Some production perspectives

Hi folks,

Another big weekend of helping Mickenmich Productions with their upcoming feature film – codenamed AM3. I’m the sound recordist on that project. AM3 will be going into somewhat of a hiatus shortly so I’m looking to ramp up the activity levels on the Tomekeepers project in production terms. This will include our teaser video (being shot next week) that helps to ask a lot of questions about the milieu without answering many, and a few 1 minute character-focused shorts that gives people an idea of who our character are, where they come from, what brings them into the circle of influence that our story follows.

This means I have a busy few weeks ahead of me in terms of writing and editing. Our pitch video is up, and you can see it on Vimeo or YouTube (both linked below in case of browser incompatibilities).

Tomekeepers_Crowdfinding_Pitch from Jeremy on Vimeo.

In the meantime, I want to write briefly about the bigger picture of what the Tomekeepers project is really about.

So… let’s say you have a career, but you’ve now got to the point where you’re not going to get a lot further with it, you’ve lost the passion that drew you to it in the first place. You discover a new field of endeavour that makes sense to you, and you start pursuing it as a hobby for a while, and then you realize that not only is it great fun, but the more seriously you take it, the more fun it is. And so you start thinking about how you transition from your existing career with its income that you’re attached to, into a new career path.

If you go back to uni, you’re not going to be able to pay your bills. If you do a intership/traineeship in the new career, you’re not going to be able to pay the bills. The people in their early 20s who have degrees in that field will treat you like you know nothing until you prove otherwise. Nobody in your career path is going to touch you without a degree or diploma in the appropriate field, or professional experience. The organizations that exist to provide industry support will generally not provide the kind of support you need to step across from a professional role in one field into a professional role in your chosen path without a significant volume of existing professional-level credits.

So how do you make a like-for-like career jump where you’re jumping from one career train onto a similar section of a career train on a different set of tracks?! Well… ultimately – You need to prepare for the jump.

  • You look at what other people who have that leap before you have done, and learn from that.
  • You anticipate the other train’s motion in relation to your own.
  • You recruit people on the other train to catch you if you stumble in your leap.
  • You treat it like a sales exercise. (Ultimately, all job-hunting is sales!)

In sales, you don’t think about what you want to sell… you think in terms of what other people want to buy, and how to convince people that what you can deliver is what they want.

In my case – I’m trying to transition out of IT into TV writing and production.

So… looking at what other people done to make their own leap of that sort…

  • They have had a lot of self-belief
  • They didn’t jump into things until they had done their research
  • They had a clear sense of purpose and direction
  • They were tenacious in pursuing their goals
  • They backed themselves
  • When they were told “No” they understood why, then fixed it so that the next no was for a different reason.
  • The made something of their own when they were told they couldn’t play in other peoples’ back yards.
  • Everything they did – every step they made – they made for a reason that furthered their cause in some strategic or tactical manner.

To that end, the last 4 years has seen me buy and read a lot of books; watch a lot of BTS and how-to videos; and start shooting a lot of footage – even if only for my own interest.  I have lurked in forums; contributed to FaceBook groups; attended workshops; subscribed to magazines and industry newsletters.  I have probably spent a significant percentage of the time required for a film school degree  teaching myself how the film and television industry works.  And now I’m ready to take that leap, dragging as many other people behind me as I can – actors, crew, writers and other production staff.

I also know what the television industry wants.  It wants the same bankable certainty that any industry in our country wants.  It wants proof of capability.  It wants to see the proof in the pudding before the pudding is prepared.  In the TV industry, that means an audience that’s already engaged and “locked in”.  The metrics for that lock in include FaceBook/Google+ likes, YouTube/Vimeo hits, Twitter buzz and plenty of press engagement.

So please… reach into your pockets and support The Tomekeepers.  In industry terms, we’re asking for very little.  The crowd-funding goal would put us at $10,000 per episode, which is a pittance in comparison with the kinds of shows I’m looking to compete with.  The West Wing had a budget of $6m per episode (in real terms, that would be around $9m today).  Warehouse 13 has a budget of $2m per episode.  Rake has a budget of around $900K per episode.  I’m looking to crowd-fund just over 1% of the latter on a per episode basis.  With that, I can shoot on a great camera with quality glass, use professional editing tools and workflows, and pay my cast & crew enough to keep them afloat and locked in on the project for the time it will take to make 10 episodes of TV while people involved still have day jobs.  That money will also pay for insurances, a small amount of SEO and social media marketing (which will be necessary for us to build up the buzz required to get picked up by a network so everyone can be paid), and for production essentials such as storage consumables (SSDs/CF cards), script printing (400 – 500 pages printed per episode) and equipment maintenance costs.  It might even get us some standing sets and somewhere to put them. Remember that we’re making episodes of a length to fit a commercial television “broadcast hour” (i.e. 42-45 minutes to allow for interstitial advertising), so $10K per episode breaks down to around $220/minute, which in television terms is effectively free.  In return for that, you’ll get a season of television which you can watch on the internet.  You’ll get a preview into what I’m hoping will be a fully network funded TV show.  And there’s some great rewards on offer that insiders will love.

Please head to our IndieGoGo campaign and do your bit today!

Television – it’s a team sport!

Hi folks – a slightly different blog post tonight. I’ve had a super busy week with organizing auditions for the upcoming preview video that I haven’t had much of a chance to prepare the next blog, share some “producer’s eye” insights into my last week.

Firstly – I have a day job, so keep in mind that this is all happening between the hours of 6pm and whatever time I’ve got to bed. Moving on.

I posted an ad on Star Now (an entertainment industry cast and crew site) a few weeks back looking for people to play roles in a 5 minute preview video in which I’m going to be introducing the core event that lies at the basis of our milieu. Not a lot of character information, and very little by way of action – but it sits together nicely as a single unit of work. I wrote it last week in a single sitting.

The purpose of this video is four-fold:
1. Introduce the major event that kicks off the societal transformation that I hope to show by the end of the web-series, to be titled “Tomekeeper Preludes”.
2. Create a “proof of capability” piece that I can post on the crowd-funding site as a means to drive more conversions on my crowd-funding site.
3. Get some actors on boarded into the program that will be self-motivated to help drive the buzz around the production, and to consider for roles in the main web-series.
4. Do a dress rehearsal on a smaller scale to prove to myself that I really can do this!

So… with that context in mind, consider the following. I had about 32 responses to the casting call. I need this video up on IndieGoGo ASAP, so as of Monday I had about 4 days to achieve the following:
* Lock in a time when I would be available between work and shooting with Mickenmich Productions on the weekend that would also suit the majority of people who responded to my casting call.
* Lock in a place where I could host 10-15 people at a time. As nice and large as the place AW and I rent is for two people, it’s not really built for having that many people in any room except the one that is full of my music, movie making and computer gear.
* Keep people informed about what was going on re: auditions and other activities.
* Continue driving people to this site and the Facebook and Google+ page.
* Distribute the script before auditions took place.
* Review all of the profiles on Star Now from people who applied for roles.
* Pick up keys for the venue I managed to hire.
* Spend some time with my very beautiful and talented partner (Love you Hon!).
* Resend the information I had sent to everyone else to the new casting call respondents who applied as late as Friday morning.
In addition to that, I had to deal with a busy work week, notice of a house inspection arriving and some work on a code project for a friend. A very old and very good friend from interstate dropped in for the weekend so we caught up for lunch on Saturday… and around all of that, I also had morning shoots with Mickenmich until 12:30 on Saturday, 2:00pm on Sunday.

This is not a complaint.. this is just perspective. It’s been great fun, but it’s also been very, very tiring. 🙂

Auditions
On Friday evening, and on Sunday afternoon I hosted about 16 out of the 32 people who applied for roles at Blackwood Memorial Hall… home of Blackwood Players and various other community groups. For the record – very reasonably priced (cheaper than rooms at the local council-run community centre). I had to make some fast decisions based on who had turned up, who had what sort of acting chops and what roles people had applied for. We had a very extras-heavy night on Friday, and a smaller speaking-role heavy group on Sunday. I picked scenes we wanted to concentrate on to get people engaged as quickly as possible, and had a few of the extras read for speaking roles as stand-ins for other people. One of my extras got a lift from a friend, who I got to stand in and read one of the major roles a couple of times. I felt it was really important to let everyone read for whatever roles they were comfortable trying.

I also took some time to spell out what I’m trying to achieve with this project – not just for myself, but for others like me hoping to break into the entertainment industry in one capacity or another, and explained how I’m hoping to structure the possibility of a deferred payment plan for cast, crew, myself and investors. I spelled out the importance of getting things moving with social networks, and how important it is that the awareness of this project goes viral. Without a significant number of facebook/google+ likes, we’re unlikely to get anywhere near our crowd-funding targets. I also stressed the important of not only liking the various social media pages, but also sharing links with friends, family, work colleagues, etc. So far, people have been true to their word and the reach of the campaign has expanded significantly.

The outcome of the auditions is that I have now cast all but two-and-a-half roles. I am going to be auditioning three people for a female news anchor role, and one of them will get a role as a field reporter. I have actors cast in the roles of the state Premier, Leader of the Opposition, my male news anchor, scientist and 3 journalists, although I’ve realized now that I can reduce that by one. I have my two police officers doing protective duty for the Premier and I have a batch of willing extras who will get to media-mob the Premier as he leaves Parliament house.

While that’s nice, the greatest and most joyful outcome from auditions is that I have two major recurring roles cast for the web series itself, and minor recurring roles assigned to at least six or seven others! This is super-exciting. I’m hoping that of the three people I’ll be seeing later this week for the Female news anchor role, that one of them will impress me enough that I can fill another of my lead roles. Having seen show-reels on Star Now, I’m confident that at least two of the three might be good enough to fit the bill.

So… What’s next?
Well… other than preparing for a house inspection…
* I’ve just had a great idea on a way to trim some time out of my script. That will probably require about 10 minutes of writing to fix.
* I need to start writing some teaser scripts for my main characters.
* I want to ramp up the social media activity considerably. This will mean at least two more posts up here this week.
* I have an audition to organize
* I have a couple of locations to scout and organizations to contact regarding access to standing sets, etc.
* I have an additional writer to on-board.
* I have actor agreements to send out and get back…
Oh… and I mentioned the house inspection? That means it’s time for me to post this and go!

I’ll post again the other side of the house inspection! Expect something Wednesday or Thursday night.