Couch Cases: Text of Q&A Interview

Can you give me the background behind the relaunch?
We were excited to preview the show as soon as it was ready, but we look at the January 15th launch as our wide release.

When did you shoot? How large was your crew? What was your budget?
Patrick: We shot over a number of months, part-time and on weekends. We had a tiny crew– it was me, a camera assistant, a sound guy, and our makeup artist on most days. Our budget… well, our hard costs were pretty low but we all put in an enormous amount of sweat equity in the show.
Kathi: Yeah, and it helps keep the costs down if you have a one-man shop on your team! Patrick did everything from shooting to editing to special effects. We didn’t need to outsource to a production house.

Did you work with any unions or guilds on this, like SAG?
Together: Nope.

Do you have a “financial model” that you can speak to? That is, how is/will the show make money? 

We’re in discussions with companies interested in product placement and/or sponsorship. We have a vision for where the show is going, and we want to hold onto the rights as long as possible. We’ve already turned down an offer to sell the show because the buyer just didn’t get our vision.

It seems from your blog that you used the Red One camera. How did you make the decision to do that? What was the experience like?

Patrick: The RED One is amazing. I’m looking forward to using it a lot more in the future. I purchased the camera for my company, Genius Monkeys. See, I have this day job where I do TV commercials….
How did you guys come to work together?
We didn’t intend to write a show together; it just sort of happened. We were hanging out one day having a beer, and we started to throw some ideas around. That morphed into character and story ideas centering around a neurotic therapist and her patients. Could potentially be some funny stuff there. Two months later, we had an entire season written. At that point we thought, “How can we not shoot this?” The whole process was very organic.
As I was watching the episodes, I immediately thought of “The New Adventures of Old Christine,” so it didn’t surprise me to see you compare the show to that on your YouTube page.  What other influences would you say inspired you while making this show?

Patrick: We’re huge sitcom fans. And we wanted to write something that fit in with smart, funny shows you’d see on TV. We also wanted to create something that looked good, something cinematic like Sex & The City. We aimed high. 

Kathi: Ah, Christine is a good one! Thank you for the compliment. I grew up watching mostly sitcoms, so my writing and acting were definitely influenced by some of the great shows like Friends and Gilmore Girls.

What are your hopes/goals for this show? Did you make it with an eye toward crossing over to TV? Or is this a strictly web-only project?
Oh, the things we could do with the $50,000 per minute budget of a typical network sitcom! That said, we look at our show as a micro-version of a TV show, but developed specifically for the Web, with characters and story arcs that develop over the course of the season. By the end, we want you to be hooked!
The Web gave us the opportunity to create something outside of the Hollywood system that’s creative, fun, culturally relevant, and we hope… profitable.
I noticed you have a poll on your web page about who Amy should date.  Will the votes in that poll influence the story? Do you have other interactive elements planned?
We would absolutely be open to letting our fans influence our story lines. And we have all sorts of ideas about how to engage our audience beyond the episodes themselves. Stay tuned!
For Kathi, tell me about starring in the show and also producing.  How did you  juggle those jobs during the shoot?
Kathi: I must admit it was hard to stay in character between takes because there were a million things going through my head during the shoot. But I placed my trust in Patrick as my producing partner and the director to guide us through, which he did. I had a blast performing in front of the camera, and I equally enjoyed post production. We had a chance to be producers and writers again during the editing process, which I found to be very fun! I’m really happy with the finished product. I truly feel that it’s a nice blend of Patrick’s and my creative vision.
Also for Kathi – what is it with Texas and actors?? Half the actors I know in this town (including 3 of the 5 cast members in my own show) are from Texas.
Kathi: We’re people people. We can’t help it. We love to entertain. Ain’t nothing else I can say about that. Hey, y’all!
For Patrick – how about the directing/producing split? Did you produce until the shoot day, then put it in someone else’s hands so you could direct, or did you wear both hats at once?
Patrick: I never really thought about it that way. There were a lot of things that needed to be done, and I’d delegate where I could; otherwise I’d just do it myself. I’ve always felt that a director should have some expertise in every facet of filmmaking, so wearing lots of hats comes naturally to me, I guess.
Also for Patrick – I see you were responsible for the “Deliverance Pizza” mobisodes. Can you speak to the aesthetic differences, if any, in making a show for cell phones as opposed to for web viewing?
Patrick: It’s all storytelling, but of course we had a lot of technical limitations with the mobisodes due to the medium. What’s exciting to me now is seeing the evolution of video on the Web. We can create stories that are much more cinematic and visually interesting and deliver them to people whether they’re at their computer, on their iPhone, or sitting in front of their television. Technology is finally getting to where it can almost keep up with one’s imagination, and that’s pretty cool.
Back to both of you – What are your favorite shows on TV?  How about on the web?
Kathi: I have so many shows that I love, I thank the inventor of the DVR every day. Some of my current faves are 30 Rock, How I Met Your Mother, The Starter Wife, Brothers & Sisters, and House. I’m definitely into scripted comedies and dramedies with a lot of funny included. Life without laughter isn’t worth living! On the Web, I’ve been gravitating towards comedic news vlogs lately.
Patrick: I agree– I also have a soft spot in my heart for “Brit-coms” like Father Ted, Little Britain, and League of Gentlemen. And I watch everything Sci-Fi that I can find online. One of my all-time favorites is Star Trek: Phase II. And of course, The Onion has some funny stuff online.
What’s your vision of the future of web TV?
It seems to us that the future of Web TV is also the future of TV in general. Whatever it is, we hope to be there!
(Thanks again to the gang at Tubefilter for the interview)

TubeFilter.tv: Patrick Ortman

TubeFilter interviewed Patrick Ortman about the work we did on Couch Cases. The interviewer called Patrick a “pioneer in the digital world” for his work with digital media and web design.

Also from the article:

Asked about the differences between creating for mobile phones and creating for the web, he says, “It’s all storytelling, but of course we had a lot of technical limitations with the mobisodes due to the medium. What’s exciting to me now is seeing the evolution of video on the Web. We can create stories that are much more cinematic and visually interesting and deliver them to people whether they’re at their computer, on their iPhone, or sitting in front of their television. Technology is finally getting to where it can almost keep up with one’s imagination, and that’s pretty cool.”

Here’s the text of the rest of the article.


RED Final Cut Studio Native?

The combo of RED and Apple recently introduced tools to allow us to work with native RED footage in Final Cut Pro and Color. This is awesome, and it’s got tremendous potential. But it’s not perfect.

First of all, the log and transfer process with this new plugin from RED and the latest FCP updates works really well, looks great, and is easy to use. 

You have two choices when transferring: Native or ProRes HQ. You choose these from the little gear dropdown menu in the Log and Transfer window.

Advantage to Native:
When you transfer your footage over in Native, you get to use a new tab in Color’s primary room that lets you alter the ISO and other fun things ala a mini Red Alert application. This is HUGE, because it means you can change exposure and make other RAW adjustments in Color.

Disadvantage to Native:
It may not play back on your Mac (and you have to enable Unlimited RT in your timeline to get it to work at all). For us, on a quad-core Mac Pro with 8 GB of RAM and our footage on a SATA array we were unable to get smooth playback consistently.

Advantage to ProRes HQ:
It looks great and it plays back smoothly.

Disadvantage to ProResHQ:
No RED tab in Color. It’s grayed out. Damn.

 So, for now we’re sticking with ProRes HQ as our option. I know this is version 1.0 of the software, so I’m hopeful that the playback issues will be solved eventually. The RED One gives us footage that’s utterly amazing, and our clients love it. Having mature versions of these essential tools from Apple and RED will let us take things to a whole new level with the kind of ease of use one would expect from technology leaders.


Mac Software We’re Playing With In 2009

Daylite, customer relationship software
We’ve been searching for a good customer relationship application for a long time. Daylite is a Mac-only application that plays nice with Apple Mail, and it rocks. 

We  hate that Intuit’s Mac version of QuickBooks sucks so badly. Enter MYOB.

Modo and Lightwave (3D applications)
Product demos, visualizations, animations, and more. We used Lightwave for effects shots with Couch Cases. It’s great. Modo is even cooler in some ways, but most importantly they play well together.

Adobe CS4 Master Collection
Everything we do uses some piece of software in this collection. It’s expensive, but worth every penny.

WordPress (obviously!)
You’re reading why.

ModX CMS system
The only CMS we’ve found that gives the freedom to design like things should be designed- using web standards and CSS.

Hands down the best browser on the planet, especially with its plugins.


Rethinking Website Redesign

We’ve begun a redesign of the Genius Monkeys website. It’s not done yet, we’re just really in a very early beta period for parts of the site right now, but we’re refining and reorganizing things and plan an official launch at the end of January. This has given us a chance to think about best practices for web design, in an environment that isn’t claustrophobic due to client demands and deadlines.

First lesson learned: PNG is finally here. It’s now very possible to create layered looks that involve transparency and which work in all major browsers (even the horrible, outdated IE6 if you learn how to fix that browser’s limitations through scripting). This opens up entire new worlds to us, and we can’t wait to show the possibilities to our clients.

Next lesson: Flash and Standards-based websites don’t need to be exclusive. In early 2009 we’re adding some pretty cool Flash features and writing some interesting behind-the-scenes scripts that will show our website off to iPhone users and others who don’t support Flash.

Another lesson learned: your blog really needs to be integrated nicely with your website. We’ve been big proponents of a company blog since we started Genius Monkeys, and for the past year or so we’ve included some php code on our homepage that pulls the latest blog posts we make into the design of the homepage itself. Look for more of this going forward from us. It’s easy to do, and it makes your website instantly more updated and topical for your clients and visitors.

Good design is a process, and while most of our work is client-centered and shrouded in secrecy before launch, this particular redesign in a much more public space continues to be a fun, rewarding project for us.

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