We are back with one of our best Spidcast episodes to date this month (listen in below and subscribe to "Spidcast" on iTunes) with a focus on filmmaking, web series, collaboration, acting, and other interesting sound bites! April's Spidcast features the incredible individuals Victor Solis and Allie Olson. They are our amazingly sexy and talented guests for Spidcast 16, April 2012.
Full Transcript Below
Michael London: Hi, I’m Michael London and welcome to Spidcast, the Future of Collaborative Video Production brought to you by Indie Source Magazine where they believe free is better and I like the way they think. On this episode, we’re talking with Allie Olson, an up and coming actress that you’re going to see a lot of very soon, you mark my words on that. In fact, she stars in the web series and we’ll visit with her producer, Victor Solis of the web series as well. He’s not only a producer but he’s done just about every job on the set and got some great insight. So let’s just right in to today’s Spidcast.
First up is producer, Victor Solis. Victor, welcome to Spidcast.
Victor Solis: Thank you very much, Michael. It’s a pleasure to be speaking with you.
Michael London: So tell us a little bit about yourself; the Reader’s Digest version.
Victor Solis: Alright. The digest in a nutshell. I was born and raised in southern California so there are a few of us filmmakers out here in LA who are natively from LA and I started off really fascinated in all aspects of story-telling, and we’re talking old school as in when I was in elementary school, telling stories to my younger sister, reading mythology, Moby Dick, the classic literature that a lot of us have usually forgotten about. My first fascination was in photography.
I started working in the beach cities down here south of Los Angeles with primarily as a wedding and portrait photographer. You wouldn’t think that that would’ve been the utmost training for cinematography but the fact of shooting events and shooting weddings is that you’re always working for a client. Your primary service is not that of a photographer. It is not that of just you capturing images. Your first service to any client is really providing piece of mind.
I certainly learned how to walk the walk; how to treat people with respect; how to always serve the client’s needs; but technically speaking, you learn to work very fast and very efficiently and you’re literally very light on your feet. The sun could be going down in 15 minutes. The power could go out. You need to be able to go to your redundant batteries to your other backup lens. I learned on both medium formats which is a 2.25 inch negative. It’s much larger than even the size of a super 35mm. So learning on those cameras – it’s a much larger camera as opposed to a handheld SLR or now they say is DSLRs.
We came up also during the time that film was transitioning over the digital and I started learning about the DSLRs and how much you could do; without being limited by the cost of every time you press the trigger, every time you take a picture, that’s about a dollar worth of developing film cost, print cost. You learn to work fast but you also learn to be very economical and very judicious about how you shoot and what you shoot.
Michael London: Now you see, that’s a great story because it encourages us to find experience and develop it wherever we can. It developed your eye, your craft, so whatever, whenever and however, take that opportunity to get the experience where you can, right?
Victor Solis: Absolutely. It’s all about whatever and sometimes whenever. Anybody, if you’re in Anchorage, Alaska; if you’re in Peoria, you can find other people out there who do work in a creative field and ideally, something like photography is creative yet technical at the same time. You don’t have to be out here in Los Angeles. You don’t have to be in New York City but the first thing that I always was trained to do and they definitely owe it to my parents for that and to the photographer that I learned with was find other people, reach out to others who know more than you and definitely, it’s easy to find people who know more than you. I’ve found a lot of people who know more than me reach out, volunteer, maybe you’re sort of the intern but by demonstrating that you have the passion and that you have that work ethic, that to me is worth far more than anybody who has the natural talent. Natural talent is surely a great asset but if it’s with a wedding photographer, fantastic. Do whatever works for you but learn the basics. Learn the fundamentals of how to work with equipment, how to tell a story, train your eye as you said, and you can do that in any city.
Michael London: Exactly. Victor, you mentioned a moment ago about reading to your sister and enjoying the classics, I bet you enjoyed classic movies as well.
Victor Solis: Anybody who goes into film has to be literate is what I would recommend. If you’re going into an art form – you have to love story at its core. I’m not talking about specifically cinema or video or the technology itself, but as you said, it’s the basics of what makes a fantastic character when you open up the beginning of Moby Dick and the narrator says, “Call me Ishmael”. I’m in with him. I’m going to be rooting for him. He’s going to transport me into this world I’ve never been before. You could do that with shadow puppets. You could do that with sock puppets or you could do it with a red epic camera and put together a crew of people and shoot it on digital. Really, the format and your style, your medium of choice is less than becoming very literate in story at its core what his character, what our character beats, what our emotions, how can you harness all of those, and maybe it’s true that there was no there was reading a book to my sister or putting on a puppet show in my backyard for the neighborhood kids that I was slowly learning more and more about what are the things that actually make people laugh? What are the principles of comedy? What are the principles of drama? It certainly takes time but I’d rather be doing this than doing dentistry.
Michael London: You got that right. You also talked about puppet shows a little bit ago in the backyard and such. Tell us about making that jump from your backyard in the Hollywood?
Victor Solis: The first production – I remember pretty vividly, it was out above the hills right as you would look up from Pacific Coast highway in Malibu and you see these rolling hills that are perfect for fog banks that always come in. Anybody who thinks that LA is sunny year-round, just come on down in May or June. I was still doing undergrad, studying English and film studies at UCLA and got a position on an AFI – American Film Institute – thesis film. They were shooting up in Malibu and I came one as the lower lead but very important to any production PA or production assistant. There was about three of us and everyday was totally different. It wasn’t just get the director a cup of coffee. It could’ve been on one particular evening where we had this pond – man-made ponds on the premises of this mansion that was up in the Malibu Hills. We’re shooting at night which is always interesting because you must light everything and the sound department calls one of us over and I had no experience with sound. I don’t know why the sound recorder wants one of us. So he calls us over and he says, look, guys, we need you to go out to that pond in the backyard and get a stick or get something, figure it out and we need you to keep those frogs quiet. Apparently, there is this nice community of frogs that were all ribbiting in sync much to the chagrin of the sound recorder and the director who was pulling out his hair.
One of my main jobs on that set was to run around the man-made ponds with another PA, shaking our hands and banging sticks together as long as it wasn’t too loud in order to get the frogs to shut up so we could get our takes in the can.
Michael London: So now you’ve gone from frog wrangler to wrangling the “Generic Girl”. Tell us about “Generic Girl”.
Victor Solis: Yes, fast forward several years, in fact, probably at least a decade, it was in late 2010 that I have been collaborating with my creative partner Steven Wasserman and his production company for a long, long time. We met actually in elementary school. When I was working on shoots like that AFI shoot, he was also working on shoots in northern California. That’s where he went to school. We’ve been in touch forever and we were painting his house. The doldrums of rolling pain on the wall will definitely get two men in a room to either drive each other nuts or come up with a concept for a 10 episodes super hero series.
We came up with the latter. We said if our next project is going to be something fun, why don’t we do something that amuses us? Hopefully, it amuses a few other people as well. as we’re painting his house, we conceived the story of a girl caught up in a world governed by comic book physics and inhabited by super heroes and villains and henchmen, but in our world, they have to follow union guidelines. You can’t become a hero until you have your three vouchers. A lot of it was winks to the labor unions in LA and to super hero and comic culture. That’s how we conceived the project and we shot it in 2011. Finally, we are still working on post-production and getting about to audiences. We have about five episodes remaining before all 10 episodes are online.
Michael London: Excellent. Where can we get a peak? Where can we see “Generic Girl”?
Victor Solis: Right now, you can watch it exclusively without ads on http://JTS.tv – Just The Story. Later in May, we’ll be going more widely online – YouTube and other platforms. Our website is www.gogenericgirl.com.
Michael London: Very good. Where can we learn more about you, Victor?
Victor Solis: My page is certainly up on IMDB and my info and more tidbits and behind the scenes about the making of “Generic Girl”, my bio is up on www.gogenericgirl.com.
Michael London: Shameless plug time. Talk if you will for a moment, Victor, about the value of www.spidvid.com.
Victor Solis: As a producer, you are all about collaboration. As a producer, you have to be always reaching out to others and it’s so much easier now that we have widespread internet access and people are online looking for like-minded people, looking for other collaborators, filmmaking, unlike something like photography, it’s fundamentally collaborative. You are always dependent upon everybody around you. For us, using technology, using the internet and using websites to reach other filmmakers, we work with a VFX artist who’s in northern California. I have stories of friend who have produced web content or other content and their different team members are in different parts of the US. You can do it. You don’t need to only have your same crew of five people always meeting at your house. You can do it online. It really teaches you how to juggle tasks, how to manage people, but it’s absolutely critical and that would be my recommendation. Reach out to other people and see who agrees with your mindset and who agrees with your vision and hang out with those people. Nurture those relationships.
Michael London: Right. Relationships and networking and that’s what it’s all about. How about a parting shot, Victor? A nugget of advice?
Victor Solis: Whether you are wrangling frogs on a film set or whether you are wrangling actors in a super hero series, whatever you may be doing, be humble, learn, learn, and learn. There is no shortage of literature out there to learn whether its stories, whether its photography technique, lighting, sound, learn from others. Offer your services. Be on the shoot. Work with people and you may not necessarily be receiving the paycheck but you were going to receive the hands-on knowledge of filmmaking, creating video, this is all hands on. You will always learn from others. There are always going to teach you a little tidbit, a little tip that you may not have ever thought of. Be humble and get yourself out there that’s probably the best advice that I can provide.
Michael London: And wonderful advice it is. Victor Solis, thank you so much for joining us today on Spidcast.
Victor Solis: It’s been a real pleasure, Michael. Thank you.
Michael London: Spidcast is brought to you by Indie Source Magazine, the fastest growing independent filmmaker resource and the only free publication of its kind. Their mission is to bring you not only stories of the industry’s highly celebrated but also stories and insights from players in all areas of the media creation process. At Indie Source, they believe free is better. Visit them at www.indiesourcemag.com.
We’ll continue now with the Spidcast and joining us is the Generic Girl herself, Alexandra Olson. Allie, welcome to Spidcast.
Allie Olson: Thank you so much. Thank you so much for having me.
Michael London: Tell us a bit about your story. Well, I’m Alexandra Olson, I’m an actress. I’m from Pasadena, California and I actually wasn’t always into acting. I started off pursuing music. I was all set to go to Cal Poly Pomona for college when I was kind of scouted by a Disney Record Label and I did the whole manager-producer thing for a while and it just ended up setting me on a completely different course than I had planned and made me want to pursue a career in the arts. I didn’t end up signing with that label but I did do music for a while. I did pretty well. I got some independent film placements, some really small artist cuts, but I just didn’t have the love or the passion to really do what it takes to make it in music and since I was more of a songwriter rather than a performer, I spend most of my time kind of alone in a studio or a marketing my stuff on the phone talking to like 50-year-old publishers and meanwhile, all my friends who are out of college and partying and having fun and I felt like I was missing out kind of on my youth so I decided to go to Pasadena City College where the goal was to do get credits and most important to have fun.
I was like okay, I’m here to have fun. Let’s go out for a play. I auditioned for the play and I got in and I ended up absolutely loving it and the teachers and the people in the theater department were just so funny and cool and all of a sudden like I had this great bunch of friends. I remember my dad actually called me one as I was heading home from rehearsal and he asked like hey, are you coming home for dinner? And I was like no, I can’t because I’m going out with my friends. I have friends again, Dad. I ended up just becoming really involved in the theater department there and going kind of from show to show. I discovered that I just really loved acting and loved the community of it and just working with really talented people to create great art together and to tone off the story. That’s what I want to do with my career.
Michael London: A moment ago, you mentioned music being your first love. Tell us a little bit about that.
Allie Olson: I tend to go more of the songwriting route. That’s actually my true passion and I think that’s my strength. I sing and I play guitar and keyboards but those are kind of tools for me to use to write my songs. I love to write and I love to listen to music and I think my style is really kind of sweet, pop, acoustic, organic feeling. But I love a good song in any genre.
Michael London: What was your very first production?
Allie Olson: The first production I did? I think the first real production, real part that I got – I was so excited about getting it. I played Eve in “The Apple Tree” directed by Whitney Rydbeck at Pasadena City College and I was just elated. I had never really had a lead role and I was terrified out of my mind but I worked really hard and the experience of just going out with the people after rehearsals and then forming a community as a cast was so much fun. Definitely one of my favorite plays that I’ve done.
Michael London: So from being on stage and live productions, you get a call about doing a web series. First thoughts?
Allie Olson: To be honest, when I auditioned for “Generic Girl”, I didn’t really think much about the fact that it was in that digital video format. I was just kind of like reading the breakdowns and saw what looked like a really cool project that I want to be a part of so I went out for it, but I just gotten more into promoting it. I really learned a lot about the merits of the web series format and how digital video has really sort of democratized filmmaking. I just think it’s so cool that independent filmmakers and actors like myself can realize the vision without needing this huge budget for like distribution and you can make your seven-minute episodes or your short film and upload them to all these platforms like Blip.tv, Dailymotion, or JTS.tv, which is “Generic Girl’s” network, et cetera.
Basically this worldwide distribution without the monstrous budget and it gets lead to lots of consumers really being able to discover a whole bunch of great content that may never have even gotten made but for this new digital way. I’m really glad to be a part of something like a cool web series in a format that’s sort of the apex of the whole wave. It’s really cool. I love doing independent stuff. I think a lot of great talent really exists in that medium.
Michael London: Before you’re on Spidcast today was Victor, who you mentioned a moment ago. Tell us about him.
Allie Olson: Oh, Victor is so cool. He is a person that has so many ideas and he’s one of those people that actually really works to put them into action. The work that he’s done promoting “Generic Girl” has been outstanding. He’s constantly out there doing everything from networking, getting us on this new JTS network to even going to Comic Con and handing out business cards. He’s like a really even a foot soldier and a general. He’s great.
Michael London: Traditionally, through the years, Hollywood has been the stage and then to the small screen and hopefully to the big screen at a theatre near you, but you seem to have fallen into that new, hip, cool place called the web.
Allie Olson: Definitely true. I think the web series – I think it would be cool if web series became the new episodic television. I think there’s always a place for sitting down in front of your television and waiting for that 10 o’clock slot to come on and waiting for it all week and being really excited and watching it with a big group of people, but that can also be done online. I think it kind of actually mirrors what’s going on in the music industry too which is what musicians and actors were able to act like our own production companies almost and promote ourselves and reach our audience without needing to go through like a network per se. I mean, it is a network, but it’s like a different kind of network. It would be awesome if web series just became accepted as a regular episodic TV format.
Michael London: And of course, there’s no man in the ivory tower telling you what you can and can’t do and what will be produced and won’t be produced. You make your own content and find your own audience.
Allie Olson: Exactly. That’s a beautiful thing because if it were the case that we’d have those network producers sitting in the ivory tower shutting down some potentially great project. Thos projects can be made anyway. They can find their own audience without needing to go through all these screening processes.
Michael London: Allie, what would be your advice to someone just getting to Hollywood today?
Allie Olson: I myself I’m definitely just starting out and still really trying to make it in the industry and I mean, I would say two things probably come to mind that are really important. One is really find that teacher or that director that you feel you can really learn from and then absorb everything you can to really get the confidence in yourself as an actor. For newcomers like myself, it’s really important that we know our brand and know our strength and really play them. I think working with a great mentor can really help with that.
Michael London: I’m going to bet that you’ve come from a performing family.
Allie Olson: Oh yes, my family is – we get called the von Trapp’s sometimes. When we call people to say happy birthday, we actually sing “Happy Birthday” in three-part harmony. My mom and dad actually met in a band so we’ve always had jam sessions with our friends every month and it’s so cool. Just the other night, we’re actually sitting around our living room playing with a couple of family friends. We’re playing Iz’s version of “Somewhere over the Rainbow” and we had a fiddle, a saxophone, my mom was singing, my dad was playing guitar, and I was doing harmony. It was just ethereal, wonderful experience. I love it so much.
Michael London: That is so nice, so fun. Tell us a little bit about “Generic Girl”.
Allie Olson: Oh my gosh, working on “Generic Girl”, it was incredibly fun. Definitely the coolest thing I’ve yet gotten to be a part of. Everyone on set just has this awesome mixture of professionalism and pure silliness. There were a lot of times when we would actually have to improve and we have a lot of really experienced improv actors in our cast like Matthew Bohrer and Johnny Skourtis. I could barely keep a straight face. Oh, also Matthew Farhat. I could not keep a straight face of all the craziness that was going on and the great staff that the cast have come up with.
To be honest, I knew this was going to be a really cool project to do from the very first audition because of the way they auditioned us. Sometimes you go to auditions and they hand you like a sheet of paper that’s like okay, fill in your sizes, tell us about your relevant experience but this audition, Victor and Steven, the director and producer actually handed us a piece of paper that asks questions like what comic book do you like to read or if you could have any super power, what would it be and what would your super hero name be. Immediately, I was like, okay, this is going to be awesome.
Michael London: Allie, what super power would you have and who would you be?
Allie Olson: I think I put that my super power was to be able to shoot purple sparkles from my hands but they weren’t just any purple sparkles, they were purple sparkles of death. I had named myself – I think I named myself Sparkle Super Nova, which sounds like a different kind of name, but it was favorite hero name.
Michael London: Hey, where can folks see “Generic Girl”?
Allie Olson: You can see it on a networked called – it’s an online network called http://JTS.tv. It stand for Just The Story. It’s an ad-free subscription network. New episodes go up every Wednesday. There’s actually a lot of really cool shows on there like “Continuum”, and I think it’s called the “Jeff Lewis Comedy Hour”. Those are the cool ones. There’s a lot of good content.
Michael London: And where can we read all about Alexandra Olson?
Allie Olson: You can go to my website which is http://allieolson.com.
Michael London: Perfect and for those listening, Allie, how about a great nugget of advice, the great take home message from you.
Allie Olson: The great nugget of advice from Allie Olson – I would say just make sure to always care about telling the story. That’s what I’ve learned as my biggest piece of wisdom of training that I’ve gotten from my mentor, Duke Stroud. I will just say tell the story, always be honest when you’re acting and love what you do.
Michael London: Love what you do. Excellent advice. Allie, thank you so much for being with us today on Spidcast.
Allie Olson: Thank you so much for having me, Michael. I had to say, you have the coolest voice that I have ever heard. You sound like on those movie trailer guys that could voice overs.
Michael London: That’s very kind. Thank you very much. I will tell my agent to start booking some of those jobs.
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