If there aren’t Nielsen ratings to look to and you can’t add up advertising revenue, how do you determine the success of an independently produced web series? No matter how you measure it, East WillyB is a smash hit. Since it premiered online last year the hilarious ‘gentrification comedy’ received over 40,000 views in a matter of days and received press coverage from NY Daily News, Fox News Latino, MTV, and Latina.com among others. Julia Grob, co-creator explains, “Set in gentrified Brooklyn, it’s an online series about a Puerto Rican sports bar owner, Willy Jr. (Flaco Navaja), who is working hard to keep his bar alive in the face of the hipster invasion of his neighborhood. We like to affectionately call it a Latino Cheers.”
Despite rave reviews and an audience who wants to see more content, the producers have been unable to find a place for the series at a TV network. Rather than being discouraged, they have launched a kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to raise $50,000 for a new 12 episode season. They have raised close to $40,000 but if they don’t reach 50k by June 1st, they won’t receive any of the money that has been pledged so far.
With your support East WillyB could become the first community-funded Latino sitcom. More than just a Latino Cheers, this innovative web series showcases the talents of Latinos in front of and behind the camera. And though set in Latino Brooklyn, it offers a critique of gentrification that resonates with all urban dwellers. But most importantly it is an example of media that bypasses the traditional mode of production and is made ‘by the people and for the people.’
The team behind East WillyB, sick of not seeing themselves represented in the media, set out to tell humorous but authentic stories that American Latinos could connect with. Grob along with her co-creator Yamin Segal were, “frustrated by the lack of stories or characters that represented our reality as new generation Latinos, raised in the states. With 50 million Latinos who are English-dominant, we are the new majority and still suffer from lack of representation in media.”
Their goal was modest–to make a few short webisodes. In retrospect they took on a monumental task–to challenge the stereotyped representations of Latinos. “We wanted to create a new American sitcom” says Grob. “You don’t have Latinos in positions of power in Hollywood. So, until we have more Latino executives, producers, directors, writers, and casting agents we’ll continue to see token stories or storylines that are based on ‘research’ of our demographic, not on authentic knowledge of the Latino experience. East WillyB resonates because it was created by a full Latino creative team. We have an ability to speak authentically to our audience and that is more powerful than any research!”
The pilot season was created without any money and as a labor of love. Any size donation will help them reach their fundraising goal so they can continue to create original and innovative content that not only speaks to the Spanglish-speaking American-born Latino but to all audiences. Because ultimately, “East WillyB is really at its heart an American comedy about working class people struggling to stay alive and so many different communities can relate to that story, in this economy.”