The Vine Yard: Chapter 5

The second day of auditions were interesting. The same three actors from day one returned and read for a handful of different parts. At the end of it, Josh and I couldn’t decide how to cast it. There were 3 problems:

One:

Our one female actor has great chemistry with one of our male actors. We wanted to cast them as a pair; they were so good together! However, the male actor was phenomenal. We could cast him as a tree and he’d knock it out of the park.

The female actor’s performances, unfortunately, were 50/50. Sometimes she’d be incredible, making us truly believe she could carry a show, while other times, she'd be lackluster and bland. She was great as Janice, one of the secondary characters, and the male actor was incredible as Roger, Janice’s bestie. But the male actor was so obviously our lead! We just didn’t know if the female actor could handle landing the role of his love interest.

Two:

There was another actress who auditioned that was PERFECT for the love interest. If I closed my eyes and listened to her speak, it was like I was standing in a room with the character.

But that was just it. I had to close my eyes. She didn't have the look that fit the role. Plus, she lived out of town. She would've had to fly into Gainesville for filming, which was majorly expensive. Besides, I didn't want her to fly in and then find out she had absolutely no chemistry with our male lead. There were too many what-ifs involved for us to commit to her.

Three:

The second male actor had some great lines in all the male roles, but was not 100% in any of them. He had good and bad moments in every role he tried out for, which made it difficult to cut him, but also to cast him. I actually considered making him the lead for one scene, because he was great! But in the next scene when he read for the lead, he was lame. There wasn't a happy medium that we could work with. So, ultimately, we couldn't put him in the lead role.

Overall, auditions were a lot of fun. Unfortunately, all the other auditions we had were via video. Given that Josh and I were graduating in two months, we didn't have the time to schedule chemistry reads for everyone and figure out our film schedule. So we just had to go on our gut instincts.

On the first day of auditions, I looked at Josh and my friend Anna and said, "I know who my lead is." After reviewing the first auditions, and seeing the second ones, however, I felt like I had to retract my casting, simply because there were other factors to consider. We had to think about schedules, availability, and chemistry. It felt like we were going by the seat of our pants, and I didn't like it. But we still had more audition videos to watch before we made our final decision.

Considering filming started the next week, we'd have to work fast! I honestly couldn't believe I was starting filming/directing a short film of mine. It was crazy!

Tuesday, November 14, 2017, The Vine Yard became a reality.

The Vine Yard: Chapter 4

We held auditions for The Vine Yard! (Pause for applause)

That Saturday morning rolled around and I dragged myself out of bed (we’d had a late night the night before), woke up a hungover Josh (who had lost his phone sometime in the night and messaged me from his computer at three in the morning asking for a wake-up call), and made some coffee. I printed out the necessary copies of the script we would need, made sure our moral support friend was ready for me to pick her up, and wrote a note for our friend Jared, who was still fast asleep on our living room floor. After making him some coffee and making sure he had a key to the apartment, Josh and I left.

We arrived at the audition site with twenty minutes to spare. Josh set up the room, moving some chairs out into the hall, while I texted my actors and went upstairs to meet them. Once Century Tower chimed noon on the dot, I took my three actors down into the basement of Turlington Hall to begin.

I felt a little let down, honestly, that only three people showed up (out of the 15 that originally replied). A couple had emailed me to tell me they couldn’t make auditions, and would be emailing me their audition videos. But still. When one of the actors asked if they were the only ones coming, I was really disheartened. I didn’t want this to look like it wasn’t a real production, even though it didn’t feel real to me. I mean, we were filming this thing with our cell phones. These were actors that were going to want to use this footage for their resumes. I didn’t want to let them down! Yet, at the same time, I was proud of this writing, of this show. Either way, I was a little upset.

Auditions, themselves, went well, though. We had each of the actors read their parts, and Josh filmed, while I took notes. At the end of the day, I was pretty sure who I was going to cast as Joshua L. Glass. After reviewing all the video auditions I received, I was also pretty sure of who would be Alexis, the best friend/love interest. But we didn’t have enough actors to fill all the roles. Josh and I even considered changing one of the characters, Roger, from a male to female role, seeing as we had so many women audition.

So, Josh and I took to social media. I posted in my UF Class of 2017 site, the short film group I was a part of, and on the Chabad Board group, while Josh posted in groups he was a part of. (Shout out to Sam Iachello for posting the info in her improv group site, too!)

Within three days, I had seven people email me, interested in the project. I sent them the audition material from the second day of auditions, and gave them a little less than a week to send in their video auditions. A couple people got back with me right away, but, since the internet was out in my apartment, I didn’t have the chance to review them right away.

I was still thrilled, though. These actors were fabulous!

The Vine Yard: Chapter 2

After getting the scripts written, I went on the hunt for producers. Unfortunately, researching producers for The Vine Yard proved bittersweet.

Bitter because I’m what’s called a “baby writer.” It means I’m new to the industry, with no produced work or production experience. In that regard, it would be extremely difficult to find a producer because there’s no “heat” on my script. No one was talking about my work, or the story, so no one would be vying to work with me. At the same time, I was untested. It would be a risk to take on my project, no matter how good the writing was, because I had no guarantees of success.

It was sweet because Amazon Studios took unsolicited material. I could submit my work to them on the chance they’d want to produce it!

The downside to Amazon Studios was that I’d read all about how they greenlighted material, and then it sat for four years. As The Vine Yard was time-sensitive (given that Vine had ended and would quickly be forgotten in our face-paced society) I needed this to happen quickly.

So, of course, I delayed taking any action. I spent hours researching agents that took unsolicited work, meanwhile getting advice from anyone remotely associated with “the industry.”

After reading yet another devastating blog post about the difficulty of getting an agent, and the fact that even having an agent wouldn’t guarantee your work going anywhere, I made a decision. After reading over my script for the fifth time, I submitted it to Amazon Studios. While waiting to hear from them, I put plans into motion to create The Vine Yard myself. That’s right, I was going to produce the show.

After plotting with my roommate, I made a list of everything I’d need to do this project, and proceeded to call my parents. We discussed logistics, and surprisingly, they both not only wholeheartedly agreed that I could do it, but also enthusiastically encouraged me to do so. Stunned, I returned to my list and began.

Two days later, I heard back from Amazon Studios. The Vine Yard was not what they were looking for at this time. Seeing as it was a 17+ TV show about a dead app, I understood. I wasn’t fazed by the rejection, though.

I decided I’d film the show myself, using phones (as it was the way OG Viners filmed their work back in the day, and it would cut costs until I could afford to rent equipment.) Deciding to film a sort of teaser trailer to post on GoFundMe, so I could raise the money I’d need to properly produce this, I sent out a casting call to the telecommunications and theater departments at UF. Within a week, I had 15 people interested in auditioning. I felt powerful. I was a writer/director/producer creating my own work. I couldn’t quite believe it was happening.

With the auditions set, I sent out a page of dialogue from the excerpt of the pilot script for my actors to memorize, and set the date. This was it. This was me going for my dream. Nothing will stop me now!

The Vine Yard: Chapter 1

After deciding to turn The Vine Yard from a nonfiction book into a TV show, I sat down to write. Usually, when I’m inspired, I can crank out a decent story in about an hour. This time, I got caught up. Formatting for novels is distinctly different than it is for a TV script. You have to condense character descriptions into two lines max and avoid mentioning eye and hair color—unless it’s imperative to your story. Normally, I could take up three pages setting the stage, and giving insight into my character’s thoughts. But for scripts, there are no inner thoughts. Everything is spoken through dialogue or actions, and given deeper meaning via your actors. That alone posed a problem, outside of the bigger issue:

I had no idea what to write about.

Sitting down with my dad—my notorious brainstorming partner—I posed the question: what is a fictional story about Vine really about? I thought of telling the story of the female protagonist kicking butt and creating hilarious comedy. But that’s the thing about Vine, there were only a handful of female comedy Viners, so it wouldn’t be true to the app and its culture. Plus, my dad pointed out, I would get more people to watch the show, and identify with the character, if my protagonist was a male.

Thus my Male Protagonist was born. But I still had nothing for Male Protagonist to do. So, I harkened back to the reason I started this project in the first place: 20-year-old me wanted to know the details about a Viner she was obsessed with, so I decided to fashion Male Protagonist after him. He was 19 when I was, so I could understand his motivations as he grew, as we would be the same age.

When it came to naming Male Protagonist, I was stuck. After taking a Holocaust Studies class at university, I felt really connected to my Jewish culture. Looking around, I realized that there were a handful of shows with Jewish protagonists, but not many. I was tired of the Jewish characters being the token character in a story set in New York. So I wanted Male Protagonist to be Jewish. But, again, my dad interjected—Male Protagonist should be Jewish, but not so much so that he would ostracize the general public watching the show. Again, I conceded. We named him Josh Glass; Jewish enough, but not on the nose—pun intended.

After figuring out the details of Josh Glass’ life, the story started to take shape. The Viner I loved years ago wanted to be a filmmaker, not an actor. So, Josh wanted to be a filmmaker. But I wanted Josh to have struggles. It’s easy to create when you have the means to at your fingertips. A filmmaker unable to write a film, however, worked. He could see the vision he wanted to create, but couldn’t put words on the page. This, too, connected to the Viner I loved, because though he wrote and directed his own short films, his dialogue often fell flat, reading as unrealistic conversation between two people. (He's a much better writer now, though!)

With my basic characters and love interests planned, I sat down to write. It wasn’t until I returned for my last semester of college that I finished the script. It tells the story of Josh’s introduction to Vine, inspired by my favorite Viner’s first interaction with Vine, fueled not by curiosity and boredom, but rather by Josh’s secret love for his best friend, Alexis. I was thrilled when my best friend, roommate, and parents all loved it. They found comedy in it that I hadn’t planned, and assured me it was one of the best things I’d written. As I don’t particularly think I’m all that funny in my writing, I was excited. To date, my favorite line in the script is from Josh’s jerk of a roommate, Derek: “What the f**k’s a Vine.” It was inspired by Ozzie Osbourne’s commercial in which he confusedly says, “What the f**k’s a Bieber?” I laughed at that much harder than I should’ve.

My only concern was the explicit nature of the script. I don’t curse in any of my other work, since I write mainly young adult fiction, and don’t really find the need to curse to my younger audience. However, Vine was explicit. The Viners, themselves, are explicit people. Listening to their podcasts and YouTube videos is like listening to a sailor that stubbed his toe. I wanted to be as realistic as possible, but also:

When Vine shut down, a majority of the Viners moved to YouTube and became creators. Creators make money on YouTube via ads placed on their videos. However, YouTube instituted a new algorithm that refuses to place ads on explicit content, trying to keep YouTube more family friendly and discourage lewd content. So, if someone drops an f-bomb, chances are they won’t make any money from that video, regardless of the number of views.

As such, many creators feel that they’re being censored, and therefore aren’t given the freedom of creation that YouTube promises. I, therefore, wanted to tackle that issue many ex-Viners/YouTube creators are facing, because it is a facet of the Vine chronicles.

Once I explained my thought process to my creative team (i.e. my parents, roommate, and best friend) they assured me that the language within the script was just fine. Reassured, I printed my script, edited it, and prepared to begin the journey of turning it into a TV show! It was time to find a producer and set the wheels into motion. The Vine Yard was going to be the next hit dramedy!