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!
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.
PAST 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.
PRESENT 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.
FUTURE 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.
We're super excited to announce that "Interchangeable," featuring Ann Carr, will be shown at the 2013 LA Film Festival in the Shorts Program. We'll have more information on specific screening times soon, so check back for details.
Congrats to our very own Gaby Hoffmann (Episode 5, "Sure Thing") - the lead in Sebastian Silva's CRYSTAL FAIRY, which is screening as part of The Summer Showcase.
And more props go out to fellow NYU-er Frances Bodomo for her short film, BONESHAKER, Penny Lane for her doc OUR NIXON and Stacie Passon and Rose Troche for their feature, CONCUSSION.
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=csgmVfVDWjQ&w=560&h=315] Maya and Leo, art critics and friends of F TO 7TH, sat down with RuPaul's Drag Race winner Sharon Needles. She is currently on tour with her new album, PG-13.
Featuring: Ann Carr, Charles Rogers, Sharon Needles
Camera: Ingrid Jungermann
Sound: Michael Garofalo
Editor: Amanda Hammett
Producer: Jason Klorfein
Thanks: David Charpentier
The complete first season of F TO 7TH will screen in its entirety as part of the Friars Club Comedy Film Festival in NYC this Tuesday, April 2, 7:00pm, at Anthology Film Archives. Tickets are on sale here, and Ingrid will be there so if you're in town, drop on by!
The first eight-episode season will screen as part of a program on other web series, including episodes of Danny Hastings' CHEEZTOSOS, FLAT 3, SERIOUS BUSINESS, and THE UNTITLED WEB SERIES THAT MORGAN EVANS IS DOING.
Eleanor Margolis interviewed me this morning for The Most Cake. She’s got a career ahead of her – I told her things I wouldn’t tell my mother, although I don’t tell my mother anything so maybe that’s not saying much.
One topic that came up in our conversation: What percentage gay am I? And at first I said 90%, although I’ve never been good at math. So after I thought about it more, I figured about 99%. I leave 1% because I only watch gay porn and when I meet a cool guy, I sometimes want to be him, so I confuse that for attraction.
But there have been times when I have been attracted to a guy. Does that make me less gay?
If a straight guy says he’s been with a guy, or been attracted to one or two in his life, he’s considered gay. He doesn’t even have the right to be an open-minded straight dude or a bisexual. And if a lesbian says, sure, I’d do a guy, she’s considered straight. I’ve been with men and this doesn’t make me any more or less gay, it just means I fell off the wagon.
Why are so many people offended - gays and straights - by numbers that don't equal 100 or 0?
I am confused by sexuality not because it’s confusing, but because it’s one of the simplest things on the planet. People make it confusing.
And I'm ashamed to say that I’ve been one of those simpletons. I met a guy at a party and he just seemed gay and no matter what he said, in my head, I sounded like such an asshole: “Oh, you're in denial, so cute.”
I don’t think we, as people, want to agree. We will always have arguments and judgments because it’s what we do. Sometimes, I don’t believe a thing I say, but I say it because I have to have an opinion about something. I don’t know if that’s right or wrong, but I guess without all this commentary, there would be nothing to talk about.
And then what would I write?
I used to cringe when people put themselves in their own work. Come on folks, can't you find someone better? Turns out I've become that person. Happens a lot with me - I judge everyone in my path until I become them, and then I brag about how awesome I am for having evolved. Such is the theme of my show - it's about someone who will always be wrong about everything even when they're right. And they're wrong about that, too.
I was in Rotterdam recently and I went to a "coffee shop" and got legally high with a couple of Dutch locals. I looked over in the corner and saw a gaggle of large white men, all with the same haircuts and tight black tees. I said, "They look like the Russian mafia." And one of the Dutchies said, "Americans judge too much." And he was right, so I judged him for saying it.
I wandered around something-Straat and had a very high, very clear thought - "I am constantly learning less than I learned." It's stayed with me even though I still have no idea what it means. Maybe it will make sense when I get stoned again.
As Ron (Ronnie D as I like to call him, but only in texts) and I have edited, there are two things I have to constantly ask myself - 1) Is this honest even if it hurts? and 2) Do I look like the dumbest person on the show? The answer to both questions always has to be yes. I find that comedy where the writer/director/creator makes fun of people without making fun of themselves always falls short for me. It's immature and boring. We're all a little dumb and it's better if we just admit it.
Which brings me to this. Am I narcissistic? Yes. But it's 2013. There's a new, fresh, innovative version of narcissistic parading around the pool. But neo-narcissists aren't bent at the elbow, staring deeply into their own eyes because they're in love; they're doing it because they're trying to make it better. I suppose in the end we all fall in and die, I'd just rather drown in a lifetime of work then a fleeting moment of pride.
If you've found yourself watching F TO 7TH and paying less attention to the episode and more attention to the cool music, that's understandable. Kelly Crisp and Ivan Howard, old friends of Ingrid's from her North Carolina days, are the brains behind The Rosebuds, a band on the Merge label who have continued to provide their fans with music both palatable and poignant. Here's round two of "Next Stop" - a quickie with musician/writer/performer/funny lady Kelly Crisp.
A fun fact about you. I live in New York and sometimes go to Times Square for fun. Unironically!
I go to JFK for fun sometimes. Buffalo Wild Wings. It's a nice crowd there. Have you been? Had a breakfast beer at a Chili's there once.
I find Chili's salty. Speaking of salty, how did the Rosebuds start out? Our friend had a show and the opening band cancelled so we offered to fill in. We wrote five songs that afternoon and performed them that night. Not very self-conscious or thought-out at all. Everybody liked it and wanted to help. We put those and a couple other songs on a demo we sent to our dream label, Merge Records, and they signed us.
Did a lot of people get jealous? I'm a little jealous even though I'm not a musician. Like I'm jealous right now.Yes, actually. I didn't know about that before, but people can misbehave.
You are recording a new album. Can you talk about that experience and also when you expect it to be released? Ivan and I are meeting in North Carolina this week to work on our demos and rehearse, then we'll go into a studio in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, as soon as the snow melts up there.
Can you sing a little from one of the songs? Dee dee... Where's my key... Deeeeeeeeeeee. Ahem. [transcribed from surprisingly accurate singing].
I felt that. In my heart a little. Where do you see The Rosebuds in 5 years? Famous, but not dicks.
I'm a dick but not famous. Have you ever tried being like that? Hahahahahaha. Yes, of course.
Has the band ever been involved with film, TV or commercials before? What has that experience been like? Film and TV a little. We've been lucky to have our songs be a part of things we like, or respect, or that make us happy. One of our songs was used in a Spanish commercial advertising dental implants for old people. It ruled.
I'd love a copy of that. If I make a film, will you guys score it? Yes! I will give it a score of A+ !!!
Superfast Fact about Ron: I've worked as a cab driver, and for a private detective, and in a sex toy warehouse.
Did you ever drive the private detective to the sex toy warehouse? No.
Oh, that's unfortunate. How is a web series a different animal from your other projects? The primary difference is that I'm not thinking about longer story and character arcs when making decisions. That may just be a fancy way of saying it's shorter.
Or a shorter way of saying it fancier. What was your favorite episode to cut and why? Is this a trick question?
Yes. Will the other episodes feel insulted if I choose only one?
Yes. I really enjoyed watching the footage for "Family" because Amy Sedaris is so hilarious.
Never heard of her. If you had to give a director notes (not me of course), what advice would you give before they shoot? If you are planning something stylistic (such as having a major event happen off-screen, or even a scene that takes place all in one shot), get some standard/typical coverage as well. If your stylistic idea doesn't work when seen in the context of the whole film, you don't have any options if you don't have any options. Secondly, it's important to pay attention to continuity. It's an obvious thing to say, but I think it bears repeating. When it comes to the edit, having options is really your best tool, and bad continuity can be really limiting.
What can't you fix with editing that most people think you can? What can you fix that most people don't think you can't? In my experience, what you can and can't fix has been pretty project-specific. It all depends on how the project was shot. In general, I think the answer to both parts is the same: technical issues. There are some technical problems you can fix in the editing room, and some you really can't. Focus problems, for instance, are almost always in the latter category. But some accidental camera moves and some continuity errors can be fixed. Again, it really depends on how the project was shot. You can fix a surprising number of things very easily in a locked-off shot. This is a boring answer to a very good question. My apologies.
What's your ideal (dreamy) editing job? I'd love to cut a horror film, just because I think it would require some very different decision making to create the atmosphere.
What's a question you always want to be asked as an editor and no one asks it? The question I'd like to hear more, honestly, is "will you cut my feature?" For projects I am actually involved in, it would be great to be asked to be involved in the project from a much earlier stage. On lower-budget indies, editors are usually brought on shortly before production starts (or even during, or after production). It would be great to be involved earlier, because an editor might be able to point out potential problems or issues before the project is shot, which could save headaches in the editing room. On lower-budget projects, editors often aren't involved until after shooting has wrapped, and having an editor watching dailies during production can be very helpful - they can suggest pick-ups and inserts, and even alert a director to technical issues. Reshoots aren't fun for anyone.
-Sneak Preview of 3 episodes that include appearances by Amy Sedaris, Michael Showalter and Ann Carr.
-Performances By acclaimed all-female improv troupe, Wicked City, Ann Carr and Charles Rogers.
DOORS: 6:45pm - Seating is first come, first served.
CLOSEST TRAIN: F to York St.
Eight episodes. One of the best directing experiences I've had. Every guest star brought something new and interesting to each episode. And I hope I can always work with this crew - we all seemed to mesh. Maybe they hated me and talked about it during lunch behind my back, but what I don't know won't hurt me.
I'll be updating the site in the next few days with new cast and crew info. Also, for those of you obsessively checking this site, you'll notice we've pushed launch to Jan. 21. IFP is hosting a launch party for us at reRun Theater in DUMBO on Jan. 17. More info to come on the event - which will be free - but mark your calendars for live comedy, a screening of three episodes and Q & A moderated by Michael Showalter.
I don't really remember when I started directing. It might have been in high school drama club. I wrote a play called VELVET ROSE about a prostitute who accidentally (?) sleeps with her father. At 15, for some reason I was a little obsessed with New York (and prostitutes). It might have been because as a family stuck in Central Florida where movies were one of the only forms of entertainment - along with the Melbourne Square Mall - my brother, sister, mother and I bonded over a healthy obsession with Scorsese.
Here are the opening lines as "Rose" arrives in New York accompanied by a seasoned trick.
JENN: Who the hell are you? FRANKIE: Ya know this ain't a playground. I think you missed your stop. JENN: No, no, wait, wait... Sesame Street is two blocks down.
Minus some depressing poetry, VELVET ROSE was my writer/director debut. But I didn't know that then. It's sort of like when you first realize you're gay - you don't have a word for it, you just let some strange feelings and thoughts work themselves out of the cramp in your brain until they take shape and you call it something. Maybe then I was already a filmmaker, I just didn't have my P-Touch handy to label it. And maybe this whole paragraph is pretentious which also means, that's right - I'm a filmmaker.
Coming from that first moment (prostitution) and now watching footage of my most recent creative attempt (narcissism), I've learned some things. I don't know if they are intelligent things, or if anyone should pay any attention at all. I'm pretty certain there are several For Dummy books written on why not to read any of what I'm about to share. But for me and whatever project is next, this list will help me be the kind of director I aspire to be.
1) STOP TALKING. This is something I've really noticed in recent years. New directors talk too much. Just shut up a little. You don't sound cool, you sound like you don't know what you're doing. Say one or two things per take to adjust and then do it again. Everyone might think you're stupid and you shouldn't be directing, but all your work should be in prep. On set, make it simple. And just remember: If you hate to listen to yourself while you watch your footage, everyone else probably hates listening to you, too.
2) BEING NERVOUS IS FINE. We all are. It doesn't mean you're not confident. It's a crazy thing to make films. It's not a natural state of affairs. So go ahead - feel weird about it. Just don't overcompensate and be 1) a dick or 2) a hack.
3) DO ONE FOR UN-SAFETY. This is a new one I learned for myself. We always "do one take for safety." And that's fine. I've gotten into self-loathing moments when I haven't done one for safety. But then do one for un-safety. Change it up. Do something weird or nutty or fun. Give yourself options when you cut. I got lucky - most of the F TO 7TH footage is great (thanks cast and crew), but most takes are the same. Sidenote: The first takes are usually the best because there is a natural awkwardness and honesty about them.
4) LISTEN TO THE VOICE IN YOUR HEAD TELLING YOU NOT TO LISTEN TO THE VOICE IN YOUR HEAD. If something happens and you have that split second of terror because you don't know the answer, take a second. Think about why there is a red flag slamming you in the face. Don't let that other dumb voice take hold of the smart voice and tell you to hurry up or it's not a big deal. Once a big deal, always a big deal.
5) BE WRONG AND THEN FIX IT. I like to be right ALL THE TIME. And I think I am. But sometimes I'm really wrong. So instead of making a big to-do about "looking like a director," realize that you're being an idiot and then make a better choice.
And most importantly:
6) DON'T BE PASSIVE-AGGRESSIVE WITH YOUR GIRLFRIEND ON CAMERA.
It seemed like just yesterday I was asking family members I hadn't talked to in years to hand over money for a project they knew nothing about. Shit, come to think of it, I don't even know if my aunt knew I was gay, so I guess that means I was asking for money AND coming out.
Either way, F TO 7TH is mostly in the can. I say "mostly" because I don't know what percentage six out of eight would be.
We have two more episodes to shoot, then onto post, where SV Bliss will work her editing magic.
What did I learn? Besides the fact that I can't avoid the charge of being extremely narcissistic (not only do I act in my work, but I play two of me), I am humbled by the sense that filmmaking is not about the finished product; it is about the process that delivers that package. And once the finished product is out in the universe, you can't be precious about it. It will be imperfect and it should be, so get over it and make something else.
A smart guy I know (I won't say who MICHAEL SHOWALTER) said that this career is not a sprint, it's a marathon. I keep that in the index of my brain and look it up once in awhile when I think about what a failure I am, or how successful I could be, or how I used to want to get a chin job and now I don't.
It's always amazing/inspiring to see how many local Slopers are willing to help us out. Went location hunting with Jason today; we're lucky enough to have Dr. Elizabeth Gifford giving us her space for the GYNO episode. Keep an eye out for her as she'll have a cameo experience. The episode also features Stewart Thorndike as a shy and and inappropriate OBGYN.
We've resorted to drinking. https://vimeo.com/52584168