Updated: Jul 14
It takes a lot of creativity to bring sometimes intensely serious news to the screen comedically, but it is more than possible, even easy, if you have the right talent and approach behind you.
By Bryan Bakker
In this blog I'm going to outline the raw resources you need, available almost everywhere in the western world, to build your Newsload Editor's team. The Newsload isn't reinventing the wheel. All we do is bring the pieces together and structure them with purpose to capitalize on new opportunities.
Before this blog is done you will see how to build your team, find stories, build partnerships, monetize your content and how to be funny. Let's get started:
The Newsload Editor's Team
A Newsload outlet can be one person, a small team or a big team. In all cases there are three roles that must be filled to be successful.
A professionally trained journalist(s) is key to any Newsload team. By working together local journalists can help get your Newsload outlet attention. Best case they join your "writer's room" sessions and coordinates the publishing of important stories with the production of sketches that'll be used to popularize them.
PITCHING A JOURNALIST:
Working together creates a virtuous circle that will bring attention to their work, thereby bringing attention to your work, thereby bringing attention to their work, and on. In the early stages these benefits may be small, but over time, if your content is entertaining, it will grow by a lot.
Not a lot of extra time needs to be expended by journalists on your team. They are stressed and over stretched so any time taken away from their family or reporting is not necessary. They need to do their job while the Newsload Editor's team does theirs. That said, occasional head's ups and help promoting the comedic content is in everyone's best interest.
TIP: Notice, we talk about working with journalists, not their corporate overlords. This is only to emphasize that it's the journalist, their training and integrity that's important, not necessarily the outlet they represent. In some cases the outlet may need to be pushed to cover important stories. If you live in a community like this, working to help popularize the work of a trusted freelance journalist, may be the best course. If you're successful, corporate media will come to you.
Every community has aspiring videographers (cinematographers, DOPs, directors, editors) looking for excuses to produce more portfolio. Most will at least offer a reduced rate to get started and be excited to be part of something so potentially impactful. These team members are the most technically skilled, as the filming/editing quality of comedy content will matter. That said comedy is special and capture quality is often secondary to great content.
PITCHING A VIDEOGRAPHER:
Many videographers want to pursue a career in film, whether documentary or narrative fiction. In order to be taken seriously by potential funders they have to have a stack of work behind them, both to show off with as well as learn on the ground with. Your Newsload outlet can provide ongoing legitimate opportunities to do both.
As your outlet grows you will be able to pay them for their time; as long as they are willing to help you get there.
Being part of a Newsload team is like being part of a very special niche of the arts community. The talent videographers will rub elbows with doing this work will pay dividends for years to come.
TIP: This work is fucking fun. If a Newsload Editor is doing his or her job right, shoots should be a blast with laughs off screen informing content that gets laughs on the screen. Good people make good comedy. It's a rule of thumb that has few exceptions.
Talented funny people are out there. You just need to find them. The best are improv comedians, so search for a local improv troupe or club in your area. Ask around at the local live theatre or just call that old friend who used to get everyone roaring in class or at parties on the weekend. Once you find them, if they can translate their magic onto the screen, you have found your gold. Build your "writers room" to help generate ideas and loose scripts for your sketches and then get busy producing content.
PITCHING A COMEDIAN
Similar to videographers, comedians are often looking for any opportunity to pursue their passion in a public forum. They need portfolio and work behind them to leverage into auditions and show progress in their careers.
Many of these talented folks have no interest necessarily in making a living as an improv comedian but will help just for fun or for the cause. This is great. If you find someone like this your job becomes trying to get them paid so that they will continue to help and maybe even think there could be a future in it.
Not everything produced by main stream comedy is hilarious. Some of it is just amusing and some is plain stupid. But remember humour is subjective. Your stupid may be another's hilarious. Also remember that audiences will be forgiving if you keep at it and occasionally come up with great content. Your comedy is backed by real news, so you have an advantage over other content producer who are just selling shit or trying to become an influencer,
Your Raw Resources Are Out There
What's amazing about starting a Newsload outlet is that it's kinda like playing a video game where all the items you need to succeed in your mission are just laying around and all you have to do is walk around and look for them.
Finding your team is first part of this hunt. Once that's done the primary raw resource you need are the stories. In that regard gold is everywhere. People don't know what they don't know. Since journalism has been so understaffed for so long there are a zillion important and adaptable stories just laying around waiting to be exposed and parodied.
The journalist on your team may be the best source but don't be afraid to do some digging yourself. When you find something, get your journalist team member(s) to write about it and then build off of what he or she writes.
How to Make Money
Here's a list that intuitively is the same as many lists online businesses survive on. The main factors to keep in mind here are the ethical ones. The Newsload is about using a single brand to promote journalism and get local news talked about again. We don't trade or sell good coverage for advantage and we certainly do not bend the truth.
Partner with a mainstream newsroom(s): create a virtuous circle with them if possible. They promote your outlet, you send views to their content. Everyone wins.
Set up ads and/or create pay walls: this approach is not my favourite but if undertaken should be tried only after you have built your reputation as having content that is worth watching. Until you're popular you have to just give it away to build your following.
Product placements and sponsorships: this avenue is an early starter for earning some coin at the beginning. Find local businesses that want to be part of your growing viewership. Tell them your one year and five year plan and leverage their help today based on your expectations of what that'll be worth in years to come. Being funny is the key to being successful.
Donations: keep in mind that there are many people who are in the know when it comes to how serious the problem of shrinking local news coverage is and how this bodes very poorly for the future of democracy over time. If you find these people ask them to donate so that you can keep the lights on and get the word out there about important local stories.
Consult: think outside the box and approach us to help you set up some consulting services to sell consulting, etc. within the Newsload network. (Once the Newsload grows to a big enough stature we anticipate many opportunities for insiders to help keep the momentum going. We plan to dump all our profits into keeping this business growing.)
Natural Allies: (This list will be expanded over time)
This is a list of organizations that you should approach to see if they can help you get off the ground.
Video Production Companies
Live Theatre Guilds
Arts Community Associations
How To Be Funny
This is both hard and easy. It's hard in that, if you overthink it, you'll get stuck. It's easy in that if you just let yourself go, bring funny folks into your circle, the gags will almost write themselves. Create a loose writer's room, develop loose scripts based on key themes, then trust the funny folks you're working with to improv funny on the fly as the camera's role.
Key Rules: (This list will be expanded over time)
Don't be intimidated: confidence is everything.
You don't need to be original: the same but different is the saying in the industry.
High caliber talent will carry the day: find hilarious talent.
There are ton of books out there on how to be funny but here a few things I suggest. I'll add to this list over time. Just remember it is better to do and fail, then not to do at all.
Create Characters: (This list will be expanded over time)
Get your talent to create interesting, eccentric characters that tell your stories. This is how talented people carry the day:
Give them a crazy edge
Give them a specific flaw
Give them a specific disability
Give them a strange sexual proclivity
Opposites Rule: (This list will be expanded over time)
If you are taking on a super serious topic the opposites rule can help. Here a few examples:
Bank caught stealing money - reported by bank robber wondering if he can get a refund.
Riot at local prison - School teacher takes over for guards and gives them detention
City Hall starts study on homelessness - wealthy dude complains about vacuuming all the rooms in his mansion.
Sketch ideas: (This list will be expanded over time)
These ideas can work for almost any story.
Comedic Interview: Have your talent use their funny character to interview VIPs on camera.
Mime reporters: Have an anchor interpret the message of some fake mimes on scene outside a location where the story you are linking too took place.
Argumentative reporters: Two reporters follow the mayor out of city hall arguing amongst themselves as to who gets to ask the big question exposition question.
Bicycle reporter: Have your talent ride a bicycle around town with a voice over.
Reenactments: a typical sketch on a set (game show, living room, convo, etc.)
The News Desk: similar to SNL's Weekend Update