From The Burro Interview
Here is an interview I did with Ender Bowen and Emily Steele, the brains behind Joint Custody Productions. Read and enjoy. (DB is me, EB is Ender, and ES is Emily)
DB: I'm here with Ender Bowen and Emily Steele, the owners of a new productions company out of Nashville called JOINT CUSTODY PRODUCTIONS. So the first question obviously, is what is JOINT CUSTODY PRODUCTIONS, and if you would, please explain what your production company does?
EB: Well, Joint Custody Productions is essentially just a small production company that myself and Emily Steele have created, mainly with the intention to get our own work out there, experiment with it in our own way and to have our own complete control over it. Over the years, we've become a little disenchanted with the concept of "getting signed" or getting someone to see our work, put their stamp of approval on it and get it out there. We've come close to those things on more than one occasion, and in the end found that there was such a lack of control there that we wanted to just do it our own way. I think what it came down to for us was that no one we were working with was doing anything for us that we couldn't do for ourselves. In that sense we decided it would be better to just do it for ourselves.
ES: We created Joint Custody Productions with the intent to stream our own material and ideas out to the world by the most effective means possible. Right now its main purpose is for the promotion of our own properties but eventually we may chose to add on more clients. Currently, JCP produces the music of Ender Bowen and Emily Steele; the comedy troupe, “Common Sense for Dummys”; the podcast, “Grace Sez Hei”; the interactive web blog, “Can’t Argue With That”; the future short-story serial, “Dreadwind”; the upcoming theatrical production, “A Perfect Pitch”; and a monthly podcast with the founders and their guests. All of our properties are accessible online through our website and Facebook.
DB: Why are you putting this together?
EB: It's again a lot of having experienced the industry from a standpoint of not having any real control on the product or the release schedule of anything. We want to be able to do what we want when we want, learn it as we go and see if we can be successful with it on our own. We have a lot of creative ideas, and when you spend most of your time trying to "impress" upon people in a "position of power", that really detracts from your creativity, and just becomes frustrating. In the end, we want our own control over those things. In our own little world, we're in our own positions of power now, so that's really what it came down to. We have a lot we want to do and say and we're die-hard entertainers. We got tired of working to get other people to get this stuff out, so we're doing it ourselves.
ES: Like Ender said, we have both run into experiences in the entertainment industry where people showed great enthusiasm for our work and made all kinds of promised about how they could promote us, but we started realizing that none of it ever boiled down to things we couldn’t do ourselves. Plus, we had the added burdens of having to wait for someone else to get things going and giving up part of our creative control over what we were going to do and how we were going to do it. We started JCP so we could control what kind of material we wanted to produce, how we wanted to promote it, and when we were going to do it all. Also, being our own backers allows us the freedom to experiment with several different genres and medias. If you’re signed to a record label, you have to focus solely on music. With our company, we can incorporate music, theater, comedy, art, writing…..anything we want.
DB: What are you hoping to achieve with your company?
EB: Well, for starters, we are setting this all up mainly as a platform for our own work. Again, just to get our stuff out there. But the idea that's sort of hanging out in the background is, if we're successful with it - in a sense that we're making far more than we need just to quit our jobs and survive - we want to open it up for other properties, other entertainers and other people. The concept that we're playing with right now is essentially going back to what I said earlier - there's nothing other people weren't doing for us that we couldn't do for ourselves. We want to hold onto that aesthetic later on down the line and if we can do something for other people - artists, writers, whatever - that they can't do for themselves, be it recording an album, booking tours, filming a TV show, anything like that, then we'll take it on. In the end, if and when it comes to that point, we aren't interested in setting up deals and working with people who have all the same access we have. In fact, what we're doing right now is through the same kind of access everyone else in the world has.
ES: As Ender said, our main focus right now is to use JCP as a means to promote our own properties. Hopefully down the road, once we have gotten down a good strategy for networking and promoting ourselves, we will expand our business plan to include other artists, writers, musicians, and entertainers. Again, to reiterate what Ender said, we want to be able to offer potential clients something they cannot already do for themselves.
DB: What are some of your short term and long term goals?
EB: Right now we're essentially testing the podcast waters and seeing what it can offer us. We're intending to sell ad space on our websites, set up some affiliations with other friends and other companies, swapping links etc. We have a CafePress store to sell merchandise. We haven't really figured out all the ways that we can make money off of this yet - which in the end you have to if you want to continue on and create and meet new goals - but we realize that we have to create a buzz first, try some things, see if they work, and move on with new ideas and projects if they don't. In the long term... we're extremely ambitious people so we'll have to see where it goes.
ES: I agree. Our first and foremost goal is to get the word out there about Joint Custody Productions. A killer website isn’t worth much if no one is visiting it. We want people coming to our site and seeing what we’re all about. Obviously another major goal is to determine the best way to generate revenue. We have some great ideas and original concepts but we need to discover how to profit from them financially. Our long-term goal is to be successful enough with our company that we no longer have to continue our “day jobs” to sustain a decent living.
DB: So what's up with the name?
EB: It's sort of a joke. I really can't remember exactly where it came from. I think Emily knows this story better than I do. EMILY...
ES: Ender is sort of right. The name first popped into my head when we were talking about the idea of starting our own company with our friend, Tim, who is the founder of “Common Sense for Dummys”. We joked that if we started it, his 18 month old daughter would be our mascot and we’d all take on joint custody of her. But the real reason I suggested it for the name of our company was because everyone involved has their own “baby” that they created and are hoping to see flourish. Yet, everyone in the company helps aid in the success of that project and is responsible for its success. So whether it’s merely Ender and myself, or other people who join on, each member contributes in some way to the accomplishment of each project. Every property is a “joint” effort, even though they are all conceived by us as individuals.
EB: And kinda going back to our long-term intentions, if we're successful with everything, we want to keep that sort of "joint ownership" mentality with us no matter who we work with. Like if we open up our record label to other artists, we want to create new ways of essentially earning what we're due, while at the same time not taking away from the artists what they own. At least not more than temporarily. Because again, we aren't interested in doing for someone what they can already do for themselves.
DB: What can we expect from you in the next few months?
EB: I'm really going to be pushing Gracie Sez Hai... a podcast about a dead cat that essentially is leaving voice messages from the "other side" on the family answering machine. It sounds kind of out there but the idea is that she's a cat, she doesn't really understand our culture, but now that she's disconnected from her body she has the ability to speak, and be heard. So... she has these odd observations about our society which sometimes inadvertently kind of hit the mark. It's really meant as a commentary on the world today, but in a completely innocent way. I think it will be a lot of fun. I also am cleaning up my 2005 album LEMONYMOUS for re-release this summer, which will act as sort of practice for my next brand-new single in the fall and a new album to follow in 2010.
ES: “Can’t Argue with That” is already up and running and slowly generating some interest from followers. It is a blog run by myself that gives humorous opinions and insight into just about anything. I talk about a lot of pop culture, current events, random ideas and sometimes things of a more controversial nature. But everything has a comic spin on it, which keeps it from getting too political. Initial feedback has been pretty positive so I am hopeful that its popularity with grow quickly. My full-length play, “A Perfect Pitch”, is scheduled to go into production this fall, through the Post Depression Theater group in East Nashville. It’s a comedy about the music business starring yours truly. There is also talk of breaking it into 5-minute episodes and featuring it on a local variety television show, but I won’t go into too much detail on that until I have more concrete information. We currently in the writing stages of skits for “Common Sense for Dummys”, which we hope to video record and stream through our website. Our first PRODcast is set to tape this month.
DB: Tell the readers where to find your company.
EB: www.jointcustodyprod.com is our official site. But we can also be found on FaceBook, as we have an official FaceBook page for all our work. In fact you'll probably find most links the easiest way there.
ES: I can’t argue with that!
DB: Well I certainly appreciate the opportunity to interview you about this new endeavor and I wish you all the success in the world! Good luck and thanks again!
EB: You're very welcome and thank you for the questions!
ES: Thank you so much for talking with us today. We appreciate the support and promise to reciprocate however we can.