If you’re the makers of one of the most popular films of all time on Hulu, what’s your next move? For writer Stevie Long and director/producer Joel Viertel, the answer was simple: Keep a good thing going.
The independent film Strictly Sexual arrived on Hulu in 2009, at a time when there were far more TV series than movies available on the service. However, Sexual premiered strongly, ranking as one of the top five most-viewed movies on the site — and more importantly, it stayed that way. According to Viertel and Long in a phone interview, Sexual has been in Hulu’s top 10 pretty much every day since 2009, and has also enjoyed enormous success on Netflix (s NFLX) and other digital platforms — a remarkable achievement for a film whose most-recognizable star is Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘s Amber Benson.
Viertel admitted that Sexual‘s provocative title might have helped people discover the film initially, but that “if you don’t have a good product it doesn’t really matter — at the end of the day, if it’s not a good movie people aren’t going to watch it or recommend it to their friends.
“And the title is ironic,” Long said, “because the movie’s really about people falling in love and having relationships.”
The film’s success has lead to the creation of an original series that premiered on Hulu this week. Shot in 18 days on a Canon 5D (an improvement on the camera used for the original film), each 30 minute episode continues the story of Joe (Johann Urb), Stanny (Long) and others looking for love in Los Angeles.
Hulu has a six-week exclusive on the series, after which episodes will be available on
Netflix, Amazon Prime and other platforms. “It’s going to be everywhere,” Long said.
That will also include the rest of the planet: Content Media Corporation, which acquired worldwide distribution rights to the series, will be pitching the show at content market MIPCOM for broadcast and digital platforms.
Viertel and Long are both actively working on other projects — Viertel was a co-producer on The Adjustment Bureau, and Long is developing a script with Christopher McQuarrie — but look forward to them potentially creating a second season of Strictly Sexual for the web, depending on the first season’s success. The plan is that the first season will pay for the next.
“Web TV is rooted in character, and indie films are rooted in character — people identify with that and want to see it. [The web] is a viable way for indie filmmakers to make a living putting their content out there — the new home for the next big indie hit is Netflix or Hulu,” Long said.
Of course, what’s key is the budget. “If the movie had cost 10 mill, it would be a very different scenario,” Viertel said. “There’s a cutoff for how much something can cost before it stops making sense.”