Leesa Dean: Adventures of a Web Series Newbie

wranglingcomplexityChapter 35 – Wrangling Celebs
by Leesa Dean

I’ve mentioned it in passing a few times here, but since April I’ve been working on a TOP SECRET project. It’s brand new, I have a producing partner (a first!) and we’re still a ways off from figuring out when we’re gonna release it, etc. And while, as the world’s most superstitious atheist, I don’t normally like to talk about projects til I’m ready to release them, I will talk about this.

We’ve been having a tough time wrangling celebs.

When you’re a relative nobody like me, let’s just say it doesn’t hurt to have a celeb attached to your project. It’s definitely a way to get views and, if said celeb has a big following and tweets about it, well you just might have a hit on your hands.

While the script I wrote doesn’t call for a celeb, we figured it was worth it to spend a few weeks trying to get someone and it’s a lot harder than I thought.   I’m not talking garden variety celebs.  I’m talking celebs with muscle.  Household-ish names or, at least, someone who’s been mentioned on TMZ or Necole Bitchie at least once.  You know, the untouchables.

We’re at phase one, which basically involves calling people friends and fishing around. NOTE: This phase is a lot harder when you don’t have an agent or manager, hint hint, nudge nudge anybody reading this, to do the dirty work for you.

Sample phone call:

Me: “Hey, so & so, is your cousin still dating B LEVEL CELEBRITY #1?”
Friend: “That ended two years ago. He was a total dick and she needs a drink whenever his name is mentioned. Why”?
Me: “Never mind.”

Phase 1 also involves scouring the internet in desperation at 3am searching for ideas/clues and happening upon tips like this one: “A Sure Fire Way to Get a Celebrity To Work on Your Project: Butter them up and tell them they have first dibs.” Gee. Great tip. Cause so far, “We can’t pay you anything but we’re BEGGING you to be involved” hasn’t exactly been working for us.

What this article fails to mention is: Why would any celeb would want to take a meeting with you in the first place?!

But then, seemingly, our luck changed. We got a meeting. And, like so many other things that have happened this past year, it felt like it just fell in our laps.

Next week: The meeting.

Leesa Dean: Adventures of a Web Series Newbie

fearisaliarChapter 22 – Fear is a Liar
by Leesa Dean

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned during the process of teaching myself how to animate, getting Chilltown off the ground and promoting it has been: Fear is a Liar.

I was so worried, initially, that nothing would turn out right. That everything would be a fiasco, it literally kept me up at night, at times. But, ultimately, the believe that people would respond to what I did prevailed. And, people did. As they say in the Lottery, “Gotta be in it, to win it.”

I know a lot of people who are writers or, even, wannabe writers who are wracked with fear of failure. And it prevents them from ever completing anything. I used to be friendly with someone who ran around telling everyone he was a writer. The truth is, he never really wrote anything. He was too scared of being judged and failing. So he’s wasted years of his life in a type of limbo. Too scared to fail and too scared to try.

I recently had a long conversation with someone who told me her biggest fear was putting herself on the line. I told her, “You know what? You are going to fail. It’s inevitable. But you’re also going to succeed. You just have to get past that fear and try. It’s the absolute only way to succeed.” Failure goes hand-in-hand with success. You ultimately develop thick skin so it doesn’t affect you as much.

Mark Ecko, the entreneur/designer, etc. may have said it best: “Success is the hangover of failure.”

Leesa Dean: Adventures of a Web Series Newbie

Chapter 29 – Bottom of the Barrel. Rollo Returns
by Leesa Dean

bottom-of-barrelSo, as promised, the Rollo story.

We hadn’t spoken in months. I, occasionally, thought about him but frankly not too often. Being insanely busy with a web series will do that to you. You tend to prioritize what you focus on. I thought he was just gonna be another one of these cottage industry guys who entered my life with a bullshit story and then evaporated. Well, maybe?

A few weeks back he calls. Wants to meet for drinks. Admittedly my first thought: Is this dude selling Amway? But he caught me on a day when I was feeling crappy–a little blocked with writing; a little frustrated with calls not returned; a little worried about the usual: am I making the right decisions with the relaunch, etc. In short, a perfect needy storm whose grande finale was: yeah, I met him for drinks.

We meet in a tiny, dimly lit joint in Chinatown. One of those places that doesn’t have a name or number on the door. That reeks of old dim sum and spilled vodka. Mostly hipsters and NYU students swigging craft beer on beat-up sofas. Rollo looks….different. He’s gained a bit of weight; now looks like he’s pushing 300 pounds. He’s unraveling around the edges. Flecks of grey dot his dreads.

The past four months he’s been in LA. Trying to put a new film deal together. Surprisingly, it’s not dead in the water. It’s one of those action/thrillers that you see in ads in Variety magazine: straight to dvd or streaming and mainly released in places like Romania (“As Seen in Bucharest!!!”) With bad subtitles. Featuring one step above doing porn/type D actors. Money is tight and he’s gotta make it somehow.

My first thoughts: At least *he’s* not doing porn. Hey, it could happen. Someone I went to school with did the online dating thing a few years ago and ended up dating a guy who was 300 pounds and did fetish porn on the side. That’s right. He was a professional fat guy in porn. His main gig was as an IT freelancer/games blogger and times were tough. Real tough. A little tidbit he failed to mention till their fifth date. Yes, she ultimately dumped him (the “ultimately”, believe me, is a story best told when I’ve had a few drinks cause it’s pretty hair-raising.)

So why did Rollo wanna meet? He needed to blow off steam. It’s been a rough year, he can’t really talk to his girlfriend about a lot of business stuff (she, apparently, is perpetually pissed at him) and, for whatever reason, he feels he can talk to me (translation: he probably doesn’t have any friends.) He’s needs to raise money for the movie, by any means necessary (no, I didn’t suggest the porn thing!) Apparently, they did a kickstarter campaign that failed. These days, with major names like Spike Lee doing kickstarter, it’s pretty hard to stand out. Especially if your project doesn’t have much star power.

We finished our beers. I didn’t update him much. Didn’t want to. He had to move on to a business meeting with a financier. I had to go home to write.

I guess desperate times call for desperate measures cause later that night, I looked on FB and he had posted producer credits for the movie for sale. As a status update! Stuff like, $100,000 will buy you an above the line producer credit. $25,000 an associate producer one. I thought, “On FB, dude?!?” This is real bottom of the barrel type stuff. And just….sad. But the story wasn’t over yet.

Next week: Prepping for the Chilltown screening/Q&A at A3C (apparently there are feral pigs on the loose in ATL just as I’m planning to fly down there!) And in a few weeks, more on Rollo.

Leesa Dean: Adventures of a Web Series Newbie

Chilltown-TV-tvwriter.comI’m a Loser, Baby, So Why Don’t You Kill Me?
by Leesa Dean

Ok. A lot to write about so I’m holding off writing about Rollo till next week cause this is more important. I got a fairly big response to last week’s post about developing a thick skin. A few people actually wrote in saying how they were scared to move forward with projects for a lot of the reasons I addressed.

Coincidentally, a few days ago TVWriter, a great site that has TONS of resources/articles/competitions for people interested in writing for TV (and yes, they’ve been a huge supporter of Chilltown), had a link to an article in Inc. magazine that addressed another aspect of it: the very real fear of failure, especially when you’re starting out and things are rough and you are, in fact, failing. One of the things that really hit home for me was identifying so much with your work, any rejection or failure is a rejection of you personally.

I had to get over that. Quickly. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have had some minor success (so far) as a creative. But I’ve had WAY more rejection. Everybody goes through it. It’s tough to take. And it’s way worse when you look at rejection as a personal indictment. That all you are is your work and if your work is rejected, you’re nothing. With all the rejection you go through as a creative person, believe me, taking things that personally is a one way ticket to Bellevue where the only plus is you’ll be too depressed to complain about the lousy hospital food.

I did a few things to move past identifying that much with my work:

1) Tried to get more balance in my life. There’s work. And there’s life. Admittedly, that’s tough to do when you’re starting out and spending most waking hours working on a project. But it’s necessary. It helps to take the edge off. I threw myself into playing tennis. Unfortunately for me, I partially suck at it, but I tend to play with other people who are “working on their game” so we all commiserate about our crappy serves. Most importantly, I never discuss or even think about work when I’m playing.

2) Always have a ton of irons in the fire. That way, if one thing you’re working on gets rejected, it’s just one rejection of one project. It helps to put things in perspective. Of course if every project you’re doing gets constantly rejected, I strongly suggest taking pharmaceuticals. At that point, it actually might help your writing.

3) Don’t tell people about your rejections. Why go through the emotional blow-by-blow? It’s not healing. It just makes you feel worse. And people tend to say (sometimes) well-intentioned cliches to help you “feel better” which have always made me feel like a big fat loser. If I hear, “One day you’ll look back at this and laugh” one more time, I will probably spontaneously combust.

I’ll end with this: A successful businessman told me that back when he was struggling, he taped a page with the word “no” written 100 times on his wall. Ten rows of ten “no’s.” In the middle of the second to last row, he wrote the word “yes.” Underneath it said, “Thank you for that ‘no.’ It just brought me one step closer to ‘yes.’”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Yo, Leesa, thanks for the shout-out! See ya around!

Leesa Dean: Adventures of a Web Series Newbie

trolls-tvwriter.comChapter 27 – There Will Be Trolls
by Leesa Dean

Most people have, at times, had to battle that inner little voice that tells you you’re not good enough, you’re not talented enough, you’ll never truly make it. Welcome to the internet where that little voice is now not only in your head, but in the comments section of your videos for all the world to see.

Everybody’s gone through it. Everybody. When I went to an all day YouTube workshop a number of months back, it included a panel with some of the biggest YouTube stars there are. Half of what they discussed had to do with trolls who comment. The bigger you get, the more trolls you get. It’s inevitable. So how do you deal with it?

You could:

–Delete the offending comments at, say, 4am when you have aggravated PMS-induced insomnia/anger issues (not that I would know anything about that.)

–Make them into some bizarre drinking game, like taking a shot of tequila every time you read “You suck!” Warning: this could possibly lead to cirhosis and/or bad dating issues.

–Develop a thick skin. Which is easier said than done.

Part of the way you develop thick skin is simply through time. Ultimately, you’ve got to. It’s sink or swim. The more you go through it, the less it bothers you. Hopefully. It also helps if you’re getting a ton of great comments (which my shows luckily have.)

Another way is to keep moving, keep writing, keep producing. The more you do, the less you become attached to the success or failure of any one thing.

Then there’s this: I’m a tennis fanatic as both a fan and player, though I’m a relative beginner. While I’ve been hitting for a few years on and off, I just started playing games about 6 weeks ago and found that somehow, it’s helped me develop that thick skin.

I wasn’t prepared for exactly how nervous I’d be once I finally started playing sets. It’s seemed like an exercise in humiliation. Screwing up in public with people watching is not only nerve wracking and frustrating but lead to me actually play worse. It’s called choking.

Thing is, I really really want to get better. So I’ve stuck with it. Sink or swim. Started focusing just on the playing and the fun and not on the failure. And, slowly, I’m improving. The humiliation is gone. I’m choking less and hitting better. Looking at every single shot like it’s an opportunity, not a test. I still screw up a bit, but it’s only been 6 weeks.

I realized: Hmmmm, this seems familiar. If I just did that with my shows, if I focused on just the work and didn’t get invested in comments, good or bad, it would help get past some of the disappointments. Guess what? It works.

Now, if only I could only get the trolls to do it!

Next week: Rollo returns and Big Screen Little Screen.