Archive | April, 2012

Distributors….You’ve been put on notice!

26 Apr

When I dived into new media several years ago, I one day dreamed of being picked up by an online distributor and have my show marketed around the world!  It’s almost the equivalent to Christmas morning, doing the paperwork and waiting for your show to be released.  But…along with my dream came massive disappointment as I now talk to other creators, attend panels, and see just what is going on here.

Creators…are being raped.  There are several distributors out there for web content and some have the opportunity to take their show and instantly have it picked up.  Others struggle in finding distribution or are rejected by many of the web media moguls.  I have talked to many an individual who have jumped at the opportunity to sign their show and have not read the fine print.  Along with this comes the fact that many “high ups” will chat with you and make things sound glorious and perfect and make it sound like your web series will have a guaranteed audience with a good little income.  What they don;t tell you is that after you sign those papers…they’ll change your show…after you have watched one of your episodes get one million views…they’ll tell you there’s third party costs involved and the original CPM they quoted is now defunct.  These are just a few examples.

It is a dishonest way of doing things.  I personally have dealt with signing with a distributor only to have them massively revamp a trailer we submitted (this happened a few years ago).  And why aren’t a few of the major outlets not supplying their content creators with daily numbers?  I currently have a friend who has not received numbers for his series in weeks!  Get with the program here!

If we wanted to deal with the way Hollywood works, we’d be making features and festival shorts.  We wouldn’t be working in the space where we still have control and say (so we thought!).  Why are some of the bigger shows who have found a voice not stepping up and helping the smaller series?  I mean, this is supposed to be a drastically different avenue where us as creators help one another.  I could list about five major web series who I have found to be quite clicky and have no reason to be.  At the end of the day, you’re just like everyone else.  And you should use your audience to help make a change for the others within new media.  The main problem here is that these shows are marketed heavily by some of the exact distributors I speak of and see no issues as a lot of us do.

Koldcast, Blip Tv, Youtube, and a slew of others are all major distributors.  My personal experiences with Koldcast, unfortunately, have never been good.  Time and time again they have disappointed and are currently disappointing SEVERAL other creators that have signed on with them.  Blip Tv has been rather wonderful with only two exceptions.  They lack on marketing for your show.  This is where Koldcast does exceed…they really push your series (but what good does that do to only be told your income won’t reflect it’s numbers).  Blip also has a terrible response system meaning you have no real way of contacting someone…much like when you have a problem with your cell provider and just can’t get a damn person on the phone!  I cannot speak much about Youtube with the exception of saying that there “Partner” program is ridiculous these days.  Good luck applying as I have been told on numerous occasions from their own automatic response that some videos have copy written material and therefor they cannot accept the material into their partnering program.

I think the main issue I cannot stand here is creators being lied to or mislead when talking to some of these distributors.  If you were told something or signed documents, you need to hold their feet to the fire because sure enough, someone like Koldcast will most definitely  hold your nose to the grindstone if push comes to shove on a matter.

We need to take a stand against many of these outlets.  We are supplying them with our works that we have put blood, sweat, and tears into.  We shouldn’t be swayed and treated as we are just do to the fact that “woohoo, our show’s getting picked up!”.  We need to speak out and make sure these distributors pay what they say, market us as promised, and not speak with false tongue.  Many of you will instantly relate to this and some of you will not.  Do your research and talk to other creators.

Another interesting topic is how many good series of quality get turned down or never even talked to yet the space gets clogged with some of the worst shows ever being picked up by these same companies.  One of these genres happens to be comedy.  Our space is absolutely flooded with comedy series.  Why?  They are easy to make on a low budget.  The problem is acting and writing.  It takes a skilled writer to pen good humor and it takes an even better actor to deliver those lines.  The over population of comedic series is gross and the fact that so many horrible comedies are being picked up is even grosser.  This is why I feel most of the distributors are 100% hypocritical in what they say.  They want shows of quality yet will take on damn near anything with a punchline in hopes that it will be the next “Guild”.

I wish that many of us would not hold our voices back.  It’s a common problem.  The same as when you see a local feature, short, or series get made and screened.  When asked “what did you think?”…most compliment it and say how wonderful it is only to turn right around and bitch and moan about how terrible it really was.  This way of backstabbing is undeniably common in all facets of film and is the reason why we have so much crappy content in the whole of the entertainment industry.  Grow a backbone and say how you feel.

Speaking your mind for the win!

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Projects worth support…because I said so!

25 Apr

Weeding through all those video posts and blog posts and kickstarter/indiegogo campains on Facebook can be a trying task. Especially when trying to figure which ones to actually support, read, or become a fan of. Below are projects which I have become fond of, believe in, become friends with, and fully support. Unfortunately, there is little in the way of my own local colleagues due to the fact that we have to many big headed and egotistical entities in Portland film these days. Some may blame this on creative differences or differences in opinion where I blame it on entitlement. Don’t lay claim to a genre which you are new to. Stop hiding behind a charity hoping it will cover the terrible piece of work you have created. And lastly, be humble in your approach when talking to others in the same industry. Don’t mock those that paved the way for you to be able to create something in your respected form of media.

Examples that are paving the way and stand for wonderful things are right here below and I am very proud of all those involved and what they are creating and accomplishing!

First Glance Films’ “Jedi Camp”

Good friends, Leah Cevoli and Cricket Lee, have been helping with this and acting in it and what a wonderful project it is! Using the “Star Wars” fandom, “Jedi Camp” deals with kids going to a camp to learn the ways of the Jedi and sends out an anti-bullying message for all. I am really stoked to see this thing come to life! Props to Camden Toy, Leah, Cricket, Kristin Nedopak, and Mark Gantt fro getting behind this! Visit Jedicamp.com for more information!

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Shelf Life: The Series

I saw this little gem in LA this last February at a screening and met some of the cast. I have since became friends with Stephanie Thorpe and must say…this is one of my all time favorite shows on the web! The series follows a slew of action figures that are perched on a young boy’s shelf and come to life when no one is looking. It’s the adult version of Toy Story and it is hilarious! Mad props to Stephanie, Tara Platt, and Yuri Lowenthal! Give it a watch at shelflifeseries.com!

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A Tale Of Delight

Now…this is one of those local Portland projects which I DO support because it is genuine and is diving into very fragile subject matter. I respect Edd Blott so much for this! It also has some amazing local talent on board with not only acting, but producing as well! “A Tale of Delight” follows Michael, a young illustrator, who helplessly witnesses his wife’s tragic death. One year later, as his family celebrates the holiday season, Michael’s depression leads him towards suicide. Only his sister, Camille, recognizes his desperation and sees where his need for peace is leading him. Now, she must convince him that a joy exists, despite horror and grief, and that it is something worth fighting for. Check out more info at the placeholder page where they did an indiegogo campaign: delightmovie.com.

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Understand…Learn…and Create.

23 Apr

Indie film making is no easy task.  Especially when 99% of the time there’s no budget involved.  So how does one get a short, feature, or web series shot?  Well…that’s the million dollar question.  How do you determine who on the crew gets the last $10 in your pocket?  I have seen many a project come and go here in Portland…especially in this past year.  The amount of gigs on Craigslist alone that have no pay listed is ridiculous!  But…as a freelancer in any department in film making…you should always expect the worst when it comes to Craigslist.  You may snag a random job here and there but two things are certain.  One…it won’t pay well…if any.  And two…whatever you work on will most likely never see the light of day.

Back to the topic of free vs. paid.  I don’t really think there’s an argument on whether one wants to make money…but lets clear something up.  Just because you went out and spent your graduation money or that extra coin you squandered away from that one lawsuit you won, doesn’t mean you are qualified to say you are a cinematographer or a director of photography!  I could list three individuals off the top of my head who have a sense of entitlement towards this.  Acting arrogant, ignorant, and taking no one’s advice will ALWAYS lead to horrible camera work.  This…is where the free work needs to come into play.  If you find yourself buying a camera just because you want to become a filmer…than take as many free gigs as you can.  Learn the tools and the trade and better yourself at it before heading off and taking jobs away from others who are deserving of it.  You can tell someone these days that you have a Canon Mark II 5D with a dolly, and a steady cam, and blah blah blah…and you’ll get a job just based on your equipment list.  Congratulations…you have just robbed someone of pay on both ends of the spectrum.  You don’t have a clue what you are doing…so don’t act like it!

The equipment thing really gets at me.  If you’re shooting some backyard wrestling gig for you’re buddies..then sure…the jerry-rigged steady cam you made from Home Depot will do just fine.  But it ain’t gunna fly on a set!  I have seen more crap rigs and people advertising that they have an “amazing dolly” these days that it’s straight nonsense!  Invest in some good stuff if you are serious about doing this as an occupation!  Otherwise, when you show up with your crap equipment and cocky attitude, you’ll most likely never get a gig in town again!  There’s a few individuals currently leaving the Rose City who didn’t respect these “rules of engagement”.

All in all (as I don’t mean to only talk about cinematographers), individuals who lack the experience and are just beginning in the film industry SHOULD be finding unpaid gigs to build themselves.  Many writers, filmers, producers, and directors are starving artists and don’t need the added competition failing to grasp the reality of what it really takes to do this work.

Portland’s film community may seem large, but by all means, it is not!  It is a small yet dysfunctional family at times (most of the time) and taking work from someone who has earned it is not fair by any length.  The same goes for not only doing work for free but doing work for a substantial less sum and lowering the market around you.  This does favors for no one and will guarantee you an enemy…or 20.

The bottom line to the entire conversation here is to leave the pro work to the pros.  Don’t make promises you can’t live up to.  How many actors out there have made promises to get onto a production only to fail to produce those promises and in doing so, destroys said creation?  Lots.  I can name several.  How many directors have been handed money by investors only to produce a crappy product in the end because they had to big of an ego to admit they were wrong at some point?  I could name a few.   How many producers are pushing projects by leaning on their own crew and actors for funds but yet aren’t donating a dime themselves?  Once again, I could name a few.  There is a sense of entitlement in the air in Oregon now that we have some big television shows filming here.  Especially with our casting agencies.   Well kiddies, check your egos at the door.  This ain’t Hollywood nor will it ever be Hollywood.  There isn’t room here for the cliques (and there are a ton of you out there…I really want to name drop here but I will refrain!) and critics of other people’s work.  We are a collective and need to feed off one another by embracing each others creativity and giving positive input.

Now…I have prepared myself to be attacked on a few issues at hand and some may even go as far as to call me a hypocrite.  Well…in that regard I would say “Aren’t we all?”  But as I am only human I will respond in the most defensive of manners.  I know what it’s like to not have a dime yet want to see a project come to life.  I know what it’s like to claw upwards, searching for a breath of fresh air that will make an idea survive.  I know the pride one must suck inward to ask a friend to shoot something for free.  And I also know of the promises one makes to others, hoping that I may keep them solidified and intact.  Well…I can suck in my pride.  I can scrounge every knickle and dime I have to feed a cast and crew.  I can do free work for others as trade so an idea can spring from the pages of a script.  I can carry the weight of a promise on my shoulders like Atlas himself.  And I can support others in the same avenues.  I know my limitations…my boundaries…and my fears.  I say all this more so in the defense of every indie film maker…not just myself.

Creativity for the win.

(This post is dedicated to Sean Brown, Cindy Lemas, Aparna Brielle, and Luis Garcia.  Thanks dudes and dudettes for the ideas today!  You cats rock!)

 

“Cover The Night” ends in utter failure….Thank God!!!

22 Apr

(In the above picture, Invisible Children founder, Jason Russell, poses with the Ugandan Army, responsible for murdering, raping, and pillaging the Ugandan people…the exact same atrocities Joseph Kony has committed…and Invisible Children supports them.)

It normally takes a lot for me to get angry these days.  I get frustrated quite a bit over small things like stupid film remakes, trendy hipsters, indie film makers who think they know it all, and especially models…I hate models…male and female.  But…it takes a lot to actually get me angry.  Well, the powers that be found a chink in my armor this year and it came in the form of a “charity” of all things called “Invisible Children“.

Now…I don’t really want to write a long post on this.  In fact, if you’re wondering why I am hating on a charity who claims to help support the capture of the infamous Joseph Kony, the answer is simple.  They aren’t.  Instead they are preying on all of the ignorant American’s throughout our country by using guilt.  The “facts” they state on their site and in their hit viral video “KONY 2012” are even false!  It doesn’t take a physicist or a rocket scientist to do a little Google research and find this out.  It also doesn’t take much to discover “Invisible Children’s” open financials which shows where exactly the millions of dollars they have been collecting is really going.  I’ll give you a hint:  NOT TO THE CHILDREN!

So…yesterday, I found out that “Invisible Children” was having an event nationwide called “Cover The Night” in all major cities where people could download posters from their site and buy media kits.  The idea was to cover major cities with “Kony 2012” posters to raise awareness of Joseph Kony.  Listen, it’s 2012.  If you didn’t know who Kony was before their viral video, you’re an idiot.  He’s been creating more genocide in Africa than almost any tyrant around the world!  But..once again…a ton of you are ignorant and would rather pay attention to the newest trend in fashion.

The conclusion.  “Cover The Night” = EPIC FAILURE!  The “thousands upon thousands” that were supposed to show stayed home.  Here in Portland, to watch GRIMM, no less.  A much better way to spend the end of the week.

My disclaimer (for all those morons who’ll try and say “how dare you for making fun of a charity!”).  I support ANYONE who is trying to make a difference over in Africa.  My full support is behind Sam Childers and his foundation, Angles of East Africa,  and several other charities that really are over there making a change and standing up for those who cannot stand for themselves.   But I won’t stand by and watch a few guys prey on everyone’s pockets using these poor people’s struggles as an excuse and using the tool of new media and social marketing to do so!  It pisses me off to no end!  If you really want to make a change…do your research instead of blindly giving away your dollars and pay attention to worldly affairs such as these.  Take a look at what Sam has been doing for over 10 years in the South Sudan.  That’s doing something!

Real humanitarians for the win!

How the “Cabin In The Woods” saved my week!

21 Apr

So this week was on a downward spiral from the start as I have not been feeling well.  A little background info on that.  After the first shoot we did on “Embers Of War” out on the Oregon coast back in October, we all came back proud of what we had accomplished.  Just a few days into being back, I suddenly came down with a temperature of 105 degrees, chills that would normally break a man’s spine, and felt like I developed the breathing habits of a 107 year old chain smoker!  Top this off with no appetite and barely being able to move and I knew I had come down with something worse than Hitler!

I tried to wait it out for over two weeks (stupid, I know) but the temp peaked at 106 degrees and my roommates finally said enough was enough!  They took me to a hospital in SW Washington where I was poked, prodded, had over six veins blown out from so many antibiotics pumped into me, and quarantined.  All this happened in a week and instead of just saying “we have no idea what may be wrong with you” they just kept pumping drugs in me.  My Mother and Aunt looked at the sixth doctor I had during that week and finally said “get him someplace else…now!”  They instantly transferred me to OHSU in Portland, Oregon where I was diagnosed and treated for Cryptococcal Pneumonia Gatti within a day.  What is it you ask?  It’s something straight out of a horror film, ladies and gentlemen!  Spores that miraculously made their way over to North America in 2000, cling to trees and other densely forested areas and when us, humans, walk by, we breathe these in as they are released.  The spores go into your lungs and attach to your lung walls where they soon blossom and turn your insides into a garden!  Awesome stuff, huh?  NOT!

So…to wrap things up.  This form of pneumonia can last up to two years.  Luckily, my body has done a great job of fighting it off along with the help of some gnarly medication.  But this last week, I started to not feel so good again.  Even with a wonderful night seeing friends at the “Embers Of War” screening, I felt pretty crappy afterwords.  Having an idiot try and tell me the “The Guild‘s”, Felicia Day, lacks anymore creativity sure as hell didn’t help matters!  I wanted to punch the dude in the face after his comment about how Felicia has used her “celebrity credibility” to push the show for the past two seasons, having pop culture icons make guest appearances.  Once again, telling me that “Community” is a far better show than “The Big Bang Theory”…didn’t help the situation!  So…as I began spiraling downward into an almost depressed state…there was still a light at the end of the tunnel.

A little movie had premiered at SXSW this year called “The Cabin In The Woods“.  Now, for all the Joss Whedon fans out there, you know this movie has been complete for quite sometime and was being stalled as Joss wanted it in 3D.  Well, finally, he settled on a limited release.  Friend after friend had been going to see it and saying how “awesome” and “amazing” it was.  Then I read a review where it said “Cabin In The Woods” broke every horror stereotype there had ever been and was the “best original horror film in over 20 years”.  This is what really made me almost die (literally) to see this film!

So, myself along with the wonderful, Meg Gamez, went to see CITW.  We showed up at the movie theater in Pioneer Place, one of the only theaters in the northwest showing the film, paid for our tickets, and started to walk towards the showing gate.  My eye caught a table with something on it.  Now, these days, you almost never see promo materials handed out at theaters anymore..but there…on the table was about seven “Cabin In The Woods” medium sized posters.  I instantly began to snatch them all up like a starving dog having just discovered Beggin’ Strips for the first time!  The bottom poster caught both, Meg’s attention and mine.  There was writing on it.  I was curious so I examined the writing closely.  Signed by Joss Whedon.  If that wasn’t good enough…the movie got a 10 out of 10 from this here horror fan!

All in all, the experience of watching “Cabin In The Woods” with Meg will only ever be rivaled by the time I went to the premiere of “Transformers’.  But then again…that moment never coughed up a signed Optimus Prime poster now did it!  Game…set…and match.  Cabin In The Woods for the win!

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“Legendary” and it’s familiar faces…Part 1!

19 Apr

Creating one series has been hard enough (Embers Of War), but when I made the announcement about going into production on another series (Legendary:  A Tale Of Blood And Steel), I had no idea the kind of response that I would get from others.  I thought they’d think I was nuts!  And in fact, several people think I am.  “Embers Of War” is still in production and here I am starting ANOTHER show already!  Why do you ask?  Because I feel it’s the best way to properly monetize web series. Running two shows with built in audiences increases your chances of having two audiences play off one another.  It increases views.  A tactic that I think more creators need to look into.  As stressful and hectic as it may be, I am willing to take the gamble.  But one thing that has been amazing about getting into the “space”, has been the fortune of getting to know and beginning to work with other creators, actors, actresses, and producers.

“Legendary” in just over the past week has taken on a life of it’s own.  Two individuals who I will mention in this first post are Barry Morgan and Courtney Zito.  Barry Morgan is the creator of the series, Arcana, while Courtney Zito is the star, creator, writer, and producer of Hollywood Girl.  Both series shine in their respective genres.  Arcana brings a suspenseful take on horror showcasing so many strengths in tension building and character development that it is a show one cannot pass up!  Hollywood Girl is an amazing refreshing take on comedy and the daily life of most LA females trying to burst into the “scene”.  Courtney does a phenomenal job in her acting abilities to portray a character struggling with the small details of everyday life in a major city all while bringing the finer points of comedy to your monitor.

All of these are reasons why both have came on board “Legendary”.  Barry brings his amazing producing skills to the table while Courtney, wanting to play something outside of comedy, gets to do just that as recurring character “Lady Rhonwen”, a blade slinging feminist warrior.

I could not be more happier than to see two of web’s finest creators come aboard to help this project along.  This is where I see the face of new media going.  Creators helping creators…shows helping shows.  It seems to me that web series are working because everyone knows how much passion, money, labor, and love goes into everyone of our projects and we’re each willing to help one another.  For this..I am eternally thankful to Barry and Courtney and the several others that I will mention in the next post on this topic in part 2!

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It has arrived!

19 Apr

Well…It’s taken me forever to finally get one of these up here.  I am normally to busy to even live these days which is def. taking it’s toll on me as I look like a zombie most of the time and even forget what day of the week it is.  But none the less, a place to vent, rant, rave, yell, scream, and smash (as the Hulk would say) in word format…is just what I need.  Because let’s face it…there is WAY to much going on in the world that I love to bitch about.  Things friends do, things colleagues say, family I hate, people I loathe, films I love and despise….All topics that this new little blog will finally let me exploit!  J. Lee for the win.

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