Tuesday, October 30, 2012

BLACK: The Webseries Interview

Welcome back to another Kickstarter Conversation!  Today I’m joined by Frank T. Ziede creator of “BLACK.” Thank you for joining me today Frank.

It’s my pleasure James. Thanks for your interest in our project.
Can you give our readers a basic rundown of BLACK?  

Black is a high action web series that combines elements of the Call of Duty Modern Warfare video game franchise, the live action film ACT OF VALOR and the successful FOX television show 24. We tell the story of Agent Carnahan, an ex-Navy SEAL, now part of a top secret CIA team created to deal with a terrorist act on American soil that targets the CIA directly.

Why a webseries and not a TV pilot or short film?  Why Kickstarter? As an accomplished filmmaker surely you must have access to more traditional funding methods?

While I have written and directed 8 short films, completed a 30 minutes pilot and written several full length feature scripts, I have found that it is a long road to become a filmmaker. This isn’t a bad thing. Anyone who wants to be successful has to pay his or her dues. To think you can be an overnight success in any industry just isn’t realistic. So as a truly independent filmmaker, I have had to fund most all of my own films by myself. Who better to prove that they have faith in these films than myself?

I chose to branch out into a web series because of the direction the entertainment world seems to be going. The World Wide Web is becoming a solid platform for short films, web series, etc. and we thought that BLACK fit well in the web series format. We chose to go the Kickstarter community because I have had several other filmmakers find success with crowd funding on that website. I also chose them over indiegogo because I really like the all or nothing approach. What good would half of our goal really do for us? My plan is to make a great web series, then hopefully gain more awareness as a filmmaker and have my feature length scripts ready when Hollywood comes calling. As the saying goes: “Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity”.  

What previous work have you done?  The trailers you’ve released look to be of excellent production quality.  

I’ve done several award winning short films and various other “proof of concept” shorts to help push my feature film ideas. As for the production value, being an indie guy has been the best type of “do it yourself” film school. Would I like to have a huge budget? Of course, but because I’m always working with a small one I’ve had to find ways to use what we have and make it look better than people expect. For example: the trailer that we shot for BLACK cost only about $600 dollars to shoot, was shot in two states and in under eight hours.

Wow really?  That’shard to imagine! You are asking for $7500 for a six episode “mini-series.”  Does that mean with just that much you’ll finish all six?  Will that be one complete storyline in case it for some strange reason doesn’t continue?

This number is to cover production costs. We have already secured our production team, most of them agreeing to work for little to nothing because they love the project so much. Several of our locations have been donated or significantly reduced in price because people support the project and want to be a part of a great series. The six part “launch” will be a completed story. It will have lots of opportunity for new storylines if the series gets enough buzz around it and people want to see more. Right now I wanted to set a realistic goal and make this first set of episodes happen. As a wise man once said: “start small, but start”. Too many people look at all the reasons NOT to do something. You’d be surprised once you start a ball rolling what kind of momentum it picks up.
Having a veteran actor and former SEAL Mikal Vega on board for the project is a major coupe!  How did you swing that?  

I saw Mikal featured in another project and really liked who and what he was. He’s the real deal. Career military man, decorated SEAL and all around badass. I emailed him, told him about the idea and he loved it. I went to LA, we broke bread together and talked about life, films and everything in between. It was important to me to make sure that we have real life military personnel as our actors. We used friends of mine who were not soldiers for the trailer and I think we suffered slightly because of that. We have had a lot of people point out some of the mistakes we made tactically and I have really learned from that feedback.  In every project I do, I strive to make sure the tactical action is a real as I can make it. I’m still learning every day what the rules are in the world of combat and I will be relying on Mikal to make sure everything is good to go for the BLACK series.

I think your video presentation is one of the best being both interesting and highly detailed.  On the other hand the written portion of the presentation seems a bit thin.  Was that done on purpose to focus on the strength of your video presentation or did you just not have a lot to write down?

I’m a visual learner and for me it was the best way to get my message across. I also talked with several others who have had their projects successfully funded and they all stressed how important the video truly is. I tried to relay who I am so people could see a face behind the pitch. I also did my best in a direct way to tell people what BLACK is, who our cast members are and what we’ll be doing with the funding. As for the text in the body I tried to echo the videos points, but kept it brief.
What’s the long term goal of BLACK?  Just a continuous webseries?  Do you have any stretch goals planned since you are well on your way of hitting your $7500 goal.  

Right now our focus is making the 6 part launch as best as it can possibly be. This is the most important thing because it will be our foundation for future funding campaigns, episodes, pitches, etc. We think we have assembled a solid team of actors, crew, visual effects artists, sound designers, composers, editors and various others to make this into one kick ass project. Whatever we raise over our goal will just add more production value to the series to make it that much better.

One of the keys of a successful Kickstarter project is backer participation.  How are you engaging your backers?  What kinds of things do you have planned for updates?  Interviews?  Videos?  Stories from the project?

We have utilized Facebook pretty successfully as our communication tool with our backers and fans. We will do several more updates for the series during the fundraising period. Once production begins we will be shooting lots of behind the scenes footage and updates to keep our backers engaged. We’ll share interviews, photos, progress updates, etc.

What kind of media attention have you received with your project?  How are you spreading the word?  Facebook?  Twitter?  Google+? Youtube?  Advertising?  Are you using Kicktraq to help things along?

Facebook has been a real asset to our team. Viral marketing the project has proven to be pretty successful for us. Our screening method for the series will be YouTube and by having the trailer linked there we have a pretty steady flow of subscribers signing up in anticipation of the series being released.

Do you have any tips/advice would you give to anyone looking to start a Kickstarter?

Build your audience up well before creating a campaign. Have people begging you to let them give you funding before you begin otherwise you’ll have to do all that work with less time to do it. Keep you deadline limited to 30 days. This creates more urgency. Make a great video and create clever rewards. While having the backer’s names in our credits has been popular, we’ve had a lot of interest in having a speaking role on the show. Creative rewards get people interested and might make them more likely to donate. Lastly, understand that it’s a non-stop race to the finish line. A buddy of mine put it like this: “It’s a full time job.” There are no days off.

Thank you for spending your time with us Drew!  Do you have any final thoughts for our readers?

I hope people check out the project. If you like it, donate. If you can’t donate, share it. This can be just as important to funding the project because people who share the word about BLACK become our ambassadors and we are grateful for everyone’s support.

Thanks again and I hope to hear good things from your Kickstarter!

Thank you James. I hope people get behind the series and will be watching when we premiere!

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