Happy Holidays!!

•December 17, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Wishing all of you a great holiday and even better New Year!!

 

Adventures In Digital Series Land – Chapter 116: Change in Plans

•November 20, 2015 • Leave a Comment

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Things are getting intense. In a good way! My radio segment *just* went live on AM radio to a pretty big audience! The show, Lele’s Week in Review, is a 90 second parody of entertainment news done by my character Lele. I write, produce and voice it. It’s A LOT of fun.  And a lot to do. I bang out/record a new episode every single week.

Two radio stations have it: Rhythm 105.9 in Yuma, CA and now WWRN 1620 AM Urban Classics (as part of the Just Wake Up Morning Show every Friday at noon EST) which is in Lehigh, PA.  They’re both syndicated out to smaller stations. Total listeners so far: about 250,000. Not too shabby.

WWRN started as a digital channel, I met them when they interviewed me about Chilltown, I had just started the segment with Rhythm 105.9  and they were interested. WWRN kept growing and growing and now, it’s finally made them jump to AM. Cool factoid:  WWRN is co-owned by former 1990’s phenom Damion “Crazy Legs” Hall from the R&B group Guy. I feel it’s a real opportunity for me to increase brand awareness.

Meanwhile, I’m working about 6 1/2 days a week on the new series. Post-production is so incredibly involved, it’s a much bigger chunk of work than I anticipated. I’m *hoping* the first seventeen episodes will be in the can by sometime in January but at this rate, who knows. And there are three additional episodes PLUS the trailer that have to constructed.  I’m getting bleary-eyed just thinking about it.

Also, every day, I spend a few hours knocking out a spec pilot script. I’m mentally raking myself over the coals with this one cause I feel really strongly about it and it’s….complex.  FYI, the secret to writing something that’s complex?  Keep it simple.  Or, at least, make it look/feel that way. Something that’s a lot tougher than it seems. I’m hoping this script will be in the can by the end of December.

And after that?  Three new writing projects–a short and two new digital series (which I’m hoping to be in production with by Spring.)

Like I said, it’s a lot.  So once again, I’m going to take it a little slower with this blog.  Only post once in a while and after the new series is in the can and I’m gearing up for promo, I’ll start again.  Mostly cause I’m hoping that my journey promoting and being out there will be helpful to people.

Til then, I’ll leave you with this from the great Frank Ze.

 

Adventures In Digital Series Land – Chapter 115: Digital Is Where It’s At!

•November 6, 2015 • 1 Comment

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An intense couple of weeks.  Am in the final stretch of post for my series and hoping I’ll be done in a few months. This part is a bear.  Each episode has many pods that are strung together to make a narrative–approximately 35 per episode. To say it’s been challenging to manipulate them all is an understatement. Plus, I’m reanimating certain bits just to make them tighter and brighter.

Meanwhile, also, about a month or so away from completing a pilot script. There’s a lot going on in this particular show–and the character development is raking me over the coals because I want them to be idiosyncratic and compelling.  Plus, I have limited time to write because of production so my days been nuts so it’s been a challenge.

But a few things happened recently that further legitimatized the digital series realm and it’s the wind that keeping this operation afloat!

First, Jon Stewart signed a deal with HBO to produce digital shorts for HBOGo.  This is a huge coup and really interesting.  After 17 years at the Daily Show, Stewart could’ve done anything–certainly a new series at HBO.  Makes a big statement that he’s doing small, bite-size shows for the network.  He said the bits he’s planning will be political in nature.

Then, Project Greenlight, the reality series spear-headed by Matt Damon is now Project Greenlight Digital Studios and opening it’s virtual doors (partners include Miramax.) It’ll be crowd-sourced, streaming curated digital shows.

Also, Sundance Episode Labs released the list of participants and many of them come from the online world.  And reading the bios, I realized: Ok, there finally is true legitimacy here. Not just for tween vloggers.  But web series writer/directors.

It’s all very very encouraging.  And I’m starting to feel like I’m in the right place at the right time.

Finally, I went to an screening of an indie film, A Cat’s Tale, that some friends, Rick Mowat and Paula Landry did. Paula produced and Rick (who’s a comedian/writer/director/actor) directed. Upcoming writer Anna Capunay wrote the screenplay and Rick helped with it.

Rick and I have collaborated before. He’s been in a few Woody Allen movies and  also stars in an upcoming animated project I have. The film also stars Rick’s former comedy partner, Marty Grabstein (he’s also former voice of Courage the Cowardly Dog.)

I really liked it.

They did a little crowd-funding but the budget was ridiculously low. They initially mounted it as a play, then a few months later filmed it. They used Govinda Angulo, one of the brothers from the Sundance Grand Jury Prize winning doc The Wolfpack, as DP which is very cool.

I was really impressed with the end result and what they were able to do with the limitations they had. It also was incredibly encouraging. It’s nice to see friends moving forward.

The film was sent out to festivals so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for them. Meanwhile, you can see the trailer here.

Adventures In Digital Series Land – Chapter 114: The Squiggle That Is Failure

•October 23, 2015 • 1 Comment

jazzattheNewZealandSchoolofmusic

Confession #1: Sometimes (ok, a lot of the time) I wake up in the morning and feel like a failure. Why? Duh. Cause my career isn’t where I feel it should be. And, partly, cause I had a Quick! Easy! Fast! kinda-sorta success when I started out. And since then? Well, let’s just say I’m trying to catch up.  This is not about depression, btw. I’m not depressed. In fact, I’m a happy person and actually pretty optimistic about how things will turn out .

The Background: I made a big rookie mistake when I started:  I actually believed my agent/manager would get me work. So I didn’t spend every waking hour networking and writing writing writing. Yeah, I had more ideas. Yeah, I worked on some. And wrote a few spec scripts.  But since right out the box, I sold a spec script to a network (with virtually no experience under my belt), I thought it would just magically keep happening like that.

Spoiler alert: It didn’t.

My first deal was so over-the-top good–thank you 800-lb gorilla attorney and (former) manager!–that I literally thought I could retire in a few years. And could have, based on that contract.

The Hitch: Retiring in a few years was based on one teensy weeny little thing. My show had to go into production.  It didn’t and ultimately I was kicked to the curb with the rest of the writer debris. Sayonara former agent/manager! Don’t forget to write! JK, you never did in the first place.

It is very very hard to come from something seemingly MAJOR to, well, nothing.  But ultimately, the whole confidence imploding, trial-by-fire shitstorm experience got me one good thing: my hustle back. Cause you can’t succeed without it.

Confession #2: I thought I was fairly unique, you know, with the whole success to failure trajectory (well, except for country singers, meth-heads and some has-been rappers). That everyone else who had experienced the initial kind of success I did had go on to even mega-better things.  And I was waiting for, as Mark Duplass has said, “the cavalry” to come for me.  “Hey you! We heard you were really talented, you know, with that deal you had. Where’ve you been? Want a job in my writer’s room?” Nope, nada, zilch. (Yeah, I got over that notion pretty quickly.) Plus, not for nothing, it’s super isolating to toil away (yes, in obscurity). Especially when you’re working solo. Those Capital F plus Everybody’s Doing Better Than I Am and It Sucks To Be Me thoughts tend to creep into your psyche.

Turns out my story isn’t unique. In fact, it’s pretty common. Lately– mostly cause I’m in the last leg of production and second-guessing every single thing–I’ve been reading a lot of stories from super successful people who’ve detailed their own “failure” narratives. And you know what? It’s been incredibly empowering. Cause I’ve seen that my struggle is pretty much par for the course. Just read this brilliant/harrowing/ultimately kick-ass redemptive account by wonderful writer Nina Bargiel who went from being in the writer’s room on Lizzie McGuire to cleaning shoes in a gym. And, coming back. With a vengeance!

You know that meme that crops up every now and then on FB? The one what shows a mixed-up convoluted squiggle as the real trajectory of success?  It’s true.

And all the choices I’ve made post my original fall from grace were pretty much on point. (First thing: don’t stop writing/creating/hustling. Second thing: don’t depend on an agent to get you work. That’s really not how it works.) And failure is part of that equation.  It’s what separates the metaphorical men from the boys.

So that whole waking up in the morning and feeling like a failure thing?  Yeah, it still happens.  But I own it and know it’s only temporary.

Adventures In Digital Series Land – Chapter 113: The Stockroom (yes, I’m gushing)

•October 9, 2015 • Leave a Comment

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(Victor, in the middle, with April Hernandez-Castillo–one of the stars of the film)

Victor Cruz–no not the athlete–is a great actor/comedian I was lucky enough to meet about seven years ago.  Gil T, another great comedian who originally was part of the legendary comedy duo, The Most Brothers (HBO, Fox, opened internationally for some of the biggest names in the business) had worked on some shorts with him and when I was thinking about doing Chilltown, Gil recommended him.  Highly.

I’d known Gil from a project we worked on together that Comedy Central *almost* bought. I was the writer/producer and it was so much fun and Gil was so incredible in it I knew we’d work together again. Plus, his word meant a lot to me. I already had cast him in Chilltown.

I hired Victor, essentially, without an audition and never looked back. He crushed it when we recorded voiceovers. Subsequently, I’ve hired Victor for nearly every project I’ve done. He’s THAT good.  And so professional. And and all-around nice guy.  Ok, I’ll stop gushing.

A few years ago, Victor was at my house recording voiceovers for a new project and when we were done, he mentioned he was thinking about doing a movie.  At the time, he was working on The Other Woman and Nick Cassavetes, the director had given him some pointers. We spent a long time talking about it (mostly cause I’m a HUGE John Cassevetes fan and love Nick’s work too).

So imagine how thrilled I was to hear Victor’s film, The Stockroom, not only came to fruition but was featured in the prestigious Urbanworld Film Festival.  Victor not only stars in it, but wrote and directed it.

The screening was off the chain. It was packed. Gil who had a role in it, flew in from Florida (where he now lives). The movie’s a fictionalized retelling of some of Victor’s experiences working as a stockroom manager at the Gap back in the day. It was a no budget movie and Victor did the most with what he had. They had an indiegogo campaign, raised about $7,000 and ended up making it work.  Which is really impressive.

What was most compelling to me (aside from the film) was the Q&A after where all the actors told the audience to pursue their dreams, no matter how tough, no matter what they were. It truly was inspiring.

I think it’s safe to say, everyone floated out of the theater. I know I did.

It’s going to be screening at some more places.  Catch it if you can…

Adventures In Digital Series Land – Chapter 112: Thumbs Down for Thumbs Down

•September 25, 2015 • 1 Comment

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Been so so busy I haven’t had time to do anything, which is why this post is late. Aside from everything else going on (animating/production work on new series, promos and writing a pilot), I just signed a deal with fledgling streaming VOD company Kweli TV.  They fell in love with Chilltown and now it will be on their platform in HD!! So I’ve been redoing all the episodes in preparation for the launch. A ton of work.

But something really big is brewing in the digital media world and I felt I had to address it.  That’s right, Facebook is planning on adding a dislike button (thumbs down) and people are going berserk.  And for a good reason. Given all the trolls, schadenfreude-mongers, ill-wishers and general sh*theads that populate an average timeline, people are bracing themselves for their videos to get tons of thumbs down. To make things worse, Facebook says it’s planning on DELETING any video that has more than 10 dislikes.  Talk about pressure.

When I first read about this I had, what can only be described as, a social-media take on the classic comedian’s nightmare: I dreamed I posted my latest radio show segment and all the hosts from one of the radio stations that carries the segment gave it a thumbs down.  Not only by clicking the button, but also by posting a huge image of the FB thumbs down.  To be fair, that joke did kind of suck.

Calming elements in this equation? Well, this has been happening on YouTube since forever and usually, trolls seem to want more attention so will post nasty venomous comments vs just clicking dislike. They normally want to interact.  Plus, on Facebook everybody can see who’s clicking the dislike button which probably will rule out your schadenfreude-loving friends. Hopefully. Plus videos that go viral (and I’m hoping or being delusional here) get shared a ton on Facebook. Which can work in your favor. Or not.

So I’m voting a distinct “thumbs down” for the upcoming dislike button.

Finally, tonight I’m going to the New York premiere of Chilltown star Victor Cruz’s NEW MOVIE, The Stockroom!!! To say I’m excited would be an understatement.  It’s being featured at the Urbanworld Film Festival and Victor not only stars in it, he wrote and directed it. Plus, Gil T, another Chilltown star is also in it. The movie just screened at the LA Indie Film Fest and won three awards (Best Screenplay, Best Feature and Best Actor!!!)  I’ll write all the deets in my next post.

Adventures In Digital Series Land – Chapter 111: Promotion, Thy Name is Misery

•September 4, 2015 • 1 Comment

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First, I’m finally over the hump. Meaning, about to start production on the last part of this new series. Something that should take about 6 – 8 weeks. Yes, I’m psyched! Also, a little scared. Not only about putting myself on the line again, but just the sheer volume of work ahead just promoting it is intimidating. I’m prepping so much stuff with so many plans I can barely see straight. But, it’s necessary. And I’m taking my cues from the big guys (even though I’m doing this on a minuscule level).

So what are the big guys doing?  Continuing to blur the lines between cable, tv and digital. If you’ve been on another planet (or, ahem, haven’t happened to read this blog where I rant and rave about it), things are now in full effect with execs and creatives from digital moving into cable and tv positions and visa versa.  And what that means for shows and series is: more and more content is being produced online to help promote shows. I thought it was really telling that The Daily Show with Trevor Noah hired Baratunde Thurston as a Supervising Producer for Digital.

Thurston has been at the forefront of all things digital content (he was the Director of Digital at The Onion) for many years plus, he did this which forever earned him my respect. It’s a big step for a show that’s that high profile, especially since all eyes will be watching Noah to see if he fills Jon Stewart’s shoes, to hire somebody with those specific internet credentials–someone who easily straddles both worlds but really and truly understands promoting on the internet–to set things up on twitter, instagram and snapshot.

Bits made just for social media that are perceived as original content but really promotional can drive the profile of a show way up. Amy Schumer’s Comedy Central show hasn’t had huge ratings but its social media sketches have gone viral. And the viral sketches that Key & Peele and Jimmy Kimmel have put out helped bring in huge audiences for them. At this point, it’s really becoming a necessity for all shows and the Daily Show’s hiring of Thurston was a smart move.

So if you’re a little guy, like I am, that just means it’s crucial to have ancillary content to help promote your series.  And not just one or two things. But a regular stream of stuff. Phew. I’m exhausted just thinking about what lies ahead.

 
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