Where the Bears Are has become a mini-phenomenon which has taken on a life of its own. The web series, a labor of love produced by big and beefy best buds Rick Copp, Joe Dietl and Ben Zook, flies in the face of what usually passes for popular gay entertainment. These rather large, hairy guys aren't afraid to show their tender, romantic sides — or some skin.
Ostensibly a light, romantic comedy with a bit of Murder She Wrote and the Golden Girls thrown in, Bears follows the zany adventures of Nelson (Zook), Reggie (Rick Copp), and Wood (Joe Dietl), three guys who live in Silverlake, LA's other trendy gay neighborhood. Not exactly what the other guys in the neighborhood are looking for, the boys nonetheless look for love with a joyous zest for life.
The road to love is sometimes littered with dead bodies. As they search for Mr. Right with varying degrees of success, our heroes also manage to solve a few murders,
Bears writer/co-star Rick Copp is a Hollywood veteran. His extensive writing resume includes The Brady Bunch Movie, Scooby Doo, and even The Golden Girls. In a previous chat with SF Weekly, he revealed that Bears' three leads are patterned after Dorothy, Blanche and Rose. In conjunction with Bears' bigger, better, just launched season three, Copp spoke to SF Weekly again.
[jump] SF Weekly: What can your audience expect with season 3?
Copp: We are so excited for season three. Wood is called back to do a reunion calendar for Chuck studios, a gay porn studio where he briefly worked as a model in the nineties. Somebody starts targeting the younger models and Reggie, who is trying to sell a true crime reality TV show pilot, drags the other bears into investigating. Meanwhile, Nelson gets the part of the sheriff in a low budget horror film which may tie into the real life murder case. But that's just the beginning. We have a wonderful new cast of characters that joins our regulars in addition to some returning favorites such as Tuc Watkins of Desperate Housewives and One Life to Live who is back as Nelson's acting rival Dickie Calloway. The climax on board a jumbo jet has to be seen to be believed and we actually shot our final scene on location in Melbourne, Australia in June. You might say this is our biggest season yet.
Since our third season is much bigger in scope than our first two seasons with a bigger cast and more expensive locations including three days shooting on a jumbo jet set, we were unable to pay ourselves. That's why we continue to push items in our online store so the three of us can make a small salary for our efforts.
SF Weekly: What's your audience make-up like? Gay, straight, mixed?
Copp: Our audience is 95% male for obvious reasons and we skew younger. Our two biggest demographics are 18-24 and 25-34, which is surprising since the three of us are not in that demographic. We assume the audience is predominately gay, but we constantly hear from straight fans who enjoy the show, and that's our goal. We believe our humor is accessible to an adult audience both straight and gay so we hope to expand our base.
SF Weekly: How many views do you get per episode on average?
Copp: It varies. Some episodes outperform the others. Our pilot now has well over two million views. It's hard to tell because we pull our seasons offline when a new season premieres in order to encourage fans to buy the DVD versions or download the previous seasons. Looking at season two, when you combine the You Tube and Vimeo views, our rated shows was 385,000 and our lowest around 68,000. But they constantly keep growing until we take them down.
SF Weekly: Is the success of Bears opening up other career opportunities for you guys?
Copp: Not in the traditional film and TV markets. I think they still need to play catch up with this fast changing model of content production. What I love about our show is that a lot of younger people, those who watch most of their programming on their phones, tablets and computers, don't distinguish between a TV show and a web show. They consider us on the same level as a network produced series and that's exciting to us because it makes up feel like pioneers in a totally new frontier. With Netflix and Hulu and regular people making shows in their basement, the possibilities of bringing your content to a wide audience is endless The fact that people all over the world watch our show in different languages and write us fan mail is something we never expected.
SF Weekly: Do you think it will be possible to make a living from self-produced web series?
Copp: Yes, absolutely. We're very proud of the fact that we started this company with our own money to produce entertainment. In just over two years our company has produced three seasons of a show in addition to three holiday specials and a lot of extra content. We are close to being in the black.
SF Weekly: How much longer might Bears run?
Copp: As long as the audience keeps wanting to watch and supports us. We already have ideas for season 4 if we're lucky enough to do it.