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:

Why is English Spelling So Weird?

Another entertaining and informative video about the English language by Arika Okrent. This one, about the vagaries of English spelling, is especially important to TVWriter™’s key demo (always wanted to use that phrase). You know: Writers!

More about Akira, YouTube’s Patron Saint of Writers

PEOPLE’S PILOT 2017 Update

This email went out yesterday to everyone on our TVWriter™ email list. If you haven’t signed up yet, you can do it HERE

tv writer peoples pilot main 1

Yes, it’s that time again, when I remind everyone that:

1) PEOPLE’S PILOT 2017 is up and running and wants your entry!

2) Although the contest doesn’t close to entries until November 1st, we’re getting perilously near to the August 1st deadline for discounted Early Bird sign-ups.

In other words, you’ve got less than 2 weeks to save 30% off the regular entry fee of $50 and enter as many pilot scripts as you want in this year’s 26th PEOPLE’S PILOT for only $35 each.

And you don’t actually have to complete and submit your entries till August 1!

I think this is a great deal, and although we get a good many takers for it each year – about 15% – I’m still always surprised that more of our entrants don’t take this route.

Now, truth to tell (as Roy Thomas used to say back in the dim past when he was Editor-in-Chief at Marvel Comics), Early Bird entrants aren’t only for your benefit. (Yeah, you’re shocked, right?)

They also help us here at TVWriter™. Because early submissions mean we’re able to get a headstart on the judging and relieve a bit of the pressure we’re under when the avalanche of entries hits us in the closing days.

This year, I’m going to sweeten the Early Bird pot. In addition to a lower fee of $35/entry, each early submitter between now and August 1st will receive a Special Gift – a free pdf copy of my classic book TELEVISION WRITING FROM THE INSIDE OUT.

That’s 375 pages of TV writing goodness, knowledge designed to prepare you for a successful television writing career in a way no other book can.

So there it is, right on the table. All you have to do is enter HERE

Complete PEOPLE’S PILOT 2017 info is HERE

And, if by some weird mischance you have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about, here’s a not-so-brief summary of what this year’s PEOPLE’S PILOT is all about:

PEOPLE’S PILOT 2017

PEOPLE’S PILOT 2017, one of the oldest and most highly regarded writing competitions on the interweb is now open!

The future of entertainment and those who create it is open and varied. Whether the series you are creating is intended for broadcast TV, cable and satellite TV, home entertainment/video game consoles, Big Media interweb outlets like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu, or indie web channels and venues like YouTube, Vimeo, Funny or Die, or the show’s own website, it is eligible for the PEOPLE’S PILOT Television and Electronic Media Pilot Script Competition.

CATEGORIES

PEOPLE’S PILOT 2017 is divided into 2 prize-giving categories plus a Special Bonus Category with its own unique award – a paying development deal starting with an option. To be more specific, the categories are:

Scripted Comedy Series – intended for any electronic platform (including broadcast and premium cable series, internet series, cell phone series et al) of any length of any length required for telling your story

Scripted Drama & Action Series – intended for any electronic platform (including broadcast and premium cable series, internet series, cell phone series et al) of any length required for telling your story

Episode length, number of episodes in the series, specific genre and just about everything else is entirely up to the creator. We do, however, require that the script be written in English and that is use standard teleplay/screenplay format so our judges can read it!

Special Bonus Category – All entries in this year’s competition automatically will be considered for the Special International Production Award, sponsored by Global Saga Media Entertainment of Hong Kong, which will be given to the entry or entries that the judges deem especially suitable for the global television market.

PRIZES

Prizes and bonuses for each of the two regular categories, worth over $20,000 include

$2000 US
1-on-1 Career Coaching from TVWriter™’s Larry Brody
Free admission to Larry Brody’s Online TV and Film Writing Master Class
Script Consultation from Script Pipeline
Gold Plan Spotlighted Screenplay Posting Service from Screenwriter Showcase
InkTip Script Listing
InkTip Magazine Logline Listing
Inclusion in the TVWriter™ List of Recommended Writers

BONUS PRIZE:

An international production script development-option deal with Global Saga Media Entertainment of Hong Kong for a qualifying script or scripts.

ENTRY BONUSES

FREE FEEDBACK

FREE STORYTELLING PATTERNS E-BOOK

ENTRY FEES

June 1 – August 1 PEOPLE’S PILOT EARLY BIRD ENTRY $35

August 2 – November 1 PEOPLE’S PILOT SINGLE ENTRY $50

August 2 – November 1 PEOPLE’S PILOT DUO DISCOUNT ENTRY $85

CLOSING DATE

PEOPLE’S PILOT 2017 closes at midnight November 1, 2017. You can enter and upload your entries any time until closing. As in past years, we urge you to take advantage of the Early Bird Discount even if your entry or entries won’t be ready until after the discount period ends. Once you have paid, you can upload your submissions at any time until the contest closes.

EVERYTHING ELSE

Complete PEOPLE’S PILOT 2017 info is HERE

Our Entry Page is HERE

Email me, LB, with your questions on the contest HERE

Larry Brody & Team TVWriter™
https://tvwriter.net
https://tvwriter.com

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

Diana Vacc sees “The House”

Sorry, but this isn’t in the film. Not that even a scene like this could have saved THE HOUSE

by Diana Vaccarelli

—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT–

Last weekend, The House, starring Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler, opened in theaters all around the U.S.  This film follows Ferrell and Poehler as Scott and Kate Johansen, who find out that their daughter Alex has lost the town scholarship that has made it possible for her to pay for her college tuition.

Since Will and Amy can’t afford said tuition, they get to work raising the money.  Hijinks ensue as they decide to open an underground casino.

 

THE GOOD:

  • The concept is relevant to today.  The struggle to pay a college tuition and the hardship it can bring into a family’s life are are part of our current middleclass crisis.  Millions of Americans can and, unfortunately do, relate to it.

THE BAD:

  • Writer/Director Andrew Jay Cohen script can’t seem to pull off the laughs that we are used to from his previously work on Neighbors and Neighbors 2.  As I entered the multiplex I was expecting to find myself rolling on the floor laughing when the film bagan. However, as you can tell reading this review – and from the fact that you probably haven’t found many other reviews of this, um, well, a disaster is what The House is – I never fell down laughing. Not once. In fact, I didn’t laugh at all.
  • Probably the worst part of the whole thing was when Ferrell character Scott transforms into a butcher and cuts someone’s finger off… and then promptly chops off the arm of another character. The blood shoots everywhere, and while I would like to believe that was an attempt to establish that this is comedy and therefore fake and acceptable, you know what? It wasn’t, and isn’t acceptable. Not one bit.
  • I’ll spare you more details because I don’t want The House to ruin your day as much as it ruined mine.

THE REST:

If you want to enjoy a new film, The House is not for you. In fact, it isn’t for anybody, for any reason whatsoever. To put in the simplest of terms, this film is a redefinition of the word “awful.”  I definitely do not recommend it.


Diana Vaccarelli is TVWriter™’s Critic-at-Large and a student in the TVWriter™ Online Workshop. Find out more about her HERE

What Makes ‘Game of Thrones’ So Damn Hot Anyway?

by Diana Black

Hint: It’s the theme of this particular article. And that is simply this:

“Compelling Characters Make a ‘Real’ World.”

By which I mean:

A great story idea, well-written script, skilful cast and crew with an intelligent Director and Showrunner at the helm – surely the recipe for a winning TV Series, but what ‘essential ingredient’ compels us to ‘tune in’ religiously?

Lulu: “Honey, so sorry, can’t make it tonight… no, it’s not my, ‘I’m washing my hair’ night … I’m  just busy…. No, you’re wonderful but…”

Is it the hooks and plot twists, the lighting, sound, mis-en-scene? What makes the fantasy drama, Game of Thrones (David Benioff & D.B. Weiss, HBO 201 –) now going into its 7th Season apparently SOOO interesting and compelling to watch?  And this is across the board – no longer the purview of adolescent, voyeuristic nerds.

Well, according to A.G. Walton – a contributor to Forbes, who in turn is commenting on the findings of Josue’ Cardona of “GeekTherapy.com”,  it’s a range of elements that include the following attributes: intellectually challenging and multiple plots; unpredictable twists;; an intricate and elaborate story world, and dramatic events that border on the visceral.

But what of character?  In this epic panoply of political manipulation; one which would be right up there with Rome under Caesar, it is according to Walton, the creation, destruction and resurrection of archetypes. So what is an archetype and why, having been ‘done to death’ long before Shakespeare took up a quill, are they still so useful?

Aspiring screenwriters of teleplays may think long and hard before referencing them – the Queen, the Trickster, disgruntled Prince, foul-mouthed washerwoman etc.  But they work, precisely because they’re ‘character’ in a neat package. We instantly ‘get’ them. They come into ‘our space’ with their over-night bag stuffed with accoutrements that we instantly recognize – greedy, debauched, vile, manipulative, pure, sweet etc.

Is that it, then? All there is to the Game of Thrones characters?  Are they merely just a bunch of one-dimensional archetypes? No – in our jaded world of hardened, cynical ‘little box watchers’– it requires more than that; as the revolving door of short-lived TV shows attest.

The secrets to these guys is that they not only shamelessly embrace their archetypal nature – to the hilt, they each have a level of complexity that make them seem real AND accordingly hated, feared, loved, reviled etc. We’re left seriously wondering what word or deed they’re going to express next.  ‘Warts and all’ they reflect us mere mortals – who will no doubt have to deal with the same, albeit modern-day equivalent conundrums, issues and angst, tomorrow or next week, come Tuesday.

And the moral of the story is….drum roll…invest like hell in your character/s if you expect your actors to lift them off the page. As an actor, the quickest, surest path to having those words and deeds appear perfectly natural and justified is to get under the skin of the character; to become that character – for better or worse. The old adage still and will forever apply, “You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.”


Diana Black is an Australian actress and writer currently taking Larry Brody’s Master Class.

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.