Artist interview: TV writer and producer Ian Brown
When long-time UK TV writer, producer Ian Brown first pitched his comedy animation idea, all UK broadcasters and production companies were put off by the scale of costs involved – and the time-consuming nature of cartoons.
But Ian – whose 30-year career includes credits on worldwide motoring phenomenon Top Gear, movies with international YouTube sensations Joe Sugg and Caspar Lee and work with dozens of household names – was not to be put off.
I just thought it was a nice idea and I wanted to see the characters and stories come to life.
Ian was able to persuade award-winning animation director Eoin Clarke to come in on the project with him for no fee. That was just over two years ago. Now that animation is a series of short films called TheBruvs.
Where can readers see The Bruvs?
It has its own YouTube channel with 16 films, a website TheBruvs.com, an ever-growing following on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook – and now has 11 shows running on UK channel Dave and its on demand catch-up service UKTVplay. All our new films are exclusive to our YouTube channel.
You have a background as a producer for the international sensation, Top Gear. That’s a big act to follow. Has Jeremy Clarkson been supportive of the venture?
What are your plans for the show? How far do you hope to take it?
This is my first proper venture into animation and it is totally a passion project. It is something I have long wanted to do. If we can make money from it at some point - all the better.
What is it about The Bruvs that sets it apart from other projects?
I teamed with award-winning animation director Eoin Clarke and he has a great, very strong visual style. Even if people aren't too keen on our films or the comedy - they all seem to like the ‘look’ of it all. We make short films, perfect fodder for online and hopefully we pack a punch - with good gags.
An indie project like this can’t rely on mainstream media and primetime advertising. Are you making use of social media to connect with your audience?
We are on Facebook, Twitter, tumblr, Instagram. All @TheBruvsTV
On which platform do you have the largest audience?
We have the biggest numbers on Twitter - but the most engagement on Facebook. We do memes and other funny stuff with our characters and the imagery seems to engage well. On Facebook, we are able to set up some gags a bit better. We are growing on all social media. As of two years ago, I did not even have a Facebook account. It is all self-taught and that in itself has been a rewarding experience. Not saying I am expert. But I have got better. And you discover what works for your material and what appeals to your fans and newcomers.
What part of the world is really responding to The Bruvs?
We post at all times because we seem to have instantly gained a following all over the world - from the UK, through Europe to the US and Australia. So the time zones play a part. We get great engagement from the US late at night for us. But we post all through the day as well. And we try to respond to anything comical that happens topically - in the news or on TV. If we can hook on to something topical it is good news. We have got into Facebook groups too - particularly crime genre filmmakers. Our films are comedies - but the characters are villains trying to go straight.
Do you have any tips for making the most of social media?
To be honest we are still learning ourselves. But we use hashtags on Instagram to see what the response is. A lot of the Likes we get seem to be almost robot responses... Particularly from models, wellbeing coaches and life coaches and fitness gurus. You can tap into them via #wellbeing and #modellife and so on. We experiment with hashtags to see what draws in new people. It's a case of trying, monitoring and adapting. It's similar on Facebook too. We now know that certain images and certain types of announcement get the bigger responses. Because we deal with animation characters mainly, when we post about us - the people who make the films - that tends to hit a chord.
Are you paying for ads anywhere?
Not as yet. We try to get as much media coverage as we can from newspapers, radio interviews, local TV interviews and so on. But we are not strictly selling anything at the moment. We are trying to draw people in to watch our films. We do have some merchandise. If people are keen enough, they go for the T shirts or the Mugs. They're quite cool - with a good logo. But we don't ram all that down people's throats. We limit it to an eBay store. We promote that via Facebook, Twitter, and sometimes Tumblr. But that is secondary for now. Growing our audience is the key task. And we want it to be organic - albeit as fast as possible. We can't force people to laugh at our comedy and our films. They have to come to it and get into it.
Do you have a theory behind all the marketing that you’re doing? What ties it all together?
We are just trying to make as many people laugh at our films as possible. The hope is, if they laugh, they will share and spread the word. We are probably looking for that viral moment. All are welcome to watch our films. The hope is they will like them enough to want to see more, sub to our YouTube and tell their mates.
What’s your advice for other creatives who are using social media to promote their work?
Don't be afraid to test the water. Get your stuff out there and tell people as soon as you can. You just never know what might fly. But take note of what is working and what is not working - for your stuff. It soon becomes clear-ish. You can see how many likes or RTs a particular post or item will get. Experiment with hashtags. Engage with people. Respond to queries and comments. AND be grateful. Remember to thank your followers, subscribers, Likers and Sharers - and customers. It's another form of content in a world where content is all.
Since I spoke to Ian, The Bruvs film Talking with Dinosaurs has been accepted into the Romford Film Festival. Congratulations to Ian Brown and the rest of the team - animation director, Eoin Clarke; sound & editing, Paul Richmond; music, Pete Harbour and Stig Winslet.
To keep up with everything to do with The Bruvs go to www.thebruvs.com
If you have your own passion project to send to the world, get inspiration and information to launch your creative product in this free guide.