School dances are not fun for everyone. If we’ve learned anything from countless teen movies and TV shows, it’s that. Squaresville opens with our heroines going to a dance, but they’ve sidestepped the whole dancing thing. Instead they show up to do some gardening — guerilla-style — and not very well either.
“The only statement we’re making is that we’re sucky gardeners and even worse vandals,” Esther (above, left) tells Zelda.
Squaresville is the brainchild of Matt Enlow, who has been working in web video for several years, and it’s a great case study of how to launch an indie scripted show. Lyrical and quirky, beautifully photographed but unpretentious, Squaresville is quite an achievement from conception to distribution.
A graduate of USC, Enlow started out working on music videos and doing project management for a web start-up. He landed at Strike TV, the network outgrowth of the 2007-2008 WGA strike (known for inspiring series like Dr. Horrible and Anyone But Me, among numerous others). Enlow and his wife, Christine Weatherup (who acts in and also produced Squaresville) had already done one web series, Engaged, their first. While at Strike, he did some consulting and put together a well-received, Streamy-nominated series, Mountain Man.
Soon the opportunity arose to work at Atom, now firmly under the Comedy Central brand. He jumped at it, and still works there. “I grew up kind of romanticizing that early dot-com boom…That heyday of the San Francisco/Silicon Valley Internet-boom,” Enlow said (Atom started in the late 1990s). Despite being owned by Viacom, Atom felt like a start-up. “There was still a ton of freedom,” he said.
Working as both a director, producer and executive gave Enlow a unique perspective on the web video market. He understands the concerns of creative workers but is also aware of the un-glamorous aspects of marketing and distribution: “No one at Variety is like: ‘Thanks to marquee wording and tagging, that made them boffo!’”
Squaresville is a product of his diverse experiences. The show was pitched to a variety of companies, and some offers came back, but with strings attached. Enlow decided to go to Kickstarter and raised an impressive $12,000, a significant amount for an original show.
How did he do it? The key to his Kickstarter success was providing triggers, new material, footage and prizes to get fans excited about the project. Before starting the campaign, Enlow had shot one weekend’s worth of material (see video above). For each fundraising goal the show reached, he released new material. “I didn’t have to say donate, donate, donate, donate!,” he said.
The idea for Squaresville ties in with its marketing. Enlow wanted to target a young audience because they’re more open to new forms of storytelling and develop deep bonds with media that speaks to them. A show about awkward teen girls could do that. “The first people who go online are people who are separated or alienated or ostracized from their real-life world,” he said. “A 40-year-old person isn’t going to watch a web series that’s really going to change their lives. That’s not going to happen – yet.”
Squaresville also has an interesting episode structure, combining serialized storylines and shorter one-offs (minisodes). Enlow wanted to create different entry points for viewers who may not start on episode one.
He also spends a lot of time interacting with fans and updating the show’s Tumblr, all while releasing regular “Behind the Scenes” and “Q&Hey” videos. There’s also some merchandise available. Of course the show is on Facebook and Twitter (L7 = square. Get it?).
Finally, Enlow has partnered with Big Frame to build the show’s audience. “They have the right demo or audience for what I was doing…I just knew that they were the right fit, a balance of infrastructure and support and creative freedom.”