Dennis Dortch on the Secrets of Web Series Success

Dennis Dortch on the Secrets of Web Series Success

Here is an excerpt of an interview I did with Dennis Dortch, that’s posted in full on Filmmaker Magazine’s blog.


Dennis Dortch is the director of the Sundance film A Good Day to Be Black & Sexy, available to watch onNetflix now. He also has created a veritable empire on YouTube with his channel Black & Sexy TV consisting of two successful web series, The Couple and The Number, and two more on the way. He and his team are currently crowdfunding a film based on The Couple. In this interview he talks about the difference between creating a film and creating content for the Web, how to juggle multiple web series at a time and how to keep an audience with an increasingly short attention-span engaged.

BTBO: I saw in a previous interview that you were originally interested in the music business but switched to film. Are you happy with your choice? How involved are you in choosing the music for your content?

Dortch: Yes. I feel that I didn’t have to make a choice. I’m not developed as a hands on producer as I always dreamed…but I am the music supervisor for all of our content. It’s all my sensibilities and the throwback SOS Band-like theme song for RoomiesLoversFriends was my vision. I put the recording artist/producer dream team of Allegra Dolores and Lukecage together to make it happen.

BTBO: How does your experience doing the film A Good Day to Be Black & Sexy differ from doing Web series–creatively and from a business point of view?

Dortch: Creatively, it’s no different. Especially since I did vignettes for the film. The webisodes are just vignettes to me. Same approach. And I like the freedom of it. Business is definitely different. For the film it was less about the business and more about a jumpstart and leap of faith for my career. In the end, if you’re lucky, a film takes a couple years before you see any money.  You go to festivals and try to build up buzz for the film and hope to attract a distributor. Then if you’re lucky to be picked up for distribution, that distributor attempts to create an audience for your film in 30 days or less with very little money and no staff. And they throw your film up against the wall to see if it will stick.

For the Web content, you are an entrepreneur from the jump. It’s all about building an audience from day one. You live or die by the amount of views, likes, and comments each episode accrues. That is your rating system Then if you are so lucky to build and retain an audience, then you have to figure out how to monetize that content or sell it. It’s a lot more immediate and tangible in terms of business. With a film you’re guessing what the audience will do with your one shot. With digital content, you get many chances. You are testing what an audience will do before you commit too much time, energy, and resources into a project and get back an immediate response. You are already that much smarter and experienced in a matter of hours after each release. Read more here.