The 3rd Streamy Awards: The Most Important Thing for the Web Series Since Ever

I started creating content for the Internet roughly six years ago — in Internet time, that means I’m a grizzled veteran, wounded from the many cuts of a completely bi-polar medium.

I’ve seen web shows live and die, I’ve seen the “next big thing” turn into the next “absolutely nothing,” I’ve watched as creators struggled for years and then suddenly struck gold. I’ve seen our budding little world gain media coverage and I’ve seen it grow at an unimaginable rate. I’ve lived through every theory, every analytic, every douchebag with a blog predict the future of the genre with absolute certainty and then get proven wrong a couple of months later. I’ve seen my own company grow at dramatic rates and I’ve eaten food bought by the penny that was earned by making a web show — a concept that seemed like happy magic unicorn land only a couple of years ago.

In short, I’ve seen a lot.

And I think the 3rd Streamy Awards are the most important thing for the web series since ever.

Potentially. Hyperbolically.

For those of you who haven’t heard the news: the Streamy Awards are back, and now they have a new partner: Dick Clark Productions. Which, if you don’t know them, is a small, Ma and Pa production company that produced tiny little award shows like the Golden Globes. The production company and the guys behind the Streamys hope the partnership will not only help the show reach a much, much bigger audience (with a potential TV deal, which I believe DCP is looking for) but also add legitimacy to a genre begging for it.

And the latter point is really the most important point. As far as we’ve come as a genre, we still have far to go. One of the main issues with getting a mainstream audience to watch web series is that the mainstream audience doesn’t trust web series.

You know when you tell someone that you make shows or movies, and that someone isn’t really privy to the business and isn’t really aware of your life, and their response to you saying that is something like: “Oh, I’d love to see your little show!” ..and they say it with that annoying lilt that implies you’re just adorable for owning a camera. That’s the kind of thing that’s hurting us. That’s the kind of thing that’s more prevalent than we realize, and that’s the kind of thing we need to desperately fight.

Right now, there are, in my humble opinion, several ways to fight it:

1. Much better web shows that can compete with TV, if not necessarily with production values than writing, story,acting,  etc.

2. Longer episodes (that’s another long bloggy rant that’s a-comin’).

3. Celebrities in the series.

4. An award show that’s worth a damn.

#4 might seem a little shallow. I know, I know, let the work speak for itself, etc. etc., sure. But this really help in two ways.

The first thing (I really like lists, don’t I?) is that it firmly suggests that the things made by independent creators are good enough to be nominated alongside professionals. Vlad and I were nominated as best writers and lost to Joss Whedon (I’m okay with that) and Mark Gantt and Jesse Warren won like every award last year (I was shocked that Mark won best supporting actress), and sure, the Bannen Way was funded by Sony, but these guys hustled and made this show with blood and sweat. They’re indie creators and they competed against pros and won. That’s important. It gets people to trust us. It stops people from thinking we’re making home movies and legitimizes our work.

The second thing is, without a doubt, shallow. But I think it’s kind of important.

Hollywood brings with it an intoxicating glamour. A lot of that was built on the shoulders of people like Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Audrey Hepburn, and so on, but it’s there and people love it. There’s a reason there’s six hundred celebrity gossip magazines. People, for whatever reason, eat it up like delicious cake. As a genre, I feel we’ve followed a similar trajectory to television. Our silent films were the sketch-ey, short YouTube videos. Our talkies were the first few web shows that gave our genre life. Our color talkies are our scripted, funded web shows. I think our next step is to enter the public consciousness, to become part of pop culture, to, for lack of a better word, glamorous.

We all believe what we’re doing is the future of entertainment, surely there’s gotta be some glitz to that. We’ve got to get our own Hepburn’s and Sinatra’s, we’ve got to have parties that matter and award shows that the whole world wants to watch. Why? Because we’re in the business of entertainment and fame, and hate it or love it, we need it to keep succeeding and growing.

If it brings bigger budgets and, more importantly, bigger audiences, I’ll play. I’ll be Frank.

As it stands now, I think the Streamys have the best chance of raising our profiles both by showing the world we can compete with pros, but also by showing the world we’re not just kids with cameras, but beautiful, talented people who make amazing art. Shallow? A little. But if we weren’t, we wouldn’t be in make-up for an hour before we went on camera.

Yes, the Streamys were not good last year. Talking to those guys, they seem well aware that they made a mistake and are working hard on trying not to make it again. As I mentioned in the NewTeeVee article — they’re allowed a sophomore slump, and as prominent members of our world and, in general, extremely good and smart guys, we can give them another chance. God knows, we’ve all screwed up royally on things we’ve made — we can forgive them just like our viewers forgave us.

What I’m having trouble understanding is some of the extremely negative things coming out of some people’s mouths (or, I guess, fingers) about this. First of all, kudos to the Streamy guys for staying out of the mudslinging, I really applaud that. It’s classy and I hope they stick to it.

Secondly, really? This is a bad thing? Having a huge, television production company basically say: your genre is important, meaningful and can and will be on the same level as TV is bad…? Let’s not kid ourselves, here. As fun as circle jerking is, we need the world to get used to watching our shows, not the people in our community. The other festivals and award shows are great, but none of the same size or credibility as the Streamys. They have real potential to put us in the limelight, to say — hey, see those guys nominated? Yes, there are a lot of names you know from Film and Television — but those other nominees? They’re independent creators and they were good enough to compete with the likes of Paramount, NBC, whatever. That, that is an incredibly important thing to push the web show further.

For those of you who are saying this is going to be a celebrity love fest — there is that fear, yes. But frankly, if we want to be taken seriously, we should be able to compete with the big boys, right? So instead of being frightened and screaming about how unfair life is, we should grit our teeth, raise our game and loudly scream, bring it on, bitches.

To the Streamys guys: you know the stakes here. You’ve got a huge stage now, you’ve got a huge opportunity, in my opinion, to raise the profile of what we’re doing even higher. With Dick Clark Productions behind you, you can honestly be one of the best things that happened to this genre. But you have to nail it. That means: get some amazing writers on your staff. Writers who know this space, who live it, who breathe it, but who are writers. Not YouTubers, for the love of God, but actual, talented, TV-quality writers. Make every presenter hilarious. Show people that the web has talent. Nail this thing, and let’s hope it blows up the doors that are finally starting to inch open.

To the detractors: Criticism is good, it’ll push all involved to create something great. Jabs and insults are the weapons of idiots (see what I did there?) and none of you are idiots.  Criticize, sure, but be helpful. Support. Let’s get our heads out of our asses and realize that anything that gives credibility to what we do helps all of us.

So, let’s applaud the effort of the Tubefilter guys and let’s hope and pray that they don’t just do better than last year, but that they absolutely kill it. Let’s hope beyond hope that not only does it give a bit more credibility to our genre, but that it’ll make people want to be a PART of our genre. That the new wave of actors and writers will come to Hollywood to be in web series. That little boys will dream of being me and little girls will dream of being Mark Gantt.

Let’s show the world how good we’ve gotten, how funny we are, how talented, how outrageously attractive. Let’s get all glitzed up, win some awards, and get a little further in taking over the world.


Leap Year, Episode 9 - Fun Facts!

It’s that time again! Episode 9, “Kind of a Genius” is out and it guest stars one of my favorite people and improvisers, Mr. Dustin Toshiyuki as Glenn Cheeky.

Also, Guy Kawasaki himself guest stars.

What I’m saying is, it’s a really good episode.

So, without further ado, the video:

…and now, fun facts!

1. There are TWO references to Break a Leg in the first scene. The first one is a large wooden sign behind the armoire, that reads, “SWAMBLER CITY.” This is the name for an old abandoned cowboy town set that was used in the fake, in-world Break a Leg show, “Swamblers.” It’s also one of my favorite set pieces we’ve ever made.

The second reference is a little more blatant. Glenn Cheeky’s shirt reads, “Mint?” Dustin Toshiyuki’s character in Break a Leg was named, “Mint” with an ongoing joke of people questioning him every time he introduced himself. It went like this:

“I’m Mint.”

“Mint?”

“…like the ice cream.”

Or…

“…like the condition…”

Or..

“…like… the mint..?” (with a cut-away of the San Francisco Mint).

Just a little “thank you and keep watching our stuff” for our Break a Leg fans!

2. Glenn Cheeky is in part based on David Karp (founder of Tumblr) and in part on other very young, very successful business people. Dustin, of course, brought his own very unique and hilarious twist on it.

3. Bryn’s headphones have two skulls drawn on them. The drawings are done by one of the Producers and our editor, Dashiell Reinhardt, and is a little homage to one of my (and his) favorite games, Monkey Island. The skull vaguely looks like “Murray” the evil talking skull.

Furthermore, much of Bryn’s costume was made by Kristen Gallup of KrakenWhip Designs (www.etsy.com/shop/krakenwhip). Our wardrobe stylist, Daniela DiIorio found Kristen and she was great in giving Bryn’s goth look a much more unique, personal touch. All of the jewelry is Kristen’s too, my favorite necklace the one in this episode, which is a metal heart with a spike hanging next to it.

4. Dustin, Daniela and I have acted together since college. Dustin and I have been best friends since high school and the three of us performed in my very first one-act play, Courting 101 (now that it’s published, they’re even listed as “original cast” in the script book). I love acting with those two and I love writing for them — their timing is impeccable and even though we shot this well into the night, they still kept nailing every line.

5. The music in the second Glenn Cheeky scene is an old Finnish song called Ieva’s Polka.

This was a really popular Internet meme for a while and was also the intro song of Break a Leg. After Break a Leg got a bit bigger and we sold it to FOX Italy, we had our resident musicians (Vlad and Monica, as well as the great Hugo Martin and his crazy talented brother, Angus) recreate the song in their style.

So, this is the third Break a Leg reference in the episode. Why so many in this one? Because when you’ve got a genius improviser in Dustin Toshiyuki, who was one of the more beloved characters in Break a Leg, starring in this episode, you just have to throw in some extra references for the fans…

6. We knew that at some point, we were going to be filming with Guy Kawasaki. The thing we didn’t know was when. He is, after all, KIND of a busy guy.

We had finished shooting on, I think, a Tuesday, and got the call that Guy was available to film… on Wednesday. The thing is, the scene scheduled the next day (the one with Kim and Drew) had to be shot on Wednesday, as Kim was leaving to go back to LA (remember, we shot this in SF). Our challenge was: how do we get Guy into a scene with Jack and Scarlett, when the scene is actually supposed to take place in a park (or street – somewhere public).

I ran home after the shoot and re-wrote the scene to be what it is today. Credit our exhausted actors who had to re-memorize, and credit Guy for being absolutely amazing in letting us shoot at his house (which is beautiful and is littered with hockey pucks, which I love. There was also a train running behind it, and I’m going to just assume it was Guy’s personal train). Guy pretty much wore that smile during the entire shoot and was just obviously having a ton of fun filming with us.

The Jackie Chan line is Guy improvising, by the way, so once he’s done with this whole ruling the business world thing, he’s going to take over film.

7. The shot of the soccer ball flying over my shoulder and breaking the vase was an insert (shot a few days after the rest of the scene) and was not only my last scene, but also the last scene of the entire show.

8. I love the scene with Rachel and I in bed because I think it feels very… honest. Which is surprising, considering moments before Rachel said I wasn’t hip (and I politely reminded her that I did, in fact, know who Wale the Rapper was) which continues to hurt me, even now. My other favorite Rachel moment is the mysterious Minnesota accent that comes in on her last ‘adventure” line. Rachel is not, in fact, from Minnesota., but every single take had that accent, so we went with it because maybe RACHEL isn’t from Minnesota, but Lisa obviously is.

9. I really like the music in this episode. That’s it. Just sayin’.

10. Again, because we forgot to mention them in the credits like absolute jerks, I want to point out the fact that Ieva’s Polka (credits song and second scene with Glenn) was made by Vlad and Monica Baranovsky along with Hugo Martin and Angus Martin.

I remember watching when they recorded that, and it was a little magical seeing four incredibly talented musicians play like 10 different instruments to create their own version of an old Finnish song. Things like that make me love my job.

Hugo, by the way, has his own website where he makes a song a day. If you’re a web creator looking for some fantastic music, Hugo’s here for you.

That’s it! One more episode left! This is the time you guys should all start commenting and begging for Season 2!

Thanks for watching!

 


Leap Year, Episode 8 - Fun Facts!

I didn’t get a chance to do this for the other episodes, and maybe I’ll still, eventually, retroactively go back and do it, but for now I’ll try and do it for the final three.

First thing’s first, the episode:

And now, fun facts:

1. Julie and Drew have great chemistry and were visibly having a blast in their lawyer scenes. It was one of those scenes that, as you’re watching, you don’t want them to stop because you’re enjoying watching the thing too much. Julie was, as I mentioned in my previous blog, fantastic to work with. Very pro, very funny, and just fun to work with.
2. The lawyer’s name is Josiah Lanning. Josiah is a nod to Josiah Bartlett – the President in the West Wing, a series that inspires our writing heavily, especially in Leap Year. Lanning is, funny enough, Drew’s last name, which inspires us when we’re writing late at night and can’t think of a good last name for a character.

3. The photo over Drew’s shoulder, of a colorful Thailand street, is not only really, really cool, but was taken by our DP, Justin Morrison. It’s also hanging upstairs in the main character’s office (seen when Olivia is having her breakdown) – because, apparently, in the Leap Year world, that photo of Thailand is a must-have decoration.

4. The scene with Jack and Bryn is a location we used once before in Break a Leg. It is Chase Cougar’s house. Furthermore, there’s a jacket hanging behind Drew – this is the jacket he wore into “battle” in Break a Leg as Jimmy Scotch (watch the video of him not only sewing the jacket, but talking to Daniela (Olivia) in this completely insane Break a Leg, “Conversation”:  Hatman)

5. More than anything else in the world, our actors hated speed-talking through the video conferencing platform line. They all eventually got it, but not after they gave Vlad and I scornful looks.

6. Episode 7 is written by Vlad, Episode 8 is written by me – we split the two therapist episodes. Can’t tell the style difference? Sometimes we can’t either.

7. Wilson (Derek) is afraid of heights and that balcony is as rickety as it looks. The fall is a good 8-9 stories on to the hard, ground floor of an almost comically dark, noir-like alley.  He was a trooper and powered through – though, if I had to guess, I’d say his character’s frustrations are motivated directly by his  personal desire ot not want to plummet to his death.

8. My favorite scene of Rachel’s (Lisa) is the one with her and Drew. It’s short, but it’s got that fast back and forth banter and they both nail every comedic beat. Also, I enjoy the comedic affect of Rachel being 3 feet tall and Drew being like, 18 feet tall.

9. Yes, we actually were Wii Bowling. And yes, I’m pretty sure I totally killed Rachel in it.

That’s it for now! Stay tuned for more next week!

 


Leap Year - Fun Facts

Okay, I did that thing.

You know that thing that people do online? Which is start a blog, write actively in it, then completely stop? I did that thing. But, I kind of have a good reason, aside for laziness (though that’s a strong one). The reason is that, since February, I’ve been working non-stop on LEAP YEAR.

And now, now I’m going to tell you all about it. See? Aren’t I good blogger now?

Sponsored by Hiscox Insurance, LEAP YEAR is a branded series about five people starting their own, individual start-ups. There’s also a contest. And there’s also a baby.

I was going to do a thing where I was going to write about every episode, but the fact is that I missed the first couple of weeks because we were busy, and then I was behind, so I kept pushing it forward, and now it’s too late to do my master plan. So… damn.

What I’ll do instead, though,  is tell you some fun facts that from the last 6 episodes and hope to spur you to go watch them, rewatch them, share them with your friends, and then to comment all over them like some kind of crazy person.

Here we go! In no particular order:

1. Craig Bierko was amazing to work with. Watching him rehearse was a joy. He tried to squeeze every ounce of juice out of every single line. As he was rehearsing, he’d ad-lib something, taste it, try it out, and if it was particularly tasty, ask me to have some. After that, I’m pretty sure that Vlad and I, as writers,  made a rule to always, always taste Craig Bierko’s cookies. And I mean that in every weird way that it sounds.

He nailed every line, every joke. It was like an acting clinic watching him perform. After he did the first take, we called cut and everyone stood there for a second, letting his genius sink in. That’s with a page of dialogue. It’s unfair how talented he is.

I only hope that our charm and Chinese food lured him into further projects.

2. The majority of Leap Year was shot in San Francisco. Why? Because at the time, most of our team was in SF, and because filming in San Francisco is amazingly cheaper. We don’t need permits as cops never really care or even ask why we’re filming. Also, most locations don’t charge — they’re just thrilled to be part of film.

To give it the NYC look, as that’s where it takes place, we took a week to shoot a few exteriors (and interiors) in New York City.

3. Drew Lanning (Jack), Alexis Boozer (Bryn), Daniela DiIorio (Olivia) and I have acted together for over 6 years. Our crew has worked together for roughly the same amount of time. Wilson Cleveland (Derek, EP, creator of the series and the main man behind this crazy thing) said it best when he said we operate more like a theater company than anything else. I love that. Only the web show world and being ridiculously famous (Judd Apatow) lets you do things like that.

Plus, they’re all really talented, so that’s a big plus.

4. My brother and co-writer Vlad wrote, performed and recorded all the music with his wife, Monica Baranovsky. You can check out their stuff at: http://www.vladandmonica.com — and yes, you CAN hire them! My brother is also Bryn’s creepy, staring date in the party scene at the end of Episode 1 (my brother’s creepy acting face is renowned) and Monica is the girl who comes up to Olivia and Jack in the sushi restaurant, asking them to rate the food.

5. The Leap Year office was an amazing location. We were thrilled to rent it. So thrilled, that we didn’t realize how echo-ey it was until after we got in there before shooting. What, did we politely ask ourselves, the hell were we going to do? Moving blankets! SO MANY MOVING BLANKETS! We hung up wires from one end to the other and covered the ceiling with moving blankets. Furthermore, Dustin Toshiyuki, our sound man extraordinaire, got covers for the lav mics that specifically kill echo. It was a lifesavior and we managed to still get great sound and use the great set. If you want to know what those covers are called, let me know, I’ll have Dustin tell you.

6. We were ravaged by the plague during shooting. First, Justin (DP, Producer, and “Chase Cougar” in Episode 3) got sick a week before shooting. He was okay after a couple of days. But then we started shooting and it hit Daniela — she got better after a day. Then Drew Lanning got it. Then Dustin and I got it simultaneously and we got a delightful three day fever. After that, it really became the plague. It became bronchitis in Hillary Bergmann, our production manager, it literally infected all of Alexis Boozer’s face, and it stole Wilson Cleveland’s voice. Mark Gantt came to shoot for three days and left with it, bringing it back to LA where it killed 17,000 people (just a guess).

It was Satan.

We had to keep shooting, of course, because well — the show must go on and we had a schedule to maintain. I have to applaud the resilience of the cast and crew because, man, we kept it going and everyone was still great. Looking back through my feverish haze, I’m amazed at how phenomenal everyone kept being while carrying the seed of Lucifer in their bodies.

7. Hiscox is one of the best clients we’ve ever worked with. They wanted a good show. That was our main direction. We want a good show. Through production, through post, they have never, ever done anything that would hurt the quality of the series. If every client was like this, and every brand this daring, we’d be seeing a lot more well-funded, high-quality web series. It’s very cool to see them take the… oh god, I have to do it, it’s happening… take the leap.

8. Yes, that’s Alexis playing both characters in episode 6. We didn’t realize how good of a job Sarah Ashton (make-up) and Daniela DiIorio (also the wardrobe stylist) did with Alexis when we shot the episode. Furthermore, Alexis had to go and be crazy good and the result is that a surprising amount of people don’t realize that’s Bryn talking to Bryn. Also, a lot of people actually think she has a crush on me. She’s a really good actress.

9. There are multiple Break a Leg references throughout the episodes. The most notable? Chase Cougar in Episode 3. Break a Leg, for people who don’t know, was our first project and what got us to where we are. We love that show more than we love puppies and kittens wrestling one another.

10. Julie Warner was great as well. A professional, and just a blast to work with. Hopefully she comes around again!

11. Due to some schedule changes, we lost the original office location in the scene with Julie (today’s episode), so we had to scramble to find another spot. The location we had was a basement in a Yoga studio and had pretty much nothing in there. We also had around 3 hours to make it look good. Realizing the small room had no real good walls and felt claustrophobic, we came up with the smartest thing we’ve ever come up with in our entire lives: that “window” behind Julie? It’s the door to the room. Add some curtains, some lights, and voila — the office came alive. It’s now one of my favorite locations. Out of restrictions, genius is borne. Someone said that, probably, right?

12. Editing is done by the great Dashiell Reinhardt — also one of the Producers. Also, the guy with the beautiful girl-ish hair-do in the bathroom scene in Episode 2. He also did the special effects, intro, etc. Justin, who I mentioned earlier, is responsible for the look of the series as our DP. They’re stupid good. It makes me angry.

Let me finish this gushy blog up with a final gushy comment. I’m very proud of this show — I’m most proud of the cast and crew who despite crazy weather conditions, long hours and evil flu’s managed to create a really great product. I love you all and other really nice things.

That’s it for now! If you guys have any questions about anything, feel free to ask and I’ll follow this blog up with another one! Tune in to today’s episode (Episode 7), “Corporate Cupid” guest starring Julie Warner.

Thanks all! Hope you enjoy! Watch the show on Hulu or on the website and for the love of God, comment and tell us what you think!

Oh, let’s make this easy for you — Episode 7!


LoveMakers

So, you know how I keep mentioning that we’re trying to make a new show, and something about Mark Gantt, and things like that?

Well, now I have an explanation!

The show is called LoveMakers — it’s written by Vlad and I, and starring Mark Gantt (Bannen Way), and half the Break a Leg actors — Alexis Boozer, Daniela DiIorio, Drew Lanning, Flynn Kelleher and myself.

Right now, this is our baby, our passion project. We’re furiously (with great force and anger) pitching it to multiple places and feel great about it. Right now, the site is up and it has the promo as well as the basic pitch behind it.

We hope you like it! Check it out and tell us what you think! Also, most importantly, pass it on to EVERYONE!

Thanks all!


Company with Shannen Doherty

As a writer, I’ve been lucky enough in my career to be able to almost always direct what I write.

From when I started writing theater in college, to Break a Leg, to everything in-between, I’ve almost always had full power over my scripts. It’s not because I have trouble relinquishing control — no that’s not true, I very much have trouble relinquishing control, but I don’t mind seeing what another director, another producer may do with my words.

This, by the way, is not recommended. As a writer, your job is to write and then let your baby out in the world so that others can help it grow, change, and hopefully become what you hoped it had the potential to become. Sometimes, it becomes a serial killer and you disown it. Sometimes, it becomes a beautiful ballerina (I don’t know why ballerina) and you are as proud as can be of it.

My point is, what I’m doing is wrong. But I’m going to do it anyway.

This is my overly long intro to an episode of a show I recently wrote. It was for Wilson Cleveland’s series that he was putting together called Series 7 — which, much like Neil Simon’s London Suite (a play and playwright that I love dearly), consists of several short stories that take place in the same hotel room.

Wilson asked me to write one for Shannen Doherty and himself — an opportunity I, of course, jumped at. What I came up with was “Company” — shown below — the story of a very lonely woman who, unable to cope, copes all over the concierge (which is less dirty than that sounded).

I had no part of the production — Mark Gantt directed it (and did a great job of it) and it was shot down in LA — I saw a cut of it when it was basically done and so, I literally had no part in it after I finished writing.

What do I think of it? I think it’s fantastic! It’s a bit sadder than I wrote it, it’s a bit more intense than I wrote it, but it’s interesting to hear my words come out of Shannen Doherty’s mouth. It was interesting to see an actress of her caliber take my words and change the cadence to match her own. I think she nails the monologues and I think that she nails the few joke lines as well. Wilson does a great job also — it was easier for to write for him, as I’ve done so before with Temp Life, but the man can deliver a joke, and that’s important in any script I write. Most importantly, he lets Shannon do what she does and reacts properly — all in all, they do really well together.

Anyway, my point is — to all you writers out there, you’re going to have bad experiences, I guarantee, but sometimes, just writing a world and then letting someone else put their hands all over it is the best way to learn about your own writing.

One question for people who watch it and who’ve watched other things I’ve written — does it still feel like something I wrote? Or is the style drastically different? I’m just curious.

Here’s the video!


Scriptwriting for New Media by Us

Today, Vlad (my brother) and I officially signed the contract to write what I’m going to loudly declare as the very first college textbook on writing for New Media. Now, I’m not 100% sure it’s the first textbook on the subject (though I honestly am fairly certain), but the first lesson in writing for New Media is that if you say something loudly, with conviction, especially on a blog, it’s always, always right.

But I digress!

Vlad and I — as well as the brilliant Marie Drennan (more on her in a second) will be writing the very first college textbook on Writing for New Media — tentatively titled, wait for it, SCRIPTWRITING FOR NEW MEDIA.

Creativity, thy name is us.

The book will be published by Holcomb Hathaway in, if all goes well, around a year and a half (which is 600 years in Internet — so many web shows will fall in that time, and many web shows will rise — but always, always the word  “monetization” will be tossed around like a small, burning baby) — and will use Break a Leg and many of the other series out there to teach the various ways this medium is different than traditional media, the same as traditional media, and generally, how to write for the damn thing. (Note: that last sentence is not a good example of the writing quality of the book).

Meaning, I will probably be approaching many of you with questions and samples of your work, so stay tuned for that.

I have to give full credit to Marie Drennan for getting this book deal. Marie is a teacher at the San Francisco State University and is an avid fan of the medium. I met her at a NewTeeVee shindig like 15,000 years ago (3 years in Human time) and she was the only teacher then and since that I have seen attending panels and trying to figure out how to get her students caught up with the Future of Entertainment/The Downfall of Entertainment/The Nothing of Entertainment (it depends which panel you attend and which month).

Marie came to Vlad and I with the idea for this book, and while we offered input, she put together the proposal, sent it out and got the deal. Her passion for this is contagious and with her help, I think we can make this a really good, unique textbook that will continue pushing new media forward.

Which, by the way — if you have thoughts on the matter, if you think there are essential things we need to put into the book, feel free to comment or email me — I’d love to hear feedback from the community and I fully intend to use you guys and gals as a resource.

Oh, and yes, it will be written in our style, offer a ton of supplemental material and will be available as an E-book — because we’re hip like that.


We're Just Getting Blipin' Started

There’s something electric about creating something out of nothing.

A few years ago, when we were looking for a place to put our newly-created series, Break a Leg, we found Blip.tv. Oh, sure, we put the show wherever we could — and sites like YouTube and Metacafe and Revver (may they rest in peace) served their purpose — but something about Blip.tv was different.

It wasn’t that you could personally talk to any of them (right from Mike Hudack, the CEO, and down), it wasn’t that they were the little guys fighting an uphill battle that they certainly would lose (or so I thought), it wasn’t even that they were from New York, and therefore hipper than everyone else. It was that — when those other sites catered to low-budget, poorly-shot, amateur of amateur video (your Sleeping Cats, your Embarrassed High Schoolers, your People Getting Hurt in Amusing Ways), Blip catered to the tired, the poor, the huddled masses of filmmakers yearning to create anything other than a cat playing piano.

Blip was on the forefront of something that didn’t have a front. Blip was the cutting edge of a dull block of bad content. Blip was so ahead of their time that when I uploaded Break a Leg on it, I thought — wow, what a cool company,

I bet they’ll be out of business soon!

You see, at the time, online video was the guerilla warfare of art, it wasn’t about razzling or dazzling, it wasn’t about creating magic, it was about running out of the metaphorc trees, creating something as fast as humanely possible, throwing it at people,and hoping it spread like plague. Online video was the polio blanket of art.

But not on Blip. Their video player was higher quality than anyone else’s. Their shows were… well, shows. And while a very pretty girl at Metacafe told us very prettily, “Nobody watches content above one hundred and forty seconds,” Blip was waving their hands wildly and saying, “We do! We do! And everyone else will too, just trust us.”

And we did. And it was the best thing that we could have done. For my company, both because of their support of our shows and when we started working more personally with Evan Gotlib (their lovable, curmudgeon-ey head of Sales who is responsible for us being able to not only eat, but for me to not only afford a car but crash it) and the entire web community.

There’s a reason that over 400 people showed up to the Blip.tv launch party on Thursday. Because Blip.tv helped make thiscommunity. Blip.tv catered to creators. Blip.tv offered solace to those of us who saw the potential of this genre by pushing us to push ourselves to push that envelope to push this art where it needed to be pushed. Hell, Blip.tv is this community, and much like us, it started as a fledgling stubborn little company with a fledgling stubborn little dream and now, when web shows are starting to finally make some money, when quality is becoming King, when any TV, Film and Ad executive with an ounce of brain is trying to find out how the hell to get into this world — Blip.tv is expanding and opening an LA office. Blip.tv is this community — and when they’re doing well, it means we’re all doing well too.

There’s something electric about creating — and there was something electric about the Blip party. It had that new art smell, (what Charlie Chaplin must have smelled when he was busy revolutionizing film), it had that feeling of creation that very few people get to experience together. Sure, writing a great script or painting a great painting can feel damn near divine, but who gets to say they were there when a new genre was created?

We all do — and there’s a camaraderie in that that we’ll all be remembering for the rest of our lives.

…or maybe… maybe I’m just being unnecessarily mushy after drinking 600 Blip Bergamots and being told lovingly that I look like a serial killer by Zadi Diaz… who knows anymore?

See you all at “Blip London” in 2012!


The Bitter Growing Pains of the Web Series

I was doing a film shoot with Mr. Mark Gantt, recently — Mark, if you don’t know, is the producer, star, writer and I think assistant gaffer on The Bannen Way. The Bannen Way, if you don’t know, is a Sony-funded web series, feature film, action-drama-comedy, all-around good entertainment and, oh, now that I’m thinking about it, I’m pretty sure Mark was also a production assistant on Break a Leg, or something. I forget. I don’t talk to the crew.

Anyway, Mark, along with a few other Break a Leg actors (Alexis Boozer, Daniela DiIorio, Flynn Kelleher, Drew Lanning and myself) are all theoretically starring in a theoretic new series that is written by my brother Vlad and I and produced, as per usual, by him, me, Justin Morrison and Dashiell Reinhardt… you know, all of the same people who did Break a Leg and run Happy Little Guillotine Films.

Here’s my point. I’m talking to Mark about the web series community and I notice this odd feeling welling up inside of me. Part of it is attraction, because Mark looks like a rugged Tom Cruise after life really knocked him around, but the other part of it feels strangely like… bitterness.

Now, I’m not really sure where it comes from because I actually like everyone quite a bit in the community. Sure, I sometimes complain about them being guilty of over-pleasuring one another with their mouths, but I think there’s an amazing group of talented, innovative and unique entertainers who have been creating some fantastic stuff.

So, I wonder — why? Why the bitterness? And then I realized it.

When we started, online video was an in-between, a purgatory for filmmakers who hoped that a TV or film producer would accidentally stumble on their video while doing a sweeping search for porn, watch it, and then pay them millions to get it made. In other words, we all wanted to be the It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia guys and the Internet was one way to get noticed but not the place where our shows would actually… survive.

Every moment of Break a Leg was a fight. We were the David against the no-budget, full-time job, no-real-way-to-make-money-like-this Goliath, who is way worse than the Biblical Goliath in that he comes with more poverty. And as we started getting more and more press and more and more attention, and people like NBC and CBS started calling, we had this feeling of… maybe..? Maybe?! MAYBE?!

…but no.

No one knew what to do with anyone online at that time. They still don’t. CBS Interactive called us because they wanted to fund a series for a very decent amount of money, and then in a week told us they didn’t, in fact, have that money (lost in their couch cushions or something). Other networks we talked to did a lot of, “Call us when you have something.” – “But we have a lot.” – “We have no money.” And for some bizarro reason, even though we were getting press in places like the Wall Street Journal and the LA Times, agents absolutely refused to acknowledge our existence (still do, in fact).

When Break a Leg ended, we were exhausted and a little jaded. Okay, a lot jaded. It took a good half a year to start up the optimism engines again, and then things started happening for us. This blog was a huge help (I know, I KNOW — I’ll write more in it!). Blip.tv was and is our main benefactor without whom we wouldn’t be anywhere. FOX Italy bought Break a Leg. And our branded entertainment campaigns started becoming bigger and bigger and culminated in the 7-Eleven Road Trip (again thanks to Blip.tv) — a new and different kind of branded entertainment beast.

In short, we’ve done well.

So, why the bitterness? Because, I now realize,  somewhere in the corner of my brain, near the part that’s responsible for hitting on women, I still think — after all we’ve done, why aren’t we on TV? This is JUST the Internet.

(The reason it’s in that part of the brain, by the way, is because being on TV makes hitting on women way easier.)

And as I realized that, I also realized what our job is, now, as producers of this content. If I — someone whose career has been made by online entertainment — am still not used to the idea that this isn’t Purgatory but an actual place where entertainment can live, then people who have lived and breathed TV and Film — networks, agents, producers, ad agencies — surely can’t even fathom it.

So, what’s our job? Our job is to not pigeon-hole ourselves the way that people tend to pigeon-hole online content — i.e. only 5 minute videos work, only sketch comedy works, only catering to one loud niche audience works, etc. – but to see this as our playground and to try, desperately try, to show that not only can we, the new breed of entertainment, create fantastic, innovative content on-line (short form and long, experimental and just plain ol’ amazing), but we can also get that content to sell and make money.

Because, we’ve grown up, as a community — I was bitter of the way things were, but that’s not the way things are. We’re at a different stage of our evolution in entertainment, we can’t just be satisfied to make things and release them and say, hey, that was pretty good, right? We have to think like businessmen as well as artists, we have to show that not only can we make great stuff, we can also sell it.

And once we do that, that’s when we reach the next level. Where online entertainment truly competes with TV in every capacity.

As for me and my bitterness. We’ve resolved the conflict. It’s a simple thing to realize — my whole life I’ve hated doing what I was supposed to do in a particular path. I never wanted to write spec scripts, beg for an agent and then be someone’s writing assistant on a terrible show — I wanted to do it my way and this is what we’re doing. This is the genre in which we’re playing, where  our successes and failures are solely dependent on our talent, hard-work, and ideas.

And you know what, bitterness? I’m starting to really like that.

(Okay, that’s it. More blogs to come — I swear, this time. I’ll be in Singapore all week next week and between the 18-hour flight and the fact that we’re doing a seminar on online entertainment and having dozens of meetings with producers/businesses in Singapore just has to be written about.)


Behold -- It Is Samsung Behold II Man!

Hi, all!

So, I may or may not have mentioned that a couple of weeks ago we got a great gig shooting 3 short online commercials for Samsung.

Through Blip.tv, we pitched our ideas to the company — who wanted a super hero theme — wrote up the scripts, and shot this over a weekend (give or take a day of pick-up shots). The videos were originally going to be 30 seconds but, I may have had a bit of fun with the script and they ended up being a little over a minute — for the best, I think.

The end result ended up being less of a 30 second TV-esque spot and more of a three episode arc of a short, very, very branded show. It makes me think that maybe, just maybe, we’ve stumbled upon what commercials are going to look like in a few years  — actual entertaining bits of content, and not just bland advertising.

So, you know, we’re like the future and stuff.

Anyway! Let me know if you have any questions about the videos at all — how we shot them, how we wrote them, whatever — I’ll do my best to answer everything to the best of my very tired abilities.

Here we go:

Episode 1, Jumps Slightly Higher Than Average Girl

Episode 2, Kidnapped!

Episode 3, LowTeknia