Robin Reed: Trying to Kickstart the web series “Pastor Damien”

by Robin Reed


…so I don’t have to be the entire crew any more.

When I was a shuttle bus driver on the graveyard shift at a parking garage near LAX, one of the valet parkers was a tall, goofy guy who liked to run around making monkey noises.

At break time, when we late night workers sat and talked, I found out that this fellow, Roger Sonnier, was an actor who worked the night shift so he could go to auditions during the day. In L.A., where everyone wants to be in show biz, it was not an unusual story.

Since I was a writer and had some experience with shooting and editing video, we vaguely talked about doing some sort of video project together. Then I got the chance to quit that job, and didn’t look back.

Months later I got an email asking me to help Roger and a friend of his with a web soap opera they were planning. Basically they needed me for my DSLR, a camera I bought mainly for still pictures but knowing that it could do video.

Another camera person got involved who had better equipment, and I became his assistant. We shot many hours in several locations. The lead camera person was not a nice guy. He had a very low opinion of me and my low-end camera. So I decided to leave it to him and not subject myself to his insults any longer.

Not too long after that Roger contacted me again. He too had left the soap opera. He had an idea for another web series. It would feature a pastor who was a serial killer, and be titled “Pastor Damien.” I went along just because my ambitions to work in show biz had atrophied to nearly nothing but I still liked the process of shooting and putting a show together.

I didn’t plan to become the editor, but there was no one else and no budget, so I ended up stuck with that job. I spent many a frustrating hour on iMovie, and when I reached the limits of that, found out I could subscribe to Adobe Premiere Pro for twenty bucks a month. Premiere Pro was even more frustrating.

We had no boom mike or any real sound equipment for the first episode, and it shows. Sound has improved but making it good also makes the shooting and editing harder.

Now we have five episodes. Roger is a people person. He can get actors to show up, and he can get locations. We have used a car repair shop, a tire store, and a school. We had quite a large cast for the church scene and later for a church picnic. We have also had actors quit after one episode so we had to write out their characters.

Writing is my main skill in video production, and on this show I do very little of it. My writing contribution is to try to keep some sort of story logic going, while Roger likes to shoot off in new directions all the time, forgetting to tie things together. He has never written before, but he does have interesting ideas and an ear for how people talk.

We started with a police procedural and now we have spies, ghosts, demons, and a very funny church lady who thinks she is holier than everybody.

Doing your own web series with no resources does allow for a lot of freedom. No one gives you notes. You don’t have to check anything with the network. You just write and shoot. I don’t know of any writers who have built a career on it yet, or of any web series that makes money. Having actual footage to show, not just scripts, is good for your resume. It does feel good to be out there doing it, rather than waiting for pitch meetings and the approval of people who disapprove of almost everything.

Now Roger and I are throwing ourselves on the mercy of Kickstarter, hoping we can find people who appreciate our weird little show and want to see us make it bigger, faster, and stronger. We have asked for a pretty good chunk of cash, but if we can pull it off we will create a little studio of our own and branch into other projects as well.

Please look at our Kickstarter page and see if you want to help. I hope you do.

You can see our five episodes HERE.