Last week, the creators of lonelygirl15 after running a contest to open up a two-month programming slot to fan creators, selected a pilot entitled The Misfits to become an official part of the LG15 universe. However, the next day, the creators of The Misfits withdrew their series, stating that, “With the lack of resources presented to us, we felt that we could not give you the best possible show.”
When EQAL announced The Misfits‘ decision on their blog, naming runners-up LG15: The Last as the new winners, they stated that “the production team incorrectly believed that EQAL was going to fully finance their show even though we made it very clear in the rules that we were not going to finance the chosen pilot.” Both sides, as it turns out, were operating under a misconception with regards to the nature of the contest — which wasn’t legally a contest. And with the winner ultimately receiving $2,500 towards producing their show, EQAL’s use of the word “finance” was a dicey one.
According to LG15 co-creator Greg Goodfried, the genesis of The Show Is Yours came from a desire to reward the community that already had been creating fan series. EQAL had previously acknowledged such creators by altering their terms of service to allow those interested to create “derivative versions” — i.e. content that exists within the world of LG15 — so long as it was not for profit and linked to the LG15 site (see Section 6.b.ii.1 for the full legalese). And TSIY was seen as an extension of that clause, with those selected receiving two major non-monetized prizes: promotion and distribution through official LG15 channels, and a chance to officially contribute to the LG15 canon.
But because this was considered by EQAL to be an informal “pilot selection process,” those entering were not required to sign any sort of contracts, and as a side effect former EQAL employees like Jenni Powell and Logan Rapp were eligible (Powell worked on the third season of LG15; Rapp was a PA on LG15: The Resistance — both left the company on good terms with its founders). Which meant that Powell and Rapp, who first got involved with LG15 as fans before being hired as assistants, interpreted the contest as an opportunity to produce a series with professional standards.
In follow-up posts, both sides have admitted to miscommunications and misunderstandings, with the major issue being that of financing. There was a belief on The Misfits‘ side that they would receive some compensation for their work, and while the information wasn’t public during the submission process, that was in fact EQAL’s plan.
“We decided internally,” Goodfried said, “that whoever we picked to do the pilot, we were going to give them $2,500. It was really just our way of saying after the fact, ‘You guys are awesome. Here’s 2,500 bucks. Go and make a kick-ass show based on what you submitted to us.'”
By the guidelines laid out initially by EQAL, a TSIY series would amount to 16 videos over eight weeks — content Goodfried believes could be created in a couple of weekends. But while $2,500 is a boon to amateurs, it’s not enough to support a full two-month production — which is what Powell and Rapp erroneously believed they would be doing.
The LG15: TSIY videos will go into the YouTube partner account; Goodfried said they’re also considering running banner ads on those pages at lg15.com. “Unless your video is getting tens of millions of hits, the money you get from YouTube is pretty nominal,” Goodfried said, “and there’s not going to be brand integration, which is the only thing that makes a lot of money.”
Either way, the creators of The Last won’t receive any profits for their participation. “We didn’t want to get into any issues of web sharing and partner programs,” Goodfried said. “We just wanted to say, here’s this [the $2,500] — it will just make everything a lot easier.”
All the parties have resolved their differences and the new show is moving forward. But as the line between professional and fan-created content continues to blur, TSIY will remain an interesting example of creators embracing the contributions of their audience — to a point.