Take a Little-Known Web Series ...

This past Saturday marked one year and one month since I started the ‘Go Big or Go Bust’ blog. 

With you cheering me on, things have certainly changed.

But then oddly, last Friday, for the first time since starting it, I forgot to title the blog ‘Go Big or Go Bust’. And I’ve decided that I’m going to follow whatever unconscious part of me made that decision: the Go Big or Go Bust part of the blog is ‘over’. We’re not going to go bust. We’re going big. I don’t have a signed deal or a contract to back me up on this, but I have a feeling.

Since posting on this blog last Friday, I pitched our half-hour, single camera comedy based on The Louise Log to an industry insider who’s been in lots of pitch meetings. He sat across from me, eyes narrowed and cold, with a critical and (what actually felt somewhat) hostile attitude. (Mr. Green says he was trying to ‘read me’.)

But his coldness didn’t throw me even a little. I kept up my ‘pitching to a seven-year old’ energy all the way through the pitch and then asked him what he was thinking.

When he responded with the suggestion that I should see if I could get into the YouTube classes to learn how to beef up viewers on The Louise Log, I nodded politely.

When he suggested that I look into IFC’s just-announced online streaming channel for web series, I think I might have winced and said “I’m pitching a television show”. And then I asked if he’d like to see one of our two minute episodes on my phone.

He agreed, he watched #4, laughed more than a few times (in spite of himself) and pronounced it ‘Cute’. I didn’t react even though ‘cute’ felt like a put-down.

But at this point, his attitude seemed to improve: he asked how good our pilot script is. I told him that Sundance’s Episodic Lab seemed to think it was good enough to make it to the final decisions. By the end of the meeting, he came around to suggesting that my job is to find a showrunner to complete the package.

And then I walked out into the cold February evening unflustered.

I don't care if it takes a hundred meetings, I'm all in on this. Of course, I’ll keep you posted. 

Just below is a late Valentine's Day present from me to you if you click the Like button ...  And if you want to Share this, please just hit the 'Share' button right next door. Thank you!  \o/

Go Big or Go Bust: On Pitching and Getting Help From Marie Forleo and Marie TV

Just to clear things up for anyone confused by my ‘dancing’ video in the last blog … the video was not shot as I danced my way through the pitch. My phone and I were dancing in the dressing room at Century 21 while I tried on clothes to pitch in. I haven’t even written the bloody pitch (much less rehearsed it…). The mere word ‘pitching’ is still sending icy fingers of anxiety down my spine. But, best news of the … YEAR?? … An old friend (who happens to have an Oscar nomination for screenwriting under his belt (among other things) BUT WHO’S COUNTING) wrote me, and I will quote:

“I have a feeling you'd be very good in a pitch. Enormously good, actually.”

Unfortunately, he went on to darken the mood:

“Like anything, it's a question of starting.”

GAAAAAAAA. I’d so much rather be dancing in fitting rooms at every cut-rate store left in New York than actually start working on the pitch. I've got to comparison shop for godssake!

Fortunately, a few years ago, I discovered a force of nature in the form of Marie Forleo. She’s really smart, she’s really successful and her blog/vlog topics are like crack: ‘get more done in less time’, ‘addicted to work?’, ‘overcome fear and self-doubt’. You see why I'd be interested.

(AKA I can deal with my control issues in the privacy of my own home.)

(AKA I can deal with my control issues in the privacy of my own home.)

In a recent vlog/blog, Marie recounted a Stephen Covey story. A professor showed his students a jar chock full of rocks and asked them if it was full. The students saw that no more rocks could fit in and answered “Yes!”. The professor poured a bag of pebbles over the rocks, filling a lot of the empty space with the pebbles and asked them again if the jar was full. Embarrassed at having been tricked they were reduced to muttering “Well now it is.” Of course the crafty professor had another trick up his sleeve and poured a bag of sand over the rocks and pebbles and filled every open space in the jar. The shame-faced students sat quietly in their seats.

Next, the professor poured everything out of the jar and then proceeded to put only the sand back into it. Then there wasn’t even room to fit all the rocks back in, much less the pebbles.

The moral of the story is time management. Let the rocks of your life, the big things which really matter to you, be what you schedule first. Marie Forleo shared her own priorities (and one of them was ’time off’ ahem). (That’s another blog.)

Obviously getting this pitch together is one of my rocks. I can’t let my new infatuation with Instagram or spur of the moment distractions be the sand which fills my days and crowds out time for my rocks.  

I hope this was helpful! Thanks for reading!


Go Big or Go Bust: Six Top Tools for Creative Work in the Digital Age

This blog was started as a way of keeping you, dear reader, up to date on my efforts to get The Louise Log  out to a wider audience.  (The urgency to reach more viewers is financial - this show needs to become self-sustaining in order to continue.)  

I thank you for giving me a wide berth as I’ve gone down meandering paths into my past life, trying to see if there’s some obvious pattern at work here and, if so, how I might be able to break it.

The good news is that, in spite of me and my personality still at the helm, we have a very exciting plan in the works which I’ll be able to say more about in the next week or so.

Until then, here’s some of what I’ve learned from making this show.  

I used to routinely face a wall of anxiety too tall to see over and too wide to get around.  The only possible way to deal with this is, obviously, was avoidance, otherwise known as procrastination.  As you may have read, in what is by any standards an epic mastery of this approach to life, I managed to stretch out the rewrite of the script for my ‘second feature’ for SEVENTEEN YEARS.  Making The Louise Log  taught me a number of tools to deal with this demon.  

Tool #1 is limitations.  Having ‘wasted’ so many years on one miserable script, I was like an over-primed pump ready to explode.   It helped that I was fifty-five years old and well aware that people start dying at that age.  So before mine got me, I started to set my own deadlines.  Mr. Green had been writing a blog once a month for years.  I decided that I’d make one video a month.  

Tool #2 is a variation on Tool #1: Start where you are with what you have.

In film, I’d worked with Camera Operators and Directors of Photography.  I knew nothing about shooting and less about video.  Furthermore, in 2007, no self-respecting filmmaker was shooting video with a camcorder and putting it up on YouTube.  Fortunately, as previously outlined, I had the gift of desperation.  There was the family camcorder which, guess what?  Like cell phone cameras, camcorders are point and shoot.  A two year old could press the two buttons and probably get something worth looking at.  

I’d worked as a film editor and had always been intimidated by video editing.  Apple’s imovie is so simple, two year olds can now edit the video they’ve shot.  I went to the Apple Store’s One-to-One sessions and learned imovie until I broke it with overly complicated sound tracks.  Then I learned Final Cut Pro.  

Which brings me to Tool #3: Baby Steps

If the first episode had been with more than one actor, I probably would have broken out in hives and cancelled the shoot for not being able to breathe.  

But by the fourth episode I was working with two actors.  By the fifth episode,  there were four actors (two of them children), props, several shots crossing the very busy Seventh Avenue and a rented location (the local public school),  

By episode forty-three we had four SAG actors in their underwear, a fifth (fully clothed) SAG actor 900 miles away on Skype and a crew of five.

Tool #4: Practice Makes Perfect.  Well, yes and no.

On the one hand, working constantly, my craft exploded.  I learned more making The Louise Log than in making all my other films combined.

But a great thing about digital technology is that you don’t have to get it right the first time.  Or even the seventeenth.  For Season One, we didn’t have a professional sound mixer on set. The sound for the first seventeen episodes was whatever the camcorder picked up.  In the episode in the Principle’s Office (12), the air conditioning noise was so invasive, it ruined an otherwise strong episode.  Yes we had to lose thousands of views, but we took down the original uploads of almost all the sub-par audio, dubbed them and re-uploaded a lot of Season One.

Tool #5: Collaborate and Ask For Help

Digital technology makes it possible for one person to do almost every job.  Please don’t ask how I know this.  Unfortunately, the chances of a one-person project reaching a wide audience are greatly diminished.  If only for the (extremely important) fact that the marketing and promotion will be easier if a lot of people are involved and invested, work with a group.  

Tool #6: Story Trumps All

Make sure the script is strong or make sure you have the leeway to salvage it in the editing if it isn’t.  A voice-over saved us more times than I can count.  

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Go Big or Go Bust: Day 184 (a more recent story about serotonin and my co-writer and husband Mr. Green)

I've always marveled at how life comes through with inspiration for how to solve artistic problems.  Whether it's snatches of dialogue overheard on the street or plots lifted from life,  my experience is that answers are more readily available outside of my head than in it. 

After yesterday's little backstory on my early days with Mr. Green, I thought you might be interested in a more recent story which may explain why he's my co-writer and inspiration. 

Mr. Green teaches Organic Chemistry to undergraduate and graduate students.  He used to also do basic research.  I never took science beyond high school biology and am generally less than ignorant about the workings of the natural world.  It's very convenient to be married to  Mr. Wizard.  For the past ten or more years, Mr. Green has written a syndicated (and here) monthly blog which decodes science for non-scientists on subjects likes fracking, the causes of and cures for depression, global warming, etc.

As Mr. Green searches through journals for fresh topics, he tries the ideas out on who ever is in the house.  I'm usually in the house and if not, I'm not far.  I'm also always under pressure to spend more time on twitter, to make more skit videos, to clean the house, etc.  

The other day, Mr. Green was on fire about serotonin, the subject of this month's post.  Did I mention that my husband has been a professor for almost fifty years?  We were finishing up lunch and I could tell that he was just getting going, that he had absorbed a lot of material and that I might not get anything done for the next half hour if I didn't make my move.  At the end of his sentence, I nodded emphatically as I sprang to my feet, practically shouting  "Really interesting!" and bolted for the door.  I unconsciously used a trick I'm aware of for holding onto myself and not getting sucked into other peoples' agendas: I didn't look my husband in the eye.  Or maybe I did but for just a fraction of a second.  The image that stays with me is of his face in shock.

Within fifteen minutes, there was a knock on my studio door.  Mr. Green looked amused: "You left in the middle of the lecture!  I've never had to chase a student down to finish a lecture!"