Monday, January 17, 2011

Alex Boylan: Five questions with... (Part 2)

To continue our "Five questions with...." blog with JU alumni Alex Boylan, we asked about some of his most recent achievements, and the work it took to earn them:

3. The objective of the “Around the World for Free” project was to create a “one of a kind interactive video series.” Creating something that is truly unique is difficult, but your team accomplished it. What were the initial brainstorming sessions like? How did you all land on this concept?

We wanted to create a series that the audience could be part of and literally affect the outcome of the show on a daily basis. Every brainstorm session was coming up with unique ways to get the audience involved. A big part of this show is the "6 degrees of separation" concept (everyone knows someone, who knows someone, who knows someone). We are all connected through the internet like never before in history. Besides the fact that the audience can be part of this show like nothing else out there. We also wanted this to be a true look on what the world is really like (trust's not as bad as the media portrays it). The creators of this show - Burton Roberts, Zsolt Luka and myself - have been blessed to travel a lot and have a real passion for finding places off the grid from the mainstream tourist spots. That was another major hook we wanted with this show, to show what a real family was like who lived in barrios of Caracus, Venezuela; what the daily life of a Monk in Thailand looked like; how the Masai Warriors of Africa survived, etc. And the only way to really get this true perspective and access was literally to live with these people. So we used the power of the internet to connect the dots around the world...

So, the original idea of Around The World For Free was pretty simple (could one person make it around the world with no money by grabbing odd jobs here and there?). Around this time, (2005/2006), Myspace and Facebook were just becoming popular and was they key to the shows format, so we tapped the online audience by having them assist with places to stay, rides, etc? We would shoot and deliver the show nearly live every day in the form of 3-5 minute videos. The audience could watch daily and write in with ideas and connections they had around the world. We thought it was pretty clever, but there was a major one would buy the show. We pitched it everywhere...multiple times. Everyone liked the idea but said it was too much of a risk and outside their "network box." Eventually a good friend over at CBS said we should meet with the Early Show as they might follow the journey and at least give us press. We met and they agreed to give us a live launch from their show and follow up with us once a week as we trekked around the world. 129 webisodes (over 159 days) later - spanning 4 continents and 16 countries - we completed the first season. We then got a TV deal to redistribute the show on WGN America as 11 one-hour episodes, meaning we were actually going to make money on a show we had risked so much to accomplish. Then a major international distributor came into play and sold those 11 episodes to every market around the world. So, the risk definitely paid off and things took off from there.

This led the Rachael Ray Show to approach us to produce a similar series for their show, as well as many other top companies such as Travel Channel and Lonely Planet. Even with all the new work coming in, Around The World For Free was our baby and we were trying to get someone to pick up the property so we could continue making more seasons.

While in Australia filming for Travel Channel, I got the call everyone dreams about. It was from CBS wanting to talk about a potential deal for Around The World For Free. It all worked out great and we moved forward with the show. We just completed Season 2 with a host (Jeff Schroeder who is a Big Brother & Amazing Race alumni). Two weeks after wrapping the show in NYC, we took home "Best Web Series" at the DIVA Awards Show. As you can imagine this was extremely rewarding after working so long to get the project to where it is today.

4. What roles did you play throughout the overall development and implementation of this project?

I am one of the Creators and Executive Producers for the show. Like I said above this show is my baby so I try to stay as hands on as possible with as many aspects of the show as possible. We are currently in pre-production for Season 3, which will launch late spring/early summer.

5. We can’t let you go without having you share some thoughts with your current and future alumni. How did your years at JU help prepare you for the steps you have followed to develop your career?

My years at JU were awesome. Some of my best friends to this day are students I met at the university. Like all college experience, this time in your life is all about management. You learn how to manage time between school, sports, parties, girlfriends, etc. JU is a great school that will keep me connected to the city of Jacksonville for the rest of my life.

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