When comedy web series Where The Bears Are first hit YouTube in 2012, it proved an instant hit. Co-created by Rick Copp, Ben Zook and Joe Dietl, who also star in the series, it follows four regular characters (Ian Parks plays the other regular character) who just happen to get caught up in murder investigations.
Think the Golden Girls meets Murder She Wrote with lots more hair, queerness and sex-related jokes!
Thanks to crowdfunding from legions of fans, the men have managed to turn out a season per year since that time. Where The Bears Are has racked up over 35million views, picked up over 70,00 YouTube subscribers, and has raised over $800,000 from Kickstarter campaigns.
The seventh season will feature 16 ‘campy, scary and surprisingly touching’ episodes. It will debut on YouTube this Monday (10 September). At the moment, there are no plans to make any more. We caught up with Copp and Zook to ask about the show.
Why have you decided this will be the final season of Where The Bears Are?
Rick Copp: I think we all agree that we were reaching a point where we were starting to repeat ourselves and we wanted to go out on a strong, funny season that wraps up the stories of all these characters that we’ve been following and laughing with for seven years.
That doesn’t mean after a breather, we can’t come back and see where everyone has ended up, or find an interesting way to bring them all back together again, but we’re excited to explore new projects and maybe another bear-related series that’s completely different from WTBA.
Ben Zook: I think we needed a bit of a break. Doing our series is basically producing a feature film and holiday special every year. It’s a year-long process to get it from idea to completed season. So, it’s been a lot of work and we wanted a bit of time off.
However, we are all work-a-holics and have realized that we want to keep being creative and plunge ourselves into another bear-related show. So keep an eye out for something new from us in 2019!
Did you ever imagine when you started it that it you’d film this many episodes?
Rick: We never thought we would go beyond the first season so the fact that we’ve done so many, we hit episode 100 sometime in our fifth season, is astounding to me.
I love that some people like watching the show as a movie and others like the little bites twice a week, something to get them through their work day. They can take a break and laugh for a few minutes and then go back to what they were doing.
The most rewarding aspect of all of this is people telling us how watching the show brightens their day. That’s really special for all of us when we hear it.
Ben: Not really. I think our expectations were pretty low. However, once Season 1 became so big so fast, I think I knew we would probably be able to go for awhile.
Do you have any particular highlights from the last six years?
Rick: I’m a big traveler. When people come up to me in a restaurant in Tel Aviv or on a street in Cologne, Germany, or on an airplane in Melbourne, Australia, and tell me what the show means to them and how much they enjoy it, well that’s a gift you never expect to enjoy in life.
We have fun writing and producing the show and we’ve had lots of wonderful experiences on the set, but the true highlight for me is getting to experience the connection our fans have to it. I get emotional just thinking about it.
Ben: I’ve worked with incredible people through the years, but doing this show has been the most gratifying experience of my life. Shooting our show is a blast and everyone who has been a part of it, be it guest cast, background or crew have shared with us how much fun it is to work on, and how proud they are to be a part of it.
We have an amazing team of people that have helped us make the show the success that it is. I would love to name them all here, but there are too many to mention and I wouldn’t want to forget anyone. We love our cast and crew and production team and are deeply grateful to all of them for their tremendous work.
Perhaps the biggest highlight for me has been the incredibly touching emails and messages we have received from around the world from gay men and bears who have share with us how much the show means to them and how it helped make their lives happier and better.
What are you each planning to do next?
Rick: Ben, Joe and I have been tossing around ideas for maybe another bear-related show but we haven’t landed on something totally concrete yet. We definitely need a break first.
Ben: We are seriously thinking about a new bear-related series. Rick also writes amazing mystery novels that will keep him busy. Joe is a wonderfully talented painter and that will keep him busy. And I am working on some screenplays and stage shows that will keep me busy. But, we look forward to doing a new project together very soon!
Did you earn any money from Where The Bears Are? Or was it pretty much a labor of love?
Rick: We’ve definitely made money, but not enough to earn a comfortable living. We pay our cast and crew and really try to get a bang for our buck with special effects and action scenes so there is not a lot left over.
Ben: We’ve made a little money, but not nearly enough to live off of. We do other projects to pay our bills. But we love doing it so much that the hard work and low pay is worth it. It truly is a labor of love. And if it weren’t for our incredibly generous fans supporting us through Kickstarter, the show would not exist.
What advice would you offer anyone else thinking of creating a YouTube series of films?
Rick: Just do it. We knew we wanted to target an underserved audience online and we knew they were underserved because the three of us a part of that community and were starving for gay bear-related content too.
I also write mystery novels for a completely different audience, mostly older women, and what I’ve found is once you identify your niche audience, and you serve worthwhile content, they will be loyal and keep coming back so long as you manage to keep the quality up.
Ben: Tell the stories that excite you the most. Stay with what you find funny or real or compelling and don’t try to create something that you think will be popular.
Doing something true to yourself that you love will become successful. Also, try not to take it too seriously. It should be fun and everyone should have a good time. Even if the material you are creating is serious.
Where The Bears Are is viewable via YouTube. Previous seasons can be downloaded via iTunes, Amazon, Google Play and Vimeo On Demand.