UPROXX digital media company recently announced their plans to expand into video production through their partnership with the funny guys and gals of 5-Second Films (5SF). Founded by Brian Brater and Jarret Myer in 2008, UPROXX has grown as an online publication covering the news and gossip of the entertainment and digital world. Myer, who is also a co-founder of Big Frame and Rawkus Records, has established himself as a digital media entrepreneur by making a completely self-funded publication with year after year of positive cash flow. Started the same year as it’s new partner, 5SF is a group of 14 comedians who write, film and direct 5 second comedic shorts about everything from the demons inside your couch to the consequences of drinking the water in Mexico.
After working together for several years, 5SF and Myer are excited to break away from 5-second skits and create longer comedy video content. NMR talked with cast members from 5SF– Brian Firenzi, Alec Owen, Kelsey Gunn, Michael Peter, Mike James and Olivia Taylor Dudley– and entrepreneur Jarret Myer to discuss the growth of their companies and, after two years of working together, why now is the perfect time to unveil this comedic partnership.
I’m here with the whole crew of 5-Second films, the is a big crew.
Michael Peter: Yes, there are 7 people here, but we have like twice as many people.
Brian Firenzi: I would say somewhere around the vicinity of 12.
Mike James: I think it’s 12.
Alec Owen: I think it’s funny that we don’t know.
What is it like working with such a big group on this venture?
Kelsey Gunn: Exhausting. We are just giving one word answers at this point.
Olivia Taylor Dudley: I think it’s awesome because we get to all wear different hats all the time. We get to change what we’re doing. Some days some people can help, some days other people can’t help and there is never a shortage of ideas, which is awesome.
Alec Owen: It is fun because we all do different stuff and have different schedules, so it’s fun to see what grouping of people shows up on any given day and who we have to work with and who’s gonna be grip, who’s gonna run sound, who’s gonna shoot it, et cetera.
What do you think working with such a big team has afforded you guys? How has it made the channel better and the content better?
Mike James: I think it makes it better just because having so many people, not just working on 5SF but also working on other things, we have one foot in comedy but also one foot in general entertainment. It’s like with Tom or John Salmon, we are always tossing each others jobs and stuff. “Hey I need you to AC this shoot” or “Hey I need you to do this.” We all work constantly, not just on 5SF but on a range of projects knowing the ebb and flow of what each person can do.
Alec Owen: In terms of the website we have just so much output, how many editors do we have, five? Something like that? If it was just one, I think that person would want to kill themselves. (group laughs)
Michael Peter: I think another great thing about having a large group do this type of site, the website is reflective of so many different types of humor. We have really, really dark jokes, we have really simple puns, we have like quiet, cool character pieces that are quirky and funny and then we have just completely outlandish “now there is a talking camel in the room” jokes. That happens from us all having different senses of humor because our audience has different senses of humor.
Having a website and being a part of that new media revolution, how has that allowed you guys to put out the content that maybe before wouldn’t have happened?
Brian Firenzi: The sheer fact that by the nature of our format we can cater to such a short attention span, and on top of that, our videos are easy to download and they’re easy to share and send. We’ve really capitalized on the bite-size nature of internet content. People really crave speed and that’s what we offered from the start. I don’t think there has been anyone in the history of watching 5SF who has just stopped 5SF halfway through because they’re bored. You can’t even do it, your finger can’t even move that fast.
Alec Owen: I remember before I joined the group and I was doing sketch comedy with another group and watching 5SF and thinking “God damn it, these fuckers have it all figured out, this is it!”
Mike James: Same. I was in a YouTube comedy sketch group as well and when we would have our group meetings we would use 5-second films as the example. Like this is what we need to be! If you weren’t in 5SF then you wanted to be in 5SF.
How did you guys come to partner with UPROXX?
Michael Peters: Well, we all started out individually as fans of UPROXX. A lot of us went to their blogs. They have a little thing to send them tips in an email, I sheepishly started sending them emails if we have a 5SF that was related to TV or film. I think the first one that was posted was our “Lost Writers Room” which is one that we did about two weeks before the series finale of “Lost.” Through that, we started building a relationship with the bloggers and with Jarret and then one day got an email saying “hey, would you guys be interested in putting together a Top 20 compilation” and we’re like ‘hell yeah.’ We did a Top 20 of all of our most popular and highest rated and highest viewed 5SF films, sent that to them, and it blew up with like 2.5 million views. And then, we were like that was great, we should talk more about doing some stuff. Then about 9 months later, we did a Top 20 part 2 and that also blew up and got a million views. At that point we started talking more seriously about it and we, as a group, have always yearned for doing longer form content.
We have a handful of minute to 2 minute sketches on our site but we’re so busy doing 5SF and unless you have a real purpose to sit down and be like lets shoot a 2-minute sketch today, we’re like you should shoot 5SF instead. This kind of gave us a purpose and a nice outlet where we could say, ‘Hey, alright lets get together and shoot a couple sketches every weekend on top of our 5SF.’ We know it’s going to have an outlet, we know it’s going to have an audience and we can join the subscribers that we’ve built with the subscribers and audience that UPROXX has built.
Brian Firenzi: The other thing is we want to make sure we retain our voice. There is always the potential to cram in jokes or go down an avenue that you think is funny just because it’s topical or what not. I see this a lot in internet sketch comedy specifically and I feel like that’s not our voice. What we need to do is stay weird and keep getting people what we make.
Jarret Myer: I was in the music industry prior to being involved in this online world and I loved it, I had a great time. I did it for about 10 years, it was a label called Rawkus Records. When we sold the label in 2005, we were looking for something to do next. My partner Brian Brater, who is also my partner at UPROXX, and I just wanted to get into something where there was hardcore fan engagement. Like that’s pretty much what turned us on, the culture of real fans, people who are seriously engaged and loving things. We launched UPROXX in August of 2008. Basically the idea was to have a brand that had separate sections and some of those sections would be more general and some of them would be really specific. That’s really important to me which leads me to UPROXX video. I expect that as UPROXX video rolls out these guys will have a series of different shows and each show will have its own voice and its own identity. I’m really kind of leaving it up to them.
Let’s talk about video, why do you think it is so important now for UPROXX to move into video and partner with 5SF?
Jarret Myer: I think for any media company, not having a video presence is kind of like not having a Facebook or Twitter account at this point. You just have to but you have to do it right. I have a great history with these guys, they are actually the only video creators we’ve ever worked with at UPROXX. It isn’t like we tried out a bunch of different people, it’s been completely organic, we started posting their videos, got an enormous response on the site, then we started doing collaborations. They’re actually the only people we have ever worked with.
What kind of content are you guys looking to create together now?
Jarret Myer: To be honest with you, I did the deal with them because I felt like they understood my audience. They comment on our articles, they send up tips, they actually send in ideas for content and since they’re our power users, I trust them to make the content. It’s not like I am sitting around and approving it or anything.
Your site covers a lot– it covers entertainment,sports, etc– it’s a very wide spectrum. What do you think the cohesive element that pulls it all together to make UPROXX is?
Jarret Myer: It was all about building a community. It was almost like build the community and then the media company will evolve around the community you know? And it’s worked so the community was finding really clever, smart people. I call them sort of like the coolest people in your office. The one who kind of discovers things first, who have the most pop culture references, who know a lot but aren’t so serious about it. They can approach it with a sense of humor and I think that’s a big secret to our success. The fact that we have a lot of engaged conversation, but it doesn’t devolve into I’m right, you’re wrong. We can agree to disagree and have a laugh about it.
UPROXX has been completely self-funded over 6 years. Being self-funded and never seeing negative cash flow, something like that, it’s very impressive. What is the core strategy that has been in place at UPROXX since the beginning and made it such a great model?
Jarret Myer: It is true, never taken any outside capital. We took a little bit of money from a really good friend, someone who worked with me in the music industry who is very big time guy. He asked me what I was doing and I said I am going to do this and it’s going to take a while, this isn’t something like get rich fast, it’s about developing a grassroots community. I think the secret for us was taking our time. There is a lot of noise if you’re an entrepreneur, everyone is telling you things that you have to do and I just never subscribe to any of that. I feel like I have to cater to my core audience and give them great tools to communicate with one another. When the time is right, if there is a good opportunity, a good mix, a good creator and we’re completely aligned, then work out a way to make it economically feasible for all of us.
Now UPROXX is going into this online video space, you’re a founder of Big Frame, what do you think of this new media industry, is it new media anymore? Is it mainstream?
Jarret Myer: I don’t know, I’m not an authority on that kind of thing. I don’t think new media is the norm yet. I think for a generation it is but I’m older so not all of my friends are on it but my kids rarely watch television, they just watch YouTube.
Do you think online video will supplant television at some point?
Jarret Myer: I really think there is a room for all this stuff to coexist. I think the production on television, you don’t see that kind of production yet on YouTube. There are things that really, really appeal to me about this world which is it’s DIY nature of it. What I think is that you’re gonna have things that couldn’t get a show made on television, couldn’t get a movie made that are going to say ‘F- it,’ take it to Kickstarter and they’re going to be making stuff that is going to be the quality of our favorite shows on television. I don’t know when that’s going to happen but of course it’s going to.