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Building a Successful Web Series: From Internet Content to a Studio Deal

Aug 13, 2015 4:33PM

Follow along as we see how Jake Jarvi engages the nearly 40,000 fans of his web series, PLATOON OF POWER SQUADRONYou can see all of Jake's work at:


The video update below is a ten-hour time-lapse of me sitting in my tiny home office working on our show.



Today I’ve been thinking about filmmakers. Filmmakers using the internet to launch themselves into the tent-pole cinema game, internet filmmakers trying to leverage that same mechanism into studio deals for themselves. Obviously, I’m not talking from personal experience. Just observation.


We’ll start with the teaser for The Leviathan. Everyone went crazy for this thing four months ago. Director Ruairí Robinson, who’s helmed several animated short films, one of which was Academy-award nominated, made this proof-of-concept trailer:


The Leviathan -- Teaser from Ruairi Robinson on Vimeo.


A couple days after he put that on Vimeo, Neill Blomkamp (Writer/director, District 9) and Simon Kinberg (Writer/producer, the latest X-Men movies) signed on as producers and Fox Studios snapped up the feature rights. The story told within the short is nothing at all, but there’s no denying the impressive look of it. It looks like tent pole filmmaking. Plus, Jim Uhls (Fight Club screenplay) name is on the trailer, so that must mean there’s some kind of story.


Still, the big headline is HOLLYWOOD STUDIO BUYS INTERNET VIDEO SHORT FILM. This kind of thing happens every once in awhile and every filmmaker on the internet tries to do the same thing. Since many studios only seem interested in stories they’ve seen be successful before (that Leviathan trailer is a sci-fi Jaws, right?) everyone starts trying to churn out shorts or trailers that look like what studios are buying, AKA rehashing stuff.


And it can work, apparently. This article from Film School Rejects titled “Terrible Trailer for a Movie that Doesn’t Exist Getting Turned into a Movie” discusses this same phenomenon citing a mock-trailer for a movie called The Garden directed by E.B. Rhee. The article states that as a flashy, VFX-heavy, internet video that’s drummed up some attention Warner Bros. subsidiary Polymorphic Pictures grabbed the rights because…


“…why not? The CGI is shitty, but the studio will hire a different company for that anyway. The acting is all wooden (admittedly because there’s no story/foundation present), but all of these actors will be replaced. The story isn’t interesting or new, but Polymorphic will hire a dozen writers to shape and reshape the script until it’s unrecognizable. Make no mistake, the most likely outcome is that Rhee gets paid for the rights, he’s replaced by a known director, his actors are replaced by known actors, and his script (co-written by Aaron Strongoni) is workshopped by more established screenwriters until the whole thing is shelved anyway.”

You can check out the rest of that very worthwhile article at Film School Rejects


In an update awhile back, I talked about how the studio system used to grab up the new filmmakers of each generation who were showing the industry what the new generation wanted to see. It was how the industry evolved. Now, the internet is spoon-feeding the industry what it’s already seen over and over again in the hopes of gaining admittance to the studio system. Because of the remake and reboot culture. We talk about the nostalgia of this time, and part of it is absolutely that. Just look at Kung Fury:



It looks like VHS (just with great VFX), because of our nostalgia for watching fantastic movies in the format. That’s both giving the internet what it wants and proving that you can make something impressive looking. But the studio systems climate of nostalgia is mostly just based on grabbing something that has already been proven fiscally viable at one point. There’s no speculation there. You can chart the property’s previous box office, adjust for inflation, balance it with the box office estimations on big name acting talent attached, and if it tanks like the Poltergeist reboot or The Fantastic Four reboot, you can tell your boss, “Hey, I charted this whole thing. It all worked on paper,” and your ass is quasi covered.


It’s also all about the millions studios have to spend on marketing, making talent that already has social media followings in place a bigger draw, because they can send a tweet about an opening weekend to an entire generation of people that have stopped watching TV commercials. They talked about that at a South by Southwest panel with casting directors this year where they essentially said producers are more interested in finding successful people on YouTube and Vine than in acting class showcases or comedy clubs. That comes at the end of this article at The Guardian:


I guess this is all just more on how the internet and the film industry have to realize what each of those markets wants. It’s not the same thing. At all.


More on that next week.


Thanks for reading.



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Jul 24, 2015 4:24PM

Follow along as we see how Jake Jarvi engages the nearly 40,000 fans of his web series, PLATOON OF POWER SQUADRONYou can see all of Jake's work at:



The video update below is about ADR. I mentioned it in the previous update and a few members of my audience had some questions about it. So here we are.



I’ve been listening to a lot of the Scriptnotes podcast recently. One episode a week just wasn’t cutting it anymore, so I had to subscribe to their app and get access to all of the old episodes. As someone seemingly forever trapped in a fascination orbit around the work of writer/director Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko), I, of course, listened to his episode first. He talked about scope creep, a phenomenon his work suffers from wherein the scope of a project continues to grow and get more unwieldy the longer he works on it. The effects of scope creep are obvious in Southland Tales and The Box. Southland Tales became practically unintelligible as a stand-alone picture, and The Box gets derailed by unnecessarily exploring the mind-boggling mechanisms used by the shadow organization pulling the strings. Kelly just seems to get intrigued by tangential aspects of the story he’s telling and wants to pull them all in until it’s completely unwieldy and the audience’s investment gets smothered underneath the weight of so much extraneous stuff.


I’ve experienced scope creep over the course of PoPS, as well. Obviously. There were certain plot devices and ideas I wanted to explore at the outset, but other things came into play as we went on. Some of them were direct results of feedback I was getting from the audience. In episode 7, a lot of people were really excited to see the girls up and fighting. Other members of the audience brought my attention to the ways in which the fight scenes were lacking. So the main plot of episode 8 became about proving we could do better fight scenes. The whole damn episode is called Fight. I mean, Eliza had mild whiplash for a few days after shooting her fight scenes we got so specific about the head snapping involved in taking a punch.


Originally, the entirety of PoPS was supposed to happen in 10 10-minute episodes. Episode 8 was 61 friggin minutes long. That’s technically a feature by most film festival standards. I just got more interested in the characters and how they were coping with these powers and with each other. And the more characters we got, the more I wanted to flesh out each of them. Give them more storylines. See how they handle different scenarios.


Most of my scope creep comes down to making sure things feel justified. In order to make crazy things happen, you sometimes have to spend time moving people and circumstances into place. The crazier the payoff, the more time it takes to set up justifiably.


Sometimes you realize that the characters have to take time processing the aftermath of some of these things. We’ve devoted many minutes of screen time to characters discussing things we’ve already seen to try and process them like actual people do. That’s kind of counter intuitive in screenwriting. “We’ve already seen that! Why are they still talking about it?!” But those are some of my favorite scenes.


I think scope creep is justifiable if it’s more about keeping characters grounded rather than trying to make a world larger and more complicated.


Thanks for reading.



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Building a Successful Web Series: Reiterating Engagement

Jul 16, 2015 2:19PM

Follow along as we see how Jake Jarvi engages the nearly 40,000 fans of his web series, PLATOON OF POWER SQUADRONYou can see all of Jake's work at:


The two videos below are the opposite ends of the spectrum for my channel, outside of the PoPS series. The first is my version of an annual video collection called Letters to July, created by YouTuber Emily Diana Ruth, a series where you narrate quiet, introspective of reflections on where you currently are in your life while a series of video snapshots unfold. The second is a standard vlog, proving that I’m hard at work with a six-hour time lapse of my working at VFX on the computer.




Maybe it’s weird to talk about online engagement when my blogging has been so spotty over the last few weeks. We’ve just been traveling around so much lately that I’ve been using my blogging time to catch up on work and actually accomplish the things instead of setting aside the time to reflect on and blog about the things.


Two weeks ago, I put up that Letters to July video. It’s the most fun I’ve had putting something together in awhile. First of all, I’ve just been dying to shoot something in the anamorphic style 2.35 aspect ratio. I don’t know if that sounds ridiculous or not, it’s just the truth, and seeing my final footage all 2.35 cropped made me so happy. Plus, playing in a tone I don’t typically employ was a nice break as well.


But when I talk about engagement, this is the sort of thing I’m talking about. YouTube communities do different types of themed videos all the time. Many times they revolve around a certain YouTubers temporary creative crises and then everybody weighs in with their own thoughts on the platform, but sometimes everyone makes a video about charities, or everyone talks about a list of 5 particular things, or everybody gives a tour of their room. Just a fun thing to do.


I think Letters to July is a particularly addictive formula. It’s quiet and lovely; everyone loves distilling their lives into a series of nicely rendered images, just look at Instagram; and it has a very particular timeframe. You can do one anytime in July. Since it’s annual, it’s also a nice way to check in every year and see how you’ve changed and where you now are.


But engaging in these kinds of community-oriented videos is exactly what I’m talking about when I tell people how to connect with online communities. Whenever people ask me how to become involved in online communities they basically want to hear THE TRICK that will get people to WATCH THEIR THING. But this is all part of that. I actually follow other people in the online communities and engage with them when they draw me in. Other people within those communities recognize that I have a common interest with them and they might check out my channel based on our mutual interests. It’s probably a very small part of how we got our audience, but I think it’s pivotal. The problem is it has to be genuine. You have to have an active interest in the content and the community in which you are engaging, because it’s pretty easy to spot a vlogging phony. So, it’s a commitment. If you dive in though, and you actually start becoming a part of these communities and comments conversations, it’ll probably stop feel mercenary and promotional relatively soon. Because it’s just participating in an excellent and ongoing conversation with some really great folks. Over and over.


Thanks for reading.



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NexTV News - The Best Jobs for Aspiring Filmmakers

Jul 10, 2015 11:18AM

At NexTV, we work with artists who are tired of banging their heads against the wall that separates the BUSINESS from the ARTISTS....and we show them the way in.

Best Jobs for Videographers & Aspiring Filmmakers

Breaking into the film industry is no easy feat. To go from making home videos to silver screen gems, there are certain jobs that can help you make the transition. The following jobs are some of the best to pursue for videographers who are hoping to build up their filmmaking chops and get some relevant experience under their belt:

Editorial Shorts

Editorial short films have become increasingly popular among magazines and other publications. They’re created to promote an idea, event or product  —  much like a video advertisement or trailer  —  in an artful way. The video shorts are meant to fully immerse the viewer in the brand’s concept. Kinfolk Magazine is an online and printed publication that uses this art form to reach its readers on another platform. The magazine will post videos to promote the release of its newest issue, showcase an interview with a featured subject, and have many other one- to two-minute clips. Magazines like Saveur, Bon Appetit, Condé Nast, Afar, Dwell, Life & Thyme and many more all have video sites that feature artfully curated and filmed video pieces.

Company Testimonials

Company websites are beginning to include video testimonials on their websites. Amazon, Google and LifeLock are companies that utilize videographers to help them create these powerful videos. Creating testimonial videos allows the customer to have a voice. They are short videos that feature interview clips of satisfied customers. This job requires some knowledge of photojournalism and interviewing techniques, for you to have the greatest success. Testimonials are an amazing way to connect potential customers to services.

Hospital Videographer

A hospital videographer’s job is incredibly multifaceted. These professionals are in charge of nearly all the video for a hospital. The video projects could range from professional education, parent and patient education, research, lectures, PR work, media packages and diagnostic medical photography. The salary ranges from about 50-80K, but the rewards of this job reach further than just pay. Working at a hospital allows you to truly help people and make a difference in their lives. Through a position like this, you’re able to contribute toward making a better environment for patient care. This is a job where you must exercise your technical video skills as well as your people skills. One especially exciting part of the job is that you’ll even get to scrub into surgeries and be in the action.

Weddings & Events

While wedding and event videography seems like it may be an antiquated job for aspiring videographers, it is still incredibly relevant and a useful stepping stone. Fortunately, wedding videography has been evolving as brides and grooms are preferring more creative video footage and a fully edited video composition. Production companies, like SharkPig, are leading the way in wedding videography with their modern methods of capturing the special day. Its goal is to create video that goes beyond the norm and give clients something that’s artistic and enjoyable to watch multiple times. SharkPig extends beyond wedding videography and is also involved in creating commercials for McDonalds, Pfizer, Burt's Bees, UGG, Paul Mitchell, and many more. As a production company, it has mastered the art of beautiful wedding videos and is growing into doing even more advanced filmmaking.

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Jun 4, 2015 7:40PM

Follow along as we see how Jake Jarvi engages the nearly 40,000 fans of his web series, PLATOON OF POWER SQUADRONYou can see all of Jake's work at:


This week’s video update includes travel to a mysterious location and a talk about overblown movie stakes in blockbusters while walking in the rain.



Well, here we are. We started shooting episode 9 on November 3rd and we had our final night of initial production on June 2nd. That seems like a long production period. The vast majority of the episode was shot in November and December and the rest of it was tiny, little, one-shot cut-aways or one-off scenes with brand new cast in new locations. But I now have it all. I’ve just got to find the time to put it together. Let’s recap the final two shoot days.


Saturday, May 30th. The Thursday night before, I had two of my friends meet me at Chicago Costume Co. to get fitted for some costumes. On the shoot day itself, it rained all day, as evidenced by the last video update. So, after calling my contact, Kyle, to get this facility opened after they’d already closed due to rain, he met us and we got prepped starting about twenty minutes late. We shot as fast as we could, trying to keep everything dry with umbrellas while we shot outside, and we did a pretty decent job of it. Afterward, we took everybody out for lunch at the Brat Stop in Wisconsin, as the facility was right on the border.


Tuesday, June 2nd. The final night of shooting. We were using a friend’s workshop as a location and I had it all planned to do this green screen compositing effect in the background of a shot. Then we found out it would be possible to actually hang one of our actors off of this real motorized hook and move him around. So we did it. He had to stick his arms through this big furniture strap hanging off of the hook, basically hanging from his armpits. We could only do it for a few seconds at a time because that thing actually hurt quite a bit. I took the ride myself to see what it was like. That footage will be coming to the episode donors as soon as the episode gets released. After the shoot, we took the cast and crew to Parson’s chicken and talked how awesome Mad Max: Fury Road is and how much we miss video store culture.


Yeah. Another episode in the external hard drive. I know we’ll have one evening of reshoots, but I’d like a full cut first. Hopefully, I’ll have one within the next couple weeks.


Thanks for reading.



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