For those not in the know, Money & Violence is a 23 part crime drama web series taking place on the mean streets of Flatbush, Brooklyn. The series has drawn quite a few comparisons to The Wire, though I can’t really comment on that as I’ve still not watched one episode of the HBO show, but I have seen all of M & V‘s first season. The show follows a number of characters as they navigate through modern street life. Robbery, drugs, and gun play are abundant. There’s plenty of stereotypes, “get mine” attitudes, and a healthy glorification of the street lifestyle. However, there are “voices of reason” and dare I say, role models present in the mix of money and violence. That fact, coupled with the DIY esthetic is what makes M & V so interesting to me. The internet agrees, with the first episode tallying up over one million views and every episode after pulling in at least half a million views each.
The plot primarily revolves around Rafe (second from left), played by Moise Verneau, the elder statesman of the crew. Rafe is probably the most dynamic character and relatable in the show. He’s an antihero, a criminal with morals, a nonviolent (when possible) thief. Verneau is the creative force and catalyst behind the show, yet has no experience in the medium. After spending time following him on social media, and trying to consuming every bit of press the M & V crew has done (this Hot 97 interview being one of the most interesting), I can say I’m proudly pulling for the show’s continued success.
The world of truly independent filmmaking can be thankless and produce art that remains largely unseen by audiences. On the other side of the coin, much of indie filmmaking in this readily available digital age can be amateurish at best, and hard to watch. The chances that a small group of people with no prior writing, acting, producing, and editing experience could put together a web series that rises above the rest to garner this much attention, is nearly impossible. That’s not to say M & V doesn’t fall victim to some amateur production value or stilted acting, but things improve with each episode through season one. What’s lacking in technical chops and professionalism, M & V makes up for in heart and sheer determination. Those aspects, unlike the the technical, can’t be learned.
Money & Violence is gearing up to produce season two, and like many indie projects, using crowd funding to make it happen. With as many views as the series pulls in, the second season of M & V should have been easily funded (originally asking $250K) in a fraction of the two month timeline. I knew once the goal was reached, a well funded season two would take the show to the next level, allow for hired actors, crew, and better equipment. After watching the M & V Seed and Spark account for a while it seemed they weren’t approaching their goal as fast as I expected them to, which got me thinking about why that might be. Perhaps my expectations are too high.
As of today, Money & Violence Season 2 is 73% funded (with five days left) which is great, but keep in mind the budget had been cut down at some point to 100k. Capturing a passionate and youthful audience, today more than ever, may mean money troubles when you turn to that same audience for your next project. The readily available digital technology that allows anyone with enough drive to become a filmmaker, is the same technology that allows viewers to consume content for free without personally contributing to it. Not to condemn the younger (and surely some older) viewers of M & V, but with millions of views on Youtube, the campaign only managed to grab a paltry 1193 supporters? If your a fan of an indie production, sometimes the revenue produced by a Youtube view is not enough to keep things going.
I wrote this article in hopes of having a discussion. Is this an anomaly? Or is this troubling lack of support for a truly independent and popular project the new normal? If an internet sensation has this much trouble translating views into funding, what hope do other indie filmmakers have who take the same route, and are somehow lucky enough to experience that sort of success? And finally, what does this say about viewers of a certain age?
To help support season two go to Money & Violence and donate, there’s only a handful of days left!