Season two is officially on thanks to Spike Lee. He selected several projects to receive a Film Production Award and we made the cut! We've already moved into pre-production mode, so if you know what's good for you, you'll check back each and every day for updates on your favorite homoneurotic web series. Thanks Spike!
Hey old faithfuls,
As the year comes to an end, I thought I'd share the current state of F TO 7TH affairs and revisit the life of the first season -- mostly because I like bulleted lists, but also because I'm grateful we had an amazing year. A lot of that has to do with YOU, so thanks a million times +1.
2014 The Future of America
What's happening now, you ask? I've been focusing on writing season two, and I've got 7 out of 8 episodes ready to go. Expect the unexpected as "Ingrid" (that slut pictured above) becomes even more internally homophobic and in one episode, tries to convince a child to follow in her flawed footsteps. With this season, I'm exploring more of a through line and character arc, something about three people care about. Bottom line -- shit will be a little different.
2013 Gone But Not Forgotten
And now for the year in review!
- Several episodes of season one have seen a life beyond the web. We've screened at a bunch of festivals including the Los Angeles Film Festival, Frameline, Outfest, NewFest, Friar's Club Comedy Festival, Philly QFest, Austin Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Pittsburg Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, Vancouver Queer Film Festival, Southwest Gay and Lesbian Film Festival and Polari Festival in Austin. We were also part of a web series filmmaker series at Videology in Williamsburg.
- The Guardian selected F TO 7TH as 1 of 10 Best Web Series of 2013. We love Brits!
- We've gotten more amazing press including mentions in The New Yorker, Time Out NY, Vice, BuzzFeed and IndieWire to name a few. If you're in that mid-afternoon slumber and need a quick fix but don't want to go to your neighbor's cubicle and eat another Twix, check out our Press page.
- We got invited to the White House for an LGBT Celebration and almost got to touch Obama!
- We shared our web series experiences on a handful of panels with the likes of DCTV, IFP and will soon grace the DC Independent Film Festival stage in early 2014.
Again, we couldn't have made any of this happen without our backers and followers and friends and press contacts and cast and crew and, finally, Zeke, who was with me for 14 years and was by far the best actor I've even worked with.
Halfway through writing season two of F TO 7TH, I've witnessed a shift in my writing. I don't know if the movement is forward or backward. Most likely the latter because I'm forcing myself to be more painfully honest with the imperfect person I am and the mess I'm sure to become. That means emotional regression: The cornerstone of good comedy.
I just finished reading a couple of stories about Jack Dorsey (zeitgeist? he's everywhere), one of the creators of Twitter and now Square (which I just ordered for absolutely no reason besides the fact that it's free), and it struck me that web series are the 140 characters of the television show.
There is something addictive about shaping an episodic story within tightly contained, self-imposed restrictions. There's also this liberating freedom to make mistakes because the form is still such a free-for-all. Web series creators pen the rules and we have decided that there are no rules. Me, I like order but only if I impose it upon myself, so web series and I get along well. We're thinking of moving in together, but her parents don't know she's gay.
An undergraduate degree in journalism influenced my creative writing in that it taught me to get to the fucking point. Web series have taught me to strip away three acts into three moments. In between those moments are a lot of tiny character flaws, and within those character flaws is where, hopefully, something awful and funny occurs. Of course, those are just my rules. Other people are far more successful and think a lot less about crap I probably shouldn't waste time thinking about.
Some people fear that the world is changing into one big marketplace for the self. Maybe it is, but it's up to us to reshape our art to meet the demands of our audience, who we need in order to have a conversation. That doesn't have to be a bad thing if you use the No Rule rule as your blueprint.
Now's the time.
Wandering around the NYU Bobst Library in the film section (don’t judge), I picked up a film history book because I felt a little dumb for not remembering any of it. A bunch of smart people wrote a bunch of smart stuff in Volume I of Introduction to Film Studies. Don’t worry, I don’t dare attempt to sound as astute as they do.
What struck me was being reminded of nickelodeons. For five cents, people could watch films for the first time in small-scale cinemas. From there, exhibition sky-rocketed and once companies caught on that they could make money on movies, they formed production companies that eventually became monopolies that eventually used mergers and acquisitions to cover up the fact that they were monopolies.
Independent companies are no longer really independent companies and if they are, they aren’t making any money. It’s the distributors and exhibitors who win. People argue that independent film sales are increasing, which is probably true, but how many sales happen compared to how many films are made? And how many films are made that never even see the light of a major festival, let alone a minor one?
I keep hearing the regurgitated, “Get into TV; TV is the future.” You’re lucky if you land a meeting even if you do have a little heat. If you’re luckier, you’ll shoot a pilot. If you’re the luckiest, the pilot will be picked up. And if you’re pure luck in the shape of a human body, your show will last more than one season.
I met with a guy from a start-up web content company and he asked me – do you see the web series as an end goal or as a stepping stone toward something bigger and better? Any time someone has asked me that question in the past, I had a knee-jerk reaction: "Stepping stone!" (Sans exclamation; I added that to make things dramatic.) This time, I actually heard the question and my answer was, after realizing how naive I’ve been all along -- an end goal.
History is repeating itself. Web series are the nickelodeons of the 21st century, smart phones and iPads and laptops are the screens. But we aren’t even charging a nickel for our work and that was the early 1900s. We make low-budget and (at times) high-quality work we crowdfund on Kickstarter or Indiegogo or Seed & Spark – which translates to artists begging their friends and families to donate money for lame rewards that cost the artist more than they earn in pledges.
People ask me what my budget was for F TO 7TH all the time and the answer is – too low. My producer and I were not paid at all and what we paid our crew was low enough to be considered a donation of their time, talent and energy to a project they believed in as a favor to me.
I find that unacceptable. Before we know it, big companies are going to start making money on web series (they already are or planning to), they will own our material and we will be left making $0. Sure, there are ad sales, product placement, revenue shares (aka coffee money), and selling a few t-shirts no one wants, but where is the time and energy to do that? Hire a publicist. Okay. Get an intern. Fine. Publicists aren’t cheap unless they’re a friend and if you’re not teaching something to an intern, you’re most likely exploiting some poor undergrad who doesn’t know any better.
Why are we looking at web series as little more than a calling card? Why do we constantly do pitch videos and blog posts and work full-time to add friends and followers and generate press and not get paid for it?
Things are changing fast. Everyone will eventually have to subscribe to see anything worth watching. Nothing gold can stay, so it is time for artists to pull together and find a way to make a living (by this I mean pay your rent) providing good content to audiences before distributors and exhibitors take over this landscape, too.
THE SLOPE and F TO 7TH would be nowhere if it weren’t for the cast, crew and loyal fan base that thankfully found something in the shows that affected them enough to come back. And I want to make art for that audience. I want to share creative expression and continue a dialogue between artist and community. But I also want to stop waiting for financiers to believe in me enough to take a huge risk on an independent film that will not come out for two years and will put zero in my bank account.
I have made a choice to be an artist, and with that choice comes consequences I am willing to endure. But I’m frustrated with the fact that independent artists don’t stand a financial chance unless we stop waiting around for a business to tell us we’re worthy, we’re successful and our work is a product worth selling.
I want to hear from you. I want to know how artists feel, but moreso, I want feedback from audiences. Would you be willing to watch an episode for 99 cents if you knew the money was going directly into the pocket of the people who are producing it?
If so, I will take steps to make that happen. I will share any information I find along the way to fellow filmmakers and audience members. And I’ll do it all for free.
I keep working.
There’s no paycheck at the end of this. I don’t know how I’m going to buy a plane ticket to LA to go to the festival, let alone pay June’s rent. But I am investing in the next uncertain step even if it means obsessive thinking wakes me up at 3am each morning.
I have learned that there is no such thing as luck. There is no such thing as being in the right place at the right time. No one is going to seek you out and tell you they will fund your next project, mentor you, be the parent you never had. And even when they tell you what you want to hear, they have other things to do.
You don’t deserve.
For those of you who struggle with your future as an artist, realize now that it will always be a roller coaster. You have made a decision to take the plunge into a bi-polar career. And in that decision, thankfully, you prove that you are a daydreamer, an optimist, a visionary. You are willing to panic alongside failure and celebrate with success. Somehow, you pull hope out of the depths and spread it out, trying to piece together the next terrifying step.
You are necessary.
But with the decision to create, you have to work hard. You can’t blame the world for not giving you enough attention. You can’t complain about the industry. And please, for my sake, don’t say you are doing anything cutting edge that will change the face of all things art. Don’t say no one has done what you’ve done. Because someone has, they just didn’t talk about it as much.
Your brilliance is not brilliance. It’s simply light.
You are not a genius. You are your imagination.
You are enough.
Maybe no one will notice your work. Maybe the things you need and want in your life will change. Maybe this drudgery will end in nothing but remnants of a memory you can’t quite place.
Either way and whatever you decide to do, you will always be artists. Embrace that, be humble, be honest, be diligent and know that you are not alone even if you prefer it that way.