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Funding the Dream on Kickstarter
Ep 297 Tomas Härenstam From Art book to Amazon Prime TV Series Tales of the Loop
March 13, 2019 Richard Bliss, Tomas Härenstam, Free League Publishing, Tales from the Loop, Simon Stalenhag

Ep 297 Tomas Härenstam From Art book to Amazon Prime TV Series Tales of the Loop (17:34)

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Date: March 13, 2019

By: Richard Bliss, Tomas Härenstam, Free League Publishing, Tales from the Loop, Simon Stalenhag


Host Richard Bliss and guest Tomas Härenstam talk about Tales from the Loop and gives advice on how to turn small projects into larger projects.

Their first project was an art book highlighting the talents of artist Simon Stålenhag

Simon's art and concepts are now being turned into an Amazon Prime Television production.

Tomas shares how he began working with Simon, how their tiny project turned into a series of large one. One of the great things about Tomas is he finds something of interest to one audience and transfers that interest to a totally different audience.

Find out more about Tomas Härenstam

Free League Publishing

Tales from the Loop Kickstarter

Host Richard Bliss and guest Tomas Härenstam talk about Tales from the Loop and gives advice on how to turn small projects into larger projects.

Their first project was an art book highlighting the talents of artist Simon Stålenhag

Simon's art and concepts are now being turned into an Amazon Prime Television production.

Tomas shares how he began working with Simon, how their tiny project turned into a series of large one. One of the great things about Tomas is he finds something of interest to one audience and transfers that interest to a totally different audience.

Find out more about Tomas Härenstam

Free League Publishing

Tales from the Loop Kickstarter

Episode Transcript

Speaker 1:0:09Welcome to funding the dream, the number one podcast for the number one crowdfunding platform. Kickstarter. Now here's your host, Richard. Bless.

Speaker 2:0:22Welcome to the show. I'm Richard Bliss, the host. My guest today is someone who has been doing Kickstarter for quite a while, but you might not have heard of them as they have been doing Kickstarter projects from a place far away from the United States, uh, in Sweden. But you might be aware of their content because they've had some very popular Kickstarter projects. And the reason I have them on the show is because not only have they done some very successful Kickstarter projects, 18 in total, but their latest Kickstarter project has allowed them to, uh, be noticed through the combination of the art and the gaming to be picked up by Amazon and turned into a television show. So we appreciate having Thomas on the show. Thomas, thank you for joining me. Thank you. Good to be here. Thomas, you are the owner of free Leagon, a free link publishing and you have a Kickstarter campaign that you've run several. But the one that we're talking about is, um, tales from the loop. Tell us a little bit about that. Sure. Yeah.

Speaker 3:1:14Uh, it tells you in the loop, started out as a project, an art project by a guy named Simon solid hug a, uh, he started around about five, six years ago now doing this. This is art that he's put up on his blog. Uh, it was sort of, um, uh, version of his own childhoods. It's like Sweden in the eighties, early nineties, but infused with robots and dinosaurs and all kinds of fantastical machines. It's really this combination of the mundane and that's fantastic and it's done and it's really well done. And that sort of got some attention. So that's where it sort of started out and we, uh, we publish a role playing games primarily. And, uh, now also art books. We approached him, uh, around this time about making an art book and turning his art into an Arco, basically. So we agreed. We did that first just publish it in Swedish. Um, just a small thing, no pick started at that time. But then we sort of realized that this could have international potential. And then that's when we started, we did the Kickstarter for this to publish an English language version on the art book. And this would have been 2015 and that kind of took off.

Speaker 2:2:27And when you say took off, how, how, how much exposure or how many, how much money or backwards did you get for that first English version of the project? Yeah, first

Speaker 3:2:36project, uh, let's see. It was actually a published because at that time as a Swedish company, we couldn't use Kickstarter. So we had a partner in the U S for, for, for it. Uh, so, uh, it was actually under a different, a different, so, uh, but it was about, uh, let's see, I don't want to hear this. It was at Kickstarter we had, uh, about 3000, 890 backers. And this total sum was such thinking bit over $300,000,

Speaker 2:3:11which is fantastic. If that's really one of your, I mean, you had done a Kickstarter with the Swedish book, but suddenly this thing burst on the scene that many thousands of backers and that much money. Did that catch you by surprise?

Speaker 3:3:22Yeah, it did actually. We had no, I mean we, we, we knew this was a thing and of course Simon had a following of personally and, but, but still the way we had no idea it would pick off like this. So yeah, it was a bit of a surprise them, you know, obviously a very pleasant surprise, but still it was like, oh, now we really have to sort of, you know, I take that seriously and really, you know, roll with it. And that's what we've been, so we've been, you know, working with Simon and since then doing games based on this and, and more books and, and set more projects that, you know, that's where it started.

Speaker 2:3:56And You bring up an interesting point because then you've done one Kickstarter after another after another and it's for a total of 18. And so it sounds like, you know, just a little here, an idea there. Um, but it appears that art seems to be at the very heart of what you're doing even though you're doing games.

Speaker 3:4:11Part of a is not all, you know, the only thing that's definitely part of, of what we do and that it is, I mean we do games, but the visuals and the design part is really important as well. I think the combination of game design, game play, but also that the graphic design is really sort of key to what we do.

Speaker 2:4:32No Simon response, when you approached him and when he started having the success, did it, what was his response to this? Oh, well, I mean I guess he was happy, right?

Speaker 3:4:41I think the old where, uh, of course, uh, it was, uh, you know, and it's, yeah, I mean that's sort of kicked off the partnership between us and him. And the first one was just that project. But since then we've been, and he's also now a partner in Feedly company as such. So I mean, now we're sort of in it together.

Speaker 2:4:59You are. And speaking of in it together cause then you did a variety of projects and then this tales from the loop, uh, came about it role playing game that you created set I think is in, in the eighties, nineties. When's that book? When's that game set?

Speaker 3:5:12Yeah, the game is send the 80s uh, so it's sort of based on the, the, the, the universe, the arts book. But then we sort of expanded it into the game because turning it into a role playing game, we had to flesh out this universe and he did that, uh, when Simon as a consultant, but then also another rider who did sort of the game writing part of it and then just put it all together.

Speaker 2:5:33And not only did you put it together, but you put it together with a significant amount of success I think on that project. That tells from the loop 5,600 backers, 5,000, 600 backers, it's a significant number of people who feel that they want to do this. Again, you've had hundreds of backers, thousands of backers. It feels like this has been a plan of start little start with this little, uh, book, Swedish English. Suddenly it's bigger and bigger and now you're racking up, um, you know, hundreds and hundreds of thousands of dollars for this. Was that part of the plan? Was that kind of the systematic sit down and say, here's where we want to go and here's how we're going to get there?

Speaker 3:6:09Well, I wish you could say it was all a master plan. That's really the case, but sure, sure. I mean, once we realize that I'm in that first Kickstarter and the way that took off since then, we've been working fairly systematic. Yeah. I'd say, uh, with the tourney these books to this universe into gains and all sub publishing more books in the same [inaudible] by Simon at the same sort of in the same setting. So I mean, since then we did, like you mentioned the tales from the new role playing game on Kickstarter. And then we've only more recently, uh, last fall, I think it was September, we had a Kickstarter for things from the flood, which is like a sequel game to tales from the loop that actually, uh, in more backers.

Speaker 2:6:53Yeah, it did. You're right. I'm looking at that now. You had 50, 5,800 backers, so even more backers. So it appears that you've tapped into something. Now what's interesting and the reason that we're on the call, cause this is fascinating and it's a story that we've seen play out over and over with particularly roleplaying games, do very well on Kickstarter. But in your case down, he's gone to yet another level. And that is, um, with Amazon video coming to you and now wanting to create a series on Amazon prime for your game. Can you tell me a little bit about how that happened?

Speaker 3:7:23Yeah, I can tell you a little bit. I mean, I shouldn't say that, that the Omnifont TV show is, is based on Simon's world and his, his, his work. So it's more, I do more than particularly on the RPG as such. I mean there's all kinds of sort of, uh, ins and outs regarding how that whole thing works, I should say. I mean, obviously, uh, I strongly believe that our kickstart on their work we did on the game, that certainly helped get, he'd get attention to this world and Simon's work. But I mean most of the credits that definitely assignments, uh, himself, so we shouldn't, I shouldn't take too much credit for that valid point. Very valid. But, but definitely, yeah, it's an amazing thing that, that it's a turning up the TV show now and then, you know, hopefully it's going to take stay true to the Simons vision and the work that we did on the game as well.

Speaker 2:8:16Are you having any input on that, you Simon or the company having input on the production of this, of this television show?

Speaker 3:8:22Not In any detail. No. I mean it's mostly been, that's mostly Simon's a thing to be, he sort of handling that when his agents are working on that. Uh, mostly so we're not directly involved. No,

Speaker 2:8:35but still that will be fun. That, uh, that you're, that you're game. Um, we'll have a, a, a, a parallel I guess we could say right in the, in the visual world for people and I have to believe it, it'll expose the, a game tub that much bigger of an audience because the name, well the Shelby called tales from the flood I, excuse me tells from the loop.

Speaker 3:8:57I believe so, yeah, that's at least my understanding. But yeah, definitely of course it's, it's a, and we hopefully we can see some more exposure for the game as well. And, and for, for the books, uh, being helped by the TV show and then we'll definitely try to sort of make a few new releases and things, you know, in, in conjunction with the TV show released, sort of see if back and gain some, some further retention.

Speaker 2:9:20That will certainly be a fun one to watch. Now this is one of the things, but you, I, I'm noticing as I see the project, you have another project that you launched another a game. Um, it's not an RPG but the crusader kings board game.

Speaker 3:9:35Yeah,

Speaker 2:9:36right. That project, even more backers now, 6,170 backers on that. Was that, I mean, how, how has this coming about, because as you're going down a path, suddenly are you seeing new opportunities present themselves that come to you and say, Hey, we can do this now, which is different than what you've done in the past?

Speaker 3:9:51Yeah, for sure. I mean, it definitely, you know, having some success on Kickstarter I think really opens doors and it sort of makes it possible to do other things and new things. And I think, uh, the [inaudible] case that, that you mentioned, it's, it's our most successful Kickstarter today and that is, and that is for a board game, which is a bit different from a role playing game and the market before games is bigger as m for role playing games. So that's our attempt having built a reputation or doing role playing games and doing kickstarters fairly well. Uh, we will also, we wanted to explore the opportunity and the, and to also grow into board games because those have also been quite successful on Kickstarter and we wanted to try it out that and uh, so we approached a computer games company called paradox interactive that makes proceeded case a computer game. Uh, and then we have kitchen up more game based on that, uh, with them. So we together with them, we launched this Kickstarter, uh, last summer so we would launch it in May.

Speaker 2:10:57It sounds like a Thomas you approach your projects by finding something of interest to one audience and transferring that interest to her yet a totally different audience. Talking about Simon with his art, uh, introducing it to role players, talking about a crusader kings as a video game, introducing it to board gamers. Is this having an approach that you use looking out there for intellectual property that maybe you think you can find another audience for by moving it to another platform?

Speaker 3:11:22Yeah, yeah, definitely. I mean, I'm role playing games and more games are sort of at the heart of what we do. So, I mean that's sort of where we come from, but then we are, you know, Reik have ideas and influences from all kinds of other, uh, other areas as well. And in this case, I think it works because I think Kickstarter works best when you have, it can be hard if you start with nothing. It, you sort of, it really helps if you have something to build on and that can be your own reputation or, or, or someone else had been. If you find a good partner, uh, that can also really help because that's sort of, you have to get the word out in the beginning to get the ball rolling, so to speak. Then once that sort of started, then, then it can sort of keep going, but just sort of have to get that early momentum going.

Speaker 2:12:11You know? That's interesting because you talked about that early momentum, you now have that momentum so you can approach and show a track record. If, if a, if a company is starting out, they've got a game idea or they've, they've seen some art similar to what you've done and how, what advice would you give them to somebody who wants to start off, doesn't have that momentum, see, see somebody other creation and they want to leverage that. Is there some advice that you can pay pay for with that

Speaker 3:12:38question? Yeah, I mean, yeah, if, just trying to find, if you don't have that sort of a base already or find a partner who does that you sort of work together with, I mean finding that partner would be one way to do it at a it in another way I guess would be to sort of build up a community before you go to Kickstarter. I think sort of lay the groundwork so to speak, and sort of get the word out and do things before you. So you don't, I don't think it's a good idea to go to Kickstarter with a, with an idea and no matter how good that idea is, if that's the first thing you do, get, sort of have to build the groundwork for it first.

Speaker 2:13:16And so in your case, it was Simon going to Simon and then having the idea of publishing this book. Had he published a book before that it was all his artwork on his blog.

Speaker 3:13:26It was only on his log. Yeah, no, he's published a book before so that this was this a for his first book.

Speaker 2:13:32And so then you did the book, you gained the trust, you saw that it worked, you went to the English version. Now suddenly you have it, the momentum rolling. Um, I think that's a good plan is I talked to so many, uh, prospective Kickstarter project owners is they're looking for a way to get that attention, finding somebody who's done something similar, in this case, Simon, with his artwork. That's just kind of starting up and you with your games are starting up. How long have you been doing the games before you did the Kickstarter?

Speaker 3:13:59Well, we started out very small. I mean a free league started out as something we just did on basically our free time. We all had other day jobs that we started out around 2011 around there. Uh, so, and we will need a couple of games, a only in Swedish. And then our first game in English was in 2014. It was called Newton zero zero. Uh, which actually was not kickstarted the first, uh, the first book. But since then we sort of moved most things into Kickstarter. So we, uh, the same thing there that actually we didn't start out with a Kickstarter that's actually came as a sort of a second step.

Speaker 2:14:34Has this allowed you now the success allowed you now two full fulltime do this? Um, with the free press?

Speaker 3:14:39Yeah. And that Pronoun, Eh, as sort of took a number of years to sort of move, move in that direction. But now we're a small team here, uh, who are doing this full time.

Speaker 2:14:51I to ask is, is role playing games and board games, um, very popular in Sweden because it sounds like you've had some success coming out of the Swedish market itself.

Speaker 3:15:01Yeah, yeah, they are. I mean there, there was a strong board game and roping in community here, I mean it's, it's a small country so this needs a much smaller market, but I wouldn't say per capita it's going to be pretty among the stronger. So definitely that's sort of a core for us. A core audience is the Swedish rolled payers, but they're not that many. So they're not really enough just numerically to sort of base that's a market to base a business on. But there's still sort of a core that we, that's sort of, that know us very well and that sort of, and we can sort of, that's how we started out and that helped us in the early days.

Speaker 2:15:35Well, you must be the Rockstar then of the gaming community and sweet, right? You're the Aba, right? You're the, the, um, the RPGs.

Speaker 3:15:45I wouldn't say that, but so yeah.

Speaker 2:15:48Well, maybe because a, I think you're doing very well and I think Thomas, what you're doing is you're showing a path of success that I think is a very doable for a lot of people who are looking to do something similar, not necessarily all the way up to the television show, like on Amazon prime, but how to start small, how to keep focus, and then how to leverage that little by little. You've done a very good job of laying that out. Thank you. Well, I appreciate your time. Thank you very much. This has been fascinating because, um, again, uh, a common, uh, common contact of ours, although Yahtzee with impressions now Flat River Group was the one who put us in contact. I'm certainly glad he did. It's been fascinating to talk to you and to, to learn about what you're doing. Can I just, the last question I have before we wrap up, what's next for Free League publishing for free? Illegal. Where are you guys going next?

Speaker 3:16:40Yeah, we have a couple of things up our sleeves. I mean, uh, of course. Uh, we're going to finish the games that we already Kickstarter. That's first, but then we have a pretty big project coming up. I wish I could tell you more. I have to, yeah. In a few months, uh, it will all be revealed.

Speaker 2:16:58Excellent. All right, well, Thomas, thank you very much for joining me on the show.

Speaker 3:17:02Thank you so much.

Speaker 2:17:03You've been listening to funding the dream. My guest has been Thomas on and stem from free league publishing or free eleague in his game. Tales from the loop has been on kicks. It was on Kickstarter a while back, but has been picked up. The artwork has been picked up for a show on Amazon prime called tales from the loop. I think a, we'll look forward to seeing that come out. Thomas has been very generous with his time and also his advice about how to begin a project small and then build that into success of projects as they get bigger and bigger. I know I've been inspired. Hopefully you have to thank you for listening. Take care.

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