The Indignance of “Indie” Film Festivals – @BrisOwnWorld

by Bri Castellini

I have made no secret of how proud I am of my web series, Brains (2 complete seasons plus extended universe projects online now!) or my friend Chris’s web series, Relativity (complete miniseries online now!), which I produced. But the thing about making films or series, particularly in the independent sphere, is that no one cares without them laurels.

These are laurels:

 

Essentially, laurels are the fancy little images you get if chosen to be in a film festival, to promote their festival as well as promote that you got in. They’re a badge of honor for any filmmaker, because it means your film/series was chosen out of many other submissions to be screened or highlighted or otherwise. It adds prestige and viability to your image and is an invaluable way to build credibility to continue in the industry.

The image above is a collection of all the laurels my web series, Brains, has collected thus far. It’s incredibly gratifying to look at, although many of the festivals we’ve been in were online only (meaning no live screening with an audience) and none of them are eligible to add to our IMDb page, because they don’t qualify as “legit” in the eyes of the people who make those kinds of decisions. And here’s the major thing I want to talk about today:

The entry fees are too damn high!

I appreciate and love every festival who has let our weird little series into their ranks, but most of them are low prestige and were either free or very cheap to submit to. That’s good and bad for us: good because we can afford them and because more people will see our content, bad because many of these festivals are small enough that we can’t leverage our inclusion for funding or respect in the larger, more prestigious world of “legit” indie filmmaking.

Why not submit to an award show like the Webby Awards? It’s literally designed for content like ours!

THE WEBBY AWARDS IS THE LEADING INTERNATIONAL AWARD HONORING EXCELLENCE ON THE INTERNET. (via)

Well….

 

Even if we chose to only submit for comedy series, a single entry submission for the Webbys is $385That’s 1/6 of the money we made from IndieGoGo to make the entirety of season 2. For 3 entries, the total submission cost is OVER HALF OUR BUDGET.

How can you honor excellence on the internet, a place where anyone with a camera and a dream can make content, by charging this submission fee? You know who you’re ACTUALLY honoring?

 

Don’t get me wrong- Krysten Ritter was incredible in Jessica Jones. But talk about unfair competition. She probably makes more in an hour than we spent on BOTH our seasons. Good god.

This is bigger than one festival, though. The Streamys, another online-specific award show, at least have a flat fee when submitting one project for multiple categories, but that fee is still a non-refundable $95. And to get ahead in the world of indie filmmaking, or entertainment in general, you can’t just submit to one or two. Here is Brains’s track record just from a single submission site (FilmFreeway, which I would absolutely recommend)

 

as of 12/15/16

And that’s just for the first season.

Bottom line: if your film festival is specifically for independent projects or online projects but your submission fee is over $30/$50 (per category especially, but also per project), maybe you should reconsider who you’re doing it for.

We cannot compete in this market. We cannot afford to, and that’s insane. The whole point of creating things independently is doing cool things with fewer resources on your own terms, but this process of paying insane fees to submit our hard work for consideration and viewership is disheartening and unfair.

If I had $385 (the fee to submit to a single category at the Webbys, I’ll remind you) I’d use it to make more projects, not submit it to your elitist “indie” festival, because apparently, it’s “make things” or “maybe get considered for an award that could bring new credibility and prestige to your cast and crew.”

Call me crazy, but I think it should be both.


Bri Castellini is an indie filmmaker and Community Liaison at Stareable, a hub for web series. This article originally appeared in her blog. Watch Bri’s award-winning web series, BrainsHERE

Mysterious Words for Writers and Others

Arika Okrent gives us the lowdown on “words in English that seem to be formed from two parts, but one of the parts is obscure. Wonder no more at where these parts come from. ”

What? You have no idea what that means? Neither do we. Good thing we have this to turn to:

Produced for Mental Floss

Netflix Canceled Sense8, So I Tried to Watch It

by Kathryn Graham

As you may have heard, Netflix is cancelling Sense8. Netflix bid them a fond farewell and sent a show with lots of LGBT and people of color packing right at the start of Pride Month.

Hey, Netflix: I know you probably didn’t do that on purpose, but not great timing guys. Just saying.

Sense8 is one of those shows I had meant to get around to eventually. Once I heard it was cancelled, I went full bore into the first season… and only got through the sixth episode.

Now, having seen the show, I can’t say I’m surprised about the cancellation. Here’s the thing with Sense8 at the onset: it’s Heroes but without deep or endearing characters. You know there’s more going on here. You know that the main characters are connected, you’re just not sure how exactly. But it suffers from Heroes’ incredibly slow pacing, and I think that’s ultimately what kills it.

The first six episodes are basically backstory on all of the characters, but the backstories don’t have much to them. An Indian woman is getting married to a guy everyone thinks she loves, but she doesn’t love him. A Korean woman is smarter and better than her brother, but since she is a girl, he gets to take over the company. A transwoman has an unaccepting family, but a great girlfriend. In Heroes, we got to at least watch Claire jump off buildings and run through fire. We saw Hiro time-travel. In Sense8, we see wedding preparation.

Structurally, it’s a lot more like a six hour movie than a television show. Stories progress, but since there are eight of them, plot points that should have taken less than half an episode to get to take literally five episodes to occur.

That’s the other thing about Sense8. It has a lot of different characters, and they are a diverse bunch from all over the world, but the lack of depth destroys my caring about any of them. I also don’t know why they’re connected (which is fine), but when they do cross each others’ paths, it doesn’t seem purposeful. That said…

I think that if I could hang on longer, I might be treated to a show that I really enjoy. That’s what happened with Heroes, and that is a possibility here with Sense8. On the other hand, this is entertainment, and slogging through hours to get to the good stuff is a lot to ask. (Especially with no guarantee there is good stuff coming.)

I know a lot of people are upset that a show that represents LGBT folk and people of color is getting cancelled. I get that. But I don’t wish Sense8 would continue, I wish we didn’t have to put so much weight on every show that throws us a bone.

According to the creators, though, they had a wide and heterogeneous audience, and the exact reason why they were cancelled still remains a mystery. If you’re a fan I invite you to go sign the petition to bring it back. Then tell me why you love the show. I may even go back and watch more if you do.

 

Edit: Looks like Netflix isn’t having any of the petition stuff. Sorry Sense8 fans.


Kathryn Graham is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor and munchman’s secret fav. Learn more about Kate HERE

How to Write for TV

This is a good, solid breakdown of useful info for fledgling TV writers. Especially for those who haven’t yet read TVWriter™’s own Writers’ Bulletins and The Basics of TV Writing right here on this site.

Oh hell, read ’em all! Learn everything you can! And then don’t forget, ahem, THIS.

Anyway:

A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE TO STARTING YOUR CAREER
by Script Reader Pro

In the world of TV script writing, a “spec” usually means a sample episode of an existing show. It’s also known as a “TV spec”, “sample episode”, and “spec episode”, and for the sake of clarity we’re going to use the latter.

Writing a spec episode is the traditional way writers use to break into television writing, but it’s less in vogue now than a few years ago. This entails writing an episode of an existing TV series that showcases your ability to write current characters that people know and love, in a way that feels real and familiar, yet fresh.

It means writing characters with pre-set voices and personalities in order to demonstrate that you are not only a powerful writer with an imagination, but also one who can follow the rules, and this means following the show’s formatting structure and overall “voice” of the show.

Writing a spec episode of, say, Modern Family, would require you writing all the families as we know them now, with their quirky character personalities, breaking the fourth wall, documentary style, etc. and all within intertwining, compelling and funny stories.

A while back, this was by far the best way to break into writing for television. You’d write a spec episode of a series you loved, and then submit that work through your agent or manager for consideration for a staffing position.

 

If you “totally got” the way Ross and Rachel bounced off each other, or had a terrific take on an episode of Law & Order, and you were able to execute a sample script of those shows with confidence, then chances were pretty good that you would be happily considered for a staffing position on that show, or a similar one.

Executives and showrunners would hire writers who could effectively emulate the tone and voice of the show they were staffing, and a spec episode was the best way to measure that ability.

But times have changed, and so too has the professional strategy for breaking into television writing. In Hollywood today, spec episodes are much less popular than they used to be, and some showrunners now only read spec pilots for original shows.

This is not to say, however, that writing a spec episode is a complete waste of your time as you’re still building your writing chops, and will also be able to use it as a sample of your writing ability that could get you noticed.

Fellowship season (more on this later) is a prime example of an avenue you can pursue that looks exclusively for spec episodes from exceptional aspiring writers. But let’s bring things up-to-date with another strategy you can use to begin a career writing for television…

How To Write For TV: The Spec Pilot

 

This is a TV script written on spec for an original show you’ve created from scratch and is also known as an “original spec”, “sample pilot” or simply a “pilot”. Again, for clarity, we’ll be sticking to the term “spec pilot”.

It’s easy to imagine that writing a TV show that’s compelling and original is as simple as writing a feature screenplay, but shorter. Unfortunately, you’d wrong on two counts: not only is writing a feature about as difficult as it gets, but writing a television pilot is in some ways even more difficult….

Read it all at Script Reader Pro

Cargo 3120 ‘Ties that Bind: Part 2’

EDITOR’S NOTE: What is Cargo 3120? We’ve written about this project many times over the past couple of years, but the best place to go to understand what Aaron Walker Sr. is up to is HERE.

And now that that’s settled:

by Aaron Walker Sr.

Whew! It’s been quite a while, but book 2 is finally done! It was a long and hard road that I outlined in our last two blogs. Check them out (read update 1 here and update 2 here).

As I mentioned in the posts above, I had a few setbacks along the road, including many changes that had to be made to get is where we are today. But now I am proud to announce:

Cargo 3120 Ties that Bind Part 2 will release this month on June 17th, 2017
(Pre-orders are available now on Amazon for only .99 cents!)

Part 3 will be released around December of 2017. And if all goes to plan, the fourth and final installment in the Ties that Bind storyline will release in early 2018. Initially the book will be available only on Amazon Kindle. Later, I hope to have the book released on smashwords, which distributes in many formats, including Nook, iBooks, Kobo, and others.

It was never my intent to have such a long delay between books, and we are hard at work behind the scenes to prevent that from happening again. In fact, I have plans to bring on a special guest this fall to help further develop the universe of Cargo 3120! So, stay tuned, the future of Cargo 3120 is indeed a bright one!

Haven’t finished or read book 1? You can now get the full eBook version on Amazon for free! You can also get it on smashwords, or read the full book on our website.

While I’m at it

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As I mentioned in update 2 on my blog, the reason we didn’t launch in May was because we were still finalizing the cover art. We felt this step was too important to rush, so I made the call to delay the launch until we got it right.

We’ve probably all heard the saying: “You can’t judge a book by its cover…”

And while this certainly should be the case, from my experience, people often do judge a book by its cover. This is especially true in the eBook realm, as people quickly scroll past titles, often stopping on titles with an eye-catching cover.

My first thought was to have something that was jam packed with imagery that I thought highlighted the best of book two. But after many discussions with our talented artist out of Los Angeles: Lee Wherry, we decided to go with a “less is more” approach. We wanted something that was clean and easy on the eyes.

What do you think? Did we succeed?

John Ostrander: On Writers and the ‘N word’

by John Ostrander

So, Bill Maher crossed the line and got himself into hot water. Given the nature of his HBO show, Real Time, and his own proclivities as a satirist, maybe he should just have a hot tub on stage instead of a desk. It would suit him in many ways.

Recently, as part of an interview, Maher jokingly referred to himself as a “house ‘N’ word.” No, I’m not repeating the actual word here for a few reasons. A) I don’t want to pull a Maher; B) I don’t like the word. I won’t pretend I’ve never used it; I threw it around a bit as a kid in 1950s Chicago along with the “c” word, the “f” word, the “mf” and others of that ilk because I knew they were bad words, naughty words, and I was trying at those moments to pass myself off to my self and my friends as a naughty boy, as a bad boy. Didn’t use those words around my family, my parents, or the nuns; I would have been a dead boy if I had. I haven’t used the “n” word as an adult; not since I learned the history of the word, the harm in it.

I know that the “n” word is used by African-Americans and I know that’s different; there’s a cultural aspect to the use that doesn’t work with someone who is white. There’s a menace when that happens; a whole history of racism and bigotry packed into it.

However, I do have a question. Can I, as a white male writer, ever use it in the context of a story? When I was writing The Kents (my historical Western featuring the ancestors of Clark Kent’s adoptive family), I had characters who could have and perhaps should have used that word. I couldn’t bring myself to do it so I adopted a similar word as a replacement only to learn later that this word was perhaps more offensive.

I ran up against the same problem with Kros: Hallowed Ground. It’s set during the Civil War and the word would have been used. At first, I was inclined to use it but I had long talks with my partners, Tom Mandrake and Jan Duursema. They made the point that the word was jarring when you came across it and that it might well offend some of our backers, black and white. In the end, I agreed we shouldn’t use that word and didn’t.

The question still remains for me; can I as a white male writer justifiably use such a loaded word?

There’s the Mark Twain example who made prolific use of the “n” word; one of his great characters in Huck Finn is “N” Jim. I know there are versions of the book in which all the “N” words have been removed. I’m not nuts about that. There is a term “Bowdlerize” which denotes going through a text, especially a classic, and removing words and/or terms deemed offensive or not suitable for children and people easily offended. That raises my writerly hackles.

Still, the question persists – can a white male writer legitimately use the “n” word or the “c” word or any other words of that ilk? I don’t know. I’m still searching for that answer and I suspect I won’t find a definitive one.

Maher, for his part, realizes he went too far and did apologize for it. He devoted a considerable part of his show this week in a discussion of the term, repeating his apology. Ice Cube, among others, explained why the word is objectionable in ways that might expand our understanding of the situation.

However, there have been those who have called for him to be fired. I understand that Sen. Al Franken canceled a scheduled appearance on Real Time this week. Franken was formerly a comic, sometimes an edgy one, but he’s cutting no slack here.

Both Maher and Kathy Griffin (who got herself in trouble with a photo holding up a severed head of Trump) make edginess part of their routines. The edge, however, is not well marked and at times the only way you know where it is is when you’ve gone over it. And, at times, you’ll go past it at 100 mph.

To say the “N,” if you’re white, is never right. As a writer, as a white male writer, can I ever write it? I don’t know and until I have a clearer answer, I won’t. I may never get that.

Life would be simpler if it just came with a clearer book of instructions. Something simple and easy, in clear black and white.


John Ostrander is one of LB’s favorite writers in any medium. Don’t forget to read his most excellent blog at ComicMix, where this piece first appeared. You can learn more about John and his masterworks HERE

Cartoon: ‘Writing Exercises’

Grant Snider’s latest lesson in creativity:

There’s lots more like this at Grant’s website HERE

And his new book, which you can and should buy HERE