Dawn McElligott: RIVERDALE ‘REVISITED’ is RIVETING

by Dawn McElligott

In an age of rebooting vintage television, the development team for the new series RIVERDALE re-imagined a whole lot about Archie’s Comics for the CW network. Far from innocent adolescent hijinks, RIVERDALE has often been termed as ‘Archie Comics’ Meets Twin Peaks.’ What could have been a blasphemous mischaracterization of the milk shake slurping teenagers appears more as an updated twist on the beloved comic book characters.

The show’s development team includes Archie Comics’ Chief Creative Officer, Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa, who created the show and now serves as the Showrunner. Additionally, series hit-maker, Greg Berlanti, guides the show as executive producer along with Sarah Schechter and Jon Goldwater.

As of March 7, 2017 the series was renewed for a second season either in spite of or in light of weekly ratings hovering around 0.4, or slightly more than one million fans, the night it airs. During the week, its numbers improve to 0.8 considering delayed digital viewers bringing the audience to two million.

Various sources state that Warner Bros. TV has made a big development deal with Archie Comics, supplying another reason to stick with its sprouting new project. Surprisingly many viewers and critics have commented that Archie’s character is the least interesting in the show. He is a young man torn between school, a music career and helping his financially struggling father, Fred Andrews. Even an affair with young, hot Music Teacher, Miss Grundy, leaves him lackluster. Some have suggested that Archie Andrews is the cog in the wheel, holding together the town’s more fascinating folks.

The most engrossing character may well be its narrator, Jughead Jones. Jughead is a moody writer for the newspaper at Riverdale High School through the first 12 episodes. His father, FP Jones, is a train wreck of a man, heading up the Southside Serpents gang. Jughead’s moodiness clearly comes from his predictably disappointing family moments.

Jughead’s noteworthiness is due in part to choices made in the show’s development but may also spring from the actor, Cole Sprouse. In a February 2nd edition of Vulture.com, the actor described his interaction with Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa. ‘When I walked in I asked Roberto if I could read it [the narration} like Rod Serling, he was like ‘Uh, yeah, of course!’ I got a good idea of where we stood then. But when we shot the pilot, I really knew where we stood, in terms of the film noir elements and the darker tone. That’s when I knew this was a show I was really excited to do. Because I had just come off a Disney background.’

Twenty-four year-old Cole Sprouse had played Cody Martin in Disney’s two wildly successful series THE SUITE LIFE OF ZACK AND CODY and THE SUITE LIFE ON DECK. Transitioning into an adult entertainer for the young man has been noticeably different from his female Disney counterparts, Britney Spears and Miley Ray Cyrus. Whereas Britney and Miley turned up their sexuality to divorce themselves from the wholesome Disney image, Sprouse agreed to play a character that is sometimes called ‘asexual.’ In the series Jughead dates Betty Cooper, but keeps a wary distance from her, realizing her unrequited love for Archie.

Sexuality is approached quite differently in RIVERDALE. The first episode starts with a redheaded teenage boy, Jason Blossom, driving with a redheaded teenage girl to the river. They appear to be lovers about to go canoeing. We learn later that they are Jason and his sister, Cheryl, (the cruelest girl in town) staging his death and disappearance. Incest and later, eugenics, appear as some of the more disturbing currents to muddy the waters of Riverdale.

When Jason’s dead body appears in the river, we start dredging Riverdale, the town with too many redheads, for answers. The parents in this sad place have about as many lurid secrets as their children. Putting together the parents’ promiscuity and the surplus of redheads, it’s not too surprising when hints are dropped that Archie might be at least a half-brother of Cheryl Blossom. His appearance in a football jersey at a game reminds Cheryl so much of her dead brother, it causes the mean girl to cry.

In the penultimate episode of the first season, Jason’s jacket is found. It yields no clues until Betty decides to search the pocket linings. Instead of putting the jacket on herself, she asks Archie to put it on for the search. Archie is literally wearing the mantle of dearly departed Jason, when a flash drive is found in its pocket linings, containing the video of his own father shooting him to death. Weird!

Women are painted with a fresh brush. Whereas, Veronica Lodge could have been another mean girl, she’s instead looking to make amends for her father’s illegal dealings. She’s still a clotheshorse and has enough sophistication to counter Cheryl Blossom, often beating her at her own game, much to Ms. Blossom’s chagrin.

Betty Cooper is a breath of fresh air. She’s the good little girl who seems to acquiesce at every turn, but by Episode 11 she warns her concern-trolling mother, ‘Alice Cooper,’ ‘Do not push me tonight, Mom, because I will push back.’ Betty wants to right the world’s wrongs, including the alienation of Jughead from his father.

Cheryl Blossom, whose forbearers made a fortune on maple syrup, is the only truly mean girl on the show but her cattiness is explained as a defense mechanism contrived for dealing with a family, no one would want, despite the material wealth. The audience pities Cheryl, FP Jones and especially, Jughead.

Every week this season, surprised viewers have been treated to revilement, pity, prose, exquisitely crafted zingers and plenty of tension, making the show as much of a guilty pleasure as the most tempting malted at Pop’s Chock’lit Shoppe. My glass is raised in the hope that next season brings us even more of the same.


Dawn McElligott is a an award-winning writer and filmmaker in Los Angeles by way of Philadelphia and other points East. You can learn more about her HERE

Marketing Your Web Series – @Stareable

So You Want To Make a Web Series – Step 11
by Bri Castellini

Think of the internet as a void. I know this imagery is controversial, since everyone knows the internet is a series of tubes, but bear with me because this is my column and you don’t have a choice.

So, the internet is a void. There are billions upon quadrillions of things already online, and on YouTube alone, 300 hours of video content are uploaded every minute. 5 billion videos are watched on YouTube a day. How are you, with your brand new unknown web series, going to get seen?
Social Media
Lucky you, the Stareable blog already has a few posts relating to social media, so I would definitely recommend them as resources. This one talks specifically about Twitter, while this one is a do/don’t list for all the major platforms.

If you’re not already familiar or comfortable with social media, I’d suggest only getting two accounts at first: Facebook and Twitter. Try to get the same username for both (and for all future show accounts) because branding is important and the easier it is to find you online, the more likely it is that you’ll get noticed in the void.

I suggest getting a Facebook page (not a personal page — a “fan page” specifically for your show) because that’s where you’ll get the most engagement from people you already know. Most people are already on Facebook, so it’s easier to reach them there.

I suggest Twitter because it’s where you’ll engage the most people who DON’T already know you. There’s a vibrant independent film and web series community on Twitter, and tapping into that will help you market your series immensely. Also, refer back to that Twitter blog I mentioned earlier because it highlights even more specifically why Twitter is a vital place to be a web series creator. So, what should you be posting to these new social media pages?

Promo images

Remember when I recommended you have someone in charge of taking on-set photos? This is when you’ll start using them — to promote and create hype for your show’s impending release! Social media is useless unless you have information and content to populate it, and people love seeing behind-the-scenes photos. At first, you can just post photos with a little bit of context (“actor Jimbob Thoresore learning a new stunt!”), but once you have a release date, you can also add a bit of text to the photos so when they’re shared, they’re also inherently spreading information about your release date and where they can find you online.

Trailer/teasers

Do you have enough material to make a trailer, or at least a teaser, for your series? Get on it, then! Nothing hypes people up for a new movie or show more than actually seeing it in action. If possible, make a few small teasers, all leading up to a full series trailer. People get excited by countdowns, so invent as many of them as you can.
Promo interviews

When big shots make movies and TV, they do press junkets, where the principal cast and crew are interviewed by a rotating barrage of journalists. When no one knows who you are, you have to do this yourself. Plus, a web series is an incredibly intimate viewing experience- — you and your cast and crew are part of the product you’re selling, and the more they know about you, the more inclined they are to be interested in what you have to say. For my show, I liked to personally interview my principal cast and crew, releasing them on a weekly basis leading up to the season premiere. That way, the growing audience got used to us releasing content for a few weeks before the actual show began. Plus, it allowed the audience to get to know us as people before watching us in the show, making the connection a little bit stronger.
IMDb

IMDb is laughably easy to submit your project to, but it’s also one of the clearest indications of legitimacy that you’re likely to get, especially before you even release the show. This Stareable blog post, which also offers other legitimacy-boosting ideas, walks you through how to make an IMDb page for your show.
Press Release

This may come as a surprise to you, but Stareable also has a post about creating and using a press release! Read it here. In the most basic terms, a press release is a one-page description of your project so that news outlets and blogs can write about you. Most sites won’t even consider interviewing you or writing about you unless you have a press release available. Then, send it to as many sites and news outlets as you can think about, focusing first on ones with a history of covering web series and then on ones you think your show would be relevant to (think about communities and themes you address).

Final thoughts on marketing your web series: it never ends. You thought a crowdfunding campaign was a full-time job? Once your series is online, it’s always online, and you never know what tweet or piece of press will rocket you towards fame and fortune. My web series premiered in 2015 and finished “airing” its second season in November 2016, and I’m still reaching out to podcasts and news outlets. It’s worth it, though, and the more of a splash you make, the more likely it is for a second season or a whole new show in the future.
Next week, all your hard work comes to a head as we talk RELEASE. I’ll cover everything from video thumbnails to crafting a consistent uploading schedule.


Bri Castellini is an award-winning filmmaker as well as the Community Liaison at Stareable, a hub for web series. Check out www.stareable.com to find and read reviews of thousands of web series, all in one place. For more great articles about the craft of web series, visit the Stareable blog.

Susan Sontag on Writing

A meme after our own hearts:

Web Series: Post Production Fun – @Stareable

So You Want To Make a Web Series – Step 10
by Bri Castellini

My friends, you’re in the home stretch, but don’t lose steam on me now, because there are still plenty of things to do. However, take pride in your accomplishments — you’ve completed filming a project you wrote! Timing becomes a lot less important now because everything you need to assemble a web series is in the can. You can and should set deadlines for rough cuts and the eventual release dates, but there’s a little bit less pressure. A little bit.

Good reasons to get through editing quickly:

1. It ensures your cast and crew stay excited about the project instead of moving on to other things.
2. If reshoots or ADR (additional dialog recording) sessions are needed, a quicker edit ensures a higher likelihood your cast and crew are still available and motivated to work.
3. It reassures cast and crew that all their (likely unpaid) efforts weren’t in vain.
4. It keeps the momentum from your crowdfunding campaign going.

Good reasons to take your time:

1. Editing is an incredibly tricky and time-consuming process, and the quality difference between taking a day or taking a week to edit a scene can be monumental.
2. It gives your cast and crew time to start working on other projects that might bring more attention to yours when it’s finally completed (i.e. an actor gets a guest part on a major TV show and you can piggyback on that success).

More:

If you’re handing the series off to someone else to edit, make sure you lay out clear deadlines and goals beforehand, otherwise you can’t blame them for taking their sweet time. Try to actually be there while they edit, otherwise meet once or twice a week to review what they’ve done. As always, communication is key.

Will your project need music? For copyright-free songs, check out sites like the YouTube Audio Library or BenSound. In some cases, you’ll need to give credit to the composer, and in other cases, you’re free to do what you like with the music.

If you’re not finding what you need on the myriad of royalty-free music sites online, however, you might need to bring in a composer. Stareable actually already has a great post about how to find and work with composers even if they’re out of state. In general, though, make sure you have a final cut of the scene you want music for (so the composer can get an idea of the rhythm and pacing) and find inspiration tracks for them to base their composition off of.

When you or your editor has a “fine cut” of the series, meaning a mostly-polished version, screen it for fellow crew members so they can provide comments and insight you might have overlooked. If you want, break your crew into two teams, one team who sees an earlier cut of the series, and one that sees a later version so you always have fresh eyes. Don’t show it to the cast yet — with very few exceptions, cast shouldn’t see the product until it’s final.

Once you’ve locked the edit, it’s time to consider what goes at the end of each individual episode. Will you have a full credits sequence, just a list of cast, or will you put credits in the description box of the videos instead? Will you have a preview of the previous and next episodes?

If you’re planning on uploading it to YouTube, you have end screens[a][b][c][d] to contend with, and (at least at the time of writing this column) they have very specific rules: they can only happen in the last twenty seconds of the video, they can’t be shorter than ten seconds, and you can only have four “elements” on the screen at once.

Those elements can be individual videos, playlists, a subscribe button, or a link to an approved third-party website (usually an official site or merchandise store). All of these end-of-episode considerations need to be consistent across all of your videos, and they need to be decided on (and possibly tested out) ahead of your release date.

Once you’ve locked each episode, or put the finishing touches on them, make sure you have copies in multiple places, just in case something crazy happens. I like to pre-upload them to the YouTube channel as private or unlisted videos, but you can also upload the finished files directly to cloud-based storage systems like Google Drive or Dropbox. I prefer online back-ups because if a computer or a hard drive crashes, you won’t lose access.

You might think, at this point, that you’re almost rid of me and my weekly column. Not yet, my friends. We’re close, but we’ve still got a few adventures to navigate together. Next week, we move on to the basics of marketing and social media promotion.

Did I just hear somebody say, “Yikes!?”


Bri Castellini is an award-winning filmmaker as well as the Community Liaison at Stareable, a hub for web series. Check out www.stareable.com to find and read reviews of thousands of web series, all in one place. For more great articles about the craft of web series, visit the Stareable blog.

The Story of Basic English

If we don’t get a firm grasp on the language we use for work, play, and to express our very souls, who will?

Big thanks to YouTube, Mental Floss, Arika Okrent, and all those who aided and abetted this brief but very educational encounter!

Reacquainting Yourself with Doctor Who

The lesson to be learned here, kids, boils down to “Make sure your work stays accessible!” We’re talking to you, New Showrunners. Because if you don’t keep the audience coming back to the dance floor, you and your band won’t be invited to the next big event.

Jumping in on Doctor Who
by Mindy Newell

The Doctor: “Time is a structure relative to ourselves. Time is the space made by our lives, where we stand together forever. Time and relative dimension in space. It means life… This is the gateway to everything that ever was and ever can be.
Bill: …Can I use the toilet?

“The Pilot,” Doctor Who, Second Series 10, Episode 1

 My daughter Alixandra has wanted to watch Doctor Who but she’s been intimidated by the idea of catching up with 50 years of the show’s history. Hey, who wouldn’t be? I told her to start with “new Who,” with Christopher Eccleston’s as the 9th Doctor, which was “only” 12 years ago (is it really over a decade already?) and that “Rose,” the first episode, would do a great job of hooking her into the basics – although she already sorta knows them, as she remembers me watching the Tom Baker years of Doctor Who when the show aired on Saturday mornings on Channel 13, the New York City PBS station.

She was very young then, not much more than a toddler, so that was a surprise to me – as well as a lesson to grown-ups: be careful what you say around the young ‘uns. Apparently, little pitchers really do have big ears.

I also sent her a list of shows from a website I found, “Desperately Unrehearsed,” which lists every episode from the aforementioned “Rose” to Matt Smith’s dénouement, “The Time of The Doctor,” with a pretty good opinion – at least one I basically agreed with – of what was essential and what was not (along with YMMV).

But I also just sent her a text: “The 10th series premiered Saturday night. It’s called “The Pilot,and it might be a good place for you to start, as it introduces a new companion and reintroduces the basic ideas.”

She sent me back a “thumbs-up” emoji.

I texted her back a few minutes later, because I forgot to say in the first text: “Plus, Peter Capaldi.”

Fans of Outlander (me, included) are currently suffering from what is known as the “Droughtlander,” – the last episode of Season 2 aired on July 9, 2016, and the series is not returning to Showtime until September – but the wait for Series 10 of Doctor Who has been interminable. The last episode of Series 9 (“Hell Bent”) aired here in the States on December 5, 2015. We did get two Christmas specials, the first run three weeks later on December 25, 2016 (“The Husbands of River Song”) and the second (“The Return of Doctor Mysterio”) a year later.

Outlander is not even giving us that…

But was the wait worth it?

“The Pilot” was not only a singularly great show all by itself, it was also a fantastic kick-off, with past and future colliding – dialogue that was timey-winey-twisted; pictures of a lost wife and granddaughter; sonic screwdrivers from just about every regeneration collected in a jug; and a vault (reminiscent of the Pandorica box) that the Doctor is protecting….

Read it all at ComicMix

How Pixar Makes You Cry

The most successful TV shows, films, books, short stories, paintings, illustrations – OMG! everything artistic, can you believe it? – are those that express the most emotion in the most effective (as in making the audience feel it) way.

One of the ways TV and films manipulate induce guide influence viewer emotions is via music. Ever wonder just how that’s done? Here’s a little insight about how some masters of the subject, those cryin’ angels over at Pixar, get the job done!

(from “sideways“)