Indie Video: ‘The Trouble with Transporters’

by TVWriter™

Breathes there a soul so dead that s/he has never watched any version of Star Trek on any media and thought, “Waitaminnit! The transporter thingie can’t really work like that…can it?”

Hell, even Our Beloved Leader, LB, once pitched an episode about transporter problems to the producers of Star Trek: Voyager way back in the day.

But this TVWriter™ minion is pretty darn sure that nobody’s ever analyzed the transporter situation as well – and as entertainingly – as the folks who’ve brought us this:

by CGP Grey

Bri Castellini: Exactly How Much My Award-Winning Web Series Cost Me To Produce – @brisworld

by Bri Castellini

Filmmaking is expensive. Even the cheapest, easiest production in the world is riddled with costs for things you can never truly anticipate until you’re actually on set, and it only gets harder when you’re on your own. I’m one of the idiots trying to make and release content without the support or funds from a production company or a cable network. Hi, my name is Bri Castellini, and I’m an independent filmmaker with over $80,000 in student debt.

Since 2015, I have produced two seasons of my award-winning web series Brains, two spin-off “extended universe” projects (a mini-series and a short film) from that series, a short film, and several other web series and film projects that were written by friends and collaborators. As expected, this productivity did not come cheap.

Today, I want to talk about the first season of Brains, my first film project, and take you through where the minimal amounts of money I had for my no-budget show went. At the time of production, I was an assistant manager at a coffee shop in TriBeCa, making $14 an hour, while also in my first year of graduate school.

IndieGoGo

In the green column of the budget, I had only one source of funds — the IndieGoGo campaign we ran between filming the pilot and the nine other episodes of that season. According to the campaign itself, we raised $1,015 of the arbitrary $3,000 goal we set. In actuality, we’d made $923.65, after Paypal and IndieGoGo took their fees. Pro tip: the fees on IndieGoGo are lower if you reach your goal. Had I known this at the time, I would have donated the remaining amount before time was up, since it was all coming straight back to me anyways. At some point during production, my grandfather sent me $100 as a gift, so I added that to the IndieGoGo funds, making our working budget $1,023.65, i.e. definitely not enough money.

IndieGoGo Perks

Because I’d never run a crowdfunding campaign before, I made the most amateur of mistakes: I didn’t calculate the costs of the actual perks before setting their prices on the campaign. For instance, we charged $35 for the “official poster” perk and made about $200 dollars from it, but we actually spent $392.95 printing and shipping those posters, which is a pretty dramatic net loss. Not an ideal situation.

Transportation

$312.41. This is where most of our money went that first season. Because we’re in New York City, no cast or crew had a car, meaning that we relied entirely on taxis and public transportation to get us to and from set. It got complicated when we had to drag giant props and other materials to and from our apartments, and because filming is exhausting, we’d treat ourselves to a cab ride after a hard day instead of braving the subway with five giant bags of props and lighting equipment. I also had to shell out some cash when a key cast or crew member forgot about our shoot and we needed them on set as soon as possible. Season two, after learning all this the hard way, we only spent $41.20 on transportation.

Props

Brains is an apocalypse show, so we also spent a chunk of change on props. $261.66 to be exact, which covered fake guns, a fake machete, handcuffs, lab coats, binoculars, and outfits for all our zombies, among many other things. This couldn’t be avoided, but during season two, we spent almost nothing on those items, because we already owned them. In this case, and this case only, being a pack rat really paid off.

New actor

There were several months between filming the pilot and the rest of the season, and in that time, the actor playing the main love interest, who was also my roommate, dropped out for lots of very dramatic reasons. Because this character was vital to the story, and because we’d already cast every other guy we knew in other parts on the show, we had to shell out $91.70 to woo a new actor. First, $19.95 for a Backstage.com account to post a casting notice, then $24.95 for listing the casting notice. After we got some responses, we needed a professional-looking space for in-person auditions, which ended up costing $46.80. The actor we eventually chose was absolutely worth the unexpected charges, and I want to cast him in everything ever moving forward, but finding him cost us time and almost 1/9 of our total budget.

Mistakes

When I was going over my budget spreadsheet after the season, I organized some of the charges into a category labeled “charges that fucked us without being that helpful.” The $165.65 total included a prop gun that looked too fake to use, a set of mics that weren’t compatible with the rest of our equipment, adapters for those mics that still didn’t make them work, PayPal fees from getting the IndieGoGo money into my account, and another set of prop guns that got delivered to the wrong address, and thus we didn’t actually get to use in the show. You can’t plan for every mistake, but you can do more work beforehand to lessen their impact. Had we researched those mics more fully, for example, we never would have ordered them or the adapters in the first place. Same for the too-fake fake gun.

Food

That first season we were pretty inconsistent about feeding people on set because we genuinely forgot that was a thing you had to do, but even so, we spent $221.23. Sometimes we’d send someone to a nearby fast food chain to pick up actual meals, sometimes we’d just buy water bottles and snacks to have on hand, and at the end of the season, I bought three giant watermelons. Fun fact: hitting a watermelon with a machete and a baseball bat sounds like hitting a human, which we recorded to layer onto the zombie “kills” we’d already filmed.

Advertising

Because we were a group of nobodies, no one cared that we’d just spent the better part of our summer laboring over a web series. So each week a new episode went live, I spent a little money on Facebook ads to promote them, to varying levels of success. In total, for the first season, I spent $167.86 on Facebook ads.

Film Festivals

This cost is one that still sends me reeling. I actually don’t have the actual total amount I’ve spent on film festival submissions, because after a while, it got too depressing to keep track. The number in my spreadsheet, $120.74, is only accurate as of November 2015, but since then, I’ve probably spent twice that, because the only way to raise your show’s profile is to get accepted into film festivals, and the only way to get accepted into film festivals is to spend a bunch of money submitting your show to them for the possibility of selection.

As of November 2015, I was $948 over budget. Since then, taking into account my being over $1500 in the red from season 2 and the exorbitant film festival costs I’m still accruing, it’s safe to say that from a financial perspective, producing a web series is more expensive than setting your money on fire. In the future, my best case scenario is breaking even. And I still wouldn’t want to be doing anything else.


Bri Castellini is an indie filmmaker and Community Liaison at Stareable, our favorite web series hub. Read her blog! Watch Bri’s award-winning web series, BrainsHERE! Oh, and she wants you to know this:

Web Series: ‘The North Pole’

Wow. It’s gotten so that you can’t tell the pros from the ams when it comes to web series. There is nothing, we repeat, nothing amateur about this series. The North Pole is, well, it’s perfect. Writer-producer Josh Healey and his team, with encouragement in the form of $$$ via a successful Kickstarter campaign, are this TVWriter™ minion’s new heroes.

Learn more. See more. Feel more…HERE

Web Series: ‘Or Die Trying’

by Team TVWriter™ Press Service

Or Die Trying is a web series about women in film, by women in film. The show’s creators, like its characters, are creative females living and working in various aspects of showbiz in Los Angeles. Here’s a taste of how that works:

Written by Myah Hollis, who along with Sarah Hawkins also is an executive producer, and directed by Camila Martins, Or Die Trying takes a slice of life approach to the unique highs and lows, failures and successes, of being young millennial women working in the L.A. film industry. In a concentrated effort to systematically change the statistics on gender inequality within the film industry, the producers of OR DIE TRYING have committed to hiring 85% or more of their team to be filled by women.

This TVWriter™ minion enjoyed the show thoroughly, and after the trailer the lighthearted sitcom music pretty much vanished and the constant hitting of empowered women!!! talking points faded into the background, allowing the show to become what Hawkins says has been what it intended to be all along:

“At its core, this show is about people. It’s about figuring out what you want in life, going after it, and learning to deal with your personal obstacles along the way,” says Hollis, the show’s creator/writer. “I hope that people take what they need from our series. Whether it be inspiration to create their own work and tell their own stories, or just the reassurance that it’s okay to be imperfect and to not have everything figured out.”

For example:

It ain’t GLOW, but then it isn’t trying to be. Or Die Trying works its butt off to be itself, and thanks to its authenticity it definitely shines.
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Check out the series’ episodes at: odtseries.com/episodes and youtube.com/ordietrying.

Enjoy behind the scenes content at odtseries.com.

Bri Castellini: ‘The Bechdel Test is The WORST’ – @brisworld

Bri Castellini, TVWriter™’s favorite starving young indie filmmaker, has a few very choice words to say about the biggest cop-out “test” in showbiz. This is something we all need to know:

As a female TVWriter™ minion who regards this post as a kind of conversation between Bri, myself, and all of you who are reading and watching this, I have a question:

Does this, our current convo, pass the Bechdel Test?

Does it pass the Castellini Test?

Thanks for challenging us, Bri. You’re PFC with TVWriter™.

More cool Bri Castellini videos are HERE

Web Series: ‘Stupid Idiots’

So how damning is it if I say that the two leads in this very funny web series aren’t merely perfect recreations of people I know but in true fact are perfect recreations of, well, of me, dammit? Me!

Writer-director-editor Stephanie Koenig, you know me, don’t you? You’re the one who’s been following me around with that long, long lens and the shotgun mic. You’re making me a star, girl! I owe you bigtime and will get around to rewarding you properly right after you settle the lawsuit I’m filing against you for $50 million.

Please consider the official looking bunch of papers the next stranger who comes to your door and says, “Stephanie Koenig?” hands you just my opening salvo of “Thanks!”

Here’s the next episode:

And HERE is where you can watch more

Indie Video & Film for Fun & Profit?

Here at TVWriter™ we’re all gung-ho about indie video and film making, especially of the ultra short and cheap variety. If you’ve given that a try,  you’re probably familiar with the costs, work, aggravation, and rewards for web series and such.

Some indies, however, may be a bit more ambitious. This one’s for y’all:

Shocking truth behind – and beside and in front of – Life Tracker!

How I Raised $150K for My 1st Movie and Never Saw a Dime Back
by Joe McClean

It’s high time indie filmmakers started sharing data. Yes, that includes your budget and your earnings. I’ll go first.

We’re taught from childhood that “two heads are better than one.” We unionize to have a collective bargaining voice. We’re encouraged to collect as much information, from as many social media accounts as we can manage. Yet independent filmmakers are still told by distributors, and one another, that they should never reveal their movie’s budget. If a buyer knows how much you spent, they’ll change the number they’re willing to offer. People also have hang-ups about budget specifics. If someone finds out I made $xxxx on a production, then future employers won’t pay me more.

These are understandable concerns, but I believe the secrecy is hurting the independent film scene. Too many times I’ve said to my attorney or agent, “Is this a good deal? Are these numbers on par with other people at my level?” I’ve had to ask these questions because the information is nearly impossible to find.

So I’d like to spill the beans, even when it hurts my ego, about the first indie feature I made: “Life Tracker,” a $150,000 science fiction movie with a few recognizable faces in the cast. (My second feature, “The Drama Club,” is available on iTunes and Amazon on June 9.) I sincerely hope it helps some indie filmmaker out there to have this information as they move forward with their own production.

I wrote “Life Tracker” in 2010. I chose science fiction because it’s a genre that has a reliable audience. I wrote a found-footage, dialogue-heavy script because it was cheaper to make. I didn’t include large crowd scenes or explosions because I knew if I was trying to make “Cloverfield,” I’d be one of those filmmakers who always talks about making a movie but never actually does. The goal here was to make a movie, not to write a script.

My attorney, Bianca Goodloe, helped me get the script into a few hands. She also introduced me to a person who found money for productions through personal connections and took a 10 percent finder’s fee. This person ultimately brought $90,000 to the production — $40,000 from two investors, $25,000 from NBA All-Star Baron Davis, and then, at the very end, when it looked like we weren’t going to get the budget we needed to make the movie, $25,000 of their own money….

Read it all at The Wrap