You’ve got until September 23 to vote for the York entry into the Raindance web series pilot competition, Last Girl Standing. Here filmmaker Jamie McKeller tells us all about the show and his company, Redshirt Films
How did Redshirt begin?
Go here to vote for Last Girl Standing in the Raindance Daily Motion Web Series Pilot Competition 2013
There was an idea for a project first. I Am Tim Helsing came from an evolution of a short film I wrote back in 2004, but back then we just didn’t have access to the resources we do now so it never really went anywhere.
In 2010 I launched a Facebook page (where all great, modern ideas are born!) and invited people to get involved and help me make an idea into a reality.
About a year into production we realised that we’d accidentally formed an independent film company.
Lloyd and Simon are still involved heavily in what I do to this very day, and will be the first people on the payroll should a real budget ever land in my lap.
How has it developed in the last four years?
We’ve got a lot better at a lot of things. Just the balance of efficiency and having fun has improved, which took a while.
We need to work hard as resources are so limited but if we’re not enjoying it there’s really no point.
Our early work, which I think stands well in certain terms is certainly nowhere near what we’re producing now and I hope I can say the same again four years down the line.
Every shoot is an education and we take something new away from it every time.
What shows had the greatest influence on you growing up?
I watch a lot of films and TV. Edgar Wright has had a pretty big impact, but I wouldn’t emulate his style in film. For the web, yes. That fast paced, quick editing really lends itself well to the platform but if I were to ever direct a feature film I’d try to move away from my current editing style.
I loved Python, Fawlty Towers, Blackadder, Red Dwarf, Spaced, Black Books… the list would run forever.
How do you know you’ve found a great idea for a series?
We never really do. Once an idea emerges, I sit down and see if it’s already out there. If it isn’t, I consider where it could go. What it could be.
I’ve seen a lot of web series that are short films extended over eight episodes. Sometimes an idea is a short, noisy burst of a thing and sometimes it’s a four hour saga. It’s about finding something in-between.
I’m proud of I Am Tim, but we fudged the mould a bit and released too many episodes. It’s too hard to sell to a web audience, with all the episodes coming together at almost four hours with eight more to come.
We’re applying this lesson to a spin off series called THE HUNTSMAN (working title!) set in the same world as I Am Tim but just eight episodes, self contained and can stand on their own legs.
The Away Mission comes out in December this year, and I think we’ve got it spot on for the internet: seven episodes all around three minutes long. We experiment with every release and see what works.
What have been the highlights of making the shows?
Raindance, MCM Expo and any screenings of our work. Those events are like rocket fuel for me.
Independent filmmaking can be a brutal and exhausting quest. The job list never ends, the emails never cease.
You’re doing the jobs of 30 people at once, and trying to keep everyone in the loop and fed with information as well as editing, writing, releasing and at the moment trying to get people to click a single vote button which is a lot harder than it sounds.
Those events are amazing because you get to meet the audience face to face and talk to them about the work. The first time I met a genuine fan of our channel at MCM Expo I think I turned bright red and dribbled on myself a bit.
And the worst bits?
Broken ribs, internal bruising to the face, upsetting people. I Am Tim is pretty physical and season three takes that to a new level. I came out of that shoot physically and mentally ruined.
I almost quit halfway through as I was having such a terrible experience, but the cast and crew around me kept me sane.
Creative people can be very sensitive, and when you’re stood at the helm of a ship that’s taking a beating from a storm the size of Texas you can’t always afford to be super nice and polite.
I’ve found myself in a few situations when the work just wasn’t great and as such lost my temper, something that you can’t really do when people are working for free.
Throw into the mix that you just shouted at a friend, and that can have an impact. Tough balance to figure out how to make sure you’re getting what you want, but not sitting alone weeping at night.
What sort of reactions have you had from fans?
Someone approached me at MCM Expo in May last year, and when I asked what brought her there… she said “to meet you guys.” I didn’t handle it well.
You see YouTubers like TomSka with a queue of 200 people all day every day at these things and I just don’t get how he stays standing for ten straight hours.
Recently someone from Australia wrote a Facebook post about us, imploring his friends to get involved and check us out. He has no connection to us at all, but there he was being passionate and engaged with us, trying to get our stuff out there.
Tell us about Last Girl Standing.
LGS is an eight-part romcom beat ’em up! The original script was Last Man Standing, but I stepped back from it and thought “I’ve seen all this before.”
The dialogue is a little blue, a bit crude in places and I’ve seen Seth Rogen and James Franco have this conversation onscreen before. What I haven’t seen is a romcom like this, with female leads who get to swear like sailors. It’s interesting, as when Rogen and Franco sit on a sofa and talk the walls blue nobody cares.
Even the script got a bit of a “you can’t say that” reaction which if anything fuelled my interest in it more. Why can’t female characters swear, talk frankly about sex and get into fights over stolen scarfs?
Don’t get me wrong, there’s no great message behind it. I just wanted to make a romcom that features interesting women who don’t talk about Mark Ruffaloesque men, and show LGBT characters who weren’t spat out of a 1960s farce or wear scarves tossed casually over their shoulders.
The relationship between Ellie and Sam is based on a relationship between myself and my best friend from school. He came out to me when we were young, and I did nothing but ask loads of pretty invasive questions such as “how does that work” and “where do you put that bit?”
He shared many a tale over a beer where we’d talk fairly openly about The Rude Stuff, and be equally shocked and entertained by how the other half got along in the bedroom.
What will it mean if you win the pilot challenge?
It means that we’ll get to make it. £2,500 will go a long way on a project like this, and whereas we can normally make £50 stretch a mile… in this case we genuinely need that budget.
If we don’t win, we’ll look elsewhere but this is the most immediate and fantastic opportunity to make something with some money involved for the first time.
Where do you find all your talented collaborators?
The York filmmaking scene is great. A lot of people are willing to give you their time and skills to make help projects happen.
Without social networking we just wouldn’t get anything together these days. It’s not all Farmville.
How has being based in York influenced your work?
I like to include the city in our work as best as I can. LGS features two shots of the city, and if we went ahead with the full series I’d have lots more.
It’s said over and over again what an amazing city it is to have in a film – a character all by itself.
What are your ambitions for Redshirt?
Just to keep going. Keep evolving and hopefully grow the audience. Plans are in motion for a feature length film shoot in October next year, but it’s early days for that. Currently, we’re attending Raindance, MCM Expo in October and releasing a ridiculous amount of content between now and Christmas.
Tell us your favourite…
– secret bit of York It’s not that secret, but I love Lady Alice Peckett’s Yard.
– place to eat and drink in the city Ed’s Diner at the Vangarde Centre. Amazing retro diner with fantastic food.
– band The Stereophonics first two albums.
– book Odd Thomas by Dean Koontz, but this changes every time I read something new.
– TV series The X Files
– movie Oh man. Really? Ha. Okay, I’ll go with American Beauty. No, Evil Dead. NO! Iron Man 3!! Can I come back to this one?