Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into writing, producing and directing.
Growing up, I was a very poor student and never thought of myself as a writer. In my wildest dreams, I never imagined that I'd be making a comedy series which BuzzFeed would compare to Curb Your Enthusiasm and Louie or that I'd be trying to crowdfund from my audience.
Visual art was gentle, slow, and solitary. It came to me naturally. As soon as I got out of college, I saved up money from waitressing and went to Paris to live in a maid's room, so I could study at the Beaux-Arts. I wanted to learn to draw like Leonardo da Vinci.
A few years later, as a graduate student at the Mason Gross School of Rutgers, I was studying to be a sculptor and making what the second year students referred to (derisively) as “free-standing monoliths”. Goaded by their ridicule, I was determined to figure out conceptual and performance art: fortunately, the performance artist Joan Jonas came out to visit for a day as a living example of what a smart and driven woman artist could do.
I eventually, put together a performance but it nearly killed me. The logistics were very difficult between the 8mm film, the slide show, the audio track of “American Birdsong: Volume 2” and five or six of my classmates in drag. And then once it was over, there was only a poor-quality video record. What I loved about performance was that it had the three dimensions of sculpture plus the possibility for written and spoken words and performers, and that all of this could take place in time.
When our professor, Geoff Hendricks, invited the artist Arakawa to come out and show one of his wonderful b/w 16mm films, a door opened for me. He’d made the film pretty much by himself with one actor who had very little, if any, dialogue. He’d shot it with a wind-up Bolex and edited with a pair of scissors and a projector. I suddenly understood that with film, unlike with performance, you could do it once. I also saw for the first time that film didn’t have to be a Hollywood production, that it was possible to make films the way you work as a visual artist. Four years later, figuring out that my version of ‘writing' was good enough, that producing and directing was actually a simpler version of what I'd done with that performance in art school, I finished my first film.
What you love most about your job?
More than anything, I love laughing and making comedy. I love being my own boss, having the astonishing control digital media gives and I love that this work feels like it uses me up: every talent I have (and some I never knew I had) are necessary to make this web series out of my 6′ X 8′ home office. Before The Louise Log, writing, shooting, video editing, self-promotion, marketing and (as of last week) acting were not in my skill set or even my aspirations.
How are you funding The Louise Logs?
That's the $64,000 question. This series has been funded with (to bastardize a French expression) tap water and love.
Back in 2007, after 17 years of raising children and rewriting the script (which I hoped would be the sequel to my Sundance competition first feature), I decided to try another tack. I'd make some ‘viral videos' to get the attention of Hollywood executives who would then go for my script and I'd have a career. How hard could it be? I'd seen “Charlie Bit My Finger”! And I'm a mother … a filmmaker!
I picked up the camcorder and had the only miserable summer of my life. Camera all charged and ready to go, I ran around *just missing* a million great moments. That fall, a producer friend hinted that “it's a lot easier with a script”. So I laid out a short script involving the busiest supermarket in the most densely populated part of Manhattan, met a woman who'd always wanted to act, and planned to shoot there Sunday night when the stressed-out weekenders return from their country houses. Everybody knows you need conflict in a script. And pain is funny. We'd have a hit on our hands.
The night before the shoot, two friends came for dinner, both with experience in film production and in managing health food stores. They assured me that Security would escort us to the door before we'd finished the first take.
We changed the location to the Union Square Farmers Market, ignoring the warning on their website that city permits are required to shoot there. The video tape cost $3 for an hour of tape. I bought the actor a cup of tea as a prop and refreshment. The first seventeen episodes proceeded apace. Because the actors have been very generous with their time and talent and because I shoot and edit, it was possible to do this for almost nothing.
But the sound quality was so poor in some of those episodes that we've since had to dub a number of them. For Season 2, we had a professional sound mixer which was a considerable expense paid out of pocket.
After five years, thirty-four episodes, and an audience that's vocal about how much they like the series, I'm asking for their support to crowdfund the production in order to pay the cast and crew to shoot Season 3.
How many hours do you work a week and how much is spent in your home office?
In the first two weeks of the month, I work 40 or 50 hours/week. The last two weeks before uploading an episode, I usually work 70 hours/week. During this crowdfunding, it's more like 200 hours/week. Except when we're shooting I'm always at my desk, sometimes sitting, sometimes with the computer and keyboard up on boxes so I can stand. The standing desk works brilliantly for long days.
How would you rate your success?
The yardsticks I use for success are the steady growth of our enthusiastic audience, the willingness of the cast and crew to stick with me for over five years, and critical recognition from sources as credible and diverse as Eve Ensler, Roger Ebert, BuzzFeed, and the HuffPo.
What has been your biggest business struggle as an entrepreneur?
By far and away, my biggest business struggle has been cutting through the clutter of the internet to reach our audience. Until last September, I was under the delusion that if you make good work and put it out there, ‘the cream will rise'. To recognize and accept that I have to take promotion as seriously as I take the production of the episodes took four years of heartache and growing bitterness. And now, working on the promotion is forcing me to completely let go of the illusion that I can be successful while living the quiet life of an artist. Who knew that social media could be this mercilessly demanding hard work.
What advice would you give to other aspiring producers and directors?
My advice is, do what you love, what you feel wildly excited about. Even if what you love doesn't seem fashionable or to be what people want at the moment, if you're passionate about it, you'll be able to hang in there for the long haul and eventually find your audience.
How do you manage all of your personal and business activities?
Deadlines are my friend. And they are the only way I've ever been able to put work before family.
My office was originally an old wooden kitchen table at the foot of the stairs in the downstairs hall. Putting up a wall and a door there so I can close the door and block out the sounds of family life has been critical.
I'm very distractible and, being online for a good part of every week, find it extremely challenging to be detached enough to manage and not just react. When close to a deadline, I go into ostrich mode, turn off the Internet, turn off the phone, and just plow ahead.
Generally, I use (and love) Workflowy to keep running lists by category of all the things I can't act on in the moment. I also use it to schedule the days by the hour, a schedule that is often ignored. For working collaboratively, I've just been introduced me to Trello, an amazing tool.
Connect with Anne and The Louise Log at:
- Twitter: @anneflournoy and @thelouiselog
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/anne.flournoy and https://www.facebook.com/TheLouiseLog
- YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/anneflournoy
- Websites: http://TheLouiseLog.com and http://AnneFlournoy.com
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