Millions love ‘Easy Abby’ so why’s it so hard to sell?

Lisa Cordileone, aka “Abby Walker”

Abby Walker, the unique lead character of “Easy Abby,” created by writer/director Wendy Jo Carlton and based on “a chunk of my own life and my girlfriends and cynicism about relationships,” has generated nearly 20 million views in season one alone.

Season two, due this fall, will feature episodes that run 20 minutes long, roughly three times the length of their predecessors.  The increase not only gives audiences more of what they want, but also, hopefully, gets Carlton more of what she needs: money.

Besides earning raves from Huffington Post and Buzzfeed, the first season of “Easy Abby” has screened festivals as a feature film in Chicago, San Francisco and Italy and is currently making its way through Germany.

Carlton, whose work includes the award-winning “Hannah Free” lesbian romance and the musical comedy “Jamie and Jessie are not Together,” always intended to create something more than the typical “YouTube ‘stars’ in their backyard speaking to a 15-year-old.” 

“Putting an image on YouTube is easy, but be careful,” she says. “It’s important to pay attention to craft and production value: consumption happens quickly and people are either on to the next thing or they want to see more.”

Working with three separate cinematographers wielding Canon 5D’s and shooting on location whenever possible, Carlton realized her vision of a “scripted, complicated webseries that’s fun to watch.”

When you view the extraordinary results, it’s easy to see why viewers love the show yet it’s difficult to understand why investors ignore it.  Or, as she puts it: “You would think with 18 million views I wouldn’t be wondering how to pay the rent.”

Wendy Jo CarltonCarlton and co-producer/lead actor Lisa Cordileone did spend “a lot of time” looking for sponsors, but received no more than a hunch that corporations are reluctant to get down with LGBT films.

“The folks with the checks are thinking, ‘oh, it’s a show,’” she explains. “Not an event like the Pride Parade.”

Attempts to partner with studios in LA didn’t go much further, even after Carlton offered to do product placement and presented analytics proving that 45% of “Easy Abby” viewers are men.

“People realize that those numbers are impressive,” she says. “But they say, ‘oh, it’s season one and it’s out there for free: we’re not sure if they can replicate that.”

So, for the time being, “Easy Abby” remains on YouTube, collecting viewers and searching for cash in a labyrinth of digital profiteering.

In this newfangled arena, content aggregators like the MultiChannelNetwork persuade YouTube channels like Collective Digital Studios to inform Carlton, “We want to increase our LGBT vertical and we really like the show and blah blah blah.”

Such deals offer a niche and a potentially wider audience, but they also require the show to stay on YouTube and, more importantly, do not provide what Carlton considers to be “the quickest, easiest answer.” 

“I need up front money,” she says.

Joking that the scenario “kinda sums up how exciting and frustrating this past year has been,” she plans to keep nurturing the seed that got it all started in the first place. 

“I’m interested in integrating mental health issues,” she explains. “In the beginning of season two, we meet Abby’s mother in a psych ward recovering from a bipolar freak out.”

Below is an exclusive interview with Wendy Jo Carlton. See our entire video collection on the Reel Chicago YouTube channel.

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