Posts tagged web series
Mastermind, a concept that started as a one act play and then a short film (which premiered at Comic-Con in 2010) has now turned into a web series with graphic novel tie-in. The “masterminds” behind this whole project are Susan Lee (Producer/Director) and Michael Patrick Sullivan (Writer). The series starts off with the introduction to Mastermind and plot set-up. It then switches to our main characters Liz Lassiter, a reporter who has been covering Mastermind, and her boyfriend, JD. Things get really interesting with the cliffhanger ending, which I won’t spoil for those interested in watching for themselves. When talking to Lee, she hoped the second episode would be ready by Feb 1. This is also when she wants the first page of the graphic novel to be ready by. The graphic novel will be released online one page at a time, probably every two weeks. Personally I’m looking forward to seeing this story unfold, but you be the judge. The first episode can be found on YouTube and the website.
If you follow Geek Girls Network, Geek Girl Diva, or any other number of awesome geek girl websites, you’ve probably heard of Awkward Embraces. If not, you really should be following those sites AND watching this web series. This is one of those web series where you just can’t stop watching. It was midnight and I had to work the next day, but I needed to finish the first season. That’s how much I love web series.
Awkward Embraces follows the dating lives of Jessica and her two closest girl friends, Candis & Lyndsey. Jessica is a geek girl. She loves Star Trek and comic books and is not afraid to let it be known. While the basic tag line sounds very similar to Sex & the City, I find that the situations these girls go through are much more along the lines of stuff I would encounter via dating. Or maybe it’s just that I can actually relate to these girls. In one episode, Candis is set up on a blind date by her mom. You expect that it won’t go well, but the best part is the way Candis gets out of it. Let’s just put it this way, don’t annoy Jessica and then watch a movie with her.
Another reason this web series rocks is because it does what so few actual TV shows fail to do, which is show a realistic, diverse cast. Each character represents a nice little slice of life, without being reduced to a stereotype. The dialogue is smart and witty, with story arcs that are not cliche or predictable. The production value is excellent and, most important, it looks like it was so much fun to work on! I love when you watch a show and you can just tell that everyone on set had a blast while filming.
Jessica Mills, writer, producer & star of Awkward Embraces, was kind enough to answer some questions for Nerds in Babeland. At the end, please consider donating a few dollars to the production of Awkward Embraces Season 2. Once you’re done watching Season 1, you’ll see why we so badly need a Season 2!
1) Where did the idea for the show come from?
I have TONS of awkward dating stories that I love to share with new friends because they never stop being funny. I turned the worst/best story (Episode 4 The Morning After) into a short film. The shoot went so well and it was so fun, I decided to make it a web series.
2) How did you come to work together?
I went to college with Candis and Lyndsey. I couldn’t imagine doing anything comedy and not including them. They are two of the funniest women I know. Then Adam was referred to me by a friend because he had a Canon 5D Mark II and I’d been wanting to shoot something on that camera. We didn’t even MEET until the day we shot that first episode! But he’s great and we all had such a good time that everyone stuck around for the duration.
3) Web series are extremely difficult to fund, in particular when it comes to production costs. Awkward Embraces looks awesome in terms of production quality in general. How did you go about raising money to make the first season?
I didn’t. ha ha I literally shot that season for the cost of pizza. I was working a lot of overtime then, so all the costs (food, snacks, website, domain hosting, etc) just came out of my own pocket. Everyone did phenomenal work for free. I just got REALLY lucky when I found Adam. He does great work. For Season 2 we did an Indiegogo campaign for the first half, and we are about to roll out a second Indiegogo campaign to help us fund the last 6 episodes for Season 2.
4) How many of the stories throughout the first season are inspired by real life events?
Every single one. HA! It’s true. Sometimes it’s a little thing, sometimes it’s a conversation, or it’s an actual story that is mine or that I hear. I find awkward inspiration everywhere. It helps that I’m awkward and end up in awkward situations often.
I was a struggling, frustrated actress. I saw what Felicia Day was doing and just had so much respect for her and the way she took control of her own career that I felt inspired. The web is the best way to do your own thing and get it out there in front of an audience. I do feel that web series are going to become more and more mainstream. Eventually we’ll be streaming all of our television. The place I see web series taking in the future is with branded entertainment. People aren’t watching commercials anymore, and I think these companies are starting to figure out that if they can find someone to build great character and great story around their brand, they’ll get a lot more eyeballs than the commercials we all currently fast forward through on our DVRs. Branded entertainment is sort of the new buzz word in Hollywood. But technology and the business are changing so fast, it’s impossible to tell where we’ll be, or what will happen in the industry. I just hope I’m able to continue to tell good stories and entertain people the way I want. It’s about constantly moving forward and snatching the opportunities as they come along.
6) What can we look forward to in Season 2?
The girls make it their mission in life to find Jessica the perfect mate. So we see Jessica in some situations that she would normally never be in, and she’s got to figure out what to do. It’s a lot of fun. Candis has actually written three of the scripts for Season 2 and I’m very excited for us to get to play with them.
7) You’re a Star Trek fan, clearly, but here is a twist on an age-old question. Spock vs. Picard? AND Kirk vs. Riker?
Picard all the way. I LOVE it when Picard gets angry or upset. Stewart is just SUCH a phenomenal actor, so getting to see him run the gamut of emotion, as an actor, it feels like taking a master class. I love Nimoy, of course, but his range was somewhat limited as a Vulcan. As far as Kirk or Riker, I still have to go with Riker. He’s just dead sexy. Though I am doing a TNG rewatch and every time he hits on a chick, I feel SO AWKWARD. I don’t know what it is! He’s just so confident and overt about it! ha ha. But, he’s hot, so it’s ok.
8 ) Besides Star Trek, what are some of your other favorite things to geek out about? Will we see a lot more of these references in Season 2?
YES! I am obsessed with Doctor Who, so we are definitely going to see some of that. There’s some cute little BSG action in there, and I have a Mythbusters shoutout in an episode. This show is so fun, I love being able to celebrate all the stuff that makes me happy.
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Trav- We have a pretty quick turnaround on episodes. First, Eric Loya and I will discuss episode ideas. That can be a long discussion, like for the Season Finale, or a very short blurb, like “The guys play some board games.” Then Eric will go and write a first draft of an episode. Sometimes I’ll give notes for him to do re-writes (“First Halloween” is the only episode where I made him rewrite the entire thing), and then we get together with Director Rob Wood and Eric’s wife Catherine (who is responsible for the amazing set photos), and we go through the script and refine.
After that, it’s a matter of finding the time when everyone can get together to shoot. The earlier episodes took a lot longer, but when we got into the groove, we were pumping out 3 episodes in a shoot. I usually take a day or two to edit. The Halloween episode was shot on the Sunday before it was released, and it was out on Monday night, I think, so we’re capable of a pretty fast turnaround. I’d trade a little bit of that time to have a professional editor who knew how to color correct.
7. What is your favorite episode?
Trav- It’s Sophie’s Choice! There are so many great episodes already, and some of them are so different it makes it hard to compare them. I love “First Halloween” because we had very little time to put it all together. The performances in that episode are great. “Game Night” is just so different and silly, I find something to laugh about every time. And I can’t leave out “Mr. Furper,” obviously because of Nicholas Brendon, but also because it’s just so smart, taking moments from previous episodes and weaving this new character into our world’s past. Those are my top 3, and I think that’s the best you’ll get from me on that.
8. What kind of equipment do you use?
Trav- For Season One, we used the Canon HF200, a brilliant little camera for the price. Our boom mic is an Azden SGM-1X, the cheapest available again, but performed admirably. We purchased a GlideCam HD1000 between episodes 3 & 4, and it’s probably the best investment we made. It allows us to have nice, smooth handheld shots without a lot of jitter, and gives the camera “breath,” which gives life to the scene. Our lights are cheap Target lights with 5 arms each, and we use 100 watt-equivalent CFLs, which give off a strong, even light. This is maybe the point where we could make the biggest improvements with a better light kit and a couple extra crew positions. Lighting is so important, and we just couldn’t afford to do that right. I edit on Final Cut Pro, on the cheapest iMac we could get last year.
For Season 2, we’ve already picked up our new camera, the Canon T2i, a DSLR that does HD video very well. It’s under $1,000, but it gives us access to 35mm lenses, which is something indie filmmakers have never had at that price. I’ve used it to record some vlogs, and it’s wonderful. I’d like to get a better boom mic, and maybe a lav mic set, as well as a lighting budget to either buy or rent lights. And because my computer really lags with all that HD footage, I’d love to upgrade to something with a little more power. The new high-end iMacs are gorgeous and really fast while still being relatively affordable.
9. How does it feel to have the kind of following you guys have?
Trav- Our fans are amazing. Not only are they incredibly supportive, but they’ve been going out of their way to share the show. Every so often we’ll get a piece of fan art that will blow me away (which we love, send more!). It just boggles my mind sometimes that people are creating artwork based on something I made!
At VidCon this year, I was approached by people I’d never met who were so excited to hug me and get a picture with me, my heart was just bursting.
Of course, we’d like more fans. We want to share our work with as many people as we can, because that’s why we do it. But in fact, we need more fans. In order to be sustainable as a production, I figure we’ll need at least 60,000 regular viewers. That’s just an imaginary number; just an estimate on my part, but the logic is like this: It costs us a certain amount to keep producing each year. Say that’s $60,000 (another estimate). Well, if we make $10 off of a t-shirt or a DVD sale, that’s 6,000 sales we need. I’m guessing that only 1/10 people will actually buy something each year (which might be optimistic), which brings us back to 60,000 viewers.
We need help to get there, so every fan that tells a friend about “Robot, Ninja & Gay Guy” (or writes a blog about it that reaches much more than that) gets us a little closer to our goal. And we all appreciate that very, very much.
10. (And because I’m curious) Who is your biggest celebrity crush?
Trav- Jeez, do I even have one these days? I used to love Robert Pattinson, before he did “Twilight.” When he was just Cedric Diggory, he was gorgeous. I still have the hots for Ian Somerhalder, though I haven’t seen a single episode of “Vampire Diaries.” (Don’t get me wrong, I love vampires!) Oh! I know! Hayden Christiansen. Even though the Star Wars prequels killed my childhood, I don’t blame him at all. He’s been really good in other things, and he’s always yummy. Also, the new guys in “Glee.” You know, the blond and Kurt’s new boyfriend? Yeah, you know.
Here are some helpful links including a button *points* to push if you want to help these guys out. Also a message from Travis asking for your donations. (He’s adorable, you know you want to help)
Last week our creator ShinySwoots came to me from on high [Editor’s Note: Not THAT on high ;-)] and offered me a journey. I accepted and was led down a path of righteousness and awesome….
Anyway, Swoots asked me to do a post about http://www.robotninjagayguy.com/RNGG/HOME.html otherwise known as Robot, Ninja, and Gay Guy. They have finished their first season and are currently raising money to fund a second season. I had never heard of this great webseries before and I am grateful to Swoots for introducing me to it. I sent the creator Travis Richey some questions, and I will be posting those and his answers in two parts.
(They even got Nicholas Brendon on! You know, the guy who played Xander on Buffy!)
1. How did the three of you meet originally?
Trav- Well, Gay Guy was living with his boyfriend Chad, who was a big superficial jerk who always did things like eat the last of the chicken marsala without saying anything. Out of the blue, Chad left, so Gay Guy had to find someone to replace him in the apartment, so he put an ad on Craigslist and the only ones who responded were a ninja and a rob—It occurs to me now that you may have meant the actors. Did you mean the actors? I met Brian Giovanni and Ryan Churchill at the ACME Comedy Theater in Hollywood, where we all perform. Brian does improv there, Ryan is on the sketch side, and I do both. I really love ACME and try to use ACME performers for almost all my videos.
2. Who’s idea was “Robot, Ninja, and A Gay Guy?” And how did they come up with the idea?
Trav- The original concept for the show was from another ACME friend Curtiss Frisle. A few years back Xbox was having a contest for new web series. I was doing “Musecast” at the time, and I got a few of my friends from ACME together to brainstorm some ideas. Curtiss came with the concept for “Ninja, Robot & Gay Guy” about three random, weird roommates. He didn’t have much more than that, and our initial concept for the show was much more wacky than it ended up being.
Unfortunately, I didn’t have the resources or equipment to produce anything, so we kind of just sat on the idea for a while. Then I moved into a new place with my boyfriend Rob Wood, and we knew we wanted to produce something together. Curtiss was busy working on some other projects, so I emailed my friend Eric Loya and asked if he wanted to be the head writer of this web series “Robot, Ninja & Gay Guy.” He said sure, and I said ok and went back to moving.
A month or so later I got 4 scripts in my inbox from Eric, who had just taken it upon himself to create the current tone of the show. He made it a point to say he wasn’t attached to anything (and in fact that’s the only reason he didn’t name the characters originally), but I loved them so much I decided to go into production the following month. It was a really frenetic period getting ready for that because I didn’t have anything I needed to make the show, like a camera for instance.
3. What do you plan to do with the money you raise from the current Season 2 fundraising effort?
Trav- First, we have a detailed budget that is available for any potential investors.
It’s important to note that everything we did for Season 1 came out of my pocket, to the tune of close to $10,000. That’s cameras, lights, sound equipment, hard drives, food, costumes, makeup supplies, etc. People don’t often realize that there’s a lot that goes into making any sort of scripted entertainment. I also want to say that I’m incredibly proud of what we were able to do for that little. Think about it this way: Season One had about an hour and a half of content in total (not including the Truth or Fail game show), which is the same as a full-length feature film. And you never hear about anything being made for that little. Even “Paranormal Activity,” which was famously inexpensive, cost $16,000 (But the sequel? $3 million).
For the second season of “Robot, Ninja & Gay Guy,” we really just want to take the show to the next step, as a professional-looking web series. For that we have a chunk of the budget set aside for equipment upgrades in video, audio, lighting and editing. Besides that, the per-episode budget is for some pay for cast and crew, which includes a few crew positions that we didn’t have in the first season (for example, I’d love for the director to not have to also operate the camera), food for those people on set, and a few other miscellaneous supplies.
Everyone worked for free in Season One, and that’s a hard thing for people to do when they’re also struggling to survive in Los Angeles. I want very much to be able to offer a little bit to people for helping to make this great show, and in some cases we need to in order to move forward at all.
4. How did you get Nicholas Brendon to appear in one of your episodes? (I am insanely jealous about that btw)
Trav- This goes back to the Musecast, as well. Helenna Santos was in Year 2, and for her final vlog, she interviewed Nicholas, whom she’d met at her work and become friends with. Then, a few months later, RNGG head writer Eric Loya was invited to go to a play that Nicky was in. Eric is a huge “Buffy” fan, so it was a particular treat for him. By this time, we were through Episode 8 of RNGG, and Eric just mentioned it to Nicky who was tickled by the concept. When it came time to find our Mr. Furper, we managed to get in touch with him, sent a script his way, and based on that, he said yes. It was tremendously exciting. It was also very flattering that he agreed to shoot with us for free, based completely on his love of the script.
Whether he’ll be back is completely up to him. Last I heard, he wants to, and we want him to, and Mr. Furper has potential storylines in Season 2, but with Nicholas being a relatively successful actor, it’s always hard to say how those things will turn out, especially when we still don’t have a proper budget.
5. What are your hopes for this webseries?
Trav- I think “Robot, Ninja & Gay Guy” is a wonderful show that could go on for at least a few years. I feel really proud that I can watch episodes over and over (even after seeig them dozens of times in the production process) and still laugh out loud at moments. I do think it’s important to have a budget, though. I’ve been demanding some great work from the people who’ve been involved in the first season, but I haven’t been able to give them a cent for their time and effort. Me included. But assuming we can achieve some sort of sustainability, I’ll do “Robot, Ninja & Gay Guy” until it’s not funny anymore.
On a grander scale, I could definitely see us on TV. I think cable channels like Comedy Central, TBS, Logo, or HBO would be perfect homes for “Robot, Ninja & Gay Guy.” We’re entering a few festivals this year with the goal of getting noticed by some industry folks.
We’ve also got a plan for sustainability. Ideally, we’d like to not have to ask for donations after this first run. RNGG is extremely quotable, and I would love for our revenue to come from merchandise like T-shirts and DVDs. If we can manage that, it would open the door for us to do so much more than we’ve already been able to accomplish.
More to come tomorrow!