by Kathryn Graham
We here at TVWriter™ particularly love all of the amazing independent creators out there and the shows they produce. Bridget McManus is the cream of the crop, and she’s got some awesome advice for newbies.
Writer, producer, actor, and director Bridget McManus is a tried and true content creation veteran. With ten years of experience under her belt, she produced and starred in the series Happy Wife, Happy Life, McManusLand, We Have Issues, and Buyer Beware. Plus, she won a Best Actor nomination at London’s Raindance Web Fest for her starring role in Maybelle, which she penned and co-produced.
You may have seen her in her recurring cameo on season 4 of the Emmy-Award winning series Transparent. She was featured in Universal’s blockbuster film Wanted, MTV’s sketch series Acting Out, the romantic comedy November Rule, and she was Queen Latifah’s sidekick on CBS’s The Queen Latifah Show.
Here’s what she’s up to lately and how you can get into the game!
There are a lot of people who want to create their own content, but don’t know how to start. Would you be able to give an idea of how to do that?
Bridget: What’s great about the internet is that you can shoot your own things and put it online. You don’t have to wait for a studio to greenlight you. So back in 2008, I started a show called Brunch with Bridget that was on afterellen.com which is a lesbian website. It got so popular it ended up getting picked up and put on Logo television, so I had a show on TV for two years from an internet show.
So what I always tell people is: if you have an idea, don’t wait for someone to give you money. Don’t wait for someone to tell you ‘yes’. Do it yourself. You can do it with your phone. You can borrow cameras. You can shoot it in your house. I always write series with whatever I have.
For Brunch with Bridget it was a show in my studio apartment. I did not have a couch. All I had was a bed that doubled as a couch. So I went: Okay, all I have is a bed, how can I make a show? I made a show where I was in bed with different female celebrities like Lena Heady and Kate McKinnon. I made it work.
Don’t worry about having to raise one hundred million dollars to make an Avengers-style movie. Just figure out what you want to do, and do the best job you can. It’s okay if it’s not perfect. People are going to criticize you. That’s fine. Don’t criticize yourself. Let something lead to something else.
For me, because I’ve always had low budgets, I just learned to do things myself. I edit my own shows. My wife does the music. She’s our music director. I did a romantic lesbian series called Maybelle, and she did all the music for that. So it’s all about trying to do the best you can and letting one thing lead to something else.
Don’t worry about making it perfect. Just make your art. After that make better art. And after that make even better art.
Let’s say somebody wanted to make a show that ordinarily would cost a lot to produce. Most of us won’t have that kind of budget. What’s your advice for that?
Bridget: My friend Stacie Ponder is amazing. She is a horror film director. When she lived in LA, we used to shoot B-grade horror movies, and we had a great time. She moved to Maine, so she had no money. So I said: I love you, and I believe in you. So I gave her a budget of 300 dollars, and she made a whole series using Barbie dolls. That’s it.
My wife and I and another friend of ours did voice over. It’s obviously not what she wanted to do, but it was a good launching point. From that little series, it has developed into something else. She had no actors in her area. She had no sets. She was like: What can I do?
I’m not saying everybody needs to make things out of dolls. But rather than making a big tent-pole movie, you can say: I’m going to raise 5,000 dollars. (That’s a lot of money. Let’s keep it real.) But you can make an amazing teaser trailer.
You can spend the money on getting the stage for a day, a green screen, a great editor, and a costume designer, and I will have a writer sit down and really go through the script, and then have it be a one minute clip of something. Make it so dynamic, thought out, and stylized, that people can see its potential. One actor on one green screen shooting one day is an example of what you can do with the money you had.
Now you can take it to investors. People can raise money on kickstarter. People can do anything these days. Work on your vision, and don’t worry about having no money. Don’t let that stop you.
You see all those movies like the Blair Witch Project, they go buy equipment and then return it 90 days later. If you have an idea, push for it. Just keep going.
Now there’s all these indie film festivals. You can put things online. It doesn’t cost anything to put something on YouTube. I make music videos. I’m a terrible singer, and I don’t know how to make music videos. I do them because they make me laugh. Just keep doing it.
We can make anything.
I love that confidence.
Bridget: My wife (Karman Kregloe) and I always talk about this. My wife was always very smart and did well in school. I was a fuck-up. I didn’t have glasses until I was fifteen. I couldn’t read. I used to get migraines. I didn’t know why. It was because I couldn’t see. I ended up being a good student, I had this idea that I was stupid my whole life.
People always said ‘no’ to me. I was heavy. People were mean to me. Because everybody always said ‘no’ to me, and nobody believed in me, I never worried about failing because I felt like I was already a failure.
My wife has always been really successful and always got good grades. When she tries to do things now, she’s too scared to do it because she’s going to fail, where I don’t worry about failing because I’ve already failed. So it doesn’t matter.
More of Kate’s convo with Ms. McManus in Part II HERE!