Typing Faster

February 11, 2011

Web Series Week: Interview With Pretty In Geek Director Vivian Lin

Filed under: Web Series — petertypingfaster @ 7:04 pm

So, last but not least, here’s an interview with the director for Pretty in Geek, Vivian Lin!

Typing Faster: Tell us a little about yourself (bio, schooling, past projects, yadda yadda, you know the drill)

Vivian Lin: I am the director of PRETTY IN GEEK. I apparently take a long time to respond to interviews. I spend my non-Geek days as an Associate Producer at Sarrazin Couture Entertainment (STAY WITH ME). I previously directed a few shorts, one called FOUR WALLS, a short film starring Nina Dobrev (VAMPIRE DIARIES) and Brendan Jeffers (CLIVE HOUSTON, WE HAVE A PROBLEM).

TF: Why new media?

VL: To be honest, my relationship with old media had been stilted for some time. We had been together for awhile and I think we needed some time away from each other. I never really went out of my way to get involved with new media, but new media was just so eager that it just happened.

TF: What attracted you to webseries?

VL: It’s about geeky gamer girls. Who doesn’t want to be in on that?

TF: How did you get hired?

VL: I was very peripherally involved in Geek (as in Pretty in Geek) in its early stages. Elize (the creator-showrunner) had been gathering a writing room for it and I asked to tag along. Being in from the ground floor allowed me to listen to the many conversations about what the show was about. I think this was one of the reasons why I ended up getting hired as a director, because Elize and the producers felt comfortable that I “got” the show. Or maybe I was hired because I was the first one to raise my hand when Elize asked “who wants to direct this?”

TF: Tell us a bit about your approach to directing PiG. Are there differences between this and short films / films / whatever? If so what are they?

VL: I think every web series has to have a different approach depending on the target market. The lovely thing about webseries is that it can be, and often is most successful when it is niche. We decided early on that Geek had to please its core gamer audience, with that in mind we cast actors who were gamers, we made sure that the gaming was accurate, and kept in the in-jokes. Of course, you don’t have to be a gamer to enjoy the series. We cast good-looking actors. Check ‘em out.

TF: Any lessons / suggestions for an aspiring web director.

VL: 1) Poach my crew. Sarah Mulholland, DOP. Lee-ann Cass, Editor. Courtney Wolfson, Producer. Amanda Vanhell, PM. Elize Morgan, Showrunner. Angela Morgan and Natalia Lopez-Woodside, Wardrobe. Jordana Savard and Meghan Pilato, Makeup. They are the most professional, enthusiastic, artistic, supportive crew that you will find.

2) Poach my cast. Meaghan Waterman, Todd Cleland, Jennifer Krukowski, Stefne Mercedes, Elize Morgan. They’re pleasant, they smell nice, they’re committed and they’re funny as hell.

3) Be appreciative. Because at the end of production you’ll realize you’ve become an over-caffeinated tyrant who has beaten the cast and crew to submit to your vision…uh, thank guys. =)

February 2, 2011

Web Series Week: Interview with Pretty in Geek Producer Courtney Wolfson

Filed under: Web Series — petertypingfaster @ 7:34 am

Whoo boy. You guys have struck the motherload this time. Courtney Wolfson is the producer of Pretty in Geek and Tights and Fights: Ashes!. She’s got a lot of interesting things to say about all the stuff that’s going on behind the scenes of these web series. Anyone who’s interested in getting into web series would do well to sit down and pay attention.

Typing Faster: Introductions – Tell us a little about yourself (bio, schooling, past projects, yadda yadda, you know the drill)

Courtney Wolfson: I’ve been digging into the media production industry more or less my whole life. Academically, I applied twice but didnt get into film school, so I opted for a double-major in Communications and Psychology at York University. Professionally, I started young at age 16 as an unpaid summer intern. My first gig was an in-house PA at a music video production company. Over the last 10 years (or so) I’ve worked my way up from summer jobs to coordinating and PM’ing (yay for escaping the reception desk!) animated series. Some notable shows I’ve worked on are Chilly Beach and Yam Roll for March Entertainment; Gerald McBoing Boing and Busytown Mysteries for Cookie Jar; Rick and Steve for Cuppa Coffee, and Skatoony and Dating Guy for Marblemedia.

Last year I started to explore independent new media production, and wound up landing with GopherX.net. Right now I’m working with online entertainment geniuses Christopher Guest and Scott Albert of GopherX.net, Producing the web series Tights and Fights. I’m also, of course, producing the web series Pretty In Geek with creator Elize Morgan, and GopherX.net.

All told its been an amazing ride, and I can’t wait to see what the next few years in the new media industry hold.

TF: Tell us a bit about your current projects.

CW: Tights and Fights is a superhero transmedia comedy series. It’s an epic story, with 180 episodes being released over a year. We’ll still be releasing episodes, long after the superhero craze is over.. probably. http://www.tightsandfights.com It is a massive show, created on a 10th of a standard TV production budget. We were very proud to be recipients of the IPF web drama series pilot program last year, their support has been instrumental for us.

Pretty In Geek is a creative, dramatic comedy about gamer girls playing a fantasy table top role playing game. The 8 x 5-minute episodes ooze Geek Chic, FTW. It’s definitely a passion project. It’s a labour of love, and an incredible opportunity to showcase the talents of, and work as a career booster for, the cast and crew.

It’s also been an incredibly challenging project. Its offered me a real crash course in indie producing, I’m really, really proud of what we’ve created here.

TF: Why new media? What attracted you to webseries?

CW: It was something new and different, really. I was ready for this change in my career. I wanted to do something challenging, and to really establish myself as a Producer. This opportunity came along for me, so I grabbed it.

It’s easy to see that new media and online video consumption is growing. The industry continues to trend in that direction, and the demand for online content is becoming huge. This was an opportunity for me to get in on (or near) the ground floor as it were. I’m excited to see what will happen next, and where the industry ultimately goes.

TF: What are some key differences between producing a webseries and more traditional forms of producing work (short films, features, etc) – (could be as simple as how do you produce so much content on a shoestring budget)

CW: The biggest different is the simple fact that there’s less money. Budgets are smaller. Less funding’s available. You have to do more with less.

Cost per Minute is a key term in the industry, a general rule of thumb, budgeting term. Webseries tend to be shorter than broadcast series, which means fewer minutes, which (theoretically) means they thus cost less. At least that’s what the funding agencies and broadcasters believe, and thats why interactive content is typically underfunded compared to TV production bugets.

Unfortunately web series are still competing with TV. Regardless of how you’re funded (if at all), you’re still trying to make content that’s of a high enough production value it can directly compete with its better funded brethren (TV and Film), and you’re doing it on a shoestring. You have to make it look as good, and be just as engaging, as any of the most popular TV series.

People have been watching TV for a very long time now. Compared to that, web series are in their infancy. Convincing people to watch something online, as opposed to something on their television set, is difficult. People just flat out LOVE TV. Convincing people to give web series a go is the hardest part. The fact that we’re creating web content that’s as ambitious as a TV show, but doing it with way fewer resources, is just icing on the cake.

Alot of the time it feels like we are just making it all up as we go along. There are no rules to break yet, in new media creation. We’re among those emerging in recent years, pioneering it somewhat.

TF: Where have you secured web series funding (IPF? etc)?

CW: We’re one of 11 lucky recipients of last year’s IPF – Independent Production Fund’s Web Drama Series Pilot Program. It was a first for GopherX, and for myself, and we’re very proud, and are using this opportunity to launch our independent producing careers.

The IPF is a branch of the Bell New Media Fund, and they’ve decided to renew the webseries funding program again this year. Deadline for the first round of funding applications is March 1, 2011.

TF: Any lessons / suggestions for an aspiring web producer?

CW: Stay current on industry and technology trends, (read playback and nextmedia articles), and definitely have an open mind as to what people will like, and what you can potentially create.

TF: Walk us through a typical production cycle.

CW: The actual process doesnt differ much from Web to TV, or any other format, as far as I can tell. There’s a lot of overlap in phases, but that’s normal for any kind of series. Or maybe …this is because as the defacto PM, and with my background in TV, I’m manging our webseries, like a TV series.. hmm.

Development – creation of scripts, revise repeatedly, cast the characters, prepare budget, seek funding and support of all kinds.
Preproduction – moving on with the planning, spending money. finding location, rehearsing with cast, crewing up, creating the set, props, wardrobe, and getting all your ducks in line, everything from getting the right kind of gels for the lights, to making sure there are enough forks for lunch..
Production – where everything comes alive. the meat of it, the only part where we all do things without being attached to a computer for a few hours. To see what you’ve been planning for months finally come to life, is distinctly rewarding.
Post Production – where it all comes together. where you finally start to see the project take on a shape of its own, coming into its form as a final product. this part is 100% inside the computer. at all times. in a dark room with deep focus for endless hours.
Distribution – If you get so lucky! Have other people Also like your series AND want to give you money for it! (good luck, fingers crossed). Otherwise, YouTube it is – and find success in numbers and popularity anyway!
Interaction – connect with your audience, SomeHow. Engage your audience socially, through facebook, or twitter, or live events, or prize giveaways, fundraisers, parties, conventions, shows, merchandise selling, promotions, etc, engaging your community just got more exciting, acceptable and even mandatory these days.

TF: What do you need to produce a webseries? How many crew do you have? Hosting? Equipment? What are your shooting days like? What’s the schedule? How quickly do you shoot?

CW: Well, on Tights and Fights, the format of the show allowed us to shoot with very reasonable resources. We have shot 10 days so far, over 5 months, and have an average of about 10-hour days, 13 person crew, 2 minivans of gear/set dec/costumes/production, and shoot in 6 private locations mostly in downtown Toronto. We pump out up to 15 episodes in a day, in a couple hundred clips on 32 GB of HD footage.

Hosting, we let YouTube do that for us, and then pull the videos into our custom websites for additional online presence.

On Geek, the format is more like a traditional TV sitcom with 1 location, 2 sets, with very understanding and generous hosts. We have 5 cast in every episode so the headcount with crew nearly doubles to 23. So far the 8 episodes will be finished in the 7 shoot days planned, over 4 weekends, with about 30 shots per day, 12-hour days, about 40 GB of HD footage per day, hundreds of clips, 1 TB hardrive, 8 wardrobe changes per character, 5 lasagnas, 67 dice, and 3 bags of marshmallows.

TF: Anything else you’d like to say / share?

CW: Dive right in, if it’s something you want. Be a part of this online shift, and create opportunities for yourself. You kinda have to these days anyway, if not to make a living, then to make something truly creative. Also, handy to have an alternative source of income. 🙂

Oh yeah, I made up the number of dice, I really have no idea how many it takes, but we have lots!

January 31, 2011

Web Series Week: Delayed slightly, but still forthcoming!

Filed under: Web Series — petertypingfaster @ 8:33 am

Ah, the vagaries of production. I know I promised you interviews with the rest of the Pretty in Geek crew last week, and obviously they’re not up yet. Blame the delay on the vagaries of production. The schedule had to be rearranged, a couple of episodes were pushed, a couple moved up, all of which means that the prep work had to be redone on the fly. I’ve been assured that the interviews are still coming, they just might be a little late.

Look for them a little later this week.

But that’s okay, because we have other things in store for you! I’ve got a few writer’s lined up to talk about their first (paid) jobs. I’m going to try to get some people to talk about their networking strategies. I’m working on getting some producers I know to talk about negotiating your first option agreement, and all the dirty little tricks you need to be aware of.

If there’s anything specific you fine reader type folks would like to see addressed, just leave a comment, and I’ll do my best to find someone able to speak to your question.

Should be exciting!

January 26, 2011

Web Series Week: Pretty in Geek Creator Elize Morgan

Filed under: Uncategorized, Web Series, Working — petertypingfaster @ 9:16 am

As promised, today’s follow up post is an interview with Elize Morgan, writer / creator / actor of the upcoming web series Pretty in Geek, transmedia superstar working with the team of Tights and Fights: Ashes! and all around digital media consultant. Hopefully y’all get a little something, something out of our conversation!

TypingFaster: Intros – Give me the bio, you know the drill!

Elize Morgan: I’m a transmedia and TV 360 writer from Toronto Canada. With a background in TV from the Canadian Film Centre, Elize also has an MA in TV/digital interactivity. She has completed a webdoc about biking 2000 kilometers in Europe, is a transmedia story producer for Tights and Fights, and is currently filming her webseries Pretty in Geek. She also likes pie.

TF: Tell us a bit about your projects (PiG, Tights, whatever else you’ve got cooking)

EM: Currently I’m producing/acting/writing/creating (right, showrunning is that term) a webseries called Pretty in Geek (http://www.prettyingeek.tv). We’re filming right now. Pretty in Geek is a series about a group of tabletop RPG gamer girls and the LARP (for those not in the know: live action role player) guy who wrecks up their game. It’s a fun, frothy comedy with lots of hair pulling. I’m also working as a transmedia story producer on Tights and Fights: Ashes, a series about vlogging superheroes in Toronto. And there’s a couple of super secret projects coming up.

TF: Why a webseries?

EM: The thing about webseries to me, over TV or film or other medias, is that you can make a show you’d never have a chance to otherwise. You can hit a niche audience (like the Guild or Red VS Blue with gaming) that would normally never get to see themselves by other mediums. So thus we have girl gamers (a long-thought non-existent species. We’re changing that), or people who play WoW, or a guy who gets sucked into the Legend of Zelda. It’s a fun, immediate medium in a lot of ways. Drama also works fairly well, as you can also show things that wouldn’t get play otherwise, in the case of web drama Anyone But Me (which hits the LGBT audience and has a very devout fan following).

You also get to see sides of things you might never in TV or film, as everyone ends up doing more than one job. And, for those who have been in development hell, it’s nice to be able to get something up and running in less than five years.

TF: What are some of the biggest conceptual differences between developing a series for the web and developing a regular old TV concept?

EM: Beyond the obvious, it’s usually shorter (though not always!), developing for the web, for the very successful properties, instead of aiming for a wide audience, you really aim niche. The web loves to see itself, its people, and loves to create communities. So my advice to anyone is to create something that hits a niche audience. The most successful web-to-TV properties did just that – like Riese and Sanctuary – and were very successful at it. But, beyond that, it’s no different than creating a TV concept. The characters have to be real, the world has to be interesting. Just because it’s online or “web only” doesn’t mean that the quality is lower. Ruby Skye PI is a great example of a show that is very high quality, was made for web, and for a niche audience.

TF: What kind of ideas lend themselves to web series? What kind don’t?

EM: I may have answered this a bit more already, but one of the key things that I think works for web (and let it be reiterated: no one really ever knows “what works” fully – be it for TV, web or film), but a strong webseries is something people can jump into easily (they often don’t start at episode one), is short and pithy, and hits a niche audience.

A great web show can be a drama, comedy, or experimental series (the NFB have a few great examples there). All of the above have been made successfully. It helps if you have a recognizable star, but you don’t need one. Sanctuary and Riese, of course, had Amanda Tapping. The Guild, Felicia Day, and a variety of others. Red VS Blue had a bunch of friends who wanted to make something funny… and did.

A great web concept is not, however, a cut up film, an ill defined market (this just needs thought), or something you can’t make on your budget.

TF: Tell us about the development process for PiG? How long? How many rewrites? etc.

EM: Pretty in Geek was in development for about a year and a half to day of principal photography. It was bumped back, admittedly, because I had a documentary project last summer, and GopherX was shooting Tights and Fights: Ashes in the fall of 2010.

The thing about web is that a lot of people may assume there aren’t as many rewrites going into it as opposed to television. Because we had a lot of time in lead up, we did just as many if not more rewrites on Pretty in Geek. The concept changed a lot in development, but it was a great process all told, and I’m especially grateful to have had Scott Albert on board as our EP because he is a fantastic story editor.

Closer to the final rewrites, there were many fantastic writers who came in to help with punch up and with going over story beats.

TF: Tell us about selling / landing an EP. How’d it come about. Advice. etc.

EM: I happened to luck into it, as I had met Scott Albert at some of the writer’s functions in Toronto – including the web version of WWTV – and had mentioned the concept to him in passing when we grabbed a coffee. I had pretty much thought it would end there, but GopherX had just brought on an associate producer, Courtney Wolfson, who took a shine to the concept. From there, we had a few meetings and went into developing and fleshing out what had basically been a logline into a full series.

TF: What about branding at the development stage. How early did you start developing a following for your projects.

EM: As early as possible. Pretty much once you have an official logo that fits and works with the series get your social media up – don’t push it yet, but make sure you have them. Around the stage where you’re shooting, put up production pictures, tell your friends, tell your mom. Tell the crew and cast’s moms. Get your facebook and twitter pages started so that once you do have your pilot up and running you have someone to tell that you have a pilot going.

Developing community is slow, so knowing your brand/marketing plan (i.e. who your audience is) from the beginning is key. Take your time, make a plan. And right before you launch any episodes launch a facebook ad that targets your exact audience. It works for pretty much any budget (including the $20 your mom lent you), and you only pay if someone likes your page.

TF: Tell us a bit about what it’s like being a writer / creator during production. How involved are you. etc.

EM: I happen to also be acting in the show, so I am very involved. This is fairly common in web. I’ve heard of a lot of different set ups. Most writer/creators are also producers on set, so you’re putting out fires while also directing, acting, making sure people are fed, and holding the boom if need be.

I’m also helping with craft, and am heavily involved with production meetings. I have creative control over art, wardrobe and the like with our very talented director Vivian Lin. So while things are very busy, but it is also really exciting.

TF: Any advice for an aspiring webseries creator?

EM: At the risk of getting a C&D: Just do it. Really, figure out what you need to do to get it done and go and make it. Having an EP, or a production company, that knows what they’re doing is great, but there’s so few that have strong web success, so get a team together that’s strong make sure you trust them, and make your series.

I also have a blog over at http://www.elizemorgan.com/ where I share a lot of advice on this, from other creators and the like, so feel free to drop a line over there if there’s any other questions!

TF: Thanks so much for answering my questions! Good luck with the rest of production.

Later this week we’ll be talking with Producer Courtney Wolfson and Director Vivian Lin to get their respective takes on the process of putting together a web series. Thanks for stopping by!

January 25, 2011

Web Series Week: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Web

Filed under: Web Series — petertypingfaster @ 9:41 am

I’m the first to admit that it took me a while to warm up to web series. Like everything else on the internet, there’s so much crap out there that the signal to noise ratio is terrible. Sometimes it’s hard to see the point. Why would I want to watch a web series when there’s much better television to watch? Why would I want to create / write a web series when there’s so little chance of my creation actually being noticed in this sea of suckitude?

I’m still not sold on the first half, I barely have enough time to watch television so I don’t particularly feel like watching a bunch of web series. But I’m definitely starting to come around on the second.

A few things happened to bring me around. First off, a few projects really opened my eyes to just how good web series can be. Shows like The Guild and Dr Horrible were amazing, but I don’t think that they’re really accurate depictions of what an independent web series can realistically do. Not many of us are walking around with a sponsorship from Microsoft, nor do we happen to be Joss Whedon. But series like Ruby Skye, P.I., on the other hand, really showed what was possible for us to accomplish here in Canada.

The other big factor was I actually got involved with a couple of web series. 2010 was the year a good friend of mine really started to gain traction with Pretty in Geek, a web series concept of hers. She landed an EP, wrote the first season (eight, five minute long episodes) and, soon enough, was racing into pre-production. I wound up helping out with punch up and story editing of the first eight scripts.

From there I’ve gotten involved with a couple of other projects. One is another straight up web series that I’m in the process of helping to write. The other project I got involved with is Tights and Fights, but with a large transmedia component. I’m part of the transmedia story team (guess my title is technically Transmedia Story Director / Writer). We do weekly live twitter episodes, multiple weekly low intensity stories that play out through scheduled tweets, blog posts and facebook status updates. The amount of work is huge, but we’ve got a great team to help spread the load.

I’ve learned a lot from getting involved with these projects. Writing for the web is, in a lot of ways, identical to writing for television. The difference lies in the flexibility. Writing for the web doesn’t hem you in as much. It’s not television, and you shouldn’t approach a web project as such. Part of it is a matter of scale, part of it is a matter of audience.

I’ve learned a lot from my web series work. Its forced me to write faster than I ever have before (try writing multiple characters during a live, improvised twitter performance…makes you think on your feet). Its given me the opportunity to write for characters and genres that I wasn’t familiar with, and wouldn’t have had the chance to write for if not for the web. Writing for the web has also allowed me to get to know a lot of really great people that I wouldn’t have had the chance to know otherwise.

This week I’m really excited to feature the creative team of the upcoming web series Pretty in Geek. It was the project that marked my first steps into the wonderful world of web series, and I’m really excited to see it when it premieres.

Come back tomorrow for an interview with Elize Morgan, the writer / creator of Pretty in Geek.

January 21, 2011

Web Series Week Next Week!

Filed under: Web Series — petertypingfaster @ 2:05 pm

It’s the dawn of a new era here at Typing Faster. Instead of just rambling myself, it’s time for me to start soliciting the ramblings of others! First up next week: Web Series!

On tap for you the creative and production team behind the upcoming web series Pretty in Geek! We’ll be talking to:

As well as the thoughts of yours truly. Hope to see you then!

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