Without question, Benny and Rafi Fine (more commonly known as “The Fine Brothers”) are the hardest-working duo in new media. Between writing, directing and producing several series (the “React” series in all its iterations, “Spoiler”), the Brothers also host two channels on YouTubeand are the innovators behind “MyMusic,” a groundbreaking transmedia sitcom that anthropomorphizes musical genres and their various stereotypes into engrossing three-dimensional characters who run an online music magazine. Whew.As if you needed further proof of the show’s pedigree, “MyMusic” is up for nine Streamy Awards on February 17th, not including the Fine Brothers being finalists for a special Streamy Audience Choice “Personality of the Year” award, and should pretty much clean up based on its writing and technical achievements. So before they get too much busier, NMR managed to snag them for a spoiler-heavy (only in the behind the scenes sense) email interview.
Read on, and then check out the show here. And while you’re at it, look into NMR’s contest, giving away tickets to the Streamy’s!
How did the “MyMusic” idea come about in the first place?
“MyMusic” was a concept originally developed to pitch to television and came from our personal experience being self-admitted music snobs and the amusement and intrigue we found in us being very non-judgmental people in all aspects of life except the music people listen to. Taking that idea to an extreme where the characters’ names and personalities are their music genre is where the origins of the show came from. Once we got the opportunity to share with YouTube we adapted the concept for a web release but also made it into a long-form TV sitcom experience on the platform.
You pull in a huge number of YouTubers for not just cameos, but also starring roles. How do you work around all those crazy schedules?
Scheduling is a trying process for any medium, and this was no different. A lot of shifting of the order of what was shot and thinking outside the box on how to split coverage seamlessly was happening at all times. Kudos to our cast for rolling with the punches, last minute changes to the schedule and filming so many different episodes completely out of order almost all the time.
How much of an episode does an average shooting day encompass? Do you film out of sequence to make it easier on your actors?
We treated “MyMusic” like two feature films shooting in two shooting blocks several months apart. Days ran from 12 -16 hours, and we had 37 or 38 total shoot days total for the sitcom for over three hours of scripted content. We shot it in specific ways sometimes in and sometimes out of order to make it happen.
Do you both direct episodes or do you split up duties?
We always direct as a duo and directed the first block together, but once the show was released and we had to show run not just the main show but three other series on the MyMusic channel every week plus our multiple series on TheFineBros channel, we finally had to split up. For the second block Benny directed solo for most of the shoot. Our style primarily is Benny working more directly on actor performance with Rafi focusing on the technical video/audio side with each of assisting each other with both.
How does the writing go on “My Music”? Do you write out full seasons or take it week by week, changing things as situations arise?
We had a writers room consisting of us and four writers. We knew the storylines and worked with the writing team to break them into beats and scripts with us going back and doing a final polish. We wrote the first 18 web series episodes (3 sitcom episodes) a month before filming the first block, and wrote the second 16 episodes (3 more sitcom episodes) once the series debuted to make changes based on reception and to include audience input. The unconventional aspect at play here was how to write both a web series and a TV sitcom at the same time where viewing in either length feels full and proper for that medium. We are thrilled that we figured out that formula and had a 34 episode shorter form, 7 to 10 minute web series that turned into a 6 episode first season of 30-plus minute per episode TV style sitcom both to huge success. The three other weekly shows outside of the the sitcom (The Mosh, Presents, News) had new episodes written/shot/edited every single week to stay up to date and topical.
How have people reacted to “MyMusic”? Has there been any talk of expanding it beyond YouTube?
The reaction from fans has been massive and unbelievable. We have taken interactive and transmedia content to new levels with the show by not breaking the fourth wall and creating a real time sitcom and experience. Having well over 200 thousand followers across social media for fictional characters part of a transmedia experience is unheard of as well as millions of views for our ancillary content that helped bring the experience side outside the sitcom to life. Right now the series is a YouTube success, and our plans are to continue the show where its fans are. TV is hopefully in our future at some point be it ultimately where “MyMusic” ends up down the road or other series we create.
The funding for “MyMusic” came as part of the YouTube $100 Million Initiative, correct? Was “MyMusic’s” option picked up by YouTube for another year?
We are optimistic for the future of the project and are still in discussions with YouTube at this time.
“MyMusic” has been nominated for nine Streamys (including three for you guys personally) — have you gotten to watch many of the shows from the competition, and how good do you feel about your chances?
What’s encouraging about the Streamys this year that stands it out from other award shows is the wide spectrum of content and creators being recognized. It is clear there was no bias against successful series or more personality based YouTube channels, and that’s a step in the right direction that is different than in the past for web video award shows. We’re humbled to have gotten the most nominations for any show, but with so many amazing shows out there it’s hard to know what will happen. We hope the voting body recognizes the game changer we feel “MyMusic” is for the web. Either way we are honored to be nominated and look forward to celebrating with the community at the event.
You guys have basically been making videos for YouTube since its inception. How has the landscape changed in regards to celebrity, money, and going viral?
This is a broad question so we’ll touch on two things we hope to see change for the better when it comes to the current YouTube ecosystem. The multichannel networks continue to be something most media outlets and even creators themselves don’t understand, and we think there is great hope in them being pivotal for the web space, but for now mostly are out for themselves more than the creators regardless of the spin many of them try to claim — YouTube themselves need to regulate this system far better than they have so far. Another area that needs fixing is the lack of standards in viewership. We need ways to make sure advertisers/media outlets/studios/creators can all know what a real view is versus people just buying false views. The beauty of the system YouTube has proven where real people are watching a channel’s new videos every week is the major reason the needle has moved in this entire industry to date, but if these big companies keep coming in and buying their views and cheating the system, they will continue to make advertisers and studios think that we’re all lying about the power we have in our audiences and in YouTube, and the sooner these bigger companies can be more transparent and honest, the faster the economics will be brought to levels where bigger and better series and companies can continue to be created. The fact is there are many series on YouTube like our React shows with viewership in the millions, but rarely is there major sponsorship anywhere near the level of a Hulu or TV needs to change.
What is next on the horizon for the brothers Fine?
We will be premiering our first ongoing narrative animated series in March, continuing our four React shows, our Spoiler show, and hope to bring “MyMusic” season 2 as well as 5-10 new series to our channel in 2013 including more narrative series, interactive content and innovative crowdsourced content. We also are in the early planning for a tour to bring Kids and Teens react around the world.
You guys are good at spoiling things. Care to spoil how My Music ultimately ends?
Indeed we love to spoil things (though god help you if you try to spoil something for us – oh the irony!). As for MyMusic, we hope it never ends! Season 1 has the company out of money with a burned down office. Season 2 we hope to expand upon the interpersonal relationships of the characters, continue to innovate our transmedia elements, and hold the fort as the most immersive interactive series on the web today.