I haven’t been posting as much lately as I should have, but that is because for the last month or so, I’ve been working on a web series. If you follow my reading/writing blog Precarious Reader, you may have read my post Derailed in which I mentioned that I had put aside the novel on which I’d been working for over nine years. I’d had an idea for a web series and I wrote two episodes, and then I got busy with some other stuff for a while and wasn’t sure where to go from there anyway.
Only a month or so later, Storyhive announced they’d be doing a web series grant. If you didn’t know, Storyhive is a subsidiary of Telus which funds local productions in Alberta and British Columbia, Canada. They have a few “streams” a year where you can pitch short films, documentaries, music videos, etc, and if your pitch gets through, you get money to make your project. They last had a web series stream two years ago in 2017, and I was cast in a pitch called “Snowshoe & Monster” which got the initial $10 000 in funding to make the pilot along with 39 other pitches. Twenty web series pilots were then made in BC and 20 in Alberta with 10k budgets, and of those, two from each province (it was originally one, but they couldn’t decide and made it two) were chosen to receive an additional $50k to make the rest of the episodes. One of these was Snowshoe & Monster which was then renamed as Summer’s Monster.
So that was cool to be part of as an actor, but it’s been two years since the last web series round. I’ve now done a couple of short films* and I had two episodes written about some roommates that were also superheroes (not this one, although there are some similarities and sneaky references to it that only three other people on the world would get), so I decided this year I’d try pitching my web series.
A couple things have changed since the 2017 web series stream:
- Instead of a 10k grant for the pilot, it’s now 20k.
- Instead of having a public vote for which pitches would get the initial grant, it’s going to be decided via jury this time around.
So, I set about this grant thing. I met up with a couple of film friends, Mark & Ximena of L120 Films, who I’ve acted for on Surreal, Complacency, Faded, and worked with on my own short, Phone Call. They were each pitching their own web series ideas to Storyhive, and it was good to talk our ideas out with each other and just know I wasn’t alone going into it. It helped later, when I realized exactly how big this thing was that I’d signed up for and for every point in the process when I wasn’t sure I’d finish.
I’ve never pitched before outside of scriptwriting class at uni, and that practice pitch was different. I stood there with my writing partners, had a synopsis and a treatment and talked about the project with all of my enthusiasm for a couple of minutes.
This was all online. There were quite I few things that were the same as what I knew from university: a title, a logline, a synopsis, genre, target audience, target project length, a minute of talking about the project (in the form of a pitch video), character breakdowns (optional, but I did it) and the treatment or script itself.
But there were a lot of new things that I had to figure out on the fly. At the top of that list was a budget sheet, breaking down how the 20k would be used in the event that I was awarded it. I also needed to fill out a diversity report, which was actually kind of great to have, create box art (like a film poster) and a project title card (like a YouTube thumbnail), a few links to applicable things, and a detailed pitch document in which I answered every question about the project and the making of it you can imagine.
Honestly, it was tough. A lot of the other projects had multiple people behind them, partners or groups of people teaming up on a project. I did the entire thing by myself, and there were multiple occasions when I looked at everything I still had to do before the deadline and honestly didn’t think I’d make it. But I put my head down and got to work anyway. It was a bit like being back in university, working late nights, drinking lots of
coffee tea, and skipping social events to get work done instead. At times I wondered not just whether I could finish, but whether I even wanted to.
Those original two episodes I wrote over the summer? I didn’t use them. I didn’t even look at them. I just used the memory of them to form the baseline for the plot. I worked and reworked the plot over and over for weeks ahead of the deadline. When I was satisfied with the plot, I rewrote the first episode in a day, this time with the pitch budget and themes in mind. I edited and added the next day, but I’m not sure whether I uploaded the updated script or not, so fingers crossed I did.
I was seriously worried about what I’d do for the art aspects required. I ended up digging up my old Wacom tablet and was relieved to find it still worked. I downloaded new digital art software because the one I used to use no longer worked on my laptop, taught it to myself, and then created the required art for the project: also in a day.
When it came to the budget, I researched for weeks. The two film projects I’ve made previously had budgets in the hundreds, not the thousands, and I was still figuring out how I wanted to shoot the series and what I’d need to shoot it like that, and how much it would cost to get what I’d need. I had to research the costumes I wanted and what they might cost, how much I’d need for wall paint, set decor, props, etc. How much it might cost for filming permits, insurance, all the boring stuff. Plus, I had to make sure I could pay the cast and crew required for the project, and if there was anything left at the end of it all, see how much I’d be able to pay myself.
The pitch video was also a big obstacle. I know a lot of groups managed cool and creative pitches, and I also wanted to do that. My brother, now fifteen and having recently done a filmmaking summer camp, was my cameraman and we went and shot in the location I’m hoping to film the series at. I was pretty happy with it, but should have planned better because we ran out of battery before we had everything we wanted and it ended up being way longer than the one-minute limit. So I went home and filmed some more and none of the stuff from the location made it into the pitch video, just because of time. I’m thinking of doing a longer video, just cause. Anyway, with writing, filming, and editing, the pitch video took three or four days, and in the end it was only average, so I’m hoping the ideas I talk about in the video are good enough to make up for the mediocrity.
But I think the hardest part was writing the pitch itself. Trying to write out 200 word synopses for each of the episodes, explaining why I was the best person for the job while also describing my experience level (or lack thereof), describing the characters and explaining why the series is important, not just to me but to my community. I had all the intention in my head but putting it into words took hours and effort that gave me a four-day-long headache.
In those final days before the deadline, I was staying up until four or five in the morning, and then giving myself five hours to sleep before getting up again and going back at it. On the last day before the deadline, I got up at ten, went straight to work, worked until five the next morning, slept a bit with my alarm set for eight, woke before my alarm and went back to work until it was done and submitted. Then I did a little dance and went back to sleep to make up for the last several nights. See what I mean about it being like university?
There were multiple days on which I seriously doubted I’d finish, whether because the deadline was coming up faster than I could work, whether because I had a job and auditions and classes to attend that would take me away from my desk, or whether because I just had no idea how I’d jump the next obstacle, answer the next question, or finish the next requirement. And even when I’d finish something and feel like, maybe it actually was possible to finish the pitch in time, there was still no way I’d win the grant. I still feel a bit like that, and it is
probable possible I will have nothing to show for all the work I’ve done so far, all the hours poured into a project that may never see the light of day.
But I did it.
I fucking did it.
So anyway, you can support my web series Super Roommates by following on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. No guarantee anything will come from it, but I appreciate the support all the same. You can also follow my production company, Foolish Fox Films, for updates on all my projects.