I first came across The Concessionaires Must Die a little over 2yrs ago. I’d spent much of my summer watching webseries, and had found a few little gems, two of which starred a total stranger to me - America Young.
America tweeted about something she was doing involving a livestream and an indie film, and so I toddled along to take a peek. And...I never left.
2 years and a bunch more livestreaming later, CMD is edging ever closer to completion and release. It’s got more geeky references than you can shake a whole bunch of sticks at, and I’m super excited about seeing it.
But while I wait, I grabbed some of the crew and the fans and asked them some questions about the process.
A lot of the fans found CMD the same way I did - America in a webseries. For Steve - Geek Therapy, and podcaster Kenny (aka Geeky Fanboy). For Joe - Goodnight Burbank. Me? Geek Therapy & BAMF Girls Club. Then there was Michael, who had been involved in interactive storytelling before, so showed up because he knew it’d be fun.
You get the picture. A lot of us were drawn is because we’d decided we liked the people involved, and it was something different. We got to enjoy seeing behind the scenes, seeing how hard they worked, asking lots of questions and getting to know the people involved. Not to mention getting to know each other.
As Steve said, it was great to be “connected to the people and the project”. This level of connection was something few projects offer their audience.
There were other benefits to being in the audience: for me it was a lead in to getting involved with 8 Sided Films. For Joseph, the chance came to start creating artwork for the film - and from there, for others. Michael got to introduce more people to his music. The effects are clear to see - for us.
John Keating as The Breakfast Club's Bender.
Art by Joseph Godfrey
So yeah, for us it was fun. We hung out, we chatted, we’ve had a blast - but on the other side of the camera? Nerve-wracking.
From actor and producer Zaki Rubenstein: “the internet hides some freaky people who will know exactly what you are doing and where and also, as everyone knows, it allows people to be mean with a good degree of anonymity.”
From America: “My biggest concern was protecting those who were involved in the project...I was most worried about how the "internet" would treat my cast and crew.
It’s a fair point, right? Anyone who’s spent time on the internet knows: it’s not always a pleasant place. So why open themselves to that?
Simply put: the fans. From producer Juan-Manuel Rocha: “The fans have a huge impact and help us in the lonely process of getting a film made.”
From Zaki: “First of all, our fans are smart, movie loving people so their comments and suggestions where great and much appreciated. Also, it created kind of a buzz on set. It wasn't just the cast and crew who were along for this crazy ride, it was other people from all over the world. Very exciting.”
From Denise Pantoja: “The live streaming helped create a bond that filmmakers don't often get to experience and this is one project that stands alone in it's involved and inspiring fan base.”
John Keating as Shaft.
Art by Joseph Godfrey
There’s a common theme here, and it doesn’t take much effort to spot. These folks struck out and did something super scary, and it paid off, repeatedly, in all sorts of directions. It wasn’t perfect, but they worked around the shooting, they worked around broken tech and things going wrong, and they kept coming back to the fans at every turn. They surprised their community by daring to do something different, by finding ways to make it work even when it threatened to fall apart, and it paid off.
It came as no surprise to me that America, Zaki, Juan and Denise each wrote a mini love letter to the fans, in response to my questions. Sadly I can’t just keep talking forever, (or rather, I could but I probably shouldn’t), because everyone I spoke to said a bunch more, but as there is nothing I can say that matches the outpouring I got from America, I’m going to finish on that:
"I love you. Seriously.
Your timing is impeccable. It seems that whenever we hit a road block, I get a tweet asking about the film. Whenever we are frustrated, we'd get a brilliantly creative fan making us something. (j0eg0d I'm looking at you).
I don't know if you all will ever know how much you have helped this movie. THANK YOU SO MUCH! Like so so so much. This brings us back to I LOVE YOU.
The movie is coming! We are close to picture lock and have some INCREDIBLE talent working behind the scenes on post. We will soon be doing a live stream update with interviews of the newest crew members from composer, to editors, to colorists.
And once it's done, we'll need your help more than ever! We will need all our concessionaires worldwide to ASSEMBLE and spread the word. We'll need you at the premieres and representing all over the world!"