The New 30 is a new six episode gay YouTube series that explores the lives of Elliot (DaJuan Johnson) and his closest friends in L.A. as they navigate getting older and all the unexpected challenges, surprises and heartache it brings. Life in their 40’s isn’t quite how they imagined it would be, and the friends face plenty of relationship, friendship and career drama.
The exciting series is the brainchild of writer, director, executive producer and co-creator Walt Bost, who worked with John Sobrack to bring the show to life. From mapping out the initial idea, launching a Kickstarter campaign, to the end product, Walt has put this heart and soul into this project, which is relatable to all audiences.
We had the opportunity to ask Walt all about The New 30 and its diverse cast, the Kickstarter process, the inspiration behind the show, whether we can expect a second season and much more.
How did the creation of The New 30 come about?
I was writing another short film to direct, but was going through a sort of mid-life crisis and at a crossroads in my personal life and professional career. Looking at the gay shows and web series on television and online, I couldn’t really find anything that I could identify with as a gay man in his 40’s – that represented me and my life, and the issues I was going through.
Most of the shows were about gays in their teens and twenties and not really about anything serious. And they weren’t very good, either. When I thought of my gay friends and how they were all in very different places in their lives – some in relationships, some eternally single, some wanting marriage, some thinking about children, some focused only on careers – I realized that none of these stories were being told onscreen either. I knew there must be an audience out there for this type of show. And one done in very professional, high-quality way.
You worked on the project with your friend and filmmaker John Sobrack. How did working with a friend impact the process?
I met with John and pitched him The New 30 because I had seen his short films and thought he was a very talented writer. I also knew he would bring different ideas and points of view to the series, which would ultimately make the show better. Plus, we were friends, and both creative people, and passionate about making gay films.
He really sparked to the idea of the show so together we developed it further, outlining the six episodes and writing the pilot. After self-funding and shooting the pilot, we knew we had something that was going to work as a show. Next, we wrote the other five scripts.
The whole process I actually found to be a very easy-going one, and our friendship only helped in my opinion because we both knew each other’s styles and were comfortable working together. We took turns writing the first drafts of the episodes, then would bounce them back and forth, rewriting each other until we agreed upon the final version. We didn’t take things personally and we both knew that the goal was to write the best scripts we could – so egos didn’t get in the way. It went really well and it was exciting to be challenged by John as a writer, and also nice not to have all the pressure on myself!
As a member of the LGBTQ community yourself, how much of the show was inspired by your own personal life?
The New 30 was very much directly inspired by my personal life. It came from me going through a lot of personal and professional struggles at the time. I often felt like I was living on a different planet than most of my straight friends and people with whom I worked – not married, no kids, no big family, odd living situation… gay and in my 40’s, wondering what choices to make, what to do with my life, and what changes to make. But I also realized that at the core of it all, we all deal with those kinds of life challenges in one way or another.
The show has a wonderfully diverse cast. How important was it for you to create a show which focuses on people who are less frequently represented on TV?
Thank you for pointing that out! This was definitely of the utmost importance to me when I was creating the show. I was so tired of seeing gay shows where nearly all the characters were white or there was little to no diversity! That’s not real life, and things really need to change now.
Specifically, I wanted the lead actor to be African-American – that was a deal breaker for me. Shows with lead black actors still pale in comparison to ones with white ones, and certainly for gay shows! And my deal breaker mentality really tested my casting director, M’saada Nia (who’s absolutely amazing). I knew it was going to be hard to find really great actors who would do a web series for so little money, but somehow, the right actors found their roles and I got extremely lucky because they’re all so talented. And while I made an extremely conscious decision to make the cast very diverse and reflective of real life, I still cast who I thought was the best actor and the best fit. So many of the comments the show has gotten on YouTube are about how people love the show because it is so diverse, and wonderful to finally see themselves represented in a quality gay show.
Speaking of the great cast, how did it feel to meet them for the first time and then see how they brought your show to life?
After I held auditions and made the final casting decisions, we all met together and rehearsed. And the cast really blew me away. The feeling of seeing the words you’ve written come alive, and working, and these situations and moments that you wrote suddenly becoming real due to these amazing performers, it’s hard to describe that. It’s the reason you work so hard. It’s a magical thing, seeing these characters live and breathe, seeing things clicking and working and taking shape. And when we started shooting, it was even more awesome – I knew right there the show was going to be something special. I was the happiest I’ve ever been when we were filming. I didn’t want it to end.
Is there a character who’s a particular favourite of yours, or one that you see a lot of yourself in?
Definitely the main character, Elliot. He’s pretty much based on my personal experiences, and of where I was in my life at that time, feeling the way I felt. He’s not me per se – not everything he goes through was based on reality – but a big part of me is in that character. My heart is definitely in him. And many of the other characters were created based on people John and I knew.
As you were making the show for YouTube, how did this affect the way you made the show and its final outcome? Would you have done anything differently if the show was being aired on another streaming service/TV?
Actually, I didn’t make the show for YouTube, although I imagined it would probably be the most likely destination. My goal was to make a type of quality show that would fit on Netflix, Amazon, HBO, etc… one of the main digital platforms. Of course, I had very little money compared to shows that are on there – but I felt with the scripts, actors, production and post-production team I had, it could happen.
After finishing post and having some meetings, it was taking a long time to get anywhere. I knew that I needed to get the show out there and YouTube was the best choice in order to get noticed. If people starting liking it and wanting to see more, that would be key to do another successful crowdfunding for Season 2. I also knew that you never know who could see it, being on YouTube. And with so many shows now starting there and then being picked up for major platforms, it made the most sense.
When I was making the show, the only thing I was very conscious about was nudity. Figuring it would most likely end up on YouTube, I wanted to make sure it could be seen by as many people as possible. Also, nudity also brings more issues when you’re shooting the scenes, and I didn’t want to make it harder than it already was! If I’m able to get more money for Season 2, I might be a little more daring – and certainly if the show is picked up by a bigger platform.
You used Kickstarter in order to fund five of the episodes. How did you find the crowdfunding experience?
It was exciting and fun and very rewarding, but also an unbeliveable amount of work. I definitely learned a lot. If you are going to do it, my advice would be to have a team of people who will help you! Luckily, my best friend (and composer of The New 30) David Frank Long stepped in to help and we did it together.
It’s a lot of planning, designing, writing and more. You have to convey what you are doing, why you are doing it, who’s involved, why should people donate, etc. You also have to have a short video pitch for your project, so you have to write and film and edit that, and then you have to decide on and list all the rewards for donation levels. And you have to make it all interesting and exciting and colorful and unique, so people will donate! And after you are done designing your page and your campaign begins, you have to constantly be promoting it to get the word out.
For thirty days, I had no life but Kickstarter. And if you don’t reach your goal, you don’t get any money – so you really have to dedicate yourself one hundred percent in order to make it. I think at the time, Kickstarter said only about 11% of projects were successful – that’s how difficult it is! If you’re trying to raise money to fund a new invention or gadget or game or shirt or watch or something like that, I think it’s a lot easier – because people actually GET something. Trying to raise money for a movie or similar art project, it’s just very, very hard.
You have to get people to believe in you and what you are doing, and you have to create rewards that people will really be interested in. Kickstarter completely kicked my butt. And you also have to remember that they take 10% of your final raised amount – so you really have to raise more in order to reach your actual goal!
The New 30 has been online for over a month now – how have you found the response to the show so far?
The response has been truly amazing. Currently, the show has over 2,000 subscribers and nearly 350,000 views! But the most rewarding part of it has been the comments viewers have left, saying things like how much they are hooked and love the show and what a great surprise it was, and how nice it is to finally see a well-made gay show that features a diverse cast with good writing and good actors! I’ve gotten comments from people all over the world as well, like Paris and India, and it’s awesome to see the show affecting and resonating with so many people out there. Reading the comments keeps my drive up to make an even better Season 2!
So there any plans to continue with a second season?
Definitely. John and I are presently writing Season 2. My hope is that a bigger platform will see the kind of responses we are getting on YouTube and understand how much of an audience there is for this kind of show, and fund another season (with a bigger budget!) as their own content. But right now, I’m planning another crowdfunding and hoping all our new supporters and fans will help make Season 2 happen.
For anyone who’s yet to see the show, what is the one thing you hope that they’ll take away from it?
I hope that they will watch it and say wow, that was actually very well done and very entertaining! But I really hope that they’ll see that there’s more to gay life than what’s usually portrayed onscreen, and also that some people will finally see themselves represented. Gay or straight, we all have the same kinds of problems and go through the same kind of challenges, struggles and experiences with relationships, friendships and careers. Did I mention there is also a straight couple in the show? The New 30 is not just for a gay audience!
Are there any other projects in the pipeline that you’d like to tell us about?
I’m writing a feature suspense thriller script with one of the actors from the show, and also revising a script with a writer friend of mine for a horror feature he wrote that I’m planning to produce and direct. Being gay is something I am, but it doesn’t define me. I love telling all kinds of stories and entertaining people.
Thank you to Walt Bost for his time and his incredible insight into The New 30. Make sure you check out the show right here. You can also keep up to date with the show via its website, Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.