I am so excited to announce not only a new column here on MTF but also a new writer! My friend Mike, who has the best name ever(!), has decided to put pen to paper and start a column here at MTF. Now, I’ve known Mike for about 10 years now, so, since we were both 18 and moved to the city of angels with stars in our eyes.
Now, Mike is an amazing screenwriter, and so as we were talking about him doing a column it was only natural that he did one that really emphasized his passions. Film, acting and of course writing.
With that, I bring you On The Rise with… Which will focus on an upcoming writer, actor, director, etc… who you might not know right now, but you will soon.
So, give Mike a big MTF welcome! And check out his maiden column below!
On The Rise with…
Alisha Peats and Jasmine Hester
By Michael Marcelin
Sir Mike of Fanboy Land has been after me to do a column for his website for many, many months. He even gave me carte blanche on what the topic would be. The only problem: I’m a screenwriter, not a journalist. Columns scare the hell out of me, and, truth-be-told, I don’t think I have that kind of writing in me. After many days of soul searching, I finally found an angle that I could not only do, but do well: get people to talk to me! Since high school, there’s always been something about me that screams “You can tell me anything!” Like Spider-Man, it’s been a gift and a curse. But this time, I’m using it as a gift. Being an entertainment website, I thought: why not do an interview series on up-and-comers in the worlds of acting, directing, writing, music, etc.? People who may not be household names today, but within a year or two, will be everywhere. Those of us who are…on the rise.
So come one, come all, and welcome to my little corner of the internet. I hope you enjoy the subjects of these interviews, and even more so, I urge you to go forth, seek these wonderful people and their projects out, and share, share, share with your friends!
For my maiden voyage, I’d like you all to meet Alisha Peats and Jasmine Hester, two very talented young actresses and producers who are currently hard at work getting the second season of their popular, award-winning, vampire-centric web series “Redwood: The Series” into production.
Michael Marcelin: Let’s talk about your journeys prior to Redwood. Alisha, tell me about your role as an actress and photographer. You own your own photography business, correct? How did you get into that?
Alisha Peats: I do. That actually began around the time we started getting “Redwood” going, because it was going to be a way to help fundraise the series. I had another job at the time, and when my boss was thinking about shutting down the business, I knew I needed another way to bring money in, so I started doing photography. I took headshots for a few of my best friends who happened to have a lot of other actor friends, and it just started snowballing from there. It helped bring in about $1,000 for season one, and it’s helping to fund season two as well. As for acting, I’ve done a bunch of student films and shorts.
MM: Jasmine, tell me about your acting career leading up to Redwood.
Jasmine Hester: I had just started acting my final year of college…I decided to finally go for it. And I was doing little things…I got a few short films, and little roles on things like TLC’s “I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant.” I did this pretty big web series called Touye Pwen (translation: Kill Point). I played a character named Lena. And I also did a ten episode show called Urban Tarzan for Spike TV.
MM: And if I recall, you won an award for Best Actress for a short film we worked on together…
JH: Oh yes! “Come With Me”! For the 24 Hour Film Festival! We got no sleep, and I didn’t think it was going to be that big of a deal, but after being up for so long, I was like “I think I’m old now. I can’t not sleep” (laughs).
MM: But it paid off, because you got big accolades for it!
JH: I was very surprised when I found out I won the award. Alisha sent me a text telling me about it, and I thought she was joking, because no one informed me or anything officially. It was just on the company’s website. But when I checked it out, I was excited.
MM: Now how did the two of you meet?
JH: Alisha and I were in the same acting class. At that point, I was thinking about getting into casting…I wanted to see what it was like on the other side (of the camera), because I knew there were things I’d probably see that I do myself in auditions that I could change. So when Alisha started talking about “Redwood”, she told me I could be a casting assistant for it. So it kind of just started there. The little pathway to Redwood.
MM: What made you decide to write “Redwood”, Alisha?
AP: Well, it got to the point where I wanted to do some of my own stuff so I could control what kind of roles I wanted to do and what got put out there. So I started writing little shorts and shot them with my friends. Eventually, I realized I wanted to make a web series, which is when I started writing Redwood. And it took three years to write that first season, because the first draft was almost an exact transcription of “Twilight” (laughs). At that point, “Twilight” hadn’t even come out, but when it did, I was like “Oh crap”. So over the next three years, it developed into what it is today.
MM: How did you come up with the idea for Redwood?
AP: I, at the time, was kind of immersed in vampire stuff. I was watching “The Vampire Diaries”, and I’ve always been a “Buffy” and “Angel” fan, so I was re-watching episodes of those. And that’s what came to mind when I decided I was going to write a web series. They always say “write what you know”, which at that time, was kind of what I knew. I was young, I didn’t have a whole lot of life experience, and I’d always been more centered in fantasy and paranormal stuff, when it comes to entertainment. And I didn’t want to do what everyone else was doing, so I basically just looked at the concept of what a vampire show usually does, which is vampires feeding on people. So I just flipped that around and thought, “What if we made a show where a human has to feed on vampire blood to live?” And that’s how the concept came about.
MM: How did your involvement come into play on this project, Jasmine? You said you wanted to just do some casting, but you ended up in one of the main roles!
JH: When we started casting, Alisha sent me the scripts, and she said, “You need to audition for the role of Ana…I think you’d be good for it.” So I did the first round of auditions, got a call back for it, and eventually got the role. And I love Ana, so I was really excited to portray her.
MM: And how did you get into the producing side of the project?
JH: You know, I forget how that started…
AP: It was during the casting process. We were talking about getting it made, and you hadn’t even gotten the role yet, but you were like “I know maybe ten different people who could maybe help us out”.
JH: Yeah, and we just started emailing each other about stuff. I was getting a prop list together, and I asked her what she needed for season one, because I could figure out how to get it. And we would just go back and forth, crossing things off the list as we got them, and she said, “You know…you’re basically a producer…so…you’re my producer”. And I said, “Okay!” and we just went from there, and now we’re on our second season.
MM: You also have a third producer, correct?
AP: Yes, we do. Jeff Torres, who had a small role in season one. Now he’s playing the brother of his character from season one in season two, which is a much bigger role. But he’s been helping out a lot with producing, kind of the way Jasmine helped out in season one. Jeff has some connections…he’s one of those people who seemingly knows everybody in L.A., so he’s been very helpful in connecting us with the right people.
MM: How did season one fare?
AP: Season one fared a lot better than I think we ever anticipated. To date we have 80,000 views on YouTube, and close to 13,000 likes on Facebook. We just have a lot of really cool fans who connect with us on Twitter or message us on YouTube demanding more episodes. We won two awards at the L.A. Web Fest…a joint producing award for Jasmine and myself, and our amazing composer Friedrich Habetler won an award for our theme song. And we were an official selection at HollyWeb Festival, where we got to walk the “blue carpet”. So yeah, season one has definitely been a journey.
JH: It has! Redwood has always been a passion project, and it was just something we wanted to create for ourselves…to give us the opportunity to portray characters that we probably wouldn’t get normally through auditions. And it just snowballed… the amount of people that we had tuning in and were talking to us. I think for me it got big when we found out we had fans from Malaysia and the UK tuning in and asking us “Can I buy this? Is it on DVD?” and people sending in fan art. It was really awesome.
MM: For those who haven’t seen season one, where can new viewers find it?
JH: People can go to our main website, www.redwoodtheseries.com . It has the links to all six episodes of season one, as well as to our Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Indiegogo and Youtube channels. On Youtube, just look up Redwood the Series and the episodes will pop up, as well as behind the scenes videos and cast interviews.
MM: And you’re currently trying to get season two off the ground. What are you doing to push it into production?
AP: Right now, we are doing an Indiegogo campaign, where we’re trying to raise $7, 458, which is the exact amount we need to shoot the first 5 episodes of season 2.
JH: That will basically help us get those 5 episodes out to our fans. If we reach our goal within the 30 day period, then we can start setting stretch goals to help fund the remaining 9 episodes, because season 2 is actually going to be 14 episodes. So we more than doubled our work load here (laughs). But we’re trying to be creative with the rewards for pledges…we wanted to have more interactive things with our fans. So people can write scenes for us, and we’ll act them out in character. If they want to make “Redwood: The Sitcom”, we’ll be a sitcom. But our most popular trend right now is “pranks for pledges”. It’s basically where we torture each other for your money! (laughs) We had one where I slammed a lemon meringue pie in Alisha’s face, and this go round, I had Alisha and Jeff slam lemon meringue pies in my face. It’s what we like to do to each other!
MM: What are some of the other pranks you’ve had to pull on each other?
AP: We egged Joey (Kloberdanz, who plays Sonny).
JH: Joey was in Jeff’s kitchen, and we had trash bags everywhere, and we just started throwing eggs at him. And Alisha just cracked one right dead center in the middle of his forehead!
AP: But he told me to! Everyone was telling me not to be a wimp, so I went for it!
Alisha Peats and Joey Kloberdanz
JH: Jeff Torres, we dumped a big bucket of mud on him, and it was really cold, so he had the best reaction ever. And then Amy Paffrath (the host of Dating Naked on VH1, who will be playing a werewolf in season two of Redwood) got slimed. Like green Nickelodeon-style slimed. We actually felt a little bad for her later because we found out the slime was made out of cake batter and flour and stuff like that, so, when she went to go wash it out of her hair…you know, water…flour…it hardens! So she had to use a dog brush to get the rest of the slime out of her hair! But she was a good sport.
AP: Next time we saw her, she had cut her hair short. And it may or may not have had anything to do with that… (laughs)
MM: Are there any non-spoilery spoilers you can give your fans as to what to expect in season two?
JH: There’s a lot more fight scenes. The general reaction from the first season was that people liked the fight scenes, so we enhanced them a lot. There’s a lot more characters this go round. And there’s just different spins on relationships.
AP: I know the first season was setting up a lot of relationships, whereas the second season is more delving into that, so it’s a lot more drama and conflict.
MM: I noticed between both seasons, you’re using two different directors. As a photographer, do you have any interest in directing, Alisha?
AP: I am a horrible director (laughs).
JH: We actually have a clip that we put on our gag reel where Jeff and I have a fight sequence, and Alisha’s directing us, and she says “Okay, now stare each other down, like you’re going to fight. Now fight a little bit.” And we just stopped and looked at her, and said “What do you mean, fight each other a little bit?” That’s horrible direction! It was then we all realized Alisha wasn’t going to be a director.
AP: I mean, I look at it from the technical side, coming from photography. So I look at a scene as how it looks…like I want this type of lighting, or I don’t like that framing of a scene. But as far as directing a cast or crew…I suck at that. I’m terrible.
MM: Do you have an end goal for Redwood? Do you know how many seasons you want to do?
AP: Honestly, if we get our second season made, I think I would do a 6-8 episode third and final season, or a wrap-up movie. Ideally, if someone picks us up as a TV series, I’d love to go five or six seasons, but as far as what we’re dealing with right now…the challenges of funding…I would like to just get season two made, and then wrap it up with a short third season.
MM: Let’s get a little controversial for a moment: being a more female-powered production, have you found it fairly easy to get the things you want and need for the project (good prices, locations, etc.), or did you find it was easier when you had Jeff put his foot forward?
JH: You know, it’s almost like when a woman goes to a mechanic or a car dealer: there’s always this idea that she’s going to get ripped off, because maybe she’s not as well-versed in the technical side. But if a man goes, everything is hunky dory. And not to speak bad about anyone, but we kind of saw on the first season that the guys, (which was basically an all-guy crew outside of Alisha and Jasmine), kind of talked to each other a little differently than they would talk to us, which we found hilarious, because Alisha should be a constant point of reference. She wrote and created the show…she knows what she wants to see. And I’m a producer. I work closely with her, so I can be a point of reference. Talk to me. I want to help. It became more of…people talking amongst themselves. I mean, it was a valuable lesson and we know we need to be more of a voice on set, and be a bit more bullish with what we want. We also know that probably won’t change much, the whole male-female dynamic, but having Jeff does help. But we’ve found that sometimes it works better when it is just us, because sometimes someone just wants to talk to a girl versus a guy, you know?
AP: We have found sometimes that people prefer to talk to us because they want to try to take advantage of the fact that we’re girls, and they think we’re just going to be nice about everything. And with this second season’s pre-production, we have gotten a lot better about being assertive and recognizing the B.S. artists and just not working with those people. I think as a whole, thanks to “Redwood”, it’s just helped make me more assertive in life, not just as a producer.
JH: I mean, it’s there. Sexism sucks, and it would be really naïve for us to ignore it and pretend it’s not there. But at the end of the day, it’s all about having each others’ backs, and we do.
MM: What advice would you give others who are looking to do their own projects, but may be a little gun shy about pulling the trigger?
JH: Don’t be afraid to fail. You’re going to have a lot of stop and go moments. I’m not saying your whole production is going to fail, of course, but as with anything, when you’re learning something, it’s trial and error. There are things you are not going to know, and there’s no set of rules on how to produce a show. But you’re going to have moments where things aren’t going to go right, and you’re going to have to start back at square one, and you can’t be afraid to do that. You have to have the energy and drive to do that. I can’t even tell you how many times we’ve started a conversation where we’re like “Why did we do that? That was horrible!”. If you believe in it, that’s all that matters. You’re going to have moments where you fail, so accept it, learn from it, and move on.
AP: My advice is from the more technical side of things. Write and create projects where you know you have access to most, if not all, of the locations. If you can, bring on people who you know you can trust and aren’t going to screw you over or ask for a lot of money. Keep it low budget and achievable, so you can make it. Because the worst thing you can do is try to make an idea you love, and put all this hard work into, and then you can’t get it made because of finances. It becomes a waste of your time. So focus on something you know you can make, and then just make it. Go out there and start doing stuff.
JH: Make sure you’re involved with people who are on your side…people who, when they read your script, they’re just as passionate as you are. That’s how you build a team…people who will communicate with you, and are down for the full ride, or it will only make the stop and go even worse, and will get very tiring.
AP: As an indie production, it’s most important to have the right team behind you.
MM: Lastly, a question I like to put forth to my interviewees: what’s one thing that would surprise people to know about you?
JH: I’m a very big video gamer. I’ve been playing since I was 5 or 6. I still have my Super Nintendo and Nintendo 64…but currently, I’m a Playstation girl. And I don’t play those little silly games…I play Assassin’s Creed, Prince of Persia, Call of Duty…I can hang with the boys. But yeah, people are surprised by that.
AP: I’m obsessed with sunscreen. SPF. Everyone who knows me knows I’m a snob about it, and it’s expensive, so I don’t share it. I slather it on everywhere, so every time you hug me, I’m going to smell like SPF. (laughs)
JH: You could be sitting on the beach, in the sun, burning, and she still will not give you any of her SPF. She’s like “Do you know how much this costs?” It’s like “Come on, Alisha!”
Movie: Ordinary People
TV Show: Game of Thrones
Book: The Fault In Our Stars
Current Music Obsession: V, the new Maroon 5 album
Movie: Saving Private Ryan
TV Show: Luther, I love everything UK.
Food: Breadsticks and Marinara sauce
Game: Assassin’s Creed, Prince of Persia
Current Song Obsessed With: All About That Bass
Book: The Bell Jar