First there was Nothing Much To Do. Now there’s Lovely Little Losers.
Nothing Much To Do is a vlog series, inspired by Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, created by four young New Zealand women and produced on a zero budget. The series has met with critical acclaim worldwide, and now the creators are working on the sequel.
The sequel is being crowdfunded to pay for travel and food. In just hours, the funding goal was exceeded with fans commenting: “Thank you for finally giving me the opportunity to throw money at you!”, “Just take my money!”, “I’ve been waiting for the opportunity to give you guys some cash.”
Words that any producer or creator would LOVE to see. Not only are these creators bringing Shakespeare into the digital age, their series is the epitome of democratisation in financing and broadcasting. The audience get to vote with cash for what they want to see get produced – so they can watch and enjoy. And creators get to create – and get paid for it.
It’s a win / win all the way – with no gatekeepers or rules, polices and agendas getting in the way.
This is 21st century media creation and consumption in action.
The creators of this project call themselves ‘The Candle Wasters’ – a Shakespearean reference to people who stay up late at night “wasting candles”. They are four young women aged between 17 and 20 who met at Western Springs College, Auckland, New Zealand. The Candle Wasters are: Claris Jacobs, who is at university in Wellington, Minnie Grace, Sally Bollinger, and her sister Elsie Bollinger.
They dreamt up the series after watching the Emmy Award-Winning, Jane Austen-inspired vlog series, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, developed and executive produced by Hank Green and Bernie Su.
IT ALL BEGAN WITH NOTHING MUCH TO DO (NMTD)
Nothing Much To Do is a web series inspired by Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing. Set in a New Zealand High School, the story is told through vlogs – ‘video blogs’ – in which people describe their lives to camera. These echo Shakespeare’s use of soliloquies where the actor talks directly to the audience.
The Candle Wasters spent 2013 writing the series; then cast, filmed, and began editing together in Auckland over their three-month summer break in early 2014. Like most amateur filmmakers, they begged and borrowed, with a cast and crew of 19 people working for love.
The whole production was released during 2014, over three YouTube channels. The main channel follows the feisty heroines Beatrice and Hero (released weekly). Beatrice’s rival Benedick also has his own channel where he puts forth his quirky perspective on events. Their friend Ursula, an aspiring filmmaker, shares a channel with the excitable juniors Dogberry and Verges (where the story is seen from a more objective light, and subplots are revealed). These last two channels released videos outside of a weekly schedule. The audience subscribes to the YouTube channels and is notified via social media (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr) when the next instalments are posted.
These transmedia elements allow the audience the opportunity to interact with the characters outside of the main plot; including Beatrice’s twitter account (https://twitter.com/beatricetheduke); Hero’s Instagram account (http://instagram.com/herotheduke) and Ursula’s blog, where she documents her year in photographs (http://watchprojects.tumblr.com).
The first episode alone has over 500,000 views and the channel has over 7,000 subscribers.
NOW THERE’S LOVELY LITTLE LOSERS (LLL)
The ‘Candle Wasters’ enjoyed working on NMTD and they were keen to continue to explore the world they had created, so they’ve decided to make, ‘Lovely Little Losers’.
LLL is a vlogseries inspired by Shakespeare’s ‘Love’s Labour’s Lost’, a sequel series to ‘Nothing Much To Do’. When the creators say “inspired” they mean they are going to take elements from the original play and use them in the series. It will not be a direct adaptation in the way that ‘Nothing Much To Do’ was.
“‘Lovely Little Losers’ will have just as much thought, love, and dedication put into it as NMTD has had,” say the Candle Wasters. “We want people to enjoy it just as much as NMTD, if not more! (We have definitely learnt from the process of our first series, and want to try and make the second even better).”
LLL is about four university students who are flatting together in Wellington. They decide to impose a new set of strict Flat Rules on themselves, with penalties if these rules are broken. Included in these rules are; compulsory challenges as a form of flat-bonding, Vegan Friday, 10PM curfew, and the harshest rule of all: no romantic relationships. However, this is a rom-com.
The Candle Wasters made NMTD on a zero budget and although to produce LLL, The Candle Wasters, the cast, and the crew will work for the love of it, they created a Kickstarter campaign – which met its target in just hours – to fund travel, feeding cast and crew and hiring equipment.
The Candle Wasters finished writing scripts for LLL in late November and began work shopping and rehearsals for the series through December and January. They will then transport the members of the LLL cast and crew who are in Auckland to Wellington and film the series over a three week shoot in February 2015. The LLL series should be released midway through 2015.
Viewfinder asked The Candle Wasters more about LLL:
You’ve built a large, loyal audience; how did you nurture and build your fans?
We communicate with them. We try to be as clear, respectful, and honest in what we say to them as we can. In this way we encourage them to participate in and engage with our show. We think their dedication to what we produce reflects the dedication we put into the show.
“We know how much work it is now, which is both a blessing and a curse.”
Do you actively market the show?
Not hugely. We actively post on our social media accounts, and continue to send out a Press Release to relevant media outlets. Word of mouth also seems to be a really strong promotion as fans introduce new fans to the show, both online and in person.
How do you find time to write, prepare, film and edit the shows?
We spent 2013 writing NMTD around our study. In January 2014 we spent three weeks filming, and the rest of the year editing and releasing the videos. This is a full-time job that we try to fit into our free time as a hobby haha. However, the fact that there are four of us and we are able to split the work amongst ourselves is a real help. Knowing that the other three people are able to cover for someone if they find they don’t have the time to work on NMTD in any given week, is a real help.
Can you tell us about the equipment you use?
We used three different cameras – we even named them, which made it much simpler when referring to them.
* Hero, Beatrice, and Ursula all use a Canon 5D Mark III which we call EDNA. Special thanks to Clint Milne for letting us borrow it!
* Ben uses Claris’ Canon 60D called MATTY (named well before we cast Matthew J. Smith)
* Dogberry and Verges use a Canon handycam, LEGRIA FS306, named ATTICUS, which we borrowed from our friend Eva (aka the Nun at Pedro’s party)
We use two different editing systems, both of which are not ideal.
Elsie and Sally use Final Cut Pro X for Hero and Beatrice, and The Watch’s videos. But they create the text on Photoshop because early on their editing system crashed and no longer creates text in the edit.
Claris and Minnie use Premiere Elements 11 for Ben’s and Ursula’s videos. Elements 11 is incredibly inconsistent and you have to render all footage before attempting to edit it. Positives are that it is an editing system. Recently they have also got Final Cut Pro X and have found it a great asset to editing.
We used a 500-800 watt lighting kit, as well as lamps and ceiling lights that we had lying around in the houses we used. We also used a lot of natural lighting, whenever we could.
Sarah Jessica Golding, our wonderful Sound Director, informs us that the sound equipment that was used is as follows: a Zoom H4N field recorder, a Sony cardioid condenser microphone of some description (not sure which exact model) and a Sennheiser ME66 microphone, and an unknown brand boom. Any post-production sound was done on Audacity software which is available free online, or on the editing software used by The Candle Wasters.
“This is a full-time job that we try to fit into our free time as a hobby.”
Can you tell us about pre-production; how much preparation do you do?
For Nothing Much To Do we spent a year writing scripts, we also constructed character costume boards and discussed the individual characters and their relationships in depth. We spent a lot of time watching real life vloggers, in the name of research! In early November 2013 we held auditions, after this we had three workshops where we provided the cast and crew with an opportunity for team building before the shooting weeks. Minnie took everyone’s schedules for the shooting weeks and composed a shooting schedule that accommodated everyone’s timetables outside of NMTD. We wish we had had the opportunity to do more planning; it ended up being a whirlwind of filming and organising.
Do you have film training? And are you (all) interested in film/TV careers?
Most of us studied media at high school, and Claris is currently completing a Film degree. We have always been interested in the creation of film and television; leading us to experiment in our spare time, participate in “48Hours” Film Festival, and analyse the shows and movies we love. We are definitely interested in film/TV careers, especially to continue working on projects as a team. We’ve all done theatre production inside and outside high school, and worked with Shakespeare’s text before which gave us a good grounding when coming to adapt Much Ado.
How did you get other cast / crew to be involved – with no pay!
We have been incredibly lucky to find people who are as passionate about the project as we are. None of us went into this with the idea of making money, or the idea of gaining such a fantastic audience. We made this because it was fun to make, and everything else since then has been a bonus. The idea of having a budget for LLL is incredible.
What did you learn from making NMTD – that you’ll do differently for LLL?
We trust ourselves more. With LLL we want to try and push the vlog genre further and develop minor characters to a greater extent. In doing so we will be ensuring the story is stronger overall in terms of structure and development. We are going to make the time for more pre-production which will mean we will have more considered shots, consistently purposeful lighting, and give the actors further opportunity to explore scenes. We have a larger crew this time round which will allow everyone greater finesse in their respective roles.
We know how much work it is now, which is both a blessing and a curse. We’ve decided to edit everything over a shorter and more intense period of time for LLL, rather than editing as we go as we did for NMTD. This is possible because both Minnie and Sally have left University and Elsie will be at University.
What have been some of the challenges?
Communication between the four of us has been difficult because of being in different cities. Skype and Facebook chat have been a help but are nothing like being in the same room as each other. Another challenge we have faced is editing videos of scripts which we wrote a whole year ago. We’ve changed as both creators and as people since that time.
And the highlights?
Having the support and positivity of people who watch it (it’s not just our mums!), is amazing. People are inspired by our creation, and that is in turn inspiring and gratifying to us.
Some milestones for us have been things like our first 1,000 subscribers, the first gif, the first piece of fanfiction, fanart, and the first fanmix someone made. The idea that we have made people happy and that they care about what happens to these characters (who are important to us) will always be very exciting.
“Another challenge is editing videos of scripts which we wrote a whole year ago. We’ve changed as both creators and as people since that time.”
Tell us more about LLL; is it all written? Will it follow the same style as NMTD with other supporting accounts? When will it be finished?
As a group we knew we wanted to do something, but we weren’t sure what our next project would be. We came up with the idea of LLL as a sequel to NMTD in late June 2014. For months we have been talking about our version of the story, the original play, and the characters (old and new). We have some scripts written but currently it’s the overarching story and the developments of the characters, and their relationships, that is more important. We will finish writing Lovely Little Losers this year, film the series in February, start releasing the videos midway through next year, and continue releasing episodes during the latter half of 2015.
What other web series / vlogs/ vloggers inspire you? Do you learn from?
When we came up with the idea of NMTD the only vlog series we’d all seen was The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. Since then there has been a boom of literary vlogseries. Now that NMTD is over we will hopefully have time to watch a few (around writing of course!). We also watch vloggers on YouTube, such as Kickthepj, Zoella, and WOTO.
We’re all so pleased about the support we’ve been receiving. It’s truly humbling.
If anyone else out there is thinking of making a web series go ahead and do it. Have fun with it! Make it your own, and let us know about it – even if it’s another adaptation of Much Ado or Love’s Labour’s Lost we would love to hear about it!