I’m a very picky writer, and that’s starting to bite me in the butt as I go back on the job hunt, desperate not to end up as a barista again. I’m also a jumble of confusing and sometimes unrelated skill sets and strengths as a human in the workforce, which means my poor butt is not looking forward to the end of this metaphor. Moving on. Apologies to my butt. Continue reading “Writer?”
The focus gets soft midway through the video because I started slowly moving forward on accident. Whoops.
This is not an April Fools video.
I have always been a shameless self promoter, but now that I’m attempting to join an industry built on networking and chance, I’ve gotten so much worse. Now, even in my Facebook bio, I have to make reference to the fact that I’m an indie filmmaker, that I have an award-winning web series, and that I work at MTV. All these things are things that will hopefully eventually impress someone enough to give me money or a TV show. Continue reading “Face Person”
I have made no secret of how proud I am about my web series, Brains (2 complete seasons plus extended universe projects online now!) or my friend Chris’s web series, Relativity (complete miniseries online now!), which I produced. But the thing about making films or series, particularly in the independent sphere, is that no one cares without them laurels.
These are laurels:
Essentially, laurels are the fancy little images you get if chosen to be in a film festival, to promote their festival as well as promote that you got in. They’re a badge of honor for any filmmaker, because it means your film/series was chosen out of many other submissions to be screened or highlighted or otherwise. It adds prestige and viability to your image and is an invaluable way to build credibility to continue in the industry.
The image above is a collection of all the laurels my web series, Brains, has collected thus far. It’s incredibly gratifying to look at, although many of the festivals we’ve been in were online only (meaning no live screening with an audience) and none of them are eligible to add to our IMDb page, because they don’t qualify as “legit” in the eyes of the people who make those kinds of decisions. And here’s the major thing I want to talk about today:
The entry fees are too damn high!
I appreciate and love every festival who has let our weird little series into their ranks, but most of them are low prestige and were either free or very cheap to submit to. That’s good and bad for us: good because we can afford them and because more people will see our content, bad because many of these festivals are small enough that we can’t leverage our inclusion for funding or respect in the larger, more prestigious world of “legit” indie filmmaking.
Why not submit to an award show like the Webby Awards? It’s literally designed for content like ours!
THE WEBBY AWARDS IS THE LEADING INTERNATIONAL AWARD HONORING EXCELLENCE ON THE INTERNET. (via)
Even if we chose to only submit for comedy series, a single entry submission for the Webbys is $385. That’s 1/6 of the money we made from IndieGoGo to make the entirety of season 2. For 3 entries, the total submission cost is OVER HALF OUR BUDGET.
How can you honor excellence on the internet, a place where anyone with a camera and a dream can make content, by charging this submission fee? You know who you’re ACTUALLY honoring?
Don’t get me wrong- Krysten Ritter was incredible in Jessica Jones. But talk about unfair competition. She probably makes more in an hour than we spent on BOTH our seasons. Good god.
This is bigger than one festival, though. The Streamys, another online-specific award show, at least have a flat fee when submitting one project for multiple categories, but that fee is still a non-refundable $95. And to get ahead in the world of indie filmmaking, or entertainment in general, you can’t just submit to one or two. Here is Brains’s track record just from a single submission site (FilmFreeway, which I would absolutely recommend)
And that’s just for the first season.
Bottom line: if your film festival is specifically for independent projects or online projects but your submission fee is over $30/$50 (per category especially, but also per project), maybe you should reconsider who you’re doing it for.
We cannot compete in this market. We cannot afford to, and that’s insane. The whole point of creating things independently is doing cool things with fewer resources on your own terms, but this process of paying insane fees to submit our hard work for consideration and viewership is disheartening and unfair.
If I had $385 (the fee to submit to a single category at the Webbys, I’ll remind you) I’d use it to make more projects, not submit it to your elitist “indie” festival, because apparently, it’s “make things” or “maybe get considered for an award that could bring new credibility and prestige to your cast and crew.”
Call me crazy, but I think it should be both.
On December 12th, 2016, I was sent a cursed object in the mail. So I decided to film my assumed inevitable demise.
Watch Relativity, the show that came out the same day that caused us to be more freaked out than we might have otherwise been, here.
I talk a big game about being an indie filmmaker, but the truth is, at this moment in time and space, I’m struggling with it. There are two reasons for this: Trump and knowing what the hell I’m doing. Let’s, as they say, explore! Continue reading “I’m in my head”
Too long, didn’t watch? The Bechdel Test should not be used to rate feminism because that’s not how the Bechdel Test or feminism works.
Further reading about the state of women in film and television (most, if not all, take intersectionality into account):
There are plenty more things to read, but the above were some of what I used for research.
Blog post that inspired this video (from 2014): http://brisownworld.com/the-bechdel-test-is-the-worst/
Now that I have two complete seasons of Brains online, a short film about to be sent off to festivals, two spin offs of Brains (that I wrote/ co-wrote and helped produce), and my friend Chris’s web series Relativity (that I produced, among other things), I feel confident in calling myself an “indie filmmaker/producer.” As such, I thought I would impart some things I’ve learned in reaching this new level of broke artist, both tangible and intangible.
- If you can do it yourself, do it, but also sometimes it’s ok to delegate.
- Only delegate after having more than one conversation with someone about what said delegation entails. You cannot expect someone you’ve just met to do things the way you want them to, because you just met them and how are they supposed to know all of your insane rules??
- Good audio is worth taking time on/throwing money at
- Good audio is the hardest thing to attain with no time or money, but it is more important than almost anything else
- Ask for help, even when you don’t think you need it
- Be prepared to do everything yourself, but try not to
- Always have food available
- Bonus lesson: people really like fruit snacks
- Write within your means, but remember that your means can expand the more people you meet
- Latch on to talented people, continuously thank them for their help, and praise them incessantly so they’ll be inclined to help out again in the future
- Be nice to everyone. Not only should you do this anyways because common decency, but also because the indie film world is small AF and you can’t afford to burn bridges
- Don’t start production before you’re ready- a healthy and thorough pre production process will make everything better and smoother at every step.
- Sometimes you’re going to have to start production before you’re ready.
- Communication is more important than anything, even audio.
- Don’t fight on set.
- Fight after set, then make an effort to fix the problem. It’s not about winning, it’s about effectively solving issues and finishing the project.
- Press releases are super important. They are also a bitch to write.
- Reaching out to press is super important too, and it’s the most awkward thing in the world.
- Create a project-specific, production company-specific, or otherwise seemingly third party email address with which to reach out to press with. This way you don’t have to send emails like “Hi my name is Bri Castellini- please write about me and my show. I am amazing and you should promote me”
- Learn to say “ok- how?” instead of “we can’t do that/that won’t work.” I’m bad at this but I’m working on it.
- Schedule people as far in advance as possible, then periodically remind them about it.
- Have a plan B for everything, from locations to cast/crew. As Kate Hackett once told me on Twitter, “anyone can be written out.”
- Don’t tell people you didn’t sleep before coming to set until after you wrap for the day.
- Learn how to do your makeup so it doesn’t look like you didn’t sleep before coming to set.
- Love what you do
- Only say yes to things you actually want to do/make
- Fake it ’til you make it, because no one actually knows what they’re doing so you may as well throw your hat into the ring.
Mid 2016, a crazy idea came about. I was slogging through Brains season 2 production and already feeling the bottomless depression over likely not getting a season 3 when it occurred to me that the Brains universe was pretty big. I mean, it was a worldwide apocalypse- Alison’s campus isn’t all that’s left in terms of survivors, in terms of people whose lives have been forever altered. And then I chatted with filmmaker friends and family and then it was official: we were gonna do some extended universe spin off projects because I couldn’t let it go yet. Continue reading “Brains EU: A reflection”
Last year, I tried something new with my New Years Resolutions. Instead of a handful of intangible goals that would make me a better/better looking person, I tried to focus on longer-term creative goals. Not only are these tangible and easier to measure, but they give me direction rather than platitudes. Also, feeling creatively fulfilled and productive in turn makes me happier. Lo and behold, it worked! For the first time in my entire life, I completed all 10 of my New Years Resolutions! What a heartening feeling! Now, it’s time to do that again.
Resolutions: 2017 Edition
- Produce 2 new projects to completion. Last year, I not only made a second season of my web series, but also a short film and two spin offs of my web series that I either wrote or co-wrote. That was awesome. Since I want to lean into the whole “independent filmmaker” identity, producing 2 new projects fits right in.
- Finish writing Brains. So Brains, my web series I reference above, is a story that spans 6 seasons, though I will likely only get to film the two we’ve already put out. However, because I’m a bit obsessive the same way the character Alison is, I’ve already written seasons 3, 4, and half of 5 at the time of writing these resolutions. Writing a season and a half of Brains in 2017 is not only the next logical step to get it out of my system, but it’s a far cry from impossible based on my past productivity in this realm.
- Post a blog twice a month and a personal YouTube video once a month. In 2016, I posted 13 blogs- just over 1 a month, but 2 of those posts were thank you posts for the cast and crew of my two main creative projects and 3 were new years resolution related. That’s pathetic for an alleged writer. Also in 2016, I posted 6 YouTube videos to my personal channel. One video per 2 months. To be fair, a lot of my video making efforts were reallocated to Brains, a YouTube channel where I uploaded 34 videos, 20 of which were the episodes of the show itself that took several months to shoot and edit. HOWEVER. Making YouTube videos of my own keeps my editing and filmmaking skills sharp with little effort actually expended. There’s no excuse. This is a very low bar to clear. Good god.
- Write 2 new original pilots- one drama, one comedy. As much as I truly do enjoy independent filmmaking, at the moment there is negative money in it. And I DID go to grad school for TV writing, so in order to stay viable for whatever opportunities come my way, I need to write more traditional scripts to submit to fellowships and contests and whatnot.
- Edit The Toast, my screenplay. [alternate: write a new screenplay] The Toast is a screenplay based on the best short story I’ve ever written, which is at the moment not fantastically translated into screenplay format. It has a lot of potential, though, and like I said above, my written portfolio needs more variety than 6 seasons of a web series and two weird short films. I’ve given myself an alternate goal because I have another screenplay concept in mind, and screenplays are generally more difficult to write, so if I just do one or the other, it counts towards this.
- Work on a set or production that I didn’t write.This was a good resolution last year, so I decided to carry it through. Part of being an independent (or non-independent, for that matter) filmmaker is broadening the community of similarly ambitious people who help each other make cool things.
- Leave New York City at least twice. Ditto above. It’s easy when you’re broke and living in New York City to not feel like you can or need to leave, but oh god do you need to leave sometimes.
- Make better choices when it comes to diet and exercise. I had to include SOMETHING diet/exercise related, since that is currently the thing I am the worst at when it comes to being a functional adult. It’s only going to get harder the older I get, so working on better habits now will make it better down the line.
- Be less impatient with other people. I had to include some intangible resolutions. Being impatient is probably one of my more annoying character flaws because it’s almost entirely in my own head. Perhaps one way to curb this is simply having enough to do on my own without requiring the involvement of others that I may grow impatient with. Perhaps another way is to girl-the-eff-up and be conscious of my behavior. I work/think/live incredibly quickly because of my anxiety and my goals (see resolutions 1-6) but that’s not a fair thing to hold anyone else to, and honestly it’s not a fair thing to hold myself to. So I should probably be less impatient with everyone because it’s super unappealing and unhealthy.
- Go to therapy. I have been putting off therapy since I finished it the first time midway through my senior year of high school (incidentally, I finished one week before my parents announced they were getting a divorce. Irony for the ages, let me tell you). I stubbornly held on to the concept that once you’ve been to therapy, you’re done. That’s, obviously, not how it works. And while I feel like I’ve made a lot of progress in terms of my self esteem and the way in which I handle relationships, my anxiety manifesting in increasingly unhealthy ways is a sign that maybe I still have some things to work out. Also, this is the last year I’ll be on my mom’s health insurance so I may as well make the most of it.
Obligatory comment question: Do YOU have any new years resolutions? What are they? Let’s keep each other on track!