Natalie Madsen learned a dispiriting lesson while trying to share her comic vision last year.
Madsen says she approached “almost every major streaming service” with what seemed like a bankable concept -- a family-friendly sketch show created by comedy veterans.
She swiftly found no takers.
“The angle of family friendly is not on their radar or important to them,” Madsen says.
The same isn’t true for the public at large, apparently.
Madsen and JK! Studios already raised more than $600,000 to fund a second season of “Freelancers.” The comedy series focuses on five friends struggling to get their video company off the ground. It’s just the kind of show Madsen, an executive producer on the series, had in mind when she reached out to industry players.
It’s a clever, funny sitcom you can watch with every member of the family sans embarrassment.
Season one – shot on the proverbial shoestring – generated millions of YouTube views and snared the attention of VidAngel, quickly becoming one of the platform’s most popular titles.
The cast and crew worked guerilla style on season one, “rolling up our sleeves” to pitch in with props, sets, costumes and more.
“We took the resources we had and made what we could,” Madsen says. That spirit echoes the show’s themes – five close friends doing their best with scant resources.
Now, the team behind “Freelancers” is asking fans to help bolster season two. Its crowdfunding campaign offers fans to do more than support the series. They become investors along the way.
(The campaign wraps Jan. 4)
“More funding means more actors and more locations, more overall story arcs,” she says, noting season one’s episodic nature. The fiscal boost allows more time for writing season 2, bringing it in line with contemporary shows featuring ongoing narratives.
“We wrote the first season in four weeks,” she notes.
The team behind “Freelancers” hails from Studio C, the BYUtv production known for clean, cutting edge comedy. That experience helped fuel “Freelancers,” allowing them to avoid the easy jokes that can come from coarse brainstorming sessions.
“We’ve been making family-friendly comedy for, gosh, 10 years now,” she says. Part of that process is discarding mature gags that quickly rush to mind.
“It’s a muscle we’ve been strengthening over the last few years,” she says of writing clean comedy. “Jokes that are little bit eyebrow raising can be very funny, but it’s not our brand.”
“Freelancers” already nabbed more than 7 million views on YouTube for its first season, but its reach expanded substantially when it joined the VidAngel library. That extra platform matters when more and more citizen producers are creating content for YouTube, Facebook and Rumble.
“It’s never been easier to create … and it’s never been harder to stand out,” she says. “There are 4K cameras on most phones now … it’s a really saturated market.”
Raising funds during the holidays proved a challenge, but Madsen is grateful for the swift, powerful response.
“People in families who value what we do are willing to get in the boat with us,” she says. “They want us to get back on those film sets … it’s such an encouraging feeling.”
Madsen isn’t surprised how the entertainment industry snubbed her vision. She name checks Netflix’s hit series, “The Queen’s Gambit,” as another example of producers ignoring what the public wants. That show’s creator says he’s been pitching the concept behind it for decades, and all he heard back was how audiences weren’t interested in a show about chess.
How wrong they were.
“There’s a very minority group of people making calls for a big, big part of the entertainment industry,” she says, adding family-friendly content isn’t a value to them.”