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Thursday, January 08, 2009

A fellow wants to shoot and air a drama locally in Tucson:
actual quality programming the cast and crew of which are your neighbors, coworkers, and friends
There's a long tradition of self-funded feature films, and with HD prosumer cameras and Final Cut, it's getting easier and easier to make them. Some people have had minor or even major successes. Of course, the vast majority of these films don't get distribution, and the producer/director/writer/editor/stars of them lose their shirts. But you have a shot.

I see a few problems with this project. The first is, obviously, that your neighbors, coworkers and friends have no idea what they're doing. They don't know how to run the camera, they don't know where to put it or move it, they don't know how to light a room, they don't know what constitutes good sound or how to get it on a noisy set, etc. I mean, for heaven's sake, each of those things is a job description if not a calling, and people spend years if not their whole lives learning how to do those things. A professionally-made show has a crew of forty or sixty or more people, all of whom have been trained to do their job.

And then there are actors. Actors are special people. They have not only learned their craft. They are actually built differently from most people. You know how dancers can see a choreographer show them ten or fifteen steps, and then they can instantly do them? Actors can imagine emotions and then inhabit them and then project them. They can change those emotions when they're asked to. It is not something your neighbor can do.

So your locally produced show will probably not be very good.

Beyond that, a TV series is a different animal. TV writing is technically much more difficult than film writing. You're not telling one story. You have to develop a template which allows you to bang out fresh yet consistent stories. Your episodes have to feel self-contained yet forward the overall story arc. That's why TV shows have writing rooms. That's why no one gets their own TV show until they've written on other people's TV shows and worked in other people's writing rooms.

Moreover, on a film you can get people to work for free. Most people will do you one favor. You can raise money from your uncle. You can get Larry at the car wash to hump cables for you. You can shoot on weekends. You can ask Mom to cook for the cast and crew.

On a TV series, though, you're doing multiple episodes. A season might take professionals three to six months to shoot, depending on the number of episodes; and then there's prep, and post. No one can work for free for six months.

If you want to do something yourself, I would stick to something smaller in scope. A series of two minute spots for the Internet. I suspect more work went into the LonelyGirl15 series than is obvious, but that's at least the sort of thing that you could do well. And if it takes off, you can monetize it with sponsorship or advertising or even DVD sales, as TĂȘtes Ă  Claques did.

I applaud your desire to do something yourself. But there is a reason we do things the way we do in our business. To be successful you need to be working on something that you can make as well as anyone else working in the field. You can't make a narrative TV show as well as Fox can. But there is no reason you can't make a clever Web series that doesn't depend on production value. So I'd concentrate on that.

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2 Comments:

Speaking as someone who was involved in something like this in Florida - don't. Start small, don't immediately leap to a tv show.

That said, my boyfriend is from Tucson, and I've been told that town is filled with film types who are excellent grips, DP's, etc, so if you can find a quality crew more power to you!

By Blogger Wool in Sunshine, at 4:43 PM  

If you want to do this in Tucson, the Loft Cinema's monthly gong show could be a venue. Start with a series of serial shorts, one a month, and build up from there. If you can't build a local following in the film community there, it would be a bad sign.

(There's a local theater that does a first Friday short film contest in Tucson. It's kind of a fun scene.)

By Blogger Emily, at 3:54 PM  

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