I sat down with Chris Blair, Founder, to talk about how Candivan came to be.
HI CHRIS! LET’S START BY TALKING A LITTLE BIT ABOUT CANDIVAN. WHAT IS CANDIVAN?
CB: Candivan is a haven for aspiring web TV writers and creators. It’s a place that’s going to resource and stream the best ideas from the undiscovered talent out there. It’s also a haven for viewers tired of seeing shows that aren’t taking risks. It’s a place where these supportive, passionate and engaged viewers will get a say in the destiny of the shows by voting on their favorites.
Our goal is to produce and stream shows by talented writers who take risks with style, format, subject-matter, story, character.
AWESOME, HOW DID THIS IDEA COME ABOUT?
CB: This all came up over fifteen years ago.
I was starting college. I was a filmmaker, and I had a friend, Monet, who was a great artist. Not that Monet. We used to record ourselves coming up with all kinds of crazy ideas. And a lot of times they were ideas for TV shows. I’m not going to stand with the quality of all of them, but there was a ton. I remember an action show called Badges of Fury, a Requiem for a Dream type show, and some sort of prison musical.
But you know because we didn’t happen to be rich executives or Hollywood producers, all of this was impossible. Equipment was expensive, we didn’t have access to editing software, and it was before the iPhone. I mean in film school, we were shooting on Super 8. It didn’t even have sound, and we had to send it to a place that would edit stuff out if they found it too naughty. I had a digital camera, but it was still so limited then.
Then the idea struck me one time: a TV channel that didn’t exist yet-- something where anyone with a great idea could make the ideas that they had. Not all rinky-dink like. But these fully formed ideas. And people would see them. Because so many people have great ideas.
I started telling other friends and filmmakers about this, and they loved the concept. And many of them had their own ideas for shows that they wanted to exist. This idea lit them up. Which felt cool.
But of course, it was all hypothetical and not fleshed out. Like, “hey wouldn’t it be cool if this existed.” I was young, and I had these other life trajectories. But the seed was planted. And, unlike many other seeds-of-ideas that I’ve had and put away over the years, I would always think about this one. Short story long.
WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN UP TO IN THE MEANTIME?
CB: I created short-films and videos, including this web series, called Tragedy Club. I’m also an improviser, both teaching and performing. In 2010, I co-founded Endgames, an improv company in SF. I’m an OG member and still in this show Your F****ked Up Relationship, which has sold out most Fridays the past six years. And I’ve taught a lot of aspiring improvisers, writers, filmmakers over there and at colleges.
SO WHY ARE YOU LAUNCHING CANDIVAN NOW, ALL THESE YEARS LATER?
CB: Besides insanity? I’ve gotten to be part of a lot of great projects over the past few years.
But I’ve also worked on shows that never saw the light of day. In 2014, I was sitting at a table with seriously some of the funniest people in San Francisco, working on a web show, the Downward Viral, this comedy about a startup. Great, hilarious ideas were being thrown out.
The problem, like the problem with the last couple times I tried getting a cool project off the ground, we got no funding.
And so the show didn’t get made.
I’ve met, taught and worked with hundreds of talented creators in the same predicament. They have great ideas that will never get made because they don’t have the means to make it.
And we’re entering an era where people really appreciate TV, and viewers are getting smarter, so we need to get more niche ideas out there. Candivan is for the creators. We will help them make their shows.
THE MEDIA LANDSCAPE HAS CHANGED SO MUCH IN THAT TIME. HOW WILL THAT IMPACT CANDIVAN?
CB: TV consumption has definitely changed. I mean drastically. YouTube and other online streaming sites have paved the way. In many ways YouTube has been amazing for unknown creators, and now they are getting into producing with YouTube Red, as is Facebook and many others. But these sites are still vast places without a consistent quality or brand of content. And yes, there is Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and more which are producing amazing stuff with huge budgets, but that means they are not going to take risks on unknown, unproven creators.
That’s where I see Candivan. We fall somewhere between these two mediums. Maybe doing this is a bit crazy and hugely ambitious, and a tremendous gamble. But it’s something I know needs to be done. I want Candivan to help undiscovered creators make their shows, and bring them an audience of passionate viewers who get it. It’s a hub for really cool, smart, edgy, artistic shows that are taking risks. And we’re going to do it all on a small budget for now. This is the beginning of a dream. But I think it’s time for all the talented creators who are willing to take risks to shine.
WHY THE NAME CANDIVAN?
CB: Growing up adults tell you to stay away from strangers with candy, but they don’t say why. So there’s an allure of the unknown dangers behind it. Like Willy Wonka’s factory. I wanted to express a certain edginess in the brand because we’re asking our showrunners to be risky and take chances, so we have to too. This is not going to be mass-appeal watered down content. Instead we will stream great shows that will inspire you and make you think in new ways.
Plus, TV shows are a bit like a candy. The best ones really draw us in, but they’re addictive, and there’s a delightful badness admitting to binge-watching something. I wanted to communicate “Come watch some Candivan shows! We’ll get you hooked.”
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE BIGGEST OBSTACLES TO SUCCESS SMALL CREATORS HAVE?
CB: I think it’s resources, mentorship and distribution. So in 2012, I wrote the mockumentary web series called Tragedy Club, following this amateur film crew's attempt at making a low-budget movie. We shot seven full length episodes and over a dozen mini-episodes. We spent nearly six months on production, years on postproduction, thousands of dollars, lots of people’s time and generosity, and a whole lot of patience. I had never used the word “arduous” in a sentence until I worked on this thing.
And what happened when it was all done?
It went up on YouTube and got a few views (except the episodes that starred the dominatrix character—those got a few thousand views).
All of this work, and it’s was so hard to find an audience.
Some people get lucky, and they wind up getting their script picked up by a network, but I’ve seen many many talented writers and filmmakers, who could potentially be creating the next The Wire or Master of None, who don’t have the right connections and will never get their script seen, let alone made.
For every great show like those, or Arrested Development, or Black Mirror, that are being made, there are so many more that won’t exist.
HOW ELSE DO YOU PLAN TO WORK WITH CREATORS?
CB: One of the major goals of Candivan is to help creators to get better. We want to be a launching pad for unknown writers, showrunners, and creative teams. To do that I think an educational component is super important.
You know, if I could do Tragedy Club over again, I’d make some way different decisions. This goes even more for the first short I ever made, Pankcakes, which has since been lost to the dark void of the internet. Thankfully. I had no idea what I was doing, and I realized that the same went for most of the people I was working with. We had no guide, and no direction.
Candivan is not only a place where great shows exist, but it will be a place creators can come to to get better. We plan to create a Candivan community where creators will be able to upload a series they’re working on, get feedback, and eventually taking filmmakers to a place where we might produce their shows.
We also have a “Film School” series on the blog, where aspiring creators can get tips on tv writing, cinematography, production and more. Eventually we might expand this, but we’ll see!
YOU’RE A WRITER! DO YOU PLAN TO WRITE ANY SHOWS FOR CANDIVAN?
CB: Oh yeah, for sure! This is the most selfish of the reasons I am creating Candivan. But it’s part of what is driving me: I know how much this could benefit a writer like me, and so I know how valuable it will be to so many others.
There’s a lot of ideas I still want to make happen. And, of course, I’ll be subject to the scrutiny of our viewers!
OK, SO WHEN DO YOU PLAN TO LAUNCH?
Right now we are scouting for content, and we are open for show idea submissions. We’ve been overwhelmed with amazing ideas, and I’m really excited by the stuff coming through. Once we have an assortment of shows we can launch with, we will be hosting a Kickstarter campaign in early 2018 to help with initial funding. We’ll prolly run with 4-5 shows to start.
The first Candivan pitch deadline is October 18, 2017. You can submit your idea on our website.