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The Lizzie Bennet Diaries proved that fictional stories can be told through video blogs. What's Next!?
7,158 backers pledged $462,405 to help bring this project to life.

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Kickstarter Review - 3 of 3

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Hi everyone,

Our last two updates gave you a rundown of the Kickstarter campaign's goals, the budget, and the reasons why the DVDs took so long to produce. This update – our final one (we hope!) - deals with what we've learned from this experience and how we'll be avoiding these problems in the future.

After a solid year of working hard to get the DVDs and perks finished and sent out, it was an incredible relief for all of us to see tweets, photographs and messages from excited fans receiving their shipments and sitting down to binge-watch "The Lizzie Bennet Diaries" and the special features.

Despite a few final hassles to sort out, Brit could allow herself a bit of satisfaction in what she had created. "I think the final product is solid," she says. "For being the first DVD boxed set that I ever produced, I'm proud of it."

And now, she has some hard-earned wisdom on what works and what doesn't. "We know that volunteers sending in subtitles is not going to work. You have to have them professionally done. And if we'd had the budget to pay another editor a ton of money, that probably wouldn't have taken as much time and they wouldn't have made the mistakes."

Better communication would have also gone a long way – between the production team and the manufacturers, but also between us and our supporters. For instance, while setting the initial July 2013 goal was reasonable for the basic boxed set, once the project expanded we should have been more cautious about publicly discussing time estimates. The dates changed on us so often, it came across as a string of missed deadlines and only served to annoy the crap out of everyone.

Regarding the Kickstarter updates, there has been some debate over how detailed and frequent they should have been, and there are good points on all sides. A couple things worth mentioning: first, publicly discussing our difficulties with the manufacturers while the project was ongoing would have further strained our relationship with that company, and could have backfired.

Second, based on all feedback, we felt the majority of backers wanted updates only when there were reliable details to pass on, rather than receiving dozens of weekly messages with no news. And after the subtitles ordeal, Brit was hesitant to say anything unless she was 100% sure. "Most of the time, the only thing we could tell them is 'We're still working on it, we're still doing this,'" she says.

If you're wondering whether Pemberley Digital is thinking of going through this whole process again for "Emma Approved" or "Frankenstein M.D.," the answer is no. "We're really good at adapting books into web series," says Bernie. "We're not good DVD producers. So I think we should stick to stuff that we're really good at."

That doesn't mean EA or Frankenstein DVDs won't happen if there's demand for them, but these shows are being produced in partnership with companies who have the resources to take on such a project. It is highly unlikely that Pemberley will crowdfund a DVD ever again.

For now, everyone at Pemberley Digital and DFTBA is just relieved it's over.

"I hope the fans know we worked really hard on this, and I felt awful about how long it took," says Brit. "It was a monster that we weren't prepared to deal with, but we took it step by step and we pushed through it. I'm glad that the fans have it, and I really hope they like it."

Again, thank you so much for bearing with us.

Hank and Bernie

Kickstarter Review - 2 of 3

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Hi everyone,

Here's Part 2 of our Kickstarter review for the Lizzie Bennet Diaries DVDs. If you missed it, check out Part 1 for a rundown of the project goals and the final budget.

Some backers have been asking a lot of questions about what exactly was happening at Pemberley Digital while the DVDs were being made. For those who are interested, this update will explain why the Kickstarter project took more than a year and half a dozen missed deadlines to be completed.

This will be long and detailed, so grab some tea (or perhaps your favorite alcoholic beverage) and get comfy.

Who made the DVDs?

The discs themselves were authored and manufactured by Disc Makers at their facility in New Jersey. DFTBA had worked with them before to produce Hannah Hart's DVD set, and they had a solid track record.

All of the files for the DVDs were created by Pemberley Digital at the Deca offices in Santa Monica. At the time, the in-house staff included Bernie Su, a full-time administrative assistant, a part-time DVD producer, Deca's video editor, and a summer intern. On top of the Kickstarter project, the team were busy wrapping up "The Lizzie Bennet Diaries," producing "Welcome to Sanditon" and preparing for "Emma Approved."

The DVD producer was Brit Weisman, who worked with Felicia Day's team at Geek & Sundry and was recommended by them. She was in charge of producing all the Kickstarter content, including special features, the Collins & Collins videos and the Darcy and Collins voicemail messages. She interviewed the actors and writers for the featurettes, edited many of the video files, and worked directly with the manufacturers.

What caused the delays?

Some of it had to do with logistics. The original high-resolution files for episodes 1-49 were lost, so Pemberley had to rebuild those episodes from scratch. (This is why some of the DVD episodes have different scene takes than the YouTube videos.) It also took more time than usual to figure out how the DVDs should be organized, because the technology is not ideal for LBD's interactive, multi-channel format.

But for the most part, the DVDs took forever to finish because Pemberley Digital were trying not to burn through the Kickstarter fund.

"When you promise a bonus for the cast and crew, which they absolutely deserve, no matter how you operate you are morally obligated to protect that money as much as possible," says Bernie. "So instead of hiring an editor to bang through this and get it out of the way, Brit had to do it by herself and get the interns to help."

Soon after Pemberley decided to add special features, it became clear they wouldn't make the July deadline. Brit had plenty of experience with web series, but this was her first time producing an entire DVD boxed set. It took her longer than it would an experienced full-time editor, and there were complications she didn't anticipate. "It's like you're walking on a path and there's a lot of rocks you're stubbing your toe on," she says. "Nothing was boat-sinking, but it pushed everything back."

Brit was also jumping at opportunities to add extra features for the fans. "If we're making it," she reasoned, "let's make it good." For instance, the original plan was to interview ten of the cast and crew for the featurettes, but she pushed that out to 20, bringing in more actors as well as the writing team. It meant missing the deadline, but she felt it would be worth the wait.

By far, the biggest delay came from the ill-fated international subtitles.

A lot of supporters were eagerly requesting subtitles in foreign languages, but adding such a feature to DVDs is very expensive. As a compromise, Hank and Bernie asked for volunteers to translate the scripts across seven languages for 160 individual videos.

The volunteers did a great job, but the files arrived in different formats and had to be reconfigured. Once they were ready, they were sent to the manufacturers to be added to the episodes. Sometimes the files didn't work, but Brit received very little feedback on what the manufacturers actually needed, so she had to use trial and error to fix the problem. She worked hard and had some help from the summer intern, but progress was frustratingly slow.

Late in the summer, new funding came in from Deca, LBD advertising and the Secret Diary book deal. The summer internship ended, but Bernie brought in two new interns who threw themselves into subtitles work and plowed through it. By the end of August, the files were finished and with the manufacturers.

Weeks went by, then a month, and there was no news from the manufacturers or any indication that there was a problem. Then in October, out of the blue, the company told Brit that none of the subtitles were usable. They would only accept one long file per channel per language, not individual episode files as Pemberley had been doing all summer. The manufacturers offered to hire a professional subtitles company, but that would cost tens of thousands of dollars.

For a few frantic weeks, Brit simply refused to give up. "I wanted it to work, and I'd put so much time into it. I was like, 'Bernie, give me another week, I can figure this out.'" But there were thousands of files to organize, and by the time they had been pieced together, the subtitles were out of sync with the audio. Brit and the interns had to go through all the episodes and adjust the word placement and time codes by hand, working with foreign languages they didn't know how to read.

Meanwhile, Brit was getting messages from DFTBA every couple of days asking for news. "I already felt terrible because I could see the fans tweeting stuff like 'Where is our shit!' and I was like 'I'm so sorry, I don't want it to take this long either!'"

By November, Pemberley realized they had to scrap the entire subtitles project, a waste of at least three months. They salvaged the international files for the YouTube videos and paid a company to write English-only subtitles in a last-ditch effort to finish the DVDs before Christmas.

Needless to say, that deadline didn't happen either.

The final round of delays came from reviewing the disc proofs, which started to arrive at the end of 2013. By now the Pemberley team were exhausted, and mistakes were becoming more frequent and harder to catch.

Almost inevitably, there were glitches and errors with some of the episode files and even the professionally-written subtitles, which Brit had to fix herself. Then the files had to be re-exported, a process that took three to four hours each, and put on a hard drive to be mailed to New Jersey so a new set of proofs could be made up and sent back. Each delivery would take three to five days – often longer due to delays from the manufacturers – and Pemberley couldn't have the next batch of proofs to review until the current one was finished.

Brit was practically living at the Deca offices during this period. "Sometimes I'd come in during the afternoon and stay overnight to export something so I could mail it out in the morning." She was reviewing proofs on Christmas Eve, and kept working straight through the holiday season. It was early March by the time the manufacturers cleared everything.

For all her painstaking efforts, one significant error slipped through Brit's fingers: Q&A Episodes 1 and 2 are swapped in the final product. "When you look at something long enough, especially nine or ten hours of footage, it sort of all blurs together. There are people on the screen, and the sound coming out of their mouths matches their mouths and the words on the screen. And I watched it straight through, twice. So that's my fault."

The boxed sets arrived at the DFTBA warehouse in April 2014, more than a year after the Kickstarter campaign launched. From then on the project was out of Pemberley's hands and they could only wait for news to pass on to their (now incredibly frustrated) supporters. And with 7,000 perk packages for DFTBA to ship out, it was another month before most people had received them.

If you've stayed with us this far, 1) hi! and 2) stay tuned for our final update, in which we talk about some of the lessons we've learned the hard way.

Hank and Bernie

Kickstarter Review - 1 of 3

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Hi everyone,

It's been a long and frustrating journey, but the Kickstarter campaign for the Lizzie Bennet Diaries DVD boxed set is finally wrapping up. All DVDs and perk items were shipped from the DFTBA warehouse last month, and we're now in the process of tying up loose ends and taking stock of what happened. If there is an issue with your shipment or items, please email dftbafulfillment@gmail.com

As promised, we're giving our supporters a thorough, three-part review of the entire saga. This update will deal with the start of the project way back in January 2013, the overall funds we raised and how that money was used. The next update will explain how the DVDs were manufactured and what caused the delays, and the final update will tell you what we’ve learned and where we’re going from here.

But, first things first.

We owe our backers and everyone involved in this project our deepest thanks for supporting us, and our sincerest apologies for the long wait, the complications and the miscommunications we experienced. The Pemberley Digital and DFTBA teams shared in your frustration every step of the way and are genuinely grateful for your patience throughout all of this.

What was the goal of the Kickstarter?

Hank Green and Bernie Su got the idea for a Kickstarter campaign in early 2013. Despite the fact that "The Lizzie Bennet Diaries" is available for free on YouTube, Pemberley Digital was receiving many requests from fans around the world to produce a DVD boxed set once the series was finished. But Pemberley had no extra assets at the time, so the funding would need to be crowdsourced.

They ran the numbers and decided the project was worth a shot. "We figured if there was enough demand for a thousand boxed sets it would be worth it." says Bernie. "Even if we only broke even on it, we would have a DVD. That's a win."

Hank drew up a budget for producing a basic DVD set with six hours of content and no special features. He launched the Kickstarter campaign on March 22, with a funding goal of $60,000 and an estimated delivery date of July 2013.

But when LBD's Kickstarter backers blew past the goal within a day and delivered a grand total of $462,405 a month later, Hank and Bernie decided the fans deserved a better product and new content.

"Because the Kickstarter did so well, we felt we owed them a lot better things," says Bernie. "That's why we tried to do a seven-language DVD, which was totally over-ambitious in hindsight. We were like, 'We have all this extra money, let's at least try.'"

The project expanded to include nine hours of DVD content including special features and international subtitles, a new fandom-oriented mini-series to bridge the gap between LBD and "Emma Approved," a selection of extra perk items, and bonuses for the cast and crew. Pemberley Digital started working on blooper reels and brought in the actors and writers for commentaries and featurettes, while Jay Bushman and Margaret Dunlap developed "Welcome to Sanditon."

How was the money used?

Here is an approximate overview of how the $462,000 Kickstarter fund was divided up:

To break it down further:

Miscellaneous cast/crew expenses included:

  • compensating the team for DVD commentaries, interviews, voicemail messages, signed posters etc; 
  • filming the Collins and Collins videos; 
  • production crew expenses such as makeup, wardrobe, set design, lighting etc. 
  • residual payments to actors and writers from DVD sales;
  • Screen Actors Guild (SAG) fees; 
  • awards submission fees; 
  • a slush fund for cast/crew attending VidCon, LeakyCon, the Emmys, etc. 

For the 1st round bonuses, each member of the cast and crew, including Bernie, received 100% of the total amount they were paid over the course of LBD. This arrangement favored those who worked more hours, meaning that aside from the show’s main stars (Ashley Clements, Mary Kate Wiles, Laura Spencer and Julia Cho) the writers and crew tended to receive higher bonuses than the actors. Bernie's bonus covered 12 months of writing, directing and showrunning.

The money for "Welcome to Sanditon" was spent largely on paychecks for people like Allison Paige, Daniel Vincent Gordh, Margaret Dunlap, Jay Bushman, Jenni Powell, Alexandra Edwards and other LBD production crew. The series was initially budgeted at $17,000 but ended up at $32,000. "We wanted it to be better, we wanted to make more videos and we wanted to compensate people more," says Bernie.

Pemberley Digital operating expenses included paychecks for one full-time administrative assistant, one part-time DVD producer and one summer intern, all of whom spent a large chunk of their time handling the Kickstarter project. These employees stopped receiving paychecks from the Kickstarter fund in August 2013, when funding streams came in from Deca, the Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet book deal and LBD advertising.

Stay tuned for our next update, which will explain where the project ran into trouble.

Hank and Bernie

Missing LBD Buttons

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All DVDs have been shipped!

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Hi everyone,

We heard over the weekend that the last of the DVDs have been shipped. Remaining orders in the US should be delivered within the next 10 business days. International orders can take as long as three weeks. Hank just got his today but, y'know, the warehouse is in his town so...

By now you should have received a shipment notification from dftbafulfillment@gmail.com at your kickstarter email address (which you can see here https://www.kickstarter.com/settings/account). 

If there is an issue with your shipment, please email dftbafulfillment@gmail.com. Let them know your email address so they can look up the order more easily. We'll keep an eye on social media and try to keep everyone on the same page.

We'll send out more updates as we get things tidied up, and finish with a detailed review of the whole Kickstarter saga. Thanks again for being patient with us.

Hank and Bernie