The future of Webworm, and how you can help!

What is in store for this newsletter, and why your support means a lot.

Hey friend,

Hope you’re doing okay. I feel kinda exhausted & tired, to be honest! And that’s fine. It’s okay not to be 100%, all of the time. I think it’s important to remember that. Go easy on yourself.

I wanted to talk a little bit about Webworm, what it is, and where it’s going. I love writing this thing, and I want to keep growing and expanding what it can be.

It all started because New Zealand went into full COVID-19 lockdown at 11:59pm on March 25th, and remained there for just over a month.

It was a fucking weird time: the city was empty, and as chaotic as it was in our hearts and brains, I’ll always appreciate the solo walks through an empty city. It was a surreal, beautiful and scary time.

When I wasn’t on one of these surreal, aimless walks, I decided to create this thing you’re reading now — Webworm.

Why did I make Webworm?

Over lockdown, most of my projects came to a halt. I found myself on Twitter and Instagram even more than usual, posting about the things I saw unfolding around me. There’s a certain joy to publishing things immediately.

But it occurred to me that if those social media platforms die (like MySpace before it) — or simply become morally untenable to publish on (Facebook makes me feel ill to use at the moment), then all my work — and the people reading & commenting — die with it.

I needed another way to talk to people. Reliable, direct, and preferably without any advertisements popping up.

I was also sick of doing giant Twitter threads. I wanted a more effective way to communicate ideas and stories, in a medium that would let me embed videos and images easily. And I wanted a way to fling ideas out into the world — instantly — without having to go through an editor.

Also, to be honest, Webworm was born from a failure. A project I’d been pitching for here in New Zealand was rejected for funding.

I’d already done a few weeks of research, infiltrated closed Facebook groups, and gotten the right people on board. It was going to be a short documentary about how two conspiracy theories had combined into one giant mess: COVID-19 and 5G. I was excited about telling that story — but for whatever reason, it didn’t work out. And that’s totally fine. But I was sitting on all these ideas and information. And I realised I wanted a way to share stuff that couldn’t find a “home” already.

So I did something kinda old school: I started a newsletter.

And I decided I’d communicate using one of the oldest and reliable things on the internet — e-mail. And I wrote, heaps.

This is some of the stuff I’ve sent out in this newsletter that I feel good about, in no particular order:

I wrote it all for free, because I love exploring, and I love sharing, and I like to think I can sometimes help illuminate things that might need illuminating. And bring some sense and analysis to what’s going on, sometimes.

Some of the stories were fun, some were serious. But they all wormed into the stranger parts of life. That’s what Webworm is about.

What’s next for Webworm:

Now it’s time to take it to the next level, a little. I’ve been pestering you about this a little over the last two weeks, but I wanted to write about it a little more and explain my thinking, so then never pester you about it again.

I want to keep publishing Webworm, and I want to make it better and be able to spend more time on it. That’s why tomorrow I’m officially turning on the option to become a paying subscriber, for $6.99 a month or $69 a year (USD).

This means that if it’s not going to place you under financial hardship, you can contribute to what I do — and that will mean I can keep making Webworm, and make it better.

If you sign up before the 15th using the button below, you’ll get the discounted rate of $5 a month, or $50 a year. That discounted amount will stick with you for as long as you remain a subscriber. You can opt out whenever you want, whenever you get sick of my shit.

The other thing I’d like to note about becoming a paid supporter is that if I get sidetracked shooting or directing, and it becomes impossible for me to write for a few weeks, then I’ll just hit “pause” on your subscription, so you stop paying. Your membership will start again when I start writing again.

I like to think I won’t have to do this, but if my filming life gets bonkers and I pause writing, it means I don’t fuck you up!

Why pay?

First up, you don’t have to.

The more “important” stuff (outing the bad guys, etc) will keep coming out for free.

I don’t want to hide important things behind a paywall.

But as a freelance documentary-maker and journalist, I want to pay the bills, and I want to be able to write this newsletter while not stressing about “Oh fuck, I need to run off and do this other thing so I can return here to do what I actually want to do!” — which is tell stories in my own way, on my terms.

So if you become a paid subscriber, you’ll get stuff like:

  • Monthly AMAs

  • Behind-the-scenes of projects I’ve worked on / am working on

  • More personal essays (no nudez)

  • Me exploring the weird stuff that ends up in my mailbox, like letters from Canada’s most infamous murderer, Luka Magnotta, who started writing to me from prison last year:

  • If there’s demand for it, I’ll do some posts directly related to documentary making — from tips I’ve learnt in the field, to developing your ideas and making them your own, to pitching them to places like Netflix

  • In the same vein, I may get stuck into writing about journalism — paths into it, changes in the field, tips and tricks, and what you can expect if you’re just starting out

  • You’ll also get access to the archive of all my old stuff I’ve written here.

But also, in becoming a paid member, you get to know you’re supporting my work, both in this newsletter and beyond.

I work by hopping independently from project-to-project, and assemble teams as I go to make the “bigger” stuff: like Tickled in 2016, and Dark Tourist in 2018. Here in 2020 I’m working on my next documentary feature. It’s slow, and at times frustrating work.

But Webworm is just me, in-between those other things, unfiltered and talking directly to you. Trying out ideas. Testing things that one day might become documentaries or series of their own.

I don’t pretend to be a newsroom like The New York Times or The Spinoff, or a well resourced magazine like GQ (their feature on Justin Bieber’s relationship with megachurch “Hillsong” is an all time favourite of mine). Newsrooms and journalists and teams of data-crunchers are so, so important.

But Webworm isn’t a big team. It’s just me, trying to process the world by telling stories I think are important. I have no editor. There will be spelling errors. I will make mistakes, I will stumble, and sometimes I will miss the mark on the pieces I write.

But I like to think by now I am at least a little bit good about exploring strange and odd topics with both a pigheaded curiosity, and kindness.

Sometimes I get a little angry, perhaps — yelling at QAnon supporters and lifestyle influencers — but in general, I want to be measured, kind and informative. And sometimes a little funny, maybe.

Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk:

So that’s what Webworm is, and that’s what I want to do with it.

I hope that clears things up if there’s any confusion in your brain about what you signed up for, or what you are planning to sign up for.

I don’t know exactly what this thing will become, but I have ideas. A concept about a Webworm podcast is floating around in my head, too. And maybe some guest writers, curated by me.

If you have any questions, please just ask in the comments below (don’t hit “reply” to this email, chances are I won’t get to it!)

I’ll be here in the comments section to answer you as clearly as I can, and just to read your feedback.

Finally, a sincere thanks to those of you who have been on board supporting me from the start, just by signing up for free, or becoming an early paid member. It means heaps.


David (& Betty)