On Thanksgiving of 2009, my wife Nicole and I had some family and friends over. With my in-laws inside pretending to enjoy the football games and me outside grilling sides (have you seen a typical apartment oven?), out walks Matt, beer in hand, a smile on his face. I know I’m in trouble.
Friends since college, we both were theatre majors and performed shows together. Roommates on a national summer tour (he laughs in his sleep), we have the same day job, go to the same acting studio, groomsmen in each other’s weddings, our wives are best friends. We’re close.
Since moving to LA in 2005/2006, we have tried producing some material for ourselves with the goal of creating content for reels, maybe get a little love on sites like Funny Or Die, YouTube. Some things were good, some things weren’t.
“Hey Craig, let’s write something. A short film, something original.”
“Hey Matt, I’m ass deep in potatoes, can we table this?”
“It’s the holidays, slow season, no auditions…”
“Ok, look. You come up with an idea, I’ll help you develop it.”
I’m more pragmatic, Matt is an idealist. I say why something wouldn’t work, he makes me fall in love with the idea, we find a way to make it work. I do more of the writing, but Matt makes sure it has heart and the characters are relatable. We make a good team.
Three days later, he comes to me with a treatment, or general description of a concept, and about a page of dialogue. I’ll be damned if the idea isn’t funny as hell. Within about a month we have an 18 page script. So we sent it out for notes from our writer friends.
Of all the things we expected to hear back (cut it in half and you got a short; make it a web series; throw it away), the last thing we thought we’d hear was that we should expand it into a TV pilot. This was exciting, and a little scary.
The longest thing we had written and actually shot up to this point was about four minutes long. So we started small. We created a “sizzle reel”, basically a trailer, to see what it would look like. This reaffirmed that both the story worked and we didn’t know enough about shooting and producing to pull this off on our own. After many rewrites, in the fall of 2011, we got just one note: Shoot the damn thing.
Struggling artists out here self-produce feature films, TV pilots, documentaries, etc. all the time. Some of the most critically acclaimed projects out today came from this model. Most end up being a wreck or never get done. People burn out, don’t account for all the variables, or they have images of grandeur only to discover they just don’t have what it takes, or aren’t willing to do what it takes. Did I mention I’m a pragmatist?
By February 2012, we had a producer attached to help with logistics and a director to film it. They’re both like us, waiting for an opportunity to show what they can do. There was nothing but empty excuses between us and making this pilot. Oh, right, one other thing…money.
It takes a lot of people to make a pilot, and not all of them work for free. You also have insurance, location permits, equipment rentals, post-production, festival submission fees, etc. We decided on the crowd-funding route. For those of you unfamiliar, basically you create an online campaign, and hope people will like you and/or your project enough to contribute and become a part of the process.
We knew the ramifications. If you go down this road, you are exposed. For a project this big, you have to turn in all your cards. You have your agents publicize it. Any production people who you’ve worked with for free, this is the time for them return the favor. That super talented friend who is further along in their career but always wanted to work with you? Now is as good a time as any. You have to spread the word to as many people as possible, and they will see the results, good or bad.
We think there are a lot of people who wonder what happens when people try to make an opportunity for themselves. Some have tried, some have wanted the motivation to do so, and some just like to see people try and succeed/fail. Why else does reality TV still exist?
This blog is to share our journey. We will be posting about our progress, our triumphs, and our bumps in the road from beginning to end. You can see the campaign, along with our other outlets for the project, using the links below.