On Monday, June 2nd, Zach Braff hosted an advanced film screening in Austin, Texas for his film Wish I Was Here. I was a bit (a lot) excited to go since it’s been a long time coming. I backed the film in April 2013, happy to see Braff making a new film after 2004’s Garden State. Braff was making a film chronicling a thirty-something father struggling to come to terms with the unexpected circumstances of life.
Braff directed the film, co-wrote it with his older brother, Adam Braff, and starred as the lead character, Aidan Bloom. In the film, Aidan is a struggling actor hoping to find something that will explain his purpose and life’s unpredictable ways. His wife, Sarah (Kate Hudson), holds a steady but boring job as a data cruncher at a water company. She provides for the family. Aidan and Sarah’s kids, 12-year-old Grace and six-year-old Tucker attend an expensive yeshiva school paid for by Aidan’s dad. An unexpected blow hits the family when Aidan finds out his dad has cancer. Needing the money to pay for treatments, Aidan’s dad can no longer afford to pay the school tuition for Aidan’s kids.
(Day 4: Monday March 10,2014): The day consisted of a panel on psychology and technology in mobile applications, The Golden Age of Drama on TV panel and a taco party hosted by a Texas State mass communication professor.
Nicolas Cage was at SXSW Interactive for day four for a conversation moderated by David Gordon Green. I decided to skip it for something more educational (Yes I know it’s Nicolas Cage, but I wanted to learn stuff at SXSW). The panels I chose involved what I wanted to know more about.
The first panel, Can You Feel Me Now?, discussing the convergence of psychology and technology in mobile applications was a bit of a bust. The speakers included Cameron Clayton, president of Digital Vision; Gary Klassen, principal architect at Blackberry; Giorgos Zacharia, chief scientist at Kayak. The panel didn’t really discuss much about the psychological techniques used in created better mobile apps. The main thing repeated throughout the panel was how more people are becoming digital natives and wanting something that is easy to use. It turned out to be an okay panel.
The Golden Age of Drama on TV was a panel on the increased quality of drama TV. Drama series have started to produce quality material that is comparable to theatrical films. Budgets for drama TV has increased, script quality has increased and character development has become way more in depth.
Alex Cary, executive producer of TNT’s Legends; Hank Steinberg, executive producer of TNT’s The Last Ship; Rob Moynihan, LA correspondent of TV Guide Magazine; and Stephen Kane, executive producer at Turner Broadcasting were speakers for the panel on The Golden Age of Drama on TV.
The new nature of character development and scripts was talked about.
“There used to be a lot of resistance to character development of TV characters” Steinberg said, “with DVR, serialized shows like Lost started to get popular”
Steinberg mentioned that studios have for the most part abandoned mid-level movies. They have opted to focus on shorter, smaller movies and $200 million dollar high packed movies. He said people and studio executives have been looking to TV in the past few years to fill the empty mid-level movie void absent from film.
Steinberg said shooting 10 or 12 episodes of TV provides great efficiency and opportunity for character development. He said it is more optimal to do rather than doing 22 episodes a season without all the scripts ready.
“I’ve never had this before where we have all the scripts ready before shooting. It was great efficiency” Steinberg said.
The last event of the day was a taco party hosted by Cindy Royal, a Texas State mass comm professor who is currently a Knight Fellow at Stanford University. The event was great. I got to talk with a lot of graduates from the graduate program at Texas State. One of them works at NPR now and recently did a panel at SXSW. Another one works at a food bank in Austin. Also there were free tacos and chips at the party so that made it all the more awesome.
The greatest thing of the day was getting to meet Burt Herman, co-founder of the social media storytelling service Storify. He was pretty awesome and even asked for my website URL.
Feeling accomplished. Day four was a success. Whenever a day includes free tacos (or any food for that matter) you know it’s going to be great.
Things were planned for the day of Sunday March 9th: Mindy Kaling’s panel, Brooklyn-Nine-Nine and the Fifty Shades of Creativity panel. Getting to the convention center around 8:10am, I thought I would get to the Mindy Kaling event early (and get a front row seat!). One problem: forgotten badge.
A 1.5 hour round trip bus excursion later and I had my badge. First up was the panel Running the Show: TV’s Newest Queen of Comedy. Mindy Kaling, Ike Barinholtz and Adam Pally from Fox’s The Mindy Project were in attendance. The discussions included the changing nature of the television landscape. Streaming services like Netflix, Amazon and Hulu changing the way people watch TV. It was discussed how cable and network shows differ, process of writing an episode and the increasing diversity of people in TV.
I toted a good ol’ point and shoot camera to all of my events for the day. I’ve gotten a few looks from people, suprised that I have an actual camera and not just an iPhone with a camera app. One of my professors even called me out on it the other day. This is how to conversation went:
“So I noticed you have an actual point and shoot camera. “-Professor
As you can tell the conversation went very well! Anyways, the Mindy Kaling panel went great. Despite the funny looks I got with my camera, it took some great pictures with it’s 20x optical zoom.
Kaling was sitting at a lounge after the panel to do an interview. People hovered around closely. Many tweets from Twitter had similar message: “Breathing the same air as Kaling/In same room as Kaling” with a boatload of exclamation points afterwards.
Since I sat at the back of the crowd, when it was time for autographs, I got to be one of the first in line! I got to take a picture with one of my TV writing role models.
I was content after this picture. I could die right at that second and be happy. You know what I mean? After the picture was taken I thought about going to a data journalism presentation by a Texas State alumna. For some reason I felt this urge to stay. I had no idea why but decided to go with it. I sat down outside of the lounge and started doing some work on my laptop.Actors Melissa Fumero and Stephanie Beatriz from Fox’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine would be there at 3pm so I stayed. I’m so glad I did.
“Can I plug in next to you?”
A woman stood next to me as I was sitting against the wall with my laptop plugged in.
“Sure” I agreed.
She plugged her phone in and turned and asked what was going on in the streaming lounge. I told her about the people from Fox’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine doing an interview there. She talked about how her husband liked the show. When asking where she was from, she said Chicago. I told her I maybe wanted to move to Chicago after my graduation in December 2014. She asked about what my college major was and what kind of work I wanted to do. This is where things got weird and cool at the same time.
I pulled up my about/portfolio website that I had been making for my Web Design and Publishing class. I showed her my Twitter bootstrap site covering mumblecore film.
“Oh, one of my friends does that” she said.
“Cool. Who is he?” I asked.
My body simultaneously went numb and filled with excitement at the same time. I had Joe Swanberg featured on my mumblecore website (located here). Only seeing two of his movies, Joe Swanberg was already one of my favorite directors. The woman was suprised that I knew who he was and even more suprised that I liked him as a director so much.
The next 10 minutes I got to talk with her about her high school days with Joe. The early films he did. The projects he has going on now. It was great. It was more than great. It was perfect. She was really happy that I coached her into taking a photo and getting an autograph from the Brooklyn Nine-Nine actresses.
“My husband’s going to love this!” she said.
By the end of the day I was pretty happy. Getting to meet Mindy Kaling, Stephanie Beatriz, Melissa Fumero, and a longtime friend of one of my favorite directors? Sunday, March 9, 2014 will go down in my personal history. South by Southwest is freaking awesome!
Emmy-nominated writer Mindy Kaling made a trip to SXSW to give a panel about the changing nature of television and its new dynamics.
A challenge to send a tweet in less than 45 seconds started off the event. No pressure right? Mindy Kaling is awesome. She managed it in a mere 17 seconds with saying “Where am I?” (and was sadly later deleted).
Kaling talked about her presence on social media. For her, Twitter is just for fun and something to be used to tease her writing staff.
The moderator asked the question of the writing process/writers room and creating an episode. Kaling responded with how writers all have creative (and out there) conversations about what’s going on in their lives. What they have been noticing.
“Our writer’s room is very gentle and loving. All the guys would identify as feminists. It isn’t sexist like other writer’s rooms,” Kaling said.
Kaling provided some humorous lines that made the nearly all of the hundreds in attendance laugh.
“I think recycling makes american look poor-Mindy Lahari”-Mindy Kaling
“I always wasn’t one of those sunny, cheerful kids. I was plotting.” Mindy Kaling on wanting to have her own TV show since 8 years old.
Kaling’s The Mindy Project castmates Ike Barinholtz and Adam Pally were alongside in the panel to give commentary.
“My cast doesn’t drug women,” Kaling
“We take drugs with women,” Barinholtz
Moderator: Pet Peeve?
“Mindy’s moodiness,” Pally
The panel went into the discussion on the format of the show and how it differs from cable and online streaming counterparts. Kaling acknowledged that the structure for network shows and cable shows is different. Having HBO shows like Nurse Jackie and Shameless in the same categories as network shows doesn’t seem to fit, Kaling said. The shows are different and have vastly different structures, she said.
Adam Pally added on with how cable and network shows are different because of the episode counts. Cable shows usually have 13 episodes or less while network shows have the usual 22 episodes.
“When you’re only making 12 or six episodes you can say ‘okay let’s follow this character for the season’, you can’t do that with 22 episodes,” Pally said.
The panel did get a tad awkward at the end times when audience members repeatedly asked questions about the racial and gender concerns of the show. The issues were something that Kaling subtly dropped hints that she didn’t want to focus on those concerns.
Despite the audience repetitive questions, the panel went great. Kaling has proved herself as a book writer, television writer, actress and leading a strong work ethic. Kaling is a jack of many trades and has many great years ahead.
It’s day 2 of SXSW Interactive (#sxswi) and the first event to kick off the rain-drizzled day was DIY App and eBook Publishing. The event discussed and demonstrated the latest in DIY publishing technology. Attendees were able to send in recipes for a crowd sourced cookbook to be made.
The speakers for the event were Babette Pepaj, founder of BakeSpace Inc. and Erik Deutsch, principal at ExcelPR Group in Los Angeles.
The event started off with why traditional publishing isn’t very good. Pepaj brought up how there are so many gatekeepers in traditional publishing. She had friends who had book deals who had to wait two years or more before their books got on the shelves. Publishers would decide what would go into the book, how it was structured, marketed, and when to release it. A humorous example of some of the books published through traditional publishing was brought up.
Self publishing gives a person creative control over their product. It lets a person make sure the product reflects their personal brand, who they are about and what they have to offer. Discussions about the advantages and disadvantages of traditional and self-publishing were discussed.
Although an explosion in self-publishing resources have come to light, it still has a long history.
Erika Mitchell (a.k.a. E.L James) is a great example of the rise in popularity of self-publishing. Mitchell worked as a TV executive prior to writing. In May 2011 James turned a series of fanfiction writings into a novel titled Fifty Shades of Grey. The novel was published as an ebook by The Writer’s Coffee Shop, a virtual publisher based in Australia. Without much of a marketing budget, the book was mainly promoted through niche book blogs and other fanfiction sites.
The event ended by discussing the ways to make and market a book and finding an audience for it. Niche sites/blogs, press releases, guest blogging and offering free services things discussed at panels end. eBook pricing was a notable question from the audience. If a person really wants a book, they will pay for it. Panelists discussed buying ebooks ranging from $0.99 cents to $20 bucks. Experiment to see what works best. Try to offer free samples to people so they can get a taste of what an author have to offer.
Veronica Mars debuted on the now defunct network UPN in 2004. Despite middling ratings, it had good critical praise and a dedicated following. Maybe if it had been in the days of high DVR viewership and Netflix it would have survived. In 2007, the CW cancelled it after three seasons.
Marshmallows, the nickname for Veronica Mars fans, did a series of intense things to revive the series. A plane was hired to fly over a city, marshmallows were sent in to CW studios, and an endless string of (strongly worded) letters were written to TV executives. It was still a no go. CW and Warner Brothers Studios were ready to move on and had no interest in reviving the series and producing a much anticipated movie.
Things changed when a Kickstarter campaign launched on March 13, 2013. It was the first time a network show attempted to return as a feature film via crowdfunding. Short story? It worked. Less than 24 hours into the run, the campaign had surpassed it’s $2 million goal. It went on to raise $5.7 million from over 91,000 backers by the end of the month long campaign.
The Veronica Mars film is shifting up things once again. It will become the first film to be released simultaneously in theaters and video on demand by a major Hollywood studio (Warner Brothers).
A long time ago we used to be friends…and we still are. (Theme song tweak).
Veronica Mars premieres at South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas on Saturday, March 8th and will hit AMC theaters and VOD platforms (iTunes, Amazon Instant) on March 14th.
This article is a little strayed from the usual film and television coverage on the blog. Nevertheless, I wanted to share it.
A little background: I’m part of the contributing writer program for USA Today College. The job is to write short articles (300-400 words) covering local interest college-related stories. After a few weeks of stalling and not knowing what to write about, I finally wrote up my first story. It was a piece talking about the a new course called Fundamentals of Digital Media that had been implemented at my college, Texas State University, for mass communication majors.
So I was browsing through my RSS newsfeed when I decided to check the USA Today College tab. I visited the main website and scrolled through the recently added stories. I was a little on nerves since I had submitted a story to USA Today college at the start of the week and had gotten no response back.
My eyes caught something as I scrolled through. There was my article on the recently published stories tab. Clicking on the article in excitement, I saw that it had been published on Thursday, February 27th. It had been published for three days and I hadn’t even noticed!
Although I was filled with excitement (I have an article in USA Today!) I didn’t know whether to tweet it out or not. It was Saturday night so surely not many people would see it. With hesitant fingers I clicked ‘tweet’ on my Twitter application and the article made it’s way to the big ol’ internet.
I didn’t expect much. I was hoping that at least one of my friends would favorite the tweet.
Low and behold, the tweet quickly gained traction and started being shared.
My mental thoughts: “Okay this is good. My friends have a lot of followers so it may get a few views.
Then it stared to go even further…
They have thousands of followers. My article was being shared (and had the potential to be read) by thousands of people. Once my college professors started tweeting out the link to the article things picked up speed. Their tweets got a lot of favorites and retweets. The article started being shared more and more from each of their tweets. By 11pm, five hours after my first tweet at 6pm, the article had been retweeted and favorited over a dozen times.
Several of the lecturers and professors in the School of Mass Communication at Texas State loved the article (and some even pulled quotes from it!). I was beyond trilled and did a little victory dance. A piece I had written had gotten published on a national news website!
Despite this upcoming week being ridden with midterms, I can walk through those doors to the School of Mass Comm with a sense of accomplishment. It’s only one article, nevertheless I’m happy with the overwhelmingly positive response to it. The first of hopefully many USA Today articles! Go check the article out here