Although we weren't able to resolve every single issue that needed addressing on our agenda, we did decide on how to proceed on quite a few things. This is a very condensed version of some of the conclusions reached during our meeting - all subject to change of course!
Looking Forward: The Upcoming Year
• What are some of the upcoming episodes that we want to do in the near future? Well, the biggest elephant in the room for us is colonialism (i.e., Native/Settler relations), both throughout history and right now. We'll finally have a chance to touch on that in our upcoming 'What is an internal colony?' episode. Also in line for upcoming episodes (hopefully) are analyses of popular culture. We really like art, music, movies, etc., but we really haven't talked about any of this stuff yet in any of our episodes.
• Translations & Subtitles: We've received a few e-mails from people outside the U.S. who have requested subtitles - especially in Spanish and German. Although we all agree that it'd be great to have The Pinky Show translated into these and other languages, we have a few constraints. First, none of us know how to speak either of these languages. The second issue is one of time. We only have a two-cat production crew to do the job of making new episodes (our top priority) and running most of our day-to-day operations, and I feel like we are already stretched pretty thin. Bunny has an idea though - she really likes anime (Japanese animation) and says that the way a lot of anime is subtitled into other languages is a good model for how The Pinky Show could also be done. These translated episodes are called 'fan-subs' and basically the subtitles are created by viewers of the episodes who can speak both the source and target languages (bilingual). The producers of the episodes themselves are usually not involved at all. Sometimes the viewers who do the translations meet and coordinate on a website dedicated to creating the subtitles (essentially a 'translation wiki'). It's not like we're lazy or don't want to be supportive, but politically speaking we think it's important to maintain a certain amount of 'distance' between ourselves and the finished subtitled episodes simply because we can't vouch for the accuracy of subtitles we can't read. If viewers understand they are reading subtitles generated by other viewers rather than our production team, we think this will go a long way toward dissipating a fair amount of false assumptions and misunderstandings before they arise.
• The $$$ Situation: So far we have been trying to fund the PS through grants and donations. We also have recently opened a Pinky Show online store. The short story is that none of these have shown much promise in terms of funding our project, at least for the time being. So far no one has shown any interest in funding the PS through grants. Our site traffic continues to go up every month and we receive lots of encouraging e-mails, but besides a tiny handful of individuals (thank you to those people!) we have also not been receiving any donations. So far we have sold maybe 3 posters, 3 shirts, and a Pinky doll from the store. So instead, practically all of our 'funding' has come from our outside work - building websites, photography, design stuff, etc. But according to bookkeeper Mimi we haven't hit equilibrium - with our current ratio of outside work to Pinky Show work, every month we continue like this we accumulate more debt (apparently we've been spending too much time working on Pinky Show stuff, and not enough time making money doing outside jobs). So until we start getting grants and donations, we need to be more disciplined and only work on producing new episodes after we've raised the money to pay for their production. If we don't do this our debt is only going to get bigger and sooner or later we're going to starve. Not good.
• Mimi doesn't think donations are ever going to be a good way to sustain The Pinky Show. She basically thinks that even if people like watching our episodes, people are 'cheap'. I'm not sure if that's true or not but I also think that we don't have nearly enough traffic at our site to receive a significant amount of donations. I'm guessing only a tiny fraction of people actually make donations. So I think we need thousands and thousands of people visiting our site every day just to have a chance to receive a decent amount of donations. For this reason I think we need to focus on attracting lots more viewers to our website. We have to build relationships with larger, more well-established progressive organizations in order for this to happen. Examples of this kind of relationship building include having our videos (or at least links to our videos) prominently placed on high-traffic websites, co-producing episodes that other organizations can immediately put to educational use with their membership/audiences, and so on. Bunny and I will try to do a little of this kind of work every week, but I think this falls under the category of 'long-term' development work. It's kind of amazing (ridiculous?) that we've actually never done any PR or marketing-type work the whole time since we started. No wonder no one knows we exist... o.O
• Mimi brought up the question of whether or not we want to (re)consider the possibility of 1) doing an iTunes style buy-our-episode-for-$1.00 type of thing; or 2) making our website only accessible via some kind of subscription thing; or 3) accepting advertisements as possible ways of generating income. I vetoed all of the above. I see these as last-last-last resort kind of options and anyway I highly doubt they'd work. I don't think people feel like learning from cats is something they'd be willing to pay for; I don't want money to be a barrier (even a symbolic one) to poor people accessing the content we produce; and we don't have enough traffic to interest advertisers (not to mention Bunny and I hate advertisements...). No.
• Mimi will continue to pursue grants whenever possible. I'll help her with the writing. To be realistic though, it may take us a long time to figure out how to get grants. Neither of us are experienced in grantsmanship.
• One of the things that I'm pretty good at is making things. So we decided that Bunny and I will try to raise some money by making and selling more t-shirts. We're going to make a few more designs and then try selling them on eBay and stuff like that as a fundraiser. I doubt we'll make a lot of money this way but at least we already know how to make t-shirts and it's the kind of thing that can bring in some income right away (I hope), instead of months or years from now.
• I also got some unexpected encouragement from the others to try to write and illustrate children's books. At first I was like 'Yuck, I don't even like human being children...'. But Mimi made the important point that they don't really have to be for children at all, that children's books is really only a format - very simple text and lots of pictures. So basically I can make children's books for adults. This idea I like. So I will be trying that. I have to look into how we'd be able to economically print out the books - there's no sense in making a lovely children's book that costs $80 each. Mimi suggested e-books, and while that's a viable option, in the end we decided that if we can find a way to print out a physical book for a reasonable cost then we'd prefer to have something people can hold in their hands.
• One of the main set of questions that needed answering before closing our week-long series of meetings: What will we do if we can't find a way to have The Pinky Show financially sustain itself? How much longer can we continue before pulling the plug on this project? We all had slightly different answers. Mimi and Kim have promised to keep on helping for at least another year. But they do have other commitments and I'm sure it's been hard for them knowing that they've directed a lot of their hard earned money to this project and yet we're still struggling. Bunny said she'd be willing to keep on working on the Pinky Show until she dies, even if financial constraints force her to treat it as just a part-time thing. I feel like I want to work on this until I die too, but I see this as being primarily an educational/political project rather than a hobby, and as such I feel like this project has to be of a certain scale in order for it to make sense. If I can't somehow find a way to eventually produce an episode a week (my dream output), I think maybe I could be more useful doing something else. I'll wait until next year's meeting to see how I feel about it then. Until then I'm going to keep working on this as if our little project is guaranteed to find support.
I'm sure I'm forgetting lots of things (I didn't take notes the entire time) so Bunny, Mimi, Kim - please feel free to add whatever you like to these notes.
• Tuesday, June 19: Upon arriving back from our trip, I find an e-mail in my mailbox notifying us that we have been rejected for another big grant we had applied for. Sad!
• Wednesday, June 21: We receive an e-mail from a curator of an upcoming exhibition on radical education at a museum in Slovenia, asking us if we'd be interested in participating. Yes we would! Happy!
So goes our roller coaster ride here in our lonely corner of the Mojave desert.