Since college I’ve had a folder on my laptop called “Be Professional,” where I keep the various versions of my resume, my professional headshots (a thing I never thought I’d need), my business card InDesign file, and my cover letter templates.
Since childhood, I’ve had a pretty clear understanding of what my professional path would be. It was gonna be great- I’d go to a small liberal arts college somewhere in Oregon or Washington, graduate with a creative writing degree, write novels, and work as a barista until I was published.
It’s misleading to say that was always the plan, I guess. I had a brief flirtation with law school after my first year doing speech and debate in high school, and I dabbled with graphic design because I was an early (and young) adopter of Photoshop and rudimentary web design. In both cases the plan was still to be a published novelist (and maybe YouTuber- John Green I’m comin’ for ya), but I knew I needed a survival job that paid well in the meantime.
I didn’t really have ambitions in the film realm, and I certainly never imagined myself working for a series of exciting media start ups where I’d use skills I’ve cultivated as hobbies for literally two decades, but here we are.
In an attempt to explain to my family what exactly the fuck I do for work, and in an attempt to showcase how the strangest things end up being professionally important, I wanted to go through the steps that brought me to where I am now. Unpack my career path as it were….
LB’S NOTE: Yes, we usually run Bri’s blog posts in their entirety, but this one is, well, pretty darn long. In a nutshell, what’s coming up is Bri’s resume. One that would make TVWriter™ hire her in an instant! I urge everyone interested in an indie film or TV career to click on the link above.
Bri Castellini is an indie filmmaker and Film Community Manager for Seed&Spark, a film crowdfunding platform, as well as an adjunct professor for two MFA programs. Watch the remarkable Ms. Castellini’s award-winning web series, Brains, HERE. See Sam And Pat Are Depressed HERE. This post first appeared on Bri’s wonderfully refreshing blog.
Not only is the subject matter of this article fascinating, so is the perspective of the writer, Jenna Dorst. You don’t see this kind of thing on Old Media, or even Big Media, gang.
Exploring Trauma: VOD and Web Series Picks
by Jenna Dorsi
In media, women’s pain is usually used to motivate men. So there’s a real demand for nuanced portrayals of female trauma, which looks at what women are actually going through — as opposed to how their distress impacts some guy.
Each of this month’s picks deal with women’s trauma and mental health. “Second Assault” sees a rape survivor and documentary filmmaker confronting the cop who, years earlier, refused to believe her. The short doc examines how his initial response exacerbated her pain.
Then, there’s the rom-com web series “How to Survive: A Break-Up,” which lightens up the mood a little. It centers on a recently dumped young woman who is not coping healthily. “Gremlin Girl” also uses humor to examine mental health issues. It’s an animated web series about a woman who’s haunted by her anxieties, literally, as embodied by the titular pest.
Here are Women and Hollywood’s VOD and web series selections for August.
The French call it; Raison D’être which literally means ‘purpose.’ The phrase is infamous for the associated in philosophical circles with the trial of Socrates, where the question is asked; “Is the life lived sans Raison D’être worth redemption?”
Mr. Jack, a New Media series from writer turned director Mick Lexington takes this age-old question and asks it in the modern-day backdrop of The LES of Manhattan, the last bastion of Bohemianism in New York City, warts and all.
The crowdfunding campaign for Mr. Jack kicked off Friday, August 16. The series is based on Lexington’s novel and follows a young artist returning to New York after a self-imposed exile and his struggle to reconnect with the reality he has detached from.
The project is a collaboration of Lexington, fashion photographer turned cinematographer James M. Graham, and musician Justin Wert who, working outside his jazz roots, will deliver the a-tonal series soundtrack.
The plan is to raise enough to top off the budget to shoot the pilot episode of Mr. Jack and shop it around to raise funding for five more episodes. Says Lexington on the project, “We own the cameras and sound equipment which covers a considerable part of our expense. What we need help with is the day to day operation of shooting onsite in New York City.”
Val, the main character in Mr. Jack is the classic tragic artist archetype. He feels he is not worthy of happiness. He does not recognize that he must take responsibility for his own contentment.
Instead, Val lives vicariously through the character called Mr. Jack, who by claiming credit for other people’s art, sleeping with other men’s wives, and substituting chemicals for his own endorphins, takes a shortcut to happiness.
Mr. Jack is Lexington’s passion project, and he is to seeking independent financing via Indiegogo to make it as a TV series without compromises.
“I had 500K on the table to develop another TV series I created. The catch was I had to work with a producer who wanted to turn to turn my drama into a slapstick action thriller. I walked away from that rather than have the project compromised.”
Lexington turned to crowdfunding because he believes it empowers the full gamut of artistic expression from the artist to the spectator.
“Before crowdfunding,” he says, “the only control the viewer had was the purchase of a ticket. With crowdfunding, it is the collaboration of creator and viewer that shapes the future of communication.”
Lexington believes that in the past entertainment and art were in essence two different things. He sees crowdfunding as facilitating their merger, putting it this way.
What is considered as art today does not challenge the audience or viewer. It anesthetizes it inebriates, but it does not transform. It should be the duty of not only the filmmaker but of every artist, regardless of medium, to pursue the objective of throwing complacency off-kilter.
I don’t believe an artist should put the responsibility for the significance of a work of art on the viewer. The artist cannot create and distribute without some rationale behind their creation. The viewer may have their own interpretation, and there is no right or wrong interpretation; beauty fails any dictate as beauty a cannot be legislated.
To Lexington, the importance of the artist lies in the truth that splendor cannot be ordered from “above.” Art has to emerge from the conjoining of artist and audience, which benefits society by allowing the creation of “entertainment” that “touches our souls, breaks our hearts, causes us to laugh, permits us to cry, and kicks our asses into a higher state being.”
In view of the passion Lexington feels about Mr. Jack, it clearly is his Raison D’être, to do just that.
Mick Lexington was a semi-finalist in the 2013 People’s Pilot, leading to him coming to the attention of the producer he turned later turned down. The Crowdfunding campaign for Mr. Jack kicked off Friday, August 16.
Frequent visitors to TVWriter™ and People’s Pilot entrants over the last few years have been reading a lot about “audio drama” and the boom that has started within the “audio series” genre. (Although the boom very often is referred to as “podcasting,” broadening the traditional definition of that last word.
In order to clarify what audio drama is, we’ve turned to writer, actor, director, and producer Pete Lutz of Narada Radio Company (“radio!” another term of course for, erm, podcast). Here’s what Pete has to say.
Let Me Tell You About Audio Drama
by Pete Lutz
When you engage with an audio drama, here’s what happens: From the opening sequence, the dialogue, music and sounds combine to form a picture that only you can see.
Does this mean you’re insane? Far from it.
It means only that you’re the director of the movie that’s now forming in your imagination. All of the women are strong, all of the men are good-looking, and all of the children are above-average. (Thank you, Mr. G. Keillor.) Or not, depending on the story, but you get to decide, see?
Nobody can make a better movie than the one you make inside your head. That’s why Audio Drama is so good. It stretches the imagination farther than TV, much moreso than cinematic productions.
To turn away from Audio Drama is to say, “No thanks, I’d much rather have someone else decide what to imagine.”
Sometimes that’s good. It’s OK. But if you want pure entertainment, if you want a full-color, let-the-budget-be-damned, unequivocal, unadulterated spectacle, go with Audio Drama. It will not let you down. You can trust me on this one.”
Know what, Pete? We do trust you. Thanks for jotting this down for us, and best of luck at that wonderful “mental picture” company you’ve got going at Narada
LB’S NOTE: A few weeks ago, Fake Video, made possible by comparatively easy to use software that can replace people’s faces and expressions with those of others without an overt sign of doctoring, was the latest Big Scary Thing.
Now, however, we’re talking about something even more fascinating – to me anyway – AI voice replacement so natural that, at the very least, an awful lot of actors may soon be out of jobs. TVWriter™ Bob Tinsley tells the tale (in his own voice).
by Bob Tinsley
I’ve recently begun following the Voice First movement and the influence of AI in publishing.
Because of the boom in the audiobook market writers often make more money from their audiobooks than they do from their print and ebook books combined, and that divide increases every day. Fewer units sold, but bigger profit margins.
This is leading to an increasing preference for releasing audiobooks either before the print release or simultaneous with. Usually, because of production times (see below) audiobook releases lag print and ebook by a couple of months.
The increasing use of voice interfaces with computers and web entities
like Alexa, Siri, and Google Assistant has led to voice SEO.
If you ask Alexa to find books by a given author it won’t find anything
unless that author has audiobooks — in Amazon’s environment! Same
with Siri and Google Assistant. So if you don’t have voice products out there, you don’t get found.
So, Voice First. Of course this narrow-search will probably get corrected somewhere down the line, but the smart ones aren’t waiting for that.
Fitting nicely with this is the disruptive role of AI.
Joanna Penn, who runs a high-six-figure, one-person publishing business and is always looking to the future to find ways to keep that business growing, is fascinated with the role of AI in voice emulation.
She went to a website called lyrebird.ai, gave them a 45-second sample of her voice, and the AI gave her back a generated file of a different text in her
voice with her inflections. She could tell it wasn’t really her voice, but it was close. If their service were commercially ready she said she’d be using it to produce her podcasts now.
Amazon Web Services has a service called Polly. It will convert any text file into a mp3 file. I’ve been playing with it for a couple of days. It converted a 4,400 word short story into a mp3 file in a fraction of a second.
The voice (Polly has, at present, four female voices and three male voices available in 26 languages) is still robotic but better than any widely available text-to-speech engine currently available. The tone of these voices actually rises at the end of a question.
Not only is it fast, it’s essentially free. You can convert over 800,000 words for free per month Over that, it costs an extremely reasonable $4.00 or so per each additional 160,000 words.
Couple this info with Voice First. Producing a 100,000 word book today
will cost between $1,800 to $2,600 and take a couple of months, depending on how busy the narrator is. Polly will do it in minutes for nothing.
I am experimenting with having Polly narrate another of my stories with several voices. I divided my story into blocks, or scripts, for different voices then ran the blocks through Polly using two female voices and two male voices.
A 3,500 word story took me about an hour to divide the text into four scripts and less than a second to convert each script. I need more than two male voices, but I can frequency shift the ones I have to get the others.
I loaded the mp3 files into Audacity and greatly improved intelligibility just by doing some amplifying, normalizing, and equalizing. So far, I’d say I’ve got about 2 hours into the project. Next comes production and editing. I figure I’ll probably come out under 6 hours in two or three days. My Wild Bill production with real live actors for Drift & Ramble took a month and around 20 hours for production.
Now no one will mistake this for a human dramatic reading, but the
advantages are obvious. A lot of people won’t be able to stand it for very long, but there are also a lot of people out there who listen at 1.5 to 3 times normal speed, want content, and don’t care what it sounds like as long as it’s intelligible. This technique seems perfect for that audience.
It’s also perfect for creators who want to start a podcast, but are mic-shy,
don’t have the training, don’t have a quiet recording space, don’t
have the equipment.
Write out your podcast, run it through Polly, and post it. Zero time investment past the writing which our (not really so mythical) was going to
I’m thinking that as time goes by, not only will audiences become more used to listening to generated voices, those generated voices will improve until they are indistinguishable from human voices. When they do, audio performances of all kinds will have an exciting and potentially very profitable new twist.
We aren’t there yet, but we will be. A whole new generation of creative dreamers will have the best chance in history to share their dreams (and not go broke doing it).
(Admission: I stole that last paragraph from Gene Roddenberry and TVWriter™’s Larry Brody. It’s something Roddenberry said to LB at a script meeting a ton of years ago. Wonder what the Great Bird of the Universe will sound like via AI.)
Bob Tinsley is an artist, writer, boataholic and a new pro in the field of Audio Drama. In other words, he’s an expert in finding new marketplaces, as he’s showing us here.