By Sahil Patel
Last night was the 60th Big Screen Little Screen NY, according to event-organizer and host Paul Kontonis. Held at Magnet Media’s offices in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, the event once again featured several NY-based independent filmmakers who screened their existing or upcoming projects in front of their peers. Here’s a rundown of who went up to bat last night and what they presented:
Presenter: Abby Feldman
“Love, Abby” is a YouTube vlog series and channel starring comedian Abby Feldman. The show was created as a result of NY-based production company Penny Lane Pictures’ desire to launch a vlogging/advice show on YouTube. After a multi-round audition process, the company selected Feldman, a comedian and improviser who has a similarly-themed live show in New York.
In “Love, Abby,” Feldman gives advice to people. The channel rolls out two new episodes every week, once on Tuesday and another on Thursday. The Tuesday episodes feature unsolicited advice, which Feldman gives via her webcam. She self-produces and edits these videos. The videos on Thursday, which feature questions from viewers as well as those who attended Feldman’s live shows, are produced and edited by Penny Lane Pictures. For these videos, Feldman says she has a production team that includes a camera operator and director. All of Feldman’s answers are improvised.
Feldman screened a Thursday video in which she answers the question of which type of car is the best to have sex in. Her answer: Smart cars. It’s pretty funny.
Presenters: John McKeever and Tommy Pope
Bird Text is a sketch comedy group founded several years ago by two standup comedians in Philadelphia. They have since moved to NY and are producing a variety of comedy videos which they self-distribute online.
The goal for McKeever and Pope is to use their online comedy videos to grow an audience, which in turn would be able to help them pursue their dreams of having their own sketch comedy show on television. The group seems to be off to a good start, having started with a sketch called “The Real House-Husbands of Philadelphia,” an idea that since has been retired due to Kevin Hart’s similarly-themed series on BET.
McKeever and Pope screened one of their most popular videos, “Samesies,” which tackles the issue of homosexuality in a pretty funny way. The video features a group of cavemen and women who decide they need to stop having sex with the same gender, as it’s making it impossible for them to procreate. The video has accumulated over 1.3 million views to date on YouTube. It’s an impressive number for an independent group, which has been helped by coverage on sites like Huffington Post and Team Coco.
Going forward, McKeever and Pope they plan to do additional standalone sketch videos, as well as other videos that tackle social issues — though the duo wants to be careful of not exhausting the idea just because it’s been very successful for them.
“The Louise Log”
Presenter: Anne Flournoy
Flournoy is a veteran filmmaker who’s had her work in competition at festivals like Sundance. However, through the years, getting older and having children, she also realized that she was more interested in developing and creating short-form content — which she really didn’t have a platform for until YouTube went live in 2005.
She launched “The Louise Log” web series, which tells the story of an NY city woman and her over-caffeinated inner voice, in 2007. Since then, Flournoy has independently produced two full seasons.
She is now prepping the launch of season three, which not only features a new actress playing the main character, but was also crowdfunded via Seed & Spark. Flournoy expressed great admiration for the crowdfunding platform, which is designed to specifically help film and video projects find financing, as opposed to other platforms like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, which are more broad in terms of the type of projects they support. She said Seed & Spark is incredibly effective for filmmakers, with a success rate in the 65% range.
Flournoy raised $22,000 on Seed & Spark (just falling short of her ideal goal of $26,000). This allowed Flournoy and her team to pay the cast and crew for their work. Talking a little bit about SAG New Media contracts, Flournoy said those are very flexible, though they require filmmakers to at least obey local minimum wage laws. With the Seed & Spark funding, Flournoy was able to do that. The third season of “The Louise Log” will be available on YouTube and Blip.
Presenters: John Santora and Stephen Fotiu
Santora and Fotiu of Magnet Media screened a Vine-based ad campaign Magnet produced in partnership with Vaynermedia for Trident gum.
As Santora and Fotiu tell it, Trident wanted to do the “first ever” Vine TV commercial. From that, the brand partnered with Magnet Media to find a couple of Vine celebrities to create six-second videos for the micro-video platform from Twitter. These digital stars have a combined 5 million followers on Vine. The idea was to create three videos and then take the one that had the highest engagement (likes, comments, re-Vines) and air that on television.
The Vine celebrities created a six-second jingle for Trident. The winning video, which you can see below, received airtime on Fuse. Trident bought 100 minutes of advertising time on Fuse, and then aired the Vine clip in six-second increments over the course of months.
Was it a success? Yes — Trident’s Vine account went from roughly 400 followers to more than 54,000 followers over the course of the campaign. It’s not unlike what you see on YouTube, where brands are known to partner with top creators on custom content. It’s much easier to build audiences and increase engagement on social platforms like Vine and YouTube when you have influencers on said platforms participating in and promoting your branded content.
“Life After Fat”
Presenter: Will Patterson
The next presentation changed it up a little bit — “Life After Fat” is an independently produced drama series about the potential psychological after-effects of weight loss. The series will follow a young woman who lost 90 pounds over the course of the year, and how she copes with her new appearance and the natural changes to her lifestyle.
According to producer Will Patterson, the show wants to take a more compassionate look at the issue of weight loss. As he described it, most sitcoms on TV that have a character who used to be obese treat it as a joke — as if the person was a loser when they were overweight. He said the creator of the show wanted to explore the emotional baggage that can come with such a drastic change to a person’s lifestyle.
The pilot was largely self-financed, with support from a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. Off of the pilot, the filmmakers would like to produce five more episodes in the next year.
The Coddett Project
Presenter: Krystal Coddett
Coddett is the producer of the sketch series “The Coddett Project,” which was created by her sister, who also serves as the writer for most of the sketches. Coddett screened two videos: a commercial parody for a sun-tan lotion that can turn white people into black people, and a dancing prank video inside a NYC subway.
In terms of marketing, the filmmakers have received coverage on sites like The Daily and Huffington Post, which has helped the series to grow an audience on the web.