TOLDJA! – Web Series ‘Stupid Idiots’ Now has a Genuine TV Deal

Stupid Idiots (not the people, dammit, the show!)

Just a couple of weeks ago TVWriter™ gave the web series Stupid Idiots a review that included the following:

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!

If that isn’t a rave, what is it? In other words, we knew this show was going to take off, but even the smartest, bravest, and boldest of TVWriter™ minions never imagined that before the end of the month Stupid Idiots would have a genuine, supercool, real big-time development deal with the likes of Paramount TV and Anonymous Content?

According to Deadline:

In a competitive situation, Paramount Television and Anonymous Content have acquired rights to Stupid Idiots, a comedy web series written, directed by and starring Stephanie Koenig, to develop as a TV series. Koenig (PopTV’s Swedish Dicks) is set to write the adaptation and star in the potential TV series, described as a (trying-to-get-out-of-the-) workplace comedy about two underachievers who consistently fail upwards. Koenig and Brian Jordan Alvarez star in the web version, which launched earlier this year.

We love it when something we love gets even bigger love. We keep saying this and we’ll say it again: Web series are the perfect proving ground for new talent. There isn’t a better place in the Biz to hone your craft and prove your project’s appeal. Go forth, young dreamers, and conquer!

Oh, and while you’re at it, take a look at Stupid Idiots HERE

Oh, and in case you missed it in the headline: “TOLDJA!”

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.

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

Web Series: ‘You Only Die Once’

This is an interesting series. In many ways it seems to us to be better than it thinks it is, or intends to be.

Yeah, that’s a compliment.

You Only Die Once definitely works for us. It’s kind of like Buffy, only it doesn’t get as carried away with itself. Try it and let us know what you think.

More You Only Die Once HERE

What else do people do again? – @BrisOwnWorld

by Bri Castellini

La La Land was ok. I mean, don’t get it twisted, I cried at the ending. That’s not particularly surprising- I cry a lot at TV and movies. I’m wired to care more about fictional narratives than actual human people. That’s not the topic of this blog. The topic of this blog is the sometimes inescapable self congratulatory subjects of media- ourselves.

Most hack writing books and teachers will tell young writers- write what you know! And to an extent, that’s good advice. To an extent. But what this has really done is encourage basically every other writer in the world to write about, well, writers. Screenwriters write about screenwriters, about actors, about Hollywood. Novelists write about novelists. Web series creators write about making web series, or wanting to get into the film industry, or living with too many roommates because we’re all poor and want to get into the film industry.

Every once in a while, there’s a really great piece of media about the media industry. 30 Rock. Submissions Only. La La Land. But here’s the thing- most people are not writers, actors, playwrights, artists, etc. So there are only so many narratives you can tell about the artistic lifestyle before people are like “we get it. You eat a lot of ramen and argue about dishes with the revolving door of kooky 20-something roommates, and someday want to see your name in lights. Cool. What else you got?”

I don’t know. I don’t know what else I got. About a month ago I was trying to force inspire myself to write something new, having written ten pages of a TV spec pilot about making a web series and then realizing that it’s the least inspired thing in the world. And I genuinely had this thought- “what else do people do?” For the life of me, I could not remember what else people do in the world, other than write and want to be filmmakers or actors. Sure, the service industry was an option too, but there are already some really great service industry shows out there (Superstore in particular) and I don’t think my perspective is unique enough to try my own hand at it.

I am surrounded by creative people, and on a day to day basis, that’s great. We all get each other, and we’re all doing our best to make it in this often debilitating depressing entertainment industry. But when it comes to developing new shows and projects for us to make together, because all I do is talk about making new shows and projects with people, all I can think to write is- that. Writing about being a writer stuck as a barista. Writing about being a writer living with her creative partners and intermingling friendship and business in hilarious and detrimental ways. Writing about being a writer with two actor best friends. Do you see the problem?

A few years back, I was midway through a creative writing degree at the best place in the world (Pacific University) and one of my favorite authors (Maureen Johnson) wrote a blog about doing just that. If I was smart, I would have bookmarked it and read it once a month, but I was young and cocky, and now it’s lost to the ages (unless I find it again, in which case, I will link to it HERE!).

The basic premise of the blog was an argument against getting writing degrees- especially graduate or doctorate level writing degrees- if your eventual goal was not to become a teacher or professor. Her argument was that if all you ever do is study writing, what the hell are you going to write about? This was, and remains, a very good point.

At the time, I wasn’t concerned. I was in college, I had lots of other shit going on, and I was mostly writing genre stuff anyways, and my imagination wasn’t going to go away, so who cares if all I studied was writing? I’m glad I got my BA in Creative Writing, because I genuinely did become a better writer, but then I moved to New York City for an MFA, and if the goal was to have experiences outside of being a writer, well, I shouldn’t have moved to New York City to become a screenwriter, because once you’re in that world, it’s all you do. You only ever meet people in the acting or writing or filmmaking world, because it’s all about networking and who you know, and knowing someone outside of that world doesn’t do shit for your career, so the cycle begins again. There’s insulated communities, and then there’s the film and television industry.

All this is to say, boy howdy is it difficult to come up with honest, complex narratives (that I could also theoretically produce myself, so genre is mostly out) that aren’t about the thing I do- writing and making indie media. And yet, I don’t have a ton of time to cultivate other interests, because if I take my eye off the ball for even a second, I might miss my one sliver of a shot.

Intellectually, I know I have other interests. My speech and debate pilot has gotten relatively good responses, and obviously my short film Ace and Anxious (about asexuality and anxiety) is doing really well in the festival circuit, at least as a script. But what’s next? I keep asking myself: what else am I? What other stories do I, Bri Castellini, have to tell? (that aren’t too personal so as to embarrass or upset people in my life, that are interesting, that are active and not passive, that are not about an inability to “adult”.)

I guess we’ll see?


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