ZOE/DG State of the Union

  

ZOE/DG Year End Report

Here we are, the end of 2017, and what a challenging, rewarding, and surprising year this has been. Thanks for joining us on this journey together!

First, WE HAVE AWESOME 2017 WAFFLE PINS to give you, first come, first served, but we can’t ship until 2018, because our web store, dead.market, is temporarily closed. Details for reserving yours in an upcoming update!

Why is dead.market closed? Well, we’re shifting around all of the financial and reporting settings behind the scenes.

That story begins about nine months ago, when Don Early approached ZOE with an unexpected question: would we like to bring Dead Gentlemen into the ZOE corporate structure?

After much discussion, debate, and negotiation, the agreement was formalized and executed  in the last days of this year: Dead Gentlemen Productions is now part of Zombie Orpheus Entertainment. As The Muppets would sing, we’re Together Again!

It’s taken an extraordinary amount of work to turn two completely different companies into a streamlined, modern movie-making machine, but we’re thrilled with the results:

  • Dead Gentlemen will focus on serving the genre comedy market (especially with Gamers and  Demon Hunters)
  • Zombie Orpheus will focus on serving the genre drama market (especially with Strowlers and JourneyQuest)
  • DG will specifically take on community project development, shepherding new shows and concepts through the story and screenwriting process
  • ZOE will work on fundraising, production, and distribution
  • And both companies will reduce the amount of time that we spent sending money and paperwork back and forth by a margin that will radically reduce accounting complexity 
  • Dead.Market will provide a storefront and fulfillment for the entire catalog from both companies

As you might expect, it’s required a lot of effort to complete this process, but we shared the legal fees, bit the bullet, and made it over the finish line!

A massive special thanks to Don Early, who managed DG for many, many years. He was a phenomenal shepherd for the company’s growth and vision and is looking forward to focusing on both personal and Dead Gentlemen creative endeavors in 2018!

Video On Demand

We’ve also been negotiating with Vimeo On Demand (formerly VHX) for several months about making it 100% easier for all of you to access and watch our entire streaming library (more about the library in a moment). We’ll be signing with them shortly to launch video apps for iOS, Android, Roku, Google Play, Amazon Fire, and several other platforms.

Why so much work? Because ZOE Patreon supporters at $5 and up will get full access to all the premium content on any of these apps, in any platform that they’re available. And because they’re based on the apps that Vimeo/VHX has launched for dozens of other producers, they’ll just work.

On a technical side, in order to make your app experience simple and easy, we’re building a new SSO (single sign on) server, which will allow us to move from authenticating via Patreon to authenticating via Gluu. Your sign-on experience shouldn’t change, but this will make it so much easier for us to give you access to ZOE/DG material across our entire ecosystem.

And that’s good news, because our library is expanding dramatically. We’re continuing to add new shows to ZOE Premium and they will all be available within the app, making it easy for you to discover and watch new and old independent fantasy as part of the community of producers we’re building with The Fantasy Network.

But ZOE/DG, you ask, what about YOUR shows? You know, the whole reason you’re here?

How about a progress report?

JourneyQuest

Aside from a half-dozen edge cases, JQ3 rewards are totally fulfilled. Growing into a company that could handle that many Kickstarter pledges wasn’t easy and required reinventing much of our fulfillment process. It’s the first time we worked with a third-party fulfillment service and hopefully those bugs are now resolved.

We also spent $16,000 in 2017 on developing JQ Seasons 4 & 5, thanks to your support! We’re at the stage where Matt Vancil has delivered detailed treatments for both seasons. Before he writes the scripts we’re working with him to adjust scope and scale to fit what we think we can raise on Kickstarter and supplement with Patreon.

These treatments complete the entire JourneyQuest story and (you heard it here first) they’re genius. Vancil ties everything together and it’s devastating and beautiful and genuinely shocking.

We’re currently budgeting for potential shoots in Washington, Utah, or Bulgaria. Because castles.

Next steps? Writing Season 4 and launching a Kickstarter in the spring of 2018 for production later that year!

The Gamers: The Series

Delivery on The Shadow Menace suffered the most from the 2017 crunch. Fulfillment on JQ3 delayed Gamers mightily. The good news is that the DVDs and Blu-rays are done, so we’re barreling ahead in the new year to complete fulfillment. We’ll also launch soon on Amazon Prime Video and are hoping to find many more passionate Gamers fans as they discover how awesome the show is. (You’ve watched it, right? It’s streaming on ZOE Premium!)

Now that the JQ treatments are in we can better time new Gamers episodes. There are several massive reveals baked into JQ5 and we’ll have to stagger JQ and Gamers releases so that all of the payoffs hit in the right order. We’re past the midpoint in Matt Vancil’s Fartherall epic and hurtling toward the conclusions to all of the things.

Based on that timeline, we expect to produce JQ4, two more episodes of The Gamers: The Series, then JQ5, then wrap everything up with Gamers 4. (There may be one additional episode of The Gamers: The Series that plays concurrently with the action of Gamers 4.) Matt Vancil, Ben Dobyns, and Larry Dixon are sharing writing duties between these various pieces of the story.

And when that’s done if you’re not begging us to shoot Countermay, well, we’ll be pretty darn surprised.

Strowlers

We’re so close… the final audio mix for the pilot is scheduled for January 2018. This means that the launch of our new show will come to ZOE Premium in early February!

While that audio mix happens our new composer for Strowlers Ireland will be hard at work on the score, allowing us to move to audio post in February. As many of you probably remember, ZOE Patreon backers helped fund this episode way too long ago and we’re eager to bring the results to you! (Also, did you see The Last Jedi? We shot on the same exact place as the beehive huts from the Jedi temple and now you know exactly how gorgeous that landscape was!)

We’ve also hired an editor for Strowlers Mongolia, who will begin work in January. ZOE is no longer small enough for Ben to do everything hands-on and our new editor (who speaks Mongolian) will help get that project finished quickly.

Our story team is also hard at work on Episode 2, which an outline approved and scriptwriting begun. We’ve brought on a new writer, Nicole Pouchet, whose work as a fantasy novelist and screenwriter is an inspiration! (You can check out her current short here: https://www.seedandspark.com/fund/retch#story)

Demon Hunters

Hey, Demon Hunters has now joined the ZOE family of shows! We’ve had a chance to see the cuts of the Slice of Life episodes that are currently in post-production and they’re awesome. Emilie Rommel Shimkus, Sarah Moore, Matt Vancil, Jen Page, and some awesome new cast members bring back old favorites and long-rumored new characters and yes, you and the Kickstarter supporters will be the first to see the new show in the new year!

We’re also in major development on the next Demon Hunters feature film, which <spoilers spoilers spoilers spoilers>.

Plus, we’re seriously looking at how to turn the DH one-off livestream episodes into ongoing weekly shows, because HELL YEAH.

Livestreaming

The past year has also seen a shift from monthly live improv in Tacoma to weekly live improv gaming in partnership with HyperRPG on Twitch for the production of Masters of the Metaverse. We’ve learned a ton through this process and are ready to make current and new shows far more accessible to you.

But how, ZOE/DG? How are you going to do this thing?

First, we hear you loud and clear: not many of you are willing to make the trek to Twitch for the livestreams. Also, Twitch shows are monetized in ways that can derail or slow down the comedy and narrative. So we clearly need to take steps to make the comedy improv component of our company—which is crucial to our comedy and to keeping our actors employed between shows—a larger part of your lives.

Here’s the plan as it currently stands, although much is in flux:

  • Continue current shows (like MOTM) on Twitch for as long as we can
  • Find or build streaming studio space that we can use for new shows (in progress)
  • Design new weekly shows that rely less on instant pledges and focus on rewatchability
  • Also tie new weekly shows more deeply into existing storylines, allowing us to expand the worlds of Fartherall, Demon Hunters, and Strowlers
  • Livestream new one-offs and ongoing shows on Facebook and YouTube
  • Upload completed shows to Amazon Prime Video

All of these bullet points are in progress. And don’t panic, we love working with HyperRPG and will continue to do so. This is all about finding ways to reach you better, provide more of what you want, and continue to make our worlds available to new audiences.

Other Stuff

Very briefly, we’re also designing a Patreon alternative, potentially for dozens of other creators who want to jump ship. This wasn’t on our immediate roadmap, but the need clearly exists. Remember that SSO server we mentioned earlier? This will allow those of you who wish to remain supporting us on Patreon to do exactly that, while those who would prefer an alternative can do so as well. Both groups will continue to have access to current and new services and content.

IF YOU ARE A DEVELOPER OR UI DESIGNER, send us a message. We’re hiring, we’re accepting volunteers, and we’re very close to having a non-profit sponsor for this new platform.

Summary

And that is the state of ZOE/DG at the end of 2017: bottle-necked in some place, reacting to external changes in others, and deep in development on the next cycle of projects as we complete post-production on the current cycle.

As always, we still exist because of you and your support. Thank you for keeping us alive through another year. The grand experiment continues!

Best wishes from everyone at Zombie Orpheus and Dead Gentlemen… and a Happy New Year!

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