In the summer of 2014, it smelled bad as usual in NYC, and Alex Spieth was dropped by her acting agency. She almost cried in meetings with potential new agents (obviously, they didn't sign her), she went back to Pittsburgh to try to find herself (she only got rained on), and she began working on a web series. The series was a lot of work and turned out to the best thing in Alex's life for a long time. She can never sleep on nights before a shoot, and she loves it more than anything.
Hello, I'm Alex Spieth, and I'm the writer/creator of [Blank] My Life. Thanks to the good graces of the world and Kyna (creator of this website), I'm getting the opportunity to blog each month for Her Film Project. This month, I'm going to give background and the most basic film rules I'm currently following. The number one rule being:
Make that Obstacle a Choice: If you cannot get a car, make the choice that there never was a car. If you cannot get the restaurant full with extras, make it a choice to have gone to a lame bar. If you don't have a change of clothes, make it a choice that your character doesn't seem to advance.
If you are let down by your career, make it a choice to be a creator.
[Blank] began as a series of small sketches which my two friends and I acted and filmed in. It was fairly rudimentary and small-scale. When we released the first 5 sketches (on the now deceased site www.ihaveablanknamedmylife.com), I felt slightly humiliated that this was the first time I had put something out, and I didn't know how to do it in a more polished way. The website featured a background picture of me getting my haircut.
1. It's hard to do anything good: Do the first sample, the first stab, the first attempt as quickly as you can. So start as soon as you can.
2. You will get better rapidly: It's like 100% not easy to put out a first stab. However, if you watch the mythology of [Blank], we advanced really quickly. Quality will improve faster than you think.
3. People will be impressed by anything: A shocking amount of Facebook friends wrote to me about the first 5 episodes. Despite the fact that there was only 10 minutes cumulative of content and that they looked the equivalent of an iPhone vid. Just because it was SOMETHING. Do not forget this when you begin to create. No matter what the product looks like at the end, someone or (likely) MANY someones will be smiling at you.
By the summer of 2015, we had 9 small scenes on line which fleshed out the "Pre-Season" of [Blank]. In 2015-2016, my team and I created 11 episodes on "no budget" (which in actuality means $2,500 that I and members of my team donated). It was only able to happen through the generosity and skill of my team.
This year [this article was written in December 2016] I felt it necessary to crowdfund because you can only ask people to you favors for so long. Also, Sound. Costs. Money. There. Is. A Way. I'm. Sure. To. Avoid. This. But. I. Haven't. Found. It. So. Sound. Costs. Money. We decided to go full throttle and Kickstarted $13,000 at the same time we started filming. Would DEFINITELY advise doing one or the other for next time.
1. Don’t worry too much about doing things early: If you only have a minute, it only takes a minute (it's true). You can get anything done quicker than you think you can, and delay is often unhelpful in learning about your process/creation/taste. Nine times out of 10, I would say to jump in and get going.
2. Try to do things early: However, things are significantly less stressful if you DO plan ahead. Especially things requiring red tape: insurance, SAG-AFTRA, etc. Give yourself a four-week lead to make sure you are ready to go. Set up the Kickstarter account so you're ready to deliver the funds.
3. Crowdfunding will open doors: The urgency of a Kickstarter/Indiegogo will all of a sudden give people an incentive to feature you NOW. Hit up sites again that didn't feature you. Hit up people again that didn't talk to you. Hit up the whole town.
4. Get as many people to be inspired promoters as possible: Crowdfunding can feel like a long, lonely "give me money" game. The way to combat this is to get as many members of your team to be inspired about sharing, creating, and bringing the community on board. This will also be good training for when the project goes live.
Luckily, we raised the money, and it's now safely in my account.
Creating is addictive. The hardest part of the web series is the sporadic nature of filming and creating. I'm so stoked and excited and addicted to making it that I hate having to wait three weeks to do it again. It's the most exciting and collets. It made me into a mom early, so if you just give me a second, I'll open my wallet and show you a few stills. ISN'T MY SERIES EXCEPTIONAL?
The web series lets me borrow confidence about my acting career from another source. After I got dropped, it was hard for me to point at myself and say that I was proud of what I was as an actor. However, after doing a season of a show and being in production for another, I'm Super Woman. Being dropped wasn't the portent of things to come, it's like when Michael Jordan didn't get on the high school basketball team! It's like Winston Churchill being bad at school! it's like any of your school day heroes who derked it and then showed you they were actually the best.
So, while I have you here, let me show you one more still.
Things I have asked for as of December 4, 2016:
- Asked a former love interest if I could write about him (Yes)
- Asked a former lover to borrow a coffee maker (Yes)
- Someone to show Issa Rae my series (No)
- If one of the leads of New York City's Shakespeare in the Park would play my love interest in an episode (No answer, doubt he saw my message on Facebook)
- Asked an ex to be in a sketch about his and my relationship (Yes, you can already watch it online)
- Asked if I could film at two restaurants that I quit unexpectedly from (Yes/No)
- Asked a current Broadway star to be in an episode (No answer)
- Asked countless friends to film at their houses at all hours of the day and night (Yes nearly every time)
- If a Fiyero would be my love interest in an episode (Yes)
(Alex will be back soon to tell you more about making her web series. In the meantime, you can watch season 1 of [Blank] My Life right now.)