How three NYC actors are taking control of their careers
Back in November, I got an email from a gal in NYC named Kelly Strandemo. Kelly and her friends Thomas Demarcus and Joe Beuerlein had created a webseries called 30/2010, and they wanted to introduce me to it. They use social media extensively, and I thought it was a really interesting case study.
Here’s an interview I did with the trio:
RC: Where did the inspiration for 30/2010 come from?
KELLY: Well, the inspiration came from an alchemy of three elements. One, I realized that as a (primarily) stage actor that I didn’t have a reel, and I was getting to the point where I was getting asked for one. I knew I somehow needed to create a reel for myself since filmed stage productions rarely look good. Two, Thomas and I actually did work together in a theatre and would often spend very long work days cracking each other up. I thought, well, WE find each other entertaining, maybe others would as well? When Joe became involved, everything started to come together. Finally, three, around this time I was watching Ellen campaign to be on the cover of Oprah. She did an elaborate campaign on her show and she of course got on the cover of O. So, I figured we could take a similar approach and campaign to be on Ellen and let that be a catalyst for the series. That’s why the Oprah/Ellen cover appears in Episode 1. When my best friend mentioned that she was thinking of throwing a party for her husband who was turning 30 right before New Years 2010: “a 30 and 2010 party” – I thought – That’s a great name! Thirty Twenty Ten. And so we began!
THOMAS: Kelly had come to me originally with an idea about a television show taking place in a theatre, but based solely around the staff of the theatre. Somewhat Slings and Arrows, but more about the general goings on of a house-staff. Kelly and I had been working at the same theatre for a couple of years and that led to us wanting to do a project together. We were inspired by the underground success of our friends’ web series “The [title of show] Show” and wondered if we could strike gold as well. Kelly approached Joe to join and the pieces were in place.
Originally, it was going to be a 30-episode series about ‘getting on Ellen’. I remember having reservations that after awhile, an audience might get disinterested if all we were doing was trying to get on Ellen episode after episode. We needed something with more story, and that would be different than other ‘we’re gonna make it’-type projects. Then we realized that we could make 30 stylistically different episodes about the three of us in New York City. The episodes would then become more of an ‘acting reel’ that would showcase that we could do various genres of film and theatre styles: The Office (ep 2), commercials (ep 6), accents (ep 11), music videos (ep 12) horror (ep 21) and so on and so on. Once that idea was on the table we were all on board because the genres were limitless and that opened up the crazy things we could do for the series.
JOE: I think Kelly forgot “sadism.” If she had only dreamed up twentytwentyten I would have gotten a lot more sleep this year.
RC: What is the process for creating each episode?
KELLY: It varies episode to episode. The first one we wrote together. Then, each of us started taking responsibility for helming a particular episode. Once it’s written and tweaked, we film it (which is the easy part). Then we go into hours upon hours of editing. Until September, we were all sharing one computer on which we edited everything,
JOE: Like Kelly said, it varies from episode to episode. In most cases, whoever has the idea for the episode will write, direct, and edit it. For most of this year we all had multiple jobs and lived in different parts of the city. The game of pass-the-one-computer-with-the-editing-software in order to work on our own episodes was pretty complicated. Now that Kelly and I are essentially neighbors the game has gotten much easier to play.
Editing has taken up more hours than any other part of the process. I thought at the beginning of the year that it was tedious because we were teaching ourselves as we went. Now that I’ve been around the editing block, I know that 1) editing simply takes a lot of time, especially if you want the end product to be nice and shiny, and 2) that I really enjoy doing it.
THOMAS: The first episode had to be a newscast. It had to explain what we were doing and inform our viewers what they would be seeing over the course of 2010. What better way to inform them than by doing this as news anchors. The twist at the end (that we’re really at work the entire time) was the simple set up for episode 2: the three of us at work. We sat down in January and plotted out some genres that we thought would be really fun to explore. Things like Shakespeare, Tennessee Williams, game shows…we would just throw them out and see what could work in the story line. Some ideas didn’t make it…but hey…30/2011?
For instance the West Wing episode (ep 18) was one of the first things I wanted to do because 1)I’m a huge huge fan of The West Wing and 2) it would be a perfect episode to do in case any of us would happen to have incredible news and we would stage a press conference. That was back in January and of course when I got the job for Spamalot in April, it seemed like a no-brainer to do the West Wing episode about that. Spamalot skewed the story line a bit because I was going to be leaving New York for the rest of the year, so we all brainstormed a long time on how to continue the webseries with the three of us not all being together. It was a lot of late nights back in January and it’s still late nights here in December.
RC: How would you characterize your success so far?
THOMAS: It’s hard to characterize the success of a web series. The loving support of our friends and family and the constant stream of well-wishes and people that have wanted to help out from day one has been so great. We didn’t know what we were getting into. None of us knew much about twitter or editing or designing a website and this project has rounded us out a bit more as artists on the business side, not to mention the sheer fun we have acting and writing the series.
KELLY: We gage a lot of our success by seeing how our facebook and twitter feeds are doing. It’s fun for us to see how many hits or retweets a certain episode gets or how many people have visited our website or YouTube channel. Our friends have been phenomenal in supporting us, and seem to genuinely be fans of the show. But honestly, what I have felt the happiest about is when people from NYC casting agencies have recognized me from 30/2010. The first time that happened was a great day!
JOE: My friends watch the show. When you’re an actor in New York, getting your friends out to watch your play can be like pulling teeth. Last week at a party everyone kept bringing up the musical episode. Regardless of what happens with Ellen, my friends -for at least this moment- think I’m cool.
RC: What role has social media played in that success?
KELLY: If it weren’t for social media, there would be no 30/2010. We started with just having a YouTube channel before we were able to move on to our own website. The majority of views we receive come from Facebook or twitter links. It helps us to see that 30/2010 is reaching beyond the people we know. The day that The Ellen Show voluntarily subscribed to us on Twitter was probably the day that I felt the most successful.
JOE: We’ve built up our audience almost solely through facebook. Our base was initially comprised of our own Facebook friends whom became our Facebook “fans.” From there we’ve grown through word of mouth– wait, what’s the social media equivalent of “word of mouth?” “Click of finger?” Our fan base has grown beyond just our friends thanks to video shares and retweets.
THOMAS: It started on YouTube and then we created a Facebook ‘fan page’ and then we got the Twitter account and then we got the website. There are so many ways today to get lost in the crowd of things. And you run the risk of over-exposing yourself to your friends where they feel nagged to ‘watch’ or ‘promote’ or even just ‘be supportive’. We do have some amazing ‘fans’ and we are incredibly lucky. However, once we found out that The Ellen Degeneres show was following us on Twitter, though we didn’t want to get ahead of ourselves, we had to start making intelligent decisions about how to proceed with certain things. We realized that people might be watching who we didn’t necessarily know through any direct way. We got an email from a teenager in the midwest who just stumbled upon our web series and said that she loved it. That’s insane!
“The How-to” (ep 10) is a great example because it came about as the three of us thought we should put together an actual agent-mailing for the series…but I wanted to write it so that anyone across the country could figure it out. It is so deceptively easy, it just takes a lot of time and waiting. But, I wanted to explain to someone who maybe didn’t know anything about it (because I was clueless when I was a teenager) that these are the steps. Social media is a fantastic tool when you realize it isn’t only for your friends, the network reaches everyone, everywhere.
RC: What’s the deal with RENT? Tracy Thoms guest-starred on one of your episodes, and then your musical episode was written by Mark Allen, who’s a Larsen-Award winner.
JOE: There’s a second RENT cast member who makes an appearance in an earlier episode. Was your mind just blown? I’ll let you go back and try to find him.
KELLY: Ha! I never actually even thought of that connection until you mentioned it. I should come up with a really clever story about connection here, but the truth is, it’s mostly a coincidence.
THOMAS: Just a crazy coincidence, I suppose. We met Tracy through Rodney who knew her from RENT and of course Mark Allen is an old friend and an insanely talented composer so he completely deserves any accolades thrown his way. Maybe there is an answer here to justify this and say RENT was a theatrical phenomenon that had so many positive messages like “no day but today” and “how do you measure, measure a year…” and broke bohemian-types in New York–simple parallels that 30/2010 has adhered to this year… alas, just a coincidence. Lincoln had a secretary named Kennedy, and Kennedy had a secretary named Lincoln, and none of us like paying rent.
RC: Good luck to you guys! Hope you make your goal, and let me know when you get on Ellen!