by Jorge Rivera
What do you do with a indie TV pilot that everyone likes but which ultimately fizzles out on the festival circuit? Well, if you're New York indie filmmaker Jorge Rivera, you do not call it a day -- you recut that bad boy, win a passel of awards and land distribution! Now that's what I call writer empowerment. Way to go, Jorge!
Just wanted to take a moment to let you and the Coverage Ink family know the latest and greatest about RHYME ANIMAL (www.rhymeanimal.tv), the dramatic horror series that I created with the help of several wildly talented and dedicated friends. I’m thrilled to report that our seven-episode web series just went online at Koldcast.TV, the premier web television network!
Set in the cutthroat New York City hip-hop scene, RHYME ANIMAL tells the story of an ambitious DJ who rides the coattails of an up-and-coming rapper. Only problem is, the rapper might also be a cannibalistic serial killer. RHYME ANIMAL asks a question that should resonate with many of us who are struggling to make it in film or TV: How far will you go for success?
RHYME ANIMAL started with a nightmare I had about being the victim of a cannibalistic hip-hop MC, and it immediately inspired me to write a screenplay. With the help of co-writers/co-producers Aaron F. Schnore and Billy Fox, (Fox is of course one of CI's top story analysts; Schnore also cowrote Coverage Ink's first short film SHOWDOWN OF THE GODZ) we developed the script as a short indie TV pilot within a few months. I spent nearly a year raising funds and recruiting professional cast and crew, then shot the story on Super-16. Later that year, it started a successful run on the festival circuit, and in 2008 it premiered as an independent television pilot at the New York Television Festival. But by late 2008, RHYME ANIMAL had run its course on the festival circuit. We'd gotten good notices, but basically, we were done.
Frankly, this bummed me out. I always saw the potential in this thing as a series, but the version we had just wasn't getting it done the way I'd wanted. How could I sell people on my vision? Against the advice of my peers, I went back into the edit bay and recut our pilot. The story had natural "buttons", or dramatic scene endings or cliffhangers, every two or three minutes. With a little bit of tinkering we now had seven short, tight webisodes.
I tested the waters with the new edit, and the response was explosive. RHYME ANIMAL began to make its mark: we were finalists in the long-form web content category at the 2009 National Association of Television Program Executives’ Next TV competition, and then again at the 2009 NexTV Entertainment web series competition. We won the Pitch-a-Thon category at the 2009 HBO Latino Film Festival. This year, we were at the Independent Television Festival (which connected us directly with Koldcast), and just a few weeks ago we won Best Web Series at the 2010 Mid-Atlantic Black Film Festival. But by far I’m proudest that Koldcast invited us to join their network. This platform will allow us to reach a massive audience of discerning viewers, and will draw serious attention to a story that I believe will one day have legs as a cable television series.
I remember being on set on our third day of shooting, watching the machinery that is a film crew unfold in front of me, and thinking to myself, “Holy sh*t! This was barely a wisp of an idea in my brain less than a year ago.” I was amazed at what was happening: the crew, cast, gear and about forty extras hard at work actualizing something based literally on a dream… a dream that could have easily been forgotten minutes after waking.
Phil Roc. There really is no experience like watching something you’ve written come to life on a set, and then sitting back as an audience reacts to your work… especially when you can do it with a team of friends.
My advice to aspiring film/web/TV show-makers: Write something and find a way to shoot it. Don’t wait for some production company to buy your spec and develop it. With digital technology and new media outlets, it’s now possible to produce your own story and to seize power over your destiny as an artist and creator. If you have a compelling vision, you’ll be surprised how easy it is to attract talented and dedicated cast and crew, and to expose your story to audiences around the world. It can be an arduous process, but trust me: well worth the effort!