Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Anime Sushi


Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation!  Today I am joined by Tip McPartland, one of the producers of the Anime Sushi  TV show and Kickstarter.  Thank you for joining us today Tip!
Thank you for having me!  It’s a pleasure to be here, and thanks to you for recognizing that we’re doing something very special by promoting anime culture and working to bring the world of anime into millions of living rooms nationwide.  
You flatter me Tip! As someone who was big into the anime scene from 1998 onward I have to say I jumped at trying to get an interview with your group. Can you give us a brief overview for those who aren’t crazy otaku like I was?
Anime is Japanese animation, which has a very different visual and emotional appeal from American and European animation.  Most Americans who are unfamiliar with the format would immediately recognize it as the style of animation featuring characters with “big” eyes.  There are many different sub-genres of anime with different story themes, and each has passionately involved fans.  Our TV series Anime Sushi focuses on anime, obviously, but also on manga, which is the print form of anime and cosplay, in which fans dress in elaborate costumes and role play their favorite characters.  Otaku culture is fascinating, with contagious energy.
Our group has been drawn to anime first through influence, and then through appreciation.  His two teenage daughters, both serious fans and cosplayers, exposed Karl Laundy to anime.  Karl worked as an editor on several shows, and came to realize that anime has some of the best characters, artwork and storytelling on TV.
My kids also drew me into anime. They took me to some cons and shared some great series with me.  As a writer/producer, I loved the high quality of the storytelling and the warmth of the characters.  When I watched Tadao Tomomatsu holding forth as Toastmaster at ALA, I realized that here was a person who could embody the spirit of the anime culture and bring it to TV.
Tadao and I spent two full days shooting HD video at Anime Expo and when Duncan Burns and Kelvin Porter saw this fantastic footage, as seasoned TV pros they both immediately realized that something special was going on and jumped in with both feet.  Duncan in turn brought our lead publicist Tracy Blackburn in, since her background included helping launch the Neon Alley streaming anime network.  Duncan also brought social media specialist Erik Vanlier onto the project, and Erik is an otaku himself. The synergies were just too great to ignore.  So here we are!

So why an Anime centric magazine style show, or as you call it, “a weekly half-hour series that blasts at warp speed through the universe of anime, manga and gaming, keeping fans in close touch with these industries' hugely-popular television, movies, print formats, games and toys?”  

There is nothing out there like Anime Sushi where fans can watch the full gamut of anime,
manga and gaming, from new developments to all aspects of otaku culture. Right now there are quite a few anime series airing on television. But even though these shows and manga are the source of everything; they’re just a small part of what has become a rich and unique culture revolving around cons, cosplay and gaming, as well as being a part of tightly knit groups and friendships based on shared interests. Yes, people watch the shows, play the games and read the manga, but it’s this culture itself that infuses their lives with something very special. Walk around any anime con, you’ll see people that are living in a world that an outsider could never imagine. Anime Sushi will recognize and celebrate these colorful, passionate people and their exciting lifestyle, and bring it to TV in a way that’s irresistible to fans, but also open and engaging enough to speak to people that were outsiders – until they watch Anime Sushi, that is!

It seems to me like you’ve got a great concept for a show in an underserved market, why do you need to come to Kickstarter?  

As veteran producers, we’re packaging Anime Sushi much as television shows have always been packaged, so we’re working to attach talent, co-producers, sponsors and broadcasters until the show reaches critical mass.  If there were no such thing as Kickstarter, Anime Sushi could well come into being through this time-tested process.  But with the phenomenon of Kickstarter potentiating all types of projects including TV shows, it became clear to us that packaging can be greatly accelerated using Kickstarter because now our pilot can drive this process, not just result from it.

As someone who has attempted to do something similar way back in the day I know how hard it is to set up interviews in a crowded convention, let alone get usable footage from said interview, what are you doing to facilitate these kinds of “man on scene” interviews?  Better microphones?  Booth space for shots?  

To get great interview footage in a crowded, noisy convention setting, you do need excellent sound equipment -- we use a special Sennheiser mic that rejects much of the background noise.  But you also need talent that knows how to handle a mic well by putting it in just the right position to capture a voice cleanly, whether their own or an interview subject.
How long has your team been “in the industry” as it were?  

All of us have solid track records in television and film.  I have worked in development for many years and co-created shows including GSN’s National Lampoon’s Funny Money and Showtime’s Green Collar Comedy.  Duncan Burns is an editor with two Emmy nominations, and Karl Laundy is also a seasoned editor with impeccable network experience and connections.  Kelvin Porter has worked as a production executive for some well-known companies on series, TV movies, and feature films.  Our lead publicist Tracy Blackburn has been a media relations specialist and social media manager in the entertainment industry for many years, and our social media expert Erik Vanlier has an amazing track record in mobilizing coverage via those channels.  Between all of us, there isn’t much we haven’t done or can’t do.

So what does “Anime Sushi” (working title) provide that I can’t get from news sites like Crunchyroll or Anime News Network?  
Anime Sushi goes deeper than the news and into the culture, community and lifestyle of the otaku.   Crunchyroll is an awesome site for news and programming and Anime News Network does a great job of living up to its name.  But neither one’s mission is to present and celebrate all aspects of anime culture in the round, going beyond the programming and the news and into the lives of the people who make the anime world what it is -- the artists, the voice actors, the con staffs, but most of all the fans.

What distribution methods are you considering?  You mention Neon Alley as a fallback option among other online systems (I’m assuming Hulu and Crunchyroll are possible candidates)  what is your primary plan?  If you could distribute the show in any way you wanted what would be the dream distribution?  

Our dream distribution for Anime Sushi would be to air it on a mainstream cable channel like Cartoon Network, G4 or SyFy.  All the cable networks are trying to attract younger viewers, and Anime Sushi could help them reach more viewers in the 13-17 and 18-34 demos.  Anime Sushi also includes the strong lifestyle elements that work well on TV.  So we will be setting pitch meetings with several of these networks.
We will also be targeting distributors that have a pure anime focus, whether a niche cable network like Funimation’s channel, a streaming web site like Crunchyroll, or an on-line scheduled channel like Neon Alley.


Tadao Tomomatsu and Ella Bowen seem to be knowledgeable and energetic hosts, where did you find them?

Both of our hosts are otakus and immersed in the culture in every way. I first saw Tadao Tomomatsu conducting an event at the 2010 Anime Los Angeles called Weird Science.  I knew that he was Toastmaster at ALA, so I understood that he commanded a great deal of respect from the anime community.  Watching Tadao work the crowd, I was immediately wowed by a very talented entertainer.  Tadao is exceptionally likeable and charismatic, has great comedic timing and delivery, and is an amazing improv actor.
At the following year’s ALA, I was scouting around for a co-host with the talent to work with Tadao.  While enjoying the karaoke room, I began to notice that one of the room’s hosts stood out from the crowd.   Ella Bowen not only could grab the mic, belt out a tune and spice it up with great dance moves, she was amazingly vibrant, witty and attractive.  I knew she was something special, so I asked her if we could shoot some video together later that day.  Although we had just met, we both took a chance on each other and the shoot went very well.
When Duncan began to edit my footage, he quickly realized that lightning had indeed struck twice, and Ella was a special talent worthy of sharing the screen with Tadao.

So big of conventions do you plan to attend?  Are we talking only Anime Expo and Anime Los Angeles size and larger?  Or will you be showing up at smaller shows like Anime Vegas and Las Cruces Anime Days?  

During the show’s development phase, for logistical reasons our initial focus will be large Southern California events like Anime Expo and Anime Los Angeles and growing cons like AM2, and Anime Conji.  But when the show begins airing, we’ll have the means to fulfill our mission of bringing viewers the world of anime, so we’ll reach out to cons across America, both large and small, and eventually overseas.  Besides, we want to honor all the cons that are keeping anime alive in their regions while, of course, drawing viewers to our show because they appreciate seeing their own regions’ events covered.

One of the keys of a successful Kickstarter project is backer participation.  How are you engaging your backers?  What kinds of things do you have planned for updates?  Interviews?  Videos?  Stories from the project?

All of that!  Today we are focusing on getting all the footage we shot at Anime Los Angeles edited and up on our Kickstarter page, YouTube channel, Twitter and Facebook pages.  We want to show our current and potential backers a small sample of what the show will be like when we get fully funded for the pilot.
We spent the past three days speaking with the convention attendees and conducting an open casting call for segment hosts.  We are certain that when otakus see their friends and fellow fans on Anime Sushi showing the world how amazingly cool their lives are, they’ll understand what our mission is and be willing to back it!

What kind of media attention have you received with your project?  How are you spreading the word?  Facebook?  Twitter?  Google+? Youtube?  Advertising?  Are you using Kicktraq to help things along?

Tracy and Karl are building out our Facebook  and Twitter (@AnimeSushi_TV) presence, while Duncan has been spearheading our YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/user/duncanedit) and adding videos as fast as he gets them cut.  Tracy and Erik have also serviced a press release (http://eepurl.com/tEKTD) to the general media and to contacts in the anime blog realm. We’ve had a terrific response from such notable sites as The Akiba  (http://theakiba.com), Anime Full Circle (http://animefullcircle.com) and Cartoon Leap (www.facebook.com/cartoonleap).

Kicktraq is a great tool, and we’re using that to monitor our progress.  This week we’re setting up camp in even more online spaces like WordPress, Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram to drive traffic to our Kickstarter page. The more we can get the word out to the otaku online, the sooner we’ll reach and exceed our financial goals.

We also are in the planning stages of a traditional outreach campaign to Japanese cultural associations and Asian studies departments at universities, asking them to back this effort in spreading Japanese culture to American audience.   It’s especially important to Tadao to make Anime Sushi a cultural experience for our viewers, with segments on Japanese food and lifestyle.  January is going to be a very busy month for Team Anime Sushi!

Do you have any tips/advice would you give to anyone looking to start a Kickstarter?

A great video is essential to getting your point across – be real, be excited, be passionate, and it will stimulate your backers.

Thank you for spending your time with us!  Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?

Whatever your true love is, live it and be it.  2013 is a new chance to make your life exciting and fulfilling – and if anime, manga, gaming and otaku life is your passion, support it by backing Anime Sushi TV!

Thanks again and I hope to hear good things from your Kickstarter!
Thanks for the opportunity!