#Follow Character Bios, part 2

The last three featured characters in the pilot of #Follow:

Eric Dunphy –

Eric is more than just best friend and business partner to Connor. He’s an artist, a dreamer. Where Connor provides the business sense, Eric is the idea generator. Though he’s had no formal training or schooling, he is extremely intuitive and talented when it comes to creating new software, and channels the rest of his imagination into his painting and sculpture work. Eric has long pined for Bree, but she has always been unavailable and even a little distant at times. He’s never really liked Doug very much — he thought their group was better without him, but since everyone else seems to like having him around, he tolerates him.

Bree Sanders –

Bree fancies herself a party girl with limits. She’s put her ‘crazy’ days behind her, but she still loves to drink and have fun with her friends. Lately she’s been feeling like something is missing in her life, but she really can’t imagine what it is. After all, she has a great job – she’s written a couple of chick-lit books and spends a lot of time on the lecture circuit. A boyfriend would be a distraction, but that doesn’t keep her from going out and having a good time (or an occasional hookup).

Doug Litwiller –

Doug met this circle of friends more recently. He loved their adventurous spirit and enthusiasm for traveling together and having fun. He’s only been around for a couple of years, and if you were to ask him how he met the group, he’d probably tell you that he feels like he’s always known them. In truth, no one else really remembers when he started hanging out with them either…

Posted under writing

This post was written by Shawna Benson on March 24, 2011

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#Follow Character Bios, part 1

While it is probable that my time constraints on writing the script were evident in the finished product, they were made tighter by the fact that I really didn’t feel I could write the 7 page script without first throwing down a lot of backstory and character bios. The actors did a lot to inform their characters, and so these bios are definitely missing some aspects which they brought to the finished product.

Still, I thought someone might be interested in knowing more about the 7 characters of #Follow…

Matt McGreevy — Also known in our script as, “The running man,” Matt is at the end of his rope. He’s been in hiding and on the run for the last year or two and is no stranger to drug use. It’s understandable why he’s such a mess; after all, he’s responsible for keeping his friends safe. The secrets he holds are worth a fortune, and put the lives of Connor, Josh, Abby, Bree and Eric at great risk. The pressure of always being on the move, staying one step ahead of his pursuers was taking a toll, and inevitably he found himself on the top of a tall building, contemplating hiding his friends secrets permanently. Trouble is, they are less safe with him dead, so when he saw the reminder on his phone for Connor’s birthday, it pulled him back from the brink and sent him running…he knew what they’d be up to at Connor’s party, and he had to at least try to stop them before they started asking too many questions…and one question in particular.

Connor — If there’s a center to the group, it is Connor. Lifelong friends with Eric, Connor has been the magnet which drew the rest of this group of friends together. Connor and Eric started a software company, which has been moderately successful, though neither of them have thus far been successful in their personal lives. For some time Connor has found that his close friendship with Abby has led him to feel something more for her, but he was never able to pull the trigger and ask her on a date. There’s something that gnaws at Connor — he doesn’t sleep well, and though he seems pretty easy going and friendly, he has a compulsive need to understand everything, which proves difficult when he pulls a question that no one can answer.

Josh Worthington — Josh met Connor and Eric at a conference, where they soon found they all shared a love of travel and adventure. He practices intellectual property law, so the fact he can work with his friends a huge plus. Josh is ambitious and goes after what he wants. When he decided he wanted Abby, he pursued her, where Connor held back. He takes his relationship with Abby very seriously, and feels a little threatened by the easy friendship she shares with Connor. His constant pursuit of excellence and having a ‘perfect’ life causes him some dramatic mood swings at times. Over the last few months, his moods have taken a decidedly darker turn, and he has had a more difficult time connecting with his friends and the woman he loves. Josh has been in touch with Matt a couple of times over the last few years, but does not know the truth about April 2nd or the secrets Matt is keeping to protect them all.

Abigail (Abby) Newman — Abby became friends with Connor and Eric after they first started their company, and she was hired as their head of marketing. They all bonded very quickly, and before long were taking trips together and sharing adventures. Abby has a particularly strong bond with Connor, and she has always had an easy friendship with him, much to Josh’s dismay. Abby at one time hoped that Connor would ask her out, but Josh’s pursuit of her affection made her fall in love with him. Still, it’s a challenge to deal with Josh at times — his mood swings cause a great deal of tension in their relationship, and he refuses to seek out a therapist or a psychiatrist to deal with the issue. Abby is incredibly intuitive and is far more intelligent than her marketing background would necessarily indicate.

Bios for Bree, Eric and Doug still to come!

Posted under writing

This post was written by Shawna Benson on March 12, 2011

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#Follow Series Summary

One of the requirements for the Celebrate the Web 4 Festival was to submit a one-sheet explanation/overview of the overall series. So, just for fun, here is what I submitted — and I’ll be posting character bios (which were not required and not submitted) later today.
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#Follow is an episodic thriller/mystery series about a group of friends who discover that their memories of the past may not be accurate reflections of reality. Inspired by the quote from William Gibson, “Time moves in one direction, memory in another,” the series seeks to answer two interrelated questions: “As time passes, do our memories define us, or, can we escape the trappings of our past to become something else?” How much do our collective memories determine what we are and what happens to us when those memories are altered?

Eric, Josh, Abby, Bree and Doug have gathered to celebrate Connor’s birthday. While quizzing each other on events from their past, Connor puzzles over a strange question – “What happened on 4/2?” No one seems to know what significance the date holds or who even wrote the question. As they search for the meaning of this elusive date, they are interrupted by the unexpected arrival of their old friend Matt, who they haven’t seen in five years. Matt has pulled himself back from the edge (literally) to help his friends. He races to warn them that they aren’t safe; they all need to run.

Now the friends must try to understand the truth about their past, and why it puts their lives in jeopardy. They soon discover that their collective memories are suspect and may not represent their true history together. Further, someone else knows about their mysterious past and wants to erase all trace of it, even if it means killing them all to accomplish the task. Who are they running from? Why are they in danger? What important event happened on April 2nd and why don’t they remember it? Quickly the friends find themselves on the run, with an urgent need to find the answers to these and other questions as they try to stay alive.

Like popular epic television series such as “Lost” and “The Walking Dead,” “#Follow” is a thrilling story about a group of people who must band together to make peace with their past and work to build a future by staying alive.

Posted under writing

This post was written by Shawna Benson on March 11, 2011

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Celebrate the Web 4: Mission accomplished!

Today I finished the marathon that was the Celebrate the Web 4 Webseries Pilot Competition.  The challenge was to write/shoot/finish a webseries pilot in 7 days.

I expect to blog a lot about my experiences, as there were a lot of ‘firsts’ for me this week.

For better or worse, I no longer rest on the laurels of my teen opus “Stegron” which I shot for Jules when she was in high school — she was doing a school report on B-movies of the fifties, so we made one to accompany her paper.

She got an A, which, for a schlocky B-movie made me quite proud.

But what I did this week… far beyond anything I’ve done before.  I don’t mean necessarily quality but just the amount of work, the decision making, the responsibility…it was a lot.  And it was hard.  And sometimes I thought I was insanely stupid for trying to do this.

But somehow, I made it through the week, completed a project, and actually wouldn’t mind doing it again (but, not in a race like this — I’d like to have more than 5 hours to write my script).

There are lots of people to thank, lots of stories to share.  For now, I’ll just leave you with this.  Ladies and gentlemen, my little baby… #FOLLOW.

You can watch the other 12 pilots here and if you feel like voting for us, that would be nifty.

Thanks.  Now I’m gonna go sleep.

Posted under writing

This post was written by Shawna Benson on March 10, 2011

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Public acts of suicide

I’ve got two today! First, I wrote a review of the new “Criminal Minds” spinoff that will insure I never get hired by anyone involved with that show. It’s at Seat42F, of course.

My second act of public suicide is this: I have for some unknown (and likely non-existent) reason signed up to participate in the Celebrate the Web 4 Festival.

I must now assemble a team of questionable sanity to join me in this endeavor the week of March 3rd.  If you are feeling suicidal yourself and want to join me, drop me a line at the usual places (Twitter, Facebook, Email)

More to come on that nonsense next week.  This week, I’m writing like a demon. And about demons.  It’s a whole demon thing.

Posted under reviews, writing

This post was written by Shawna Benson on February 16, 2011

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Current Project

Here’s a bit of the short story I’ve written, which I am adapting into a webseries.  I hope to shoot in 2 or 3 months.

Prepare to hear more about this in the near future.

A lot more.

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Love Sucks

By Shawna Benson

It’s so hard to meet people these days.  Everyone is so disconnected now, keeping touch over the modern equivalent to tin cans and string.  It gets even worse when you live in the city, like I do.  It’s nearly impossible to meet quality men in the city.  I know some people meet their future spouse at work, but I deal with lawyers enough all day; the last thing I want to do is be married to one.

Don’t get me wrong, I love being a lawyer.  Sometimes I even get to help people.  In those moments, you feel useful, and honestly, there isn’t a better feeling in the world than when you are contributing something, rather than taking.

People are always taking in our society.  I try to give back, but this is why I don’t believe in karma or the law of attraction or any of that new age nonsense.  It seems to me that if there really were a great big karmic ledger somewhere, I’d be more than overdue to have someone special in my life.  I hardly think Scooter counts.  Scooter is a great dog, but I need more than a furry companion to take for walks.

I need a man.

I know what you’re thinking.  That’s not very progressive of me.  Admitting to “needing a man” must set back feminism at least 30 years, right?  Well, Gloria Steinem, I’m not a fish and a man is not a bicycle.  I have needs, you know.

Look at this guy – he’s got to be kidding with his stinky-ass cologne and the obscene globs of gel in his hair.  I’m not saying I’m the best catch, but if this is as good as it gets in here tonight, I am definitely going home alone.

Definitely.  Okay, maybe not.  I’d like to think I can just go home, throw on my sloppiest pajamas and curl up on the couch with a book, but inevitably something takes hold of me as I sit and ponder the dearth of gentlemen in the world.  I start the evening looking for a life partner, a mate.  Gradually, once the terrain is surveyed, I’m happy to settle for someone to talk to, just for the evening.  By the end of the night, I’m eyeing the guy by the jukebox who reeks of Wild Turkey and Polo.

It’s not easy to acknowledge who you are and what you need to make yourself whole.  Let me tell you, I went to a therapist for months before I learned the truth.  I had been wrestling with this question of why I couldn’t keep a relationship going, why the man I was with always seemed to just…shrivel up and die.  My therapist suggested that my extreme use of language to describe my situation was a sign of job stress.  That was the last time I saw the therapist.

I did finally learn what the problem was, but it wasn’t a therapist who helped me understand.

It was a gypsy.

I was at the farmer’s market, trying to decide between the asparagus and the Brussels sprouts for dinner, when this woman sidled up next to me and started looking at the peppers.  She leaned across me to pick up some gorgeous habaneros when I heard her mutter, “You don’t have to be alone, you know.”

It was like she had reached into my brain and pulled out the thought I was having.  As I stood there, asparagus in one hand and sprouts in the other I was having one of the great revelatory thoughts of my life.  I wasn’t just weighing a produce decision in my mind, but I was contemplating a much bigger conundrum: why can’t I keep a man around?  And it was then the thought popped into my head: I am going to die alone.

But there she was.  I hadn’t even noticed her, so narcissistic was I, wrapped up in my own little drama.  And as soon as she said it, I knew she was right.

“Excuse me?” I asked her, because how could I say anything else.  This woman, a short, round innocent little thing – like she stepped out of some kid’s storybook of what a kindly older woman should be – she smiled at me.  Instead of answering, she paid the man for her peppers and handed me a card.  Naturally I had to read it: Svenja Kamengorski.  Gypsy.

Gypsy?  I may have even said it aloud, but she wasn’t around any longer to hear it – she was gone.

I went home that afternoon (having decided to cook kale instead of asparagus or sprouts) and sat at my kitchen table, staring at the card.  Why did she give me her card?  Why does a gypsy even have a business card?

So of course, I googled her.  I mean, she has a business card, she obviously is hip to the modern age!  Sure enough, I found her website, but it was for an at home floral business.  I almost gave up right there, until I noticed a little icon at the bottom of the page.  I looked again at the business card, and noticed it this time – the same design – an ornate lettering inside a circle.  To anyone on the site, it’d just look like a logo, but I had a hunch…I clicked on the icon, and sure enough, I got this page that just had her address.  I will say she was nice enough to link a google map on there, so I could get directions.  I’m not sure I’d have found her if not for that map, because she lived out in the middle of fucking nowhere.

I’d heard about this town where psychics, aura readers, and gypsies lived.  It was like a giant circus sideshow, but with a grocery store.  I had done a little research before I went there, trying to find out what kind of town this gypsy woman had chosen as her home.  I was almost tempted to try out some of the other “offerings” in the town; would the aura reader tell me why I was always so hungry to have a man, or should I go to the tarot card reader?  In the end, I chose to see the woman who had chosen me.  What I learned about Svenja was that she kept a low profile in that town – she had no storefront with voodoo witchcraft or mysterious trinkets.  She was supposedly a reincarnation of a more notable gypsy from one of those Eastern European countries you can’t really pronounce…the old world.  The one mention of her I did find indicated that she was a specialist in helping people find their true selves, who it is they are and what they need to fulfill their destinies.  That was exactly what I needed.

I drove up to the town on a Saturday.  I hadn’t told anyone where I was going, because I knew what people would say.  After all, I’m a lawyer, an intellectual, and the idea of someone like me going to see someone like Svenja… it wouldn’t make sense to them.  They’d think I’d gone round the bend and send me back to the idiot therapist who thought all of my problems were related to stress.

It was actually a really nice drive.  One of the things I realized was that I don’t get out of the city nearly enough.  I’ve never considered myself to be a “hippie,” but being out away from cities and traffic and noise was great.  I remember that one of the guys I dated last year was a total outdoorsy-type.  He’d go hiking and camping and fishing…he wanted me to come with him once, so I did.

That didn’t go so well.  Suffice to say, I never saw him again after that weekend.

I pulled into the tiny town with only a gas station and a Moose Lodge to its name and drove down the dirt roads to a little ramshackle house.  I swear this house was at the end of the world.  The road just kept going and going for miles and every time I thought I had gone too far and missed it, a little sign with her name on it would pop up, pointing further down the road.  She wasn’t kidding about the floral business.  After miles of dusty, rocky road, I pulled up to a house that appeared to reside in the Garden of Eden.  I have no idea how she got those trees, flowers and grass to not just live on the rocky outcropping, but actually thrive there.  That was proof enough that there was something otherworldly going on.

I knocked on her door.  From somewhere inside this cottage was some music from the 1920’s or 30’s.  I wasn’t surprised when I saw an actual Victrola playing the record.  The door opened and… well, first, let me just preface this by saying that Svenja is a really nice lady.  I didn’t know what to expect when I got there, and she couldn’t have been more cordial and accommodating.  But when she first opened that door, I thought, ‘my God, this woman is going to kill me and hide my body.’  I mean, honestly, the idea wasn’t that farfetched.  Svenja looked very normal, like someone I might find living down the street.  Granted her street and mine are very different, but you get the idea.  What made my blood run cold were her eyes.  They were black, like tiny onyx stones drilling into my skull, assessing me.  Her pupils were so dark and large I almost couldn’t see the whites of her corneas around them.  Of course, it was dark in that house, so that’s probably why her pupils were so dilated.

She nodded to me, as if I was exactly who she was expecting and ushered me inside her house.  Immediately I smelled exotic spices and herbs.  When I asked if she made potions, she noted it was her turn to make goulash for a potluck dinner.

I guess even paranormals have potlucks.

{To Be Continued…}

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Posted under randomness, writing

This post was written by Shawna Benson on January 26, 2011

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Wild World of Webseries

I can’t say I was really surprised by the results of my informal survey early this week.

I asked the question ‘Do you watch webseries?’

I figured that based on the percentage of views to actual comments that 90% of the people who read the question and didn’t answer WOULD answer in the negative.  The remaining 10% who did comment split about 7%/3% yes/no.

So 93% of my readers (or so) do not generally watch any webseries.  That’s what I gather.

As I said this was informal, and just because someone didn’t comment doesn’t mean they don’t watch, but I’m gonna assume that, because…well, just because.

That means I have 7% who might care about this post.

The reasons stated for why you don’t watch or what is frustrating are all valid.

The quality isn’t there.

I can’t dispute this.  The internet is a firehose.  Finding the good among all the bad…the signal to the noise — it’s not easy.

Still let’s face it, the web is democratic.  You create a vision, you distribute it, and the people decide to watch or not watch.  There are however ways to get improve your chances that someone will watch it.

I don’t know where to find webseries to watch them.

Also valid.  Much like the cable TV landscape, there are dozens and dozens of websites that act as distributors for web content, and that doesn’t count those who just put up a website to host their series without any distribution platform (although, to not use Youtube at a bare minimum seems a bit short sighted)  There are sites you’ve heard of, and a whole lot you haven’t heard of.  There are original web series – documentary, mockumentary, reality, drama, comedy, horror, animation, news…it’s just like any other “older” medium – a wide variety of series for people to enjoy.  A few are studio produced and distributed, many webseries are independent productions.  There are webseries which are directly tied to other content, whether it is a film or tv series – “The Office” and “Battlestar Galactica” are known for having webseries that run alongside or tie into their main shows.  Some have spin-off type content for web.  Some web shows have even made the jump from the web to television — “Sanctuary” started out as an episodic series on the web before Sci-Fi (pre-name change) picked it up and made it a television series.  “Children’s Hospital” on Adult Swim was a webseries on WB.com first.

Probably the best known independent productions don’t have huge stars, but have quality and devoted fans.  “The Guild” has managed to attract a large audience, which got attention from Microsoft.  Now that series is exclusively released on Microsoft XBox and MSN platforms before it hits Youtube.

Of course, most writers know about Whedon’s foray into the web during the Writer’s Strike a couple of years ago, and “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-along Blog” was born.

A series can be three episodes, or eighty.  It can have seasons or cycles, or it can stand alone, as a one shot.

The variety and flavors of webseries are vast, but the issues remain: How do I find the good ones?

Well, how do you find anything “good”?  You rely on word of mouth.  A video goes “viral” when it is shared and distributed by a swarm of people.  You post it or link to it and then some else sees it, does the same and so on… There are a few aggregators out there now, and sites like tubefilter.com try to cover the landscape of web entertainment.

Over the next few weeks, I’m going to start highlighting blogs, twitter accounts, facebook pages, and websites which try to highlight the good, find the signals among the noise.  They don’t always succeed, but you stand a better chance of finding something you like after you investigate them.

Why do I care?  No matter what, I am a storyteller first – if I can tell a story on the web and make it as good and as interesting as any independent film or tv series, I have a better shot at getting it seen eventually by a larger audience.  The power is no longer in the hands of gatekeepers – it’s in your hands, you as a creator and you, as an audience.

It’s a wild, uncharted landscape out there.  You can stake a claim.  What are you waiting for?

Me, I’m not waiting.  I’m writing a webseries.  So yeah, some of this is self-interest; I want an audience for what I make.  I want YOU to see it.  I figure I start with talking about webseries and finding some other good ones to share with you.  Then maybe together we can start making some magic happen…

Stay tuned.

Posted under writing

This post was written by Shawna Benson on October 9, 2010

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In Preparation

First off, huge gratitude for those of you who were good enough to respond to my survey request – obviously this is the least scientific survey in the history of surveys, but I was happy to get any responses at all, so thank you.

Here’s the thing: I figured most of the responses I’d get would be people who do actually watch or have watched webseries.  Only a couple of people admitted to not watching them, either because of lack of interest or inability to find them.  I can only assume that the reason more people didn’t comment on the survey is that they don’t watch webseries either.  Based on the non-responses, and the actual number of page views I received since I posted the survey, it’s fair to say 90% of my visitors DO NOT WATCH WEBSERIES.

And this leaves me with a dilemma.  I have a lot I want to say about webseries, but is there an audience interested in hearing about what I have to say?  The stats say ‘no.’

I’m genuinely concerned about how to overcome the “enthusiasm gap” for scripted series which premiere online rather than on tv, in theaters, you know, “old media.”

Still, I’m gonna talk about it.  Because that’s what I do – talk about stuff.  I can’t control whether you read obviously, but I actually hope you do.

Yes, this is also my way of telling you I need one more day to begin this new series of posts.  Consider it time you can use to remind people this long dormant blog still exists.  I mean, we’ve been in the trenches a long time.

I’d do it for you…if you asked.

Posted under analysis, writing

This post was written by Shawna Benson on October 4, 2010

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Quick survey

I’ve got some posts coming up in the next few days – expect content to start flowing here again as I have a lot of different perspectives on things.

The question is this: How much attention do you pay to webseries?  Which have you watched?  Which did you like/dislike?  If you don’t watch webseries, why not?

These may lead to more questions, but I have specific reasons for asking.

Posted under analysis

This post was written by Shawna Benson on October 3, 2010

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