Succeeding in the entertainment world is a lot like launching a successful tech startup: you come up with something creative, pitch the hell out of your product, try to secure funding, create your venture, and then announce it to the world, hoping it will gain both popularity and credibility.
And most shows, like most startups, fail.
This year, one tremendous exception was Stranger Things, which seized the attention of fans and the entertainment industry alike. In fact, going as a character from Stranger Things was one of the most popular Halloween costumes this year -- even Amy Schumer got in on the action.
If you're like me, you finished its eight exceedingly cinematic episodes in just a few days. It was hard not to, given its intriguing plot, impeccable acting, and nostalgic sensibility -- it's like ET meets The Twilight Zone, with a healthy dose of Goonies and Donnie Darko thrown in.
But even if you saw it, you probably didn't get the whole story. Here are 7 things you didn't know about Stranger Things:
1. The kids bonded over group chat before ever getting to set
Stranger Things hangs together primarily due to the special bond between the four kids: Mike, Lucas, Dustin, and Eleven. And Stranger Things' showrunners, the Duffer brothers, were well aware of the necessity of this chemistry for the show to work.
Lucky for them, without even being instructed to, the kids created a group text chain practically immediately. They chatted nonstop the summer before shooting began in Atlanta, so by the time they got to set, they were already a tight-knit band of loveable weirdos -- a fact that's clearly reflected on screen.
2. Eleven really did breathe through the weird contraption in the float tank
The isolation tank scenes required actress Millie Brown (Eleven) to be fully submerged in an underwater tank. She really wore and breathed through an old-school Sea Trek helmet, which weighs a full 70 lbs above the water and was designed for underwater walking in shallows.
Bonus fact: In the final episode of Stranger Things, they actually used 1,200 lbs. of Epsom salt to make Eleven to float in the kiddie pool in the gym.
3. Similar to the Olsen twins on Full House, The Wheeler toddler was played by twins
In another throwback scenario, Anniston and Tinsley Price both played Holly, Nancy Wheeler's adorable little sister on Stranger Things. Interestingly, many of her/their most memorable moments were totally unscripted, like when Joyce asks her if she saw something in the wall and she replies matter-of-factly, "Yes."
Both little girls were apparently also terrified by the show's "monster." Crew members attempted to allay their fears by telling them it was just like one of the monsters from Monsters, Inc.
4. The show was originally titled 'Montauk' and set on Long Island
When Netflix first announced the show, it was called Montauk, a location referencing Camp Hero, one of the show's real world inspirations. Camp Hero, a decommissioned base at the end of Long Island, was the site of rumored genetic and other experiments in the 1960s-1980s.
A former electrical engineer at the base, Preston Nichols, once said Camp Hero was built specifically to train psychic spies, and that little boys were used in conjunction with technology from alien space crafts that had wrecked on earth. More men, now in their 70s, have come forward to say they were subjects at the facility, in what has been called the 'Montauk Project' - an underground extension of the military's mystery-shrouded Philadelphia Experiment.
5. The art department spent a stunning amount on Hopper's trailer
Atlanta, Georgia is an appealing shoot location these days, partly due to tremendous tax incentives. It also lent itself to the strange, rural, and, frankly, creepy locations that are so much a part of Stranger Things.
The art department was thus able to secure high quality, low-cost locations and decorations with ease. For example, they knew immediately that they wanted Hopper's trailer -- it was the perfect retro home for the feisty detective.
The cost? $1.
6. Stranger Things cost Barb her day job
One of the big breakout performances of the show was Shannon Purser as Barb. Audiences simply adored her, creating hashtag #JusticeForBarb after she was essentially abandoned in the Upside Down.
She became so popular, in fact, that she had to quit her job at a Georgia movie theater because fans kept showing up to see her.
7. Stranger Things was rejected 15-20 times before being picked up
The Duffer brothers told Rolling Stone that some 15-20 networks turned Stranger Things down. Apparently, they couldn't get around the idea of a show that had children as leads, but wasn't a kids show.
Finally, Shawn Levy of 21 Laps Entertainment helped the brothers pitch to Netflix. He said, "The Duffer brothers came in, and within 10 minutes I knew that these were future major guys. They had a self-assurance that was self-evident. So, we pitched it to Netflix, and within 24 hours, we had the whole season bought."
It was a good buy. In July, Stranger Things beat out Daredevil and Orange is the New Black to top the charts at Netflix -- it became the most popular original series on the streaming service that has over 33 million subscribers.
That's a lot like the entertainment equivalent of an IPO.