It’s no secret these days that there’s money in social media. Successful YouTube series have catapulted the careers of countless comedians, beauty brands, and social celebrities. Film director Mike Gerbino saw his career take a shift after creating the online show, Dark Justice. Here he shares where he got the idea for Dark Justice and the challenges of making it big via YouTube.
How did you get the idea for your YouTube series?
Right after the chaos in Ferguson, MO in 2014, I was a little stressed out by the lack of public discussion about policing and racism. I wanted to contribute to the conversation in a way that eased the tension a bit. Unfortunately, there are real stories about black officers being mistreated (and often mistaken for criminals) on the job. As horrible as that is, I thought it had potential to be funny.
How did you create the series?
I had to make a plan since I had never done a web series before. I decided to write and shoot one episode first to see if it was even possible. After that success, a childhood friend in the local film industry eventually became my co-producer and writing partner for the show. We ended up shooting two episodes and picked up the final four a few months later. Shooting outside of NYC, we got locations, equipment and crew very cheaply. We shot very fast, and I handled most of the pre-production and actual day-to-day managing. It was guerrilla filmmaking at its finest, made easier with a great team and cast.
How did you find the cast?
I first cast Tim O’Connor to play Stanton. We made a number of films together in high school. Next, I linked up with Che Holloway through a mutual friend. Che really brought something special to his character. We then filled in the role of “Lieutenant” with my long-time friend Mooney Faugh. Finally, we cast Jon Cesar and Paul Cuminale as Charles Maxton and The Judge. My partner Travis had worked with Jon before and thought he was perfect for the role (which he was). Paul is another long-time friend who nailed his role immediately.
Why release on YouTube?
We put it on YouTube because that seemed like the place to put it. We’ve also put the show on Vimeo, Funny or Die, StreamNowTV, AfroLandTV and Facebook. Why? Using alternate streaming services open us up to a variety audiences.
How do you get media attraction for a YouTube series?
Since we filmed in Rochester and Buffalo, we received a lot of local media attention. We also received some national coverage due to the subject of our series. In most of these cases, we started the press attention with an email. With so much content online, it is nearly impossible to get people’s attention. You have to share your work.
What do you expect from creating this YouTube series?
We are focusing on marketing, promotion and getting more press for Season 1. It’s really tough. But we’re also writing a Season 2 and making some changes to keep up with the way people watch things online. Season 1 was a great test for us in every way– from writing and production to marketing. We hope to build a nice platform with Season 1 so that Season 2 can really get on as many screens as possible.
You can watch Dark Justice on YouTube.