An Interview with Ben Bacal of DareJunkies


DareJunkies, a sort of mashup between a video sharing site and a reality TV show, officially launched. The idea is that users can go to the site, write out dares in the form of ‘challenges,’ and then performers will compete to submit the best video based on the challenge. While there isn’t a lot of user created content yet, co-creator Ben Bacal reminds everyone that “we are limited beta – a lot more features are going to be rolled out in the New Year.” Ben, like his partner Daron Niemerow, is a veteran of the entertainment industry. I sat down with Ben to talk about DareJunkies and what they’re looking to achieve.

NTV: How did the launch go?

Ben: Great! We actually pulled it all together with the team and we went live at 11 p.m. just like we said we would. It’s in Beta – so it’s been great – with people e-mailing us from time to time letting us know about various things to fix or suggest. People I respect, like very talented graphic designers and entertainment executives, are impressed with the look and feel of the site.

NTV: Any particularly good submissions yet?

Ben: It’s been two days – so not yet. However we have been notified that four groups of comedians and improv groups are extremely excited about the opportunity to go out and shoot these challenges. They especially like that the challenges are all laid out for them. These actors and filmmakers that are responding with positive feedback are already talented and to hear them being enthusiastic about giving them some direction with the challenges made me smile. I expect a lot to come in closer to January. We may extend the first submission to Jan. 15 — that’s when the voting could begin.

NTV: How are you planning to screen the material, both the suggestions and the submitted clips?

Ben: We have very able minds screening through footage, as well our writing team, legal and myself and Daron from time to time. I am very hands on with the creative — I want really thrilling challenges up this month.

NTV: Do you think that the pre-scripted challenges and the cash prizes help attract better quality short videos?

Ben: The script challenges do for sure. We tested it and really gave people some direction. It gives actors or would-be actors a purpose, a motivation, a way to deal with objection and conflict — all necessary elements of great entertainment. It’s essentially like a road map or blueprint. Like any good reality show, TV show or movie there must be a great script. We provide users those great, safe, and entertaining scripts that we call “challenges” — hence the derivative of dare. Money only further pushes people as incentive.

NTV: What other features, besides the challenges and prizes, do you think differentiate you from a more generic video site like YouTube, MySpace or MetaCafe?

Ben: I believe when users finally see really creative work posted it will only bolster their imaginations and drive to create something better and truly kick in artistic users’ competitive energy. You have a dare bank balance that shows a real-time view of how much money you are making. We have a winners’ circle that really celebrates the winners and encourages them to want to be in there too — especially because we will be flying our videographer around the U.S. to film their “behind the scenes” story. We also have a challenge detail page that shows all the other users that are currently doing the same challenge and who has posted their challenge to view. This gives other filmmakers, actors and new producers a chance to see who’s doing what and who can do it better.

NTV: What kind of revenue streams are you looking to fund and profit from the site with?

Ben: Daron and I are especially excited about product placement challenges. It’s a no-brainer, because they can seamlessly be incorporated into a challenge. College kids and 18 and older don’t really like to be hit on the head with advertisements. However, if they can incorporate various products into a challenge in a positive way through our creative and entertaining challenges that we provide, that would be great. Four friends who gave me challenge ideas without me asking somehow incorporated a product. Some even made tag lines for their challenges as if they were art directors and creative from an agency — they didn’t even know it!

Also we want to make DVDs — like the best of best darejunkies. Or “America’s Funniest Home Videos on acid,” as our host would say. I am also excited to see how small business and eventually big business will advertise their companies in their video modules on the home page.

NTV: So why did you decide to build it out as a site, and distribute the video online — as opposed to doing a regular broadcast show that has a Web component?

Ben: There is way too much raw talent out there — really amazing people. I go to shows all the time and I’m like, “Why arn’t these people on TV? How did they miss their chance or how can they get a chance?” I went to film school and thousands of kids are spending millions of dollars of mom and dad’s money to make shorts. Some are great, but some need a bit more focus. A lot of them have talent but are not exposed to the people making the decision to purchase or air their material.

Hollywood is great, international films and reality programing is great, however there are a lot of even greater ideas and concepts out there. I want to find those people. DareJunkies is a home for them to shine, to show us what they are made of, to cut out the crap. So if you’re going to submit a challenge, make it count — win the cash, or get a chance to be seen by the media conglomerates through our portal. Naturally there will be a TV vertical for DareJunkies for the winners to be a part of.

NTV: Anything else you’d like to mention?

Ben: Those people who like video games and who are not into producing videos for the web can still watch, obviously, but they can also have the opportunity to live kinda vicariously through the users they challenge — to see if they actually do the challenge they proposed and to anticipate how they will pull it off and who they will shoot, especially if they know them. This is the gaming/interactive component that we are also hoping will register with users that are tired with just e-mailing, blogging and sharing pics on other social networking websites.


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