show out when we do just that, imagine getting it out on a schedule amidst other things and a full time job. It was just impossible. Which eventually led to ---

- FRUSTRATIONS: Not being able to pay key contributors reasonable wages means that they have to find other means of survival. Which gives them less time to work on the show, when we do not lose them altogether. Not being able to get the show out on time was frustrating to us too because it becomes a source of stress and dealing with the sometimes less than understanding amongst the fans was almost a job in itself. Also a limited budget meant that we were limited in many ways on the scope of the stories, the locations we could get and we had to severely limit what we could do in terms of vehicles, special effects and so on. And since the bulk of our budget is going to an admittedly low salary for our cast and crew, there is little left for production value and it forces us to do small miracles to pull of a decent show in the end. That, too, takes its toll.

After we finished Season One, when we sat down to plan Season 2, we decided that we wanted to push the envelope. We wanted bigger and better settings. Vehicles: plane, trains and automobiles. Heroes for each provinces and territory. New costumes, in line with our original intended vision. A more epic storyline, befitting the characters we created. And when we looked at how much we had to do all that… We decided to run an IndieGogo campaign, with a $100K goal. We would have enough to pay everybody reasonably and do what we needed to do - we still had to get favours from everyone but it was feasible. The support was tremendous in terms of sharing the campaign and all. But financially, it failed - we barely got 10% of our goal. If everybody that had shared the campaign so wonderfully had given us a dollar, we would have made our goal and then some. But they did not. Only a handful contributed. Had we met that goal, we would have kept the status quo and kept the show free. But sadly it was not to be. So we had to find funds elsewhere - and as we said above, you never get any money without strings attached. In this case, interests and monthly payments associated with them. But something has to give. So after a long and arduous introspection, I, as producer, have decided to make the most expensive content available either through our
memberships or as VOD. After all, I have to pay all those bills. Not just the show’s, but also all the artists and contributors to the comic books.

But… But… But… came the rebuttals…

- Don’t you make enough money at conventions selling your merchandise? We do make very well at conventions, thank you very much! We love attending them and we love interacting with our fans and getting direct feedback, good or bad. In fact, if there was conventions nearby every month, we would not be having this conversation at all. But there isn’t . And while we do well too with the ones far away, the costs of tables, travel, accommodations, food for everyone and so on often makes it a zero sum game as it quickly costs several thousand dollars to travel beyond Ontario and Quebec for our little team… And we don’t like to go anywhere without bringing the fans the full experience. Conventions beyond Ontario and Quebec are great for exposure and promotion but that is about it. A big convention in Toronto costs us more than an entire episode of the show! Sometimes, the choice is not hard to make.

- Don’t you make enough money selling merchandise on your site? We are not doing too badly with the merchandise on the site. But it is nowhere near enough to cover the costs of full episodes. Shipping costs are punishing in Canada - it costs more to send a comic book than to buy it. It is ridiculous and it discourages lots of people from buying.

- What about Amazon and Diamond? While these distributors get your work everywhere, they also take a punishing cut, between 55 to 60% of the retail. Great for the consumer, not so great for the creators who also have to shoulder the (punishing too!) shipping to these guys… So unless you have massive volume, your margin is very thin. Plus it takes a while to get paid for your sales. Again, while things are good, they are nowhere near sufficient to sustain the production costs of the show.

To put things in perspective, an average episode costs around 3 to 5 K to produce. The bulk of it is salaries. Some cost closer to 2K, some near 7K, but as an average, it costs around 3.5 K.

How does it break down? Let’s use Jackpot: Royal Flush as an example:

- CAST: 1200$.

- FOOD: 400$


- Make-up artist: $400

- Props, etc.: $300

- Location Dojo: $200

- Music and sound mix: $500.

The other locations were free. Myself, Yann (camera), Allan Chou (Fight Choreographer) and Vincent (Lights) donated their time over three days. Some of the cast members were IndieGogo contributors whom we would have to pay normally. In this case, they contributed partially to about a little less than a third of the budget. We own our own equipment, except for the sound so that was free too - if we were to pay for it, you could add another $1500 or more to the bill. And this was a cheap episode were people are paid but a fraction of what they would normally earn on a normal show. And that does not include neither the preparation nor the post-production, which we also contribute for free. Not complaining, just saying.

So this episode costed $3500, without counting favours and freebies and generous time contributions… We need to sell 583 comics at 6$ through our website, or 518 DVDs at 15$ on Amazon (after their 55% cut), or even better 1,458 of the exact same comic books through Diamond (because they take a 60% cut) just to cover the price of that one episode… Are the maths clear enough now? Nobody is getting rich quick anytime soon here… So forgive us if we have a hard time keeping a straight face when someone makes a passionate plea to tell us how heartless we are for daring to want to charge less than a dollar for the seven minutes of entertainment we provided there, which we put together over several weeks…

During the first Season, we provided what we believe was tremendous value. Very few series have the scope and scale of what we accomplished with next to nothing. All we are asking now is a little support to make things even better and easier on us. We tried to make it easy on you by offering a wide range of options for all budgets. Most fans have reacted with enthusiasm and have shown a tremendous support, most of them signing in for Gold memberships. This message is not really for them: we know we have your support and it warms our hearts.

This is to answer those who feel like everything should be free all the time. Who feel we are taking advantage. If the numbers above don’t already make it abundantly clear, we are not. And far from it. Personally, as a producer, I have a hard time dealing with the fact that someone gets angry when I ask for .99 cents for something I worked on days and nights for several weeks… You have absolutely the right to not watch it, but you have no right to complain about it. It is our work and we have the right to price it as we wish. We think we did so fairly. Frankly, if people who claim to truly love the show yet cannot be bothered to pay less than a cup of coffee to see it grow, then I can’t help but wonder why you call yourselves fans.

I, as a producer, used to make independent films. I am one of the lucky few in Canadian history who can claim to have lived of making independent movies. Ironically, the internet put an end to that. When you can copy something without any loss of quality and broadcast it to the world for pennies,. it is only a matter of time before the revenues you can generate from said content dries up. What makes the internet such a beautiful tool for sharing content makes it also ironically very hard to earn a living doing content.

The freedom that the internet gives us is magnificent as creators. It frees us from gatekeepers. It allows people who were without a voice to finally have one. Like everything, it has its downsides. Freedom always comes with some ugliness. A show like HOTN - or several other amazing web series out there - could never exist within the strict ecosystem of TV. The cost of that freedom is a general lack of means. But everyone is starting to realize that we cannot keep going like this: newspapers, books, TV… A lot of our culture is threatened because the costs of production is no longer covered. We like doing our show and we want to keep doing it. We have proven that we are resilient, if nothing else. We ask for a small token of appreciation to do so. The true fans understand and these guys are the ones we want to cater to. If even 0.99 cents is too much, then you did not deserve free in the first place… If you don’t support the shows you claim to like, and that goes for any other show or films or any other piece of culture or entertainment besides ours, don’t complain when they disappear! Don’t complain when they are taken down from the schedule. Don’t complain when they start to charge. Nothing exists in a vacuum. We all need to live and pay our bills. If everybody who claimed to care had stepped up when we asked for help, we would not be here today. We want to cater to those who really care, those who put their money where their mouths are. Those who give a damn. Like we do.

We want to wish a warm welcome to the fans who care, often as much, if not more, than we do! See you in the funny papers… And at conventions! Winking


Christian Viel
Heroes of the North
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