Giving birth online
Jon Bowden (left) and Josh Farrell talk over a shot while recording episodes of Back of the House, on location in a San Francisco hotel.
Back in the Precambrian era of filmmaking and television production, first you wrote or bought a script, then you went with your script to a studio or broadcast network, then they stole your idea if not your actual script, or they put it in “development” —for which you got a modest fee —and you never heard from them again, and then—three to five years later, if you were lucky—you learned that the script had been turned into a comedy or a sitcom or a bloody action flick bearing no resemblance to what you wrote and maybe, if you were even luckier, you got a small check now and then, just enough to keep you from filing a lawsuit you couldn’t afford.
Moving forward in time, up to the cinematic equivalent of the Pliocene epoch, you developed an independent production company, wrote or bought a script, hired a director, some actors and rented a bunch of production equipment including very expensive cameras and audio gear and a cinematographer who knew how to light a scene, and you shot a masterpiece that cost you $5 million, which you put on your credit card, but the critics hated the movie and it dropped from sight after a lonely weekend in three small markets and you went broke and had to sell your house.
Now let’s come up to the present. You are, and practically everyone you know is, a production company. You did not invest even the relatively modest amount of $15,000 in the sweet Sony PDW-F335 XDCAM HD with Blue Laser Optical Drive technology.
No, you went to B&H Photo and picked up a couple of Canon 5D Mark II still cameras for $3,500 each (with lenses), that shoot high definition 1080P video as well, you bought a few digital stereo
omnidirectional audio recorders and a couple of good microphones, a cheap light kit and a few other pieces of hardware and, voilà, you’re ready to make a movie for less then 15 large.
You write, direct and help shoot the film—maybe you even act in it—and you edit it either in iMovie or with a borrowed copy of FinalCutPro on a $2,000 Apple computer.
All of this takes you three months and you still have $500 left on your credit card. Friends and family who watch the rough cut say they love the movie/TV series pilot, but how do you get a distribution deal?
It’s called “You Tube.” Giving birth online.
Now meet Josh Farrell and Jon Bowden, two actors, producers, directors who are in the process of launching a promising new TV series called The Back of the House, pretty much following formula number three above. Except that, instead of maxing out their credit cards (or perhaps in addition to) they fished for pledges on the fundraising website KickStarter, and met their goal of $5,000.
Farrell is a Sonoma native now living in L.A. and Bowden has credible directing credits after doing several successful projects, including The Full Picture, a feature-length film shown at a recent Sonoma International Film Festival.
The series is a classic ensemble treatment of life behind the scenes in a high-end hotel restaurant, revealing, as Farrell puts it, “customer service realities in the food industry.” Content is based partly on Bowden’s 10-years of experience as a banquet captain.
The crew shot the first episodes at a luxury boutique hotel in San Francisco, after hours and for free. They used the Canon 5D Mark II cameras, often hand-held or on monopods. And while scenes were shot of Jon, Josh was busy recording the action on his iPhone to post immediately afterward on the Web to build interest with social media outreach.
Sometime this spring, plans call for episodes to appear on “You Tube” in hopes of driving interest toward potential distributors.
“Everyone is so excited,” says Farrell. “No one knows what’s going on, but it’s all headed for the Internet. We’re not talking about the United States—it’s all over the world.”
To track the series, go to kickstarter.com/projects/back-of-the-house, or go to backofthehouse.tv on Facebook.