Draft of budget for web series

This is the budget I submitted to Aryeh after working on it last night. If anyone has access to any of the materials, equipment or props listed, or would be interested in donating a snack or two for a filming day, you would be my hero.

Budget for The Candidate (Tentative Title)

Equipment:

  1. Monitor to have on set: free, if borrowed; or $70 on Tiger Direct, 14”. $133 on Amazon, 17”.
  2. Lighting equipment and panels; free, if I can find crew who already has equipment.

If not, get the following from Cord Camera or other retailer:

  • Collapsible reflectors, $28
  • White lighting umbrella, $39
  • Lighting, $140

Ghetto lighting options, as very last resort:

  • Flood lights; Home Depot/Lowe’s, $30 (if we get these, we will still need the lighting umbrella to soften these lights as they are haaarsh. Also they get really hot and can set things on fire if you aren’t vigilant.)
  • White sheets of poster board for reflectors
Subtotal: ~$300 max

Materials / Props:

  1. Lots of office supplies, including staplers, loose paper, paper clips, pens, inbox/outbox trays, etc.: Free, if borrowed. Allow $30 for incidentals.
  2. At least two clipboards: $8
  3. One giant campaign yard sign: $35 on VistaPrint
  4. Wooden posts for giant yard sign: $20
  5. Several smaller yard signs: 8 for $60 on VistaPrint
  6. A plain beer cozy: Target, less than $5
  7. Coffee mugs printed with character’s name on it: 2 for ~$20 on VistaPrint
  8. Office decor, like motivational posters: $50
  9. Water balloons and nerf guns: balloons, less than $5; nerf guns provided by producer
  10. Prop framed newspaper clippings: Free, provided by me
  11. Three small desks with chairs (depending on venue’s offerings): Free, if borrowed
  12. Prop laptops: Free, provided by actors or producer and director
  13. Prop glasses for character: less than $5
  14. Lunch boxes/bags with lunches: Free, provided by me
  15. First aid kit, gauze: less than $5
  16. Cell phones: free, provided by actors/crew
Subtotal: $250

Food and drink on set:

  1. Allocate $20 per day of filming, for 8 days of filming: $160
  2. Wrap party: $50

Subtotal: $210

Total: ~$740 max

We can go under budget with this sucker.
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Open call for cast and crew

Cast and crew needed for political satire web series, filming August and September 2010.

OPEN CASTING CALL:

Seeking two actresses aged 21-30, one actress between 18-22 and one actress between 45-55.
Also seeking two actors aged 21-30 and two actors between 45-55.

AUDITIONS will be held Monday, Aug. 2 and Wednesday, Aug. 4 at 7:30 p.m. at the Crimson Cup in Clintonville (North High Street).

Female roles:

  • ALICE, who is (possibly blonde) ambitious, hard working and competitive. Professional, somewhat cutthroat.
  • LAUREN, who is level-headed, charming, witty. Love interest of main character.
  • BRITTANY, who is a college student, very attractive.
  • JUDY, JOHN’s wife. Attractive, flirtatious. Interested in MATTHEW. A smaller role.

Male roles:

  • MATTHEW, main character and protagonist. Earnest, enthusiastic but at many points discouraged. Good looking, very charming, endearing.
  • DENNIS, the comic relief/goof. ALICE’s nemesis; messes around, but wants to have ALICE’s job for the power she has.
  • JOHN, a local man running for mayor. A smaller role, but the show centers around his office.
  • MR. PHILIPS, a village councilman and BRITTANY’s proud father. A smaller role.

CREW NEEDED:

  • 1 sound director with equipment. Please e-mail for more information.
  • 1 lighting coordinator, preferably with equipment. Please e-mail for more information.
  • 1 director of photography

PRODUCTION INFO:

Filming will take place over 2 weeks in the evenings in August and September. Please inform director or producer of any prior engagements during this time frame at your audition so a production schedule may be created around them.

This is an unpaid project but we hope you will be interested in creating a fun, entertaining final product with us. Refreshments will be provided on set daily.

Please email williams.meryl@gmail.com.

A warmer trip to Chicago

I should be going to bed because I have to go to Twinsburg for work tomorrow, but I just really want to write.

Chicago was a great experience. Going there this time, the first time after I began to imagine what it would be like to live there, was important for me. I wanted to see how I felt there with this new idea for myself and my future, and it felt right. I was by myself a few times on this trip, and walking alone and navigating the city was exciting and fresh. This was also the first time in several visits that I was there when it wasn’t November, and I have to say, Chicago is gorgeous in fair weather. Maybe this conclusion means I should go back once more in the dead of winter before I decide for sure I want to live there.

Waiting on the red line

I rode to Chicago Friday with two women from improv, one of whom I’d taken my intro class with and one I’d met only two days earlier. I immediately got off on the wrong foot with one, who I was supposed to tell that the other woman and I would be arriving at her home by 7:45 that morning. I forgot, and she was clearly displeased but graceful about this unexpected arrival. An hour and a half and one breakfast at Panera Bread later, we hit the road as planned.

Outside the iO

Our carful arrived in Chicago around 6 p.m. Central time. The two women had reservations for an 8 p.m. show at the iO, or Improv Olympics. I rode the red line with them to the theater and, since I had a reservation with the rest of our group for the 10:30, I went off to get dinner by myself. I called my uncle, who lived in Chicago for a long time, to ask for a restaurant recommendation. I couldn’t find either of his suggestions, but since one of them had been a Mexican place and that sounded amazing at the time, I found a different one. After I ate I called one of the other travelers and found out they were on their way up. I walked back toward the red line to meet them and ran into them outside of the iO. It was still early, so we went to a bar across Clark St. to wait for the show’s doors to open.

We saw iO’s Improvised Shakespeare Company and it ended up being my favorite show of the trip. Five men dressed in Shakespearean clothes took an audience suggested title (“The Merchant of Penis”) and improvised an hour long show about a male gigolo. It was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. They are well versed in Shakespeare and take a class on the Bard once a month or something like that, to stay completely on point with their genre.

Bubble tea from Chinatown

The next morning, Saturday, I woke up later than anyone else in the room. The two women I’d rode up with left for Chinatown and offered to wait on me. I told them I’d catch up with them shortly, since Chinatown was only six blocks or so from where we were staying. I got ready and met up with them with my video camera. I carried the camera with me all day Saturday but ultimately only shot about eight minutes of footage; I probably won’t do anything with it, either. For people so used to being on stage, I could tell they were for the most part collectively uncomfortable on camera. As a videographer you’ve got to respect those kind of feelings.

I was kind of the odd one out of the group, since I am no longer taking improv classes and I opted out of the workshop Saturday afternoon. Most people left for the workshop at the Annoyance around 12:30, and I took the bus to the Magnificent Mile. The last time I’d been there was this past Thanksgiving, with Brandon’s family and that awareness made me really miss all of them. But, I tried to get past that and focus on the wonderful feeling of independence I had, all alone in a city I love, trying on dresses in stores with no one to rush me. Not that Brandon or anyone ever did, but not having to worry bout anyone else’s schedule or agenda was a nice feeling.

Showing team spirit

The Stanley Cup, in which the Chicago Blackhawks were competing, was going on while I was there of course, and I saw two interesting displays of support; on the bus ride up Michigan Avenue I saw a very formal looking public building with two stone lions outside– and they were wearing giant Blackhawk helmets. Then, outside of Tiffany’s, a male statue was not only holding up a very classic looking clock, but wearing a hockey jersey.

The Uptown Broadway Building near the Annoyance

Nearly four hours later, I navigated my way (via a useful iPhone app) to the Annoyance theater and waited for someone to call and let me know they were out of the workshop. They called around 5 when I was waiting in a Border’s Books and walked to a Starbucks near the theater to meet them. Together as a group again, we took the bus to a restaurant favored by many of the improvisers who’d taken a trip to Chicago last fall. We ate dinner and then watched two very different shows at the Annoyance.

The first was a three person troupe from Detroit, and they were really good. Almost every scene involved all three of them but they kept it going and fresh and interesting all the same. The second show was called Swear Jar, and it was actually scripted comedy, sort of. It was pretty dark, to be honest, but I knew it would be going into it, as that is the Annoyance’s reputation. It had some great moments, and some very inspired musical numbers, but I still maintain that Shakespeare was my favorite show of the trip.

A cool show poster I liked in the hallway at the Annoyance

On Sunday morning, I declined a second trip to Chinatown and slept in instead. I don’t know why, but I was exhausted almost the whole trip. I also forgot to pack my contact lenses so I had to wear my glasses the whole time, which I hated. I grabbed some coffee and a banana for breakfast and we headed back to Midway airport, where our car was parked. Then, we headed home. I slept at least two hours of the trip home, and then slept for another 11 hours that night.

Tomorrow I’m going to a Young Professionals of Columbus meeting, an organization I’m finally joining at my uncle’s suggestion when I actually voiced my very real concern of losing friends in the days after Brandon and I broke up. Nearly four months later, I know I still have some of those friends (enough of them) and I don’t really need to join YPC to go out and meet new people, but I want to do so. I want to take advantage of the opportunities in this city as much as I can, and I am looking forward to the people in YPC I’ve yet to meet.

Writer FAIL

So, last week I submitted those two ideas I mentioned, and later, a third idea for a video segment (the fake iPhone commercials). All three of these ideas seemed to go over not terribly with the writers who commented, so I decided to take the initiative to write a first draft of my Twilight sketch. I posted it Thursday night and felt really good about myself. I’d written a sketch, by God. On Friday, no one had commented on it but I could see a couple had viewed it. I checked back over the weekend and got my first sketch criticism.

They said they’d tell me when my ideas, jokes and drafts sucked, and boy, did they. I’m not gonna lie, even though I was prepared for it, it still smarted. My heart plummeted when I read the feedback; my draft didn’t have enough jokes, and the one joke I was most proud of was deemed a desperate attempt at shock value and unfit for the stage. Can you imagine me writing something so offensive it’s not stage appropriate?

I know I got too cocky, too early on. I also didn’t try hard enough, and at the very same time, I tried far too hard. I should have sat on my draft for a couple days rather than immediately posting it, and I should have been much more thoughtful about it. I shouldn’t have tried to live up to the other female writers’ reputation for writing the most offensive jokes, because that’s not my natural writer’s voice. I’m just beginning to worry that my natural writer’s voice might not have the sense of humor I imagined.

The thing is, this is the hard part. This is where I take what I wrote and completely re-do it and make it better. This is what they said would happen. This is the part where I move forward and try harder and write better jokes. This is where I plead to my writer’s group later tonight to let me bounce some lines off of them.

Also, I failed miserably at my weekend experiment to not spend any more than fifty bucks. I blame Mozart’s, but really I blame my overwhelming desire to drop everything and run to Target when I realize I’ve lost my sunglasses and also pick up a new pair of shorts while I’m there. I still know I’ve got enough cash to survive a weekend in Chicago, but I can’t help but have traumatic flashbacks to the Colorado trip when I unwittingly placed a non-budgeted $150 deposit on a bike I borrowed for two days. Vacations are the times when a credit card might come in handy.

Moving up in the world

I can’t believe my luck. What would life be like right now if I’d blown off a Saturday workshop on sketch comedy writing? I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be nearly this awesome.

I had my interview with the guys from the Shadowbox Cabaret yesterday after work. I drove to Easton (only took a half hour from Polaris, and in rush hour traffic at that). They sat me down and told me the ugly truth: working as a writer for Shadowbox is not easy. They run a tight ship on a rigid schedule and they simply don’t have time to be nice. They are going to tell me that my ideas suck, my scripts suck, my jokes suck and I suck. And I’ll have to brush it off and come up with something better. And then something better than that, and better and better until someone says, okay, I can think we can cast this thing. And that takes weeks. And it doesn’t happen a lot. I might never see one of my original ideas hit the stage.

I’m not gonna lie, my heart sank a little when I was told that, because already I’d had visions of inviting friends and family to come see a show containing a sketch that I came up with. But that’s the vanity talking. A sketch is no one’s sketch, it is everyone’s sketch. This double-edged sword, they pointed out, means I now get a share of the credit and the blame for what’s on stage at Shadowbox from this day forth.

Steve, the founder of Shadowbox, said the musical portion of the show is completely different from what we write.

“For one thing, the songs are already written, and they’re already hits,” he pointed out.

Shadowbox shows generally do a sketch followed by a song performance, followed by another sketch and so on. They also have some video segments in there, and I actually have a video series idea to share. But iPhone ad parodies might be overdone, sigh… We’ll see.

After the terrifying terms of my possible internship were laid out, completely without sugarcoat, Steve said with a laugh, “So how does all that sound?”

I laughed, too.

“Ummm… a little scary,” I admitted. “But, I still wanna do it.”

“Okay,” he said, and welcomed me to the family. I grinned like an idiot for several minutes.

The trouble is, no one at Shadowbox has seen anything I’ve ever written. I brought along a few sketch ideas I came up with last week but I’m glad I didn’t show them to anyone on the spot because I know no one was about to trouble themselves to cover their dismay at what they’d just done in giving me a chance. Also, the thing about comedy at Shadowbox is that it’s for everyone; they have no idea who’s going to come through the door on any given night so their humor has to have a wide appeal. I was explaining a sketch idea I had to my dad, a parody of “The Hills,” and when he admitted he wasn’t sure who Heidi Montag is, I said, “Okay, maybe this isn’t going to work.”

We have to write sketches about things everyone knows, characters everyone can relate to. And for a show that’s months down the road. Your topics are limited, your time is finite. Plus, it’s hard to write a Ted Strickland/John Kasich sketch in May for a show in October when we have no way of knowing what’s going to take place in state politics between now and then.

And in the next few days, I am going to have to develop the thick skin of Kenneth the Page and the independence and motivation of Liz Lemon, and, oh my God, I’m going to have to stop making “30 Rock” references before I start spending any actual time with these people.

The other cool thing about this chance of a lifetime is, the more Shadowbox succeeds, the more it can grow. The more money coming in, the more staff they can hire. I guess what I am trying to say is, give to the Shadowbox! Give and give and give! Pay tithe to church of local comedy. Donate generously here.

If I don’t suck at sketch comedy writing and stick with this, I could work at my dream job one day. Basically I was told it will be rough and painful and frustrating but if I live to survive it, I will come out a great writer on the other side. This makes me feel a strange combination of ill and elated. We’ll see which wins me over in the end.

Thank you, Shadowbox

My sketch comedy workshop Saturday morning was the best $5 I have spent in a long time. Two writers from Shadowbox led a discussion on the process of writing sketch comedy: Stev Guyer and Jimmy Mak, two of the six writers with the organization. They were extremely helpful and accepting of all levels of experience among our group. We were encouraged to step up and take the reigns as the creative future of Columbus.

Sketch comedy isn’t as easy as it looks, first of all. They told us that a single sketch will undergo at least ten re-writes before it is ever given to a cast to rehearse for a show. And we’re not talking correcting typos re-writing; I mean start from scratch and try again. They said that can be a really difficult thing, to challenge yourself to think of something better than your initial joke. And even with that, jokes aren’t enough; your audience needs to care about your characters.

Basically, here is the process for writing a sketch:

Start with idea on paper. You might pick a theme, like love and relationships, or a “fish out of water” scenario. The example of this they gave is where you might take a stereotype (Italian gangster) and put it where it doesn’t belong (working in a daycare).

After you know the idea of your sketch, make an outline. Much like we did in composition class in college, map out your sketch on paper before you start writing the script. Write how you think it might end, because it’s very important you can conclude it well or else a fizzled ending is all the audience will remember. The close in sketch comedy as a genre tends to be really weak, they said, pointing to some of more hair brained SNL sketches that don’t seem to know where to go after a while.

Finally, and for a very long time, you re-write. The guys said there are around 8-10 sketches per show at Shadowbox; again, each is re-written at least ten times over the three month cycle they have to work in. Additionally, actors are allowed to improvise on your script, and it might even continue to be re-written based on audience response weeks into a show, like if they can tell a joke’s not working.

When you write with a group like they do, you need to be okay with not owning a sketch; it’s a group effort. Be willing to work as a group. I think that’s something I would have trouble with, if I’m really honest with myself.

Yesterday, after my second day of improv critique with our Annoyance improviser, I wrote an outline for my screenplay. I have six pages of work, broken down scene by scene. I fleshed it out a little more tonight after work, and I plan on doing more and more each day this week. Once I know that outline start to finish and feel ready, I am going to revisit the pages I wrote weeks and weeks ago. I am going to finish this screenplay if it kills me. Who wants to read 90 pages of a first time screenwriter? Anyone? Thanks to that workshop I have made more progress in three days than I have in the last three weeks. Maybe even months.

I am happy to say I re-read what I had written, and I at least still liked it. So it’s not like I have to start all over again, I can keep what I have so far.

I really wanted to ask if they like “30 Rock,” but it was too much of a cheeseball question.

Sketch comedy teaser

I plan on expanding on this very soon, but I have to share part of my experience from this morning. In my workshop, I asked Shadowbox Cabaret’s head writer if any of their six writers were women. “Not to put you on the spot,” I assured him.

“Yes, two are women,” he replied. “And they write our foulest, most offensive jokes. If you read in the Dispatch someone in a review saying, ‘I can’t believe they did that,’ one of them wrote it.”

More to come.