Bri Castellini: Dream Bigger – @brisworld

by Bri Castellini

A few months ago I did a podcast called The Other 50%- Women in Hollywood, hosted by Julie Harris Walker. As you can probably guess, it was on the subject of being a woman in the entertainment industry (and relentless self promotion). Near the end of the podcast, Julie asked “what’s your big dream?”

“Honestly, just to be able to support myself with my art.” I told her. “Whether that’s in the independent sphere, creating my own production company and running it like that, or getting to be a staff writer or a showrunner on a TV show. I want to be able to not have a day job, to not have to worry about side hustles and freelancing and stuff like that. To be able to say ‘I am a professional filmmaker’ and be able to live a simple existence.”

After a pause, she responded “You can dream bigger.”

I’ve been thinking about this exchange a lot recently. In the podcast I joked “is that not bigger?” because at the moment, it feels insurmountable. Last weekend I discovered $45 in my checking account while applying for a job that would pay me $20 to read a few sentences on camera. Thankfully I had savings for this exact purpose, and thankfully my job at Stareable is slightly more stable now, but it scared me a lot.

I have not been shy these past few months about what a rough time I’m having recently, and part of that has been me rethinking every decision I’ve ever made. It’s easy to make jokes in college and grad school about how I’m gonna be famous any day now, about how if I work hard I’ll make it in the art world. But the likelihood of that is so, so slim and there’s no way for me to determine whether I’m actually on the right path or not, because there IS no right path. It’s not like becoming a lawyer- there aren’t necessary steps (college, LSAT, law school, BAR, the rest of your life). You just kinda…. do a bunch of things and hope something eventually connects.

Daydreaming about fame and fortune is easy, but actually making that happen is hard, and it’s scary, and it seems insane, especially when I have to decide what ply of toilet paper I can afford to buy this week. I love my work at Stareable, and I loved my job at MTV, but sometimes I have to remind myself that I have two writing degrees and all I’ve ever wanted to do was tell stories. Five year old me didn’t dream about moderating a forum or casting a Southern Belle fashionista who currently lives in New York City. Five year old me dreamed of characters I wanted to hang out with, eight year old me learned about metaphors and how stories can mean more than one thing, thirteen year old me wrote a 35,000 word novel in a year, seventeen year old me only applied to colleges with strong creative writing programs, and twenty-two year old me moved across the country, away from everything and everyone I’ve ever known, with no plan except an acceptance letter to a graduate school that would teach me how to write for TV.

I’ve had tons of jobs, part and full time, over the past few years, and I’ve liked some of them quite a lot, and I’m incredibly lucky to have not had to work in the food and retail industries for long. But at the same time, every single one of them, at the end of the day, is not what I want to make a career out of. I write scripts while I’m waiting for emails, I film web series and movies on the weekends, I send query letters to agents, I consider moving to LA every other damn day, and I dream of the moment when my night and weekend work- which I spend equally as much time on as my “day jobs”- aremy day jobs.

I’m 25 years old. I feel old as fuck when I talk to my four-time web series creator pal Jules who’s starting college in the fall, and I feel young and vibrant when I remember the eleven years separating me and my pal Pablo who just created his first web series last year. Plenty of people were successful at ages far below my own, and plenty of people found their place in the world many years later, but I’m impatient, so the fact that I’m not already vacationing with Mindy Kaling is a constant thorn in my side. Dream bigger? I’m staring down the barrel of my empty bank account and a new job where SEO trumps stylistic comma choices. I just wanted to tell stories.

But ok. Dream bigger. Big dreams. What does that look like?

I want to work in a writer’s room for Amy Sherman-Palladino, Mindy Kaling, and Bill Lawrence. Eventually, I want to be the showrunner of my own show, probably about superheroes or zombies or ghosts. I also want to own my own indie production company, where I write, direct, and produce my own web series and short films with my friends without a network dictating every other word, and help produce their content as well. If that part of the business takes off, I’ll leave traditional TV behind forever, but I’m perfectly happy doing both.

I want to build a life where my success means the success of the people I love and respect. I want to give my actors a platform to experiment and show their chops, I want my writer friends to write without worrying about budget, I want my camera, sound, and tech friends to get to consistently work on supportive, well-run sets, and I want to make a living from it. I used to hate group projects, as most of you can probably sympathize with. But when I started filmmaking, a funny thing happened- I realized it wasn’t people I hated, or working in groups. It was working with people I didn’t choose who I didn’t respect and who didn’t respect me back.

I don’t know if that’s big enough, but today it feels like Everest, so today it’ll have to do.


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

Web Series: ‘The Stand’

The perfect web series for Trump’s America?

Or the hipster’s best friend?

Where would you place The Stand in the lifestyle spectrum?

Learn more about The Stand HERE

We’re thinking that this is well made – especially well-acted – and perfectly in keeping with today’s ironic niche humor. But to level with y’all, we’re also a tad tired of shows with asshole heroes. Does this make us bad people?

Feeling kinda disappointed…in ourselves.

What about you?

Found via Stareable

How To Turn Your Web Series Into A Full Time Job – @Stareable

Last week we brought you the exciting news that web series Stupid Idiots has a new TV deal, and today, in the same vein of productivity and achievement, we’re continuing in that vein with Stareable.Com’s Bri Castellini and her interview with Alex LeMay, who is making a name for himself via…well, hold on there. Y’all don’t need our set-up, you need the punchline.

So here it is:

Interview with Alex LeMay
by Bri Castellini

It’s a running joke in the web series community that none of us have money to make our shows, none of us make money off our shows, and none of us ever will. But what if I told you it didn’t have to be that way?

Alex LeMay @Alex_LeMay studied theater at DePaul University in Chicago and the University of Windsor in Canada, but he’s always been a fan of using cameras to tell stories. In 2006 he discovered a video streaming site called iFilm, which was a precursor to YouTube, and realized that online video was the future of media. In his words, “I put all my eggs in that basket.”

Today, Alex is a showrunner, producer, and director for two of the major studios, a bunch of digital studios, and branded entertainment divisions of various advertising agencies. He also runs AlexLeMay.com4, where he helps “ambitious filmmakers and video creators build [and] sell their web series.” How did he get there, and what can we all learn from his tremendous success? Read on.

Editor’s note: this interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Stareable: What shows have you created or worked on that we might have heard of?

Alex LeMay: I just finished a travel food show with celebrity chef Fabio Viviani called DINNER IS SERVED for Endemol Beyond. I was a lead producer on a digital feature for YouTube Red called KEYS OF CHRISTMAS starring DJ Khaled, Mariah Carey, Ciara, Bebe Rexha, and YouTube star Rudy Mancuso. I was a producer on Nigel Lythgoe’s EVERY SINGLE STEP which was like the choreographer version of SO YOU THINK YOU CAN DANCE. I was the showrunner/director on WORD OF MOUTH with YouTube star Josh Leyva for Shaun White’s Air+Style/Go90, I was the creator/show runner/director for ADVENTURE LAB for MSN. I was the show runner and co-creator of the online digital experience called BZRK which we ended up selling to Sony Pictures for Sam Raimi. I’ve been fortunate to create online content for companies like Starbucks, Johnson & Johnson, and Wilson Athletics as well. Right now I’m directing and producing the pilot episode of a web series by Jim Uhls, [who] wrote the movie FIGHT CLUB.

How did you end up producing and creating digital content?

In 2006 there was a video platform called iFilm which was the precursor to YouTube. When I saw that streaming video online was possible (which until then it would take you two days to download a two-minute video) I realized this is where media was going so I put all my eggs in that basket… Eventually, because I was one of the first producers creating digital video, I developed a reputation as someone who knew how to create for that space.

You’ve worked with some big digital production companies- how did you get in the room, let alone build long-lasting relationships, and what advice would you give to filmmakers, producers, and writers looking to follow in your footsteps?

I proved I could create content that builds an audience. I built an online series with a gaming component that Sony Pictures saw and they ended up buying it to turn into a movie. That allowed me to use that as a springboard into other work.

The reality is that it is a business like any other so as a creator and producer I had to show studios that I not only could deliver their series on time and on budget. I also had to show them I understood their business concerns, meaning that I understood how to deliver content that resonated with their particular audience… The advice I would give is that now it’s about creating social reach, so creators need to be proactive in building their own audience outside and separate from the traditional media system. That gets the industry’s attention more than anything else. Don’t think you need a distributor to make a living.

What is the most challenging part of working with larger production companies, and aside from funding, how does it compare to working on indie projects?

There are a lot of cooks in the kitchen. As a producer, director, and writer you have to fight, kindly, but fight nonetheless, to maintain your voice in a project. I never forget that it is my name on that piece of work so making sure I can be proud of it is essential. Also, most people in studios aren’t filmmakers in the traditional sense. They are executives whose aim is to make sure that the project is profitable. At the studio level, we as creators have to understand that helping studios profit is part of our job, but finding the balance between art and commerce can be challenging sometimes. The best way to avoid that conflict is to have a clear understanding of what the expectations are before making it. Sounds simple, but you’d be surprised.

Working on indie projects is a blast- there is a huge opportunity to break some rules, experiment, and try new things. Not having a budget means I get to play the game of “how can I solve this problem with no money?” That stretches my abilities and strengthens my creativity, which becomes hugely useful on bigger projects. I use all those little hacks I discovered on indie projects constantly on the bigger projects. Simply, indie projects are just freer.

What are some of the biggest mistakes you see smaller indie web productions make, and how can they course-correct?

There are a few common mistakes, but the biggest and most classic mistake is: “Build it and they will come.” This is the one where producers shoot 6 episodes of their series by racking up credit card debt. They then launch it by putting it out to their Facebook friends and in total they’re out $10k, 20k, 30k and only have 1500 views across all the episodes. I see this all the time. It’s sad, because so many of these projects are amazing.

Don’t make the series, make the proof of concept. When you make the entire series (or a major chunk of it) you don’t leave the distributor/buyer anywhere to go. Distributors only buy things that fit into the narrow parameter of what their audience wants based on their extensive audience data. Remember, this is the internet, not TV, so distributors have data on every view and click on their content and unless your series ticks all those boxes, chances are they won’t buy. Instead, bring them an idea that is 75% developed and let them fill in the other 25% with their knowledge of their audience.

What is something many indie creators overlook when making an indie project that you think they should remember that might make their project more appealing to wider audiences or larger production and distribution companies?

Many creators make their projects first and then find out who their audience is after. I think best practices show that successful series producers know exactly who their audience is before they make anything. In fact, before production begins, many creators have been building an audience by communicating with fans of their genre (the one they are creating in) long before that audience knows anything about their project. Once they have engaged the audience and built trust, they move ahead with production. This way, the project lands on an audience that already has a relationship with the creator….

Read it all at Stareable

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!”

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