Faculty advisers: Brigid Maher, Claudia Myers, Leena Jayaswal, Kylos Brannon
Narrative description of project
When Katka Nutmeg, a quiet computer programmer, makes millions in the dot-com boom, she leaves her boring boyfriend and becomes an international party girl. She retires on Planet MyAmi. Restless and bored with no children to carry on her legacy, she combines her programming skills with Dr. Blank’s plastic surgery skills to design and program a fleet of female robots, aka, The Femmebots. Using her own likeness and memories to program their brains, Dr. Nutmeg builds Femmebot 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0, 5.0, and finally her ultimate masterpiece – Femmebot 6.0, her most human-like cyborg souped up with a search engine brain implant. She sends her perfect new invention to a strip club to brainwash the B-O-Yz into buying crap they don’t need. The business works perfectly until Greg, a patent lawyer, brings Femmebot 6.0 to the VIP room, and accidentally hacks into her operating system. He infects The Femmebot with a virus that causes her to download a latent memory from one of Dr. Nutmeg’s previous lives. While Dr. Nutmeg frantically tries to re-program the Femmebot from her lab, she watches her own memory – in full technicolor – and realizes, throughout all the booms and busts of the economic cycles of her life, she forgot to incorporate one essential algorithm: L-O-V-E.
A treatment or sequence outline as appropriate
- Femmebot 1.0 - Katka Nutmeg and her nice Latin boyfriend Carlos have a fight because she has no interest in food and family. Her mind is on work. She is the only female programmer at a dot-com. When the company successfully gets an IPO she becomes a multi-millionaire. She leaves Carlos and hops on a flight around the world with her best friend Gypsy.
Style: Cinema Verité. Music: Deuce Eclipse. Themes: Money, safety.
- Femmebot 2.0 – Katka and Gypsy travel to markets around the world wreaking havoc and pushing boundaries. By the end, Katka has met Dr. Blank, a plastic surgeon in the Canary Islands. She falls in lust with him and sails with him on his yacht.
Style: Cinema Verite mixed with surrealism (similar to Daisies). Themes: Sex, creativity.
- Femmebot 3.0 – Katka and Dr. Blank land on Planet MyAmi. All is good until Dr. Blank starts looking at other women. The relationship is a war between Katka’s insecurities and Dr. Blank’s wandering eyes. In order to keep Dr. Blank’s interest, Katka starves herself. When that doesn’t work she buys a strip club and calls it The FACTory. Dr. Blank gets excited. He re-designs The Femmebots with plastic surgery and Katka re-programs their brains so they are more manageable. Dr. Blank and Katka become the ultimate POWer couple on Planet MyAmi.
Style: Chess board Mash-up, focus on sound design with images. Theme: Power.
- Femmebot 4.0 – Katka has become Dr. Katka Nutmeg. She has successfully maintained Dr. Blank’s attention but she is completely empty. Out of boredom she programs Kemila Velan, a different kind of Femmebot, who can bend reality. She becomes Katka’s toy, but to Katka’s horror, Dr. Blank runs away with Kemila.
Style: Sci-Fi. Theme: Love
- Femmebot 5.0 – Katka is distraught from the break-up and seeks the help of her Tia Rosaura, who shows Katka how to cook and connect to who she really is.
Style: Stop animation. Theme: Confession, truth.
- Femmebot 6.0 – Katka decides to use the cooking lessons from Tia Rosaura to build Gysela, the ultimate Femmebot who brainwashes Greg, a patent lawyer. But Greg hacks into Gysela’s operating system and infects her with a virus that spontaneously downloads all of Katka’s memories into The Boob Tube. Fed up with the whole operation, Katka closes The FACTory.
Style: Sci-Fi. Theme: Vision.
- Femmebot 7.0 – Katka goes home. One day, while she is eating organically grown food in a cafe with no technology, she runs into Carlos, who is married with grandchildren. He is happy. She is regretful at first, but then she realizes her life was satisfying as well, despite the booms and busts. When a flashy investor walks into the cafe, the cycle begins again.
Style: Cinema Verité. Theme: Enlightenment.
Artist’s statement of purpose – contextualize project in terms of other films in the genre or some historical antecedents for it and relate it to my vision.
Blade Runner (1984)
The Dollhouse (2009)
Scopophilia: the love of looking; the pleasure of looking. Feminist theorist Laura Mulvey writes that women in film over the last 100 years are predominately portrayed as reflections of their male counterparts, not full-grown humans in their own right. It makes sense. Film is a media created by men. A man who loves to watch women gets behind a camera and finds a girl (or many girls) who loves to be watched. It’s a win-win situation, yet if you read feminist theory, we’re consistently told that this activity makes a woman a victim…an object…even though she willingly participated (and probably had a lot of fun doing it).
“Barbarella,” directed by French director Roger Vadim (who also directed Brigitte Bardot in “…And God Created Woman),” is a sci fi fantasy woman perhaps intended for men, if you ask a feminist. She is blond, she has perky breasts, she is smart, she is courageous and she is sexually promiscuous. From my post-feminist perspective, Barbarella is freaking awesome. She has brains and beauty, and as a little girl who grew up doing aerobics with Jane Fonda, the actress who played Barbarella, in the living room with my mother, she represented an empowered woman. Of course, this was just her image and it was a bit of a disappointment for me to see her say to Oprah at 72 years old that she was depressed and screwed up all her life because of her reputation as a sex symbol. This exterior image vs. the internal life is a major issue I explore in “The Femmebots.”
Barbarella supports feminist theory that women in film being reduced to a mere male fantasy causes harm to both the actresses and the female viewers. I challenge their stance because the magic of film is to create fantasy. And again, film is a media created by men. Why shouldn’t they indulge in their fantasies? Women are just as guilty – if not even MORE guilty – of indulging in their fantasies through the media they created for themselves…the romance novel…and no one has told female novelists to quit fantasizing. These issues of fantasy, post-feminist role-swapping and the concept of true equality for both men AND women are also issues I explore in “The Femmebots.”
My stance on feminist issues (for the modern Western world):
Women are still not getting equal pay because they don’t ask for it or they don’t know how to ask for it;
Women will continue to be the lesser sex as long as they continue to think of themselves this way;
Women have the power to say yes or no (of course, when this is violated, we should prosecute the guilty man)
Granted, film is a more powerful media than text. Moving images go straight into the subconscious and can alter our psychology and shape our values about culture and society. This is why “Daisies” by Czech filmmaker Věra Chytilová is an important influence in the second episode of “The Femmebots.” Her film presents a purely female gaze, one that we rarely get the pleasure of experiencing because male gaze rules the mainstream American market. It’s one of the few films I have seen featuring women as main characters who are not looking for love, but rather, challenging the system and experimenting with reality.
Other influences – Director Pedro Almodovar is a constant source of inspiration, as well as novelists Laura Esquivel and Isabel Allende. The magical realism of these Latin American artists will be woven throughout the film in the form of “Tia Rosaura,” who guides Katka through her journey.
By the fourth webisode, I explore the concept of empty women being filled up with content from other people and/or being reflections of what other people want to see. “Bladerunner,” directed by Ridley Scott in 1982 (just two years before George Orwell predicted our culture would be dominated by pre-programmed humans controlled by a centralized Ministry of Propaganda), is a major influence on Dr. Nutmeg who figures out how to program her Femmebots to brainwash men. Parts of this episode, as well as episodes 5 and 6, has already been shot under the guidance of professor Noah Stern: The FACTory.
It wasn’t until AFTER I started writing my story that I discovered Joss Whedon’s Fox series “The Dollhouse,” in which a strong female character becomes someone different as a mad scientist/programmer uploads new personalities into her brain to accomplish various missions – I studied it voraciously to make sure my story is different even though it explores similar issues.
The main characters…
Dr. Nutmeg. This is a character I created during film school to represent an amalgam of myself and the women I have met in the different contexts and experiments in which I dipped my toes. She is a scientist – a mad scientist. Why a mad scientist? Because how often do we see mad female scientists? We have Dr. Frankenstein, Doc Brown from Back to the Future, Dr. Jekyll, Dr. Moreau…shall I go on? They are all male. So it’s time for a mad female scientist to let loose on America’s mainstream consciousness.
And what exactly makes a scientist mad? Let’s look at our male predecessors:
Dr. Faustus: a dubious magician and alchemist probably from Knittlingen, Württemberg, who obtained a degree in divinity from Heidelberg University in 1509. Faust is the protagonist of a classic German legend in which a medieval scholar makes a pact with the Devil.
Dr. No is a brilliant scientist with an implied Napoleon complex, a self-described “unwanted child of a German missionary and a Chinese girl of a good family”.
Dr. Benway “lacks a conscience and is more interested in his performance (and his next fix) than his patients’ well-being.”
We see that each of these characters has a problem with ethics and narcissism.
Dr. Nutmeg also exhibits these characteristics, and the story of The Femmebots is about her slow journey into self-awareness and transformation. In the first episode, Katka Nutmeg is 26 years young. She looks like a full-grown woman, but in her head she still thinks like a child. She is nuts about cartoons, drinks lots of coffee, plays video games, and gets bored easily. She is a thrill-seeker. She has no real interest in people and relationships. If they entertain her she likes them. If they don’t she gets annoyed but doesn’t know why. If they appear to be smarter, more attractive and more successful than she is, she is instantly jealous and will spend as much time as possible with them until she learns their secrets and then gets bored and moves on.
She sounds like a real asshole, but the interesting thing is that she has no idea she is this way. In her mind, she is doing the best she can with what she has. She has many thoughts and feelings and ideas but has a hard time expressing them to others because she is afraid of how they will think about her. She wants so badly to be liked, to have friends, to go to great parties and to travel like a rock star. She is a dreamer. She is extremely quiet and introspective yet she commands attention when she walks into a room because her internal world carries so much energy it kind of leaks out of her without her knowing.
Because this webisode series is about my own journey to self-awareness as an artist letting the inside show on the outside and learning how to communicate and connect with others, I hope to inspire others who were once afraid to let their true madness out.
A note about food in this story:
Katka loves to eat peanut butter and jelly, mostly because it is easy to make and instantly satisfies. She loves her mother’s cooking. And all her aunties’ cooking. But she would never ask them about the recipes. Her disconnection to food is an extremely important part of her personality.
Who is Carlos?
Katka met Carlos at a dot-com conference in San Francisco in the late 1990s. He was a journalist and interviewed Katka for a story. He kept calling her afterwards to check his facts and quotes until he finally asked her to meet him for coffee. He talked about murals in Mexico City and the beaches of Rio which sparked her imagination. They fell in love and moved in together but within a year they started to see how different they were. The story begins with them arguing about their differences.
Textbooks & Supporting Materials
- Byte Sized Television: Create Your Own TV Series for the Internet, Ross Brown
- Still Life in Real Time: Theory After Television, Richard Dienst
- Digital Storytelling: A creator’s guide to interactive entertainment, Carolyn Handler Miller
- MikeJones.Tv: Screen Narratives, Experiences and Ideas
A production plan that includes:
- formats to be used for production and editing; the courses that prepared me for their use
Directing for Camera was the most important class I took at American. It is where I developed my voice and explored my visual style.
Advanced TV Writing
History of Animation
Central European Cinema
Technology & Practice at FAMU (Prague)
- equipment needs and resources I will need and link their planned use to my production schedule so we can plan for my use of university equipment and facilities (16 days for MFA students)
Green screen: I won’t be traveling to Thailand, Costa Rica and Europe for the Femmebot 2.0 Webisode. I already traveled to these places and created quite a carbon footprint. Instead, I am crowdsourcing the footage via other DPs, stock footage and YouTube footage (with permission from creators). I will shoot all the scenes with my actors in front of green screen and then edit them into the backgrounds. Why? To keep costs down and to create an example of true environmental filmmaking – re-purposing and recycling footage that has already been shot. It also helps to create jobs for other filmmakers who have put much time and money into shooting on location.
Great example of this: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=clnozSXyF4k
A production schedule, including a timetable for pre-production, dates of production and post-production. This schedule should include a schedule of contact times with my primary faculty adviser. I should update this schedule on a regular basis.
Jan. 13: Storyboards
Feb. 7: Femmebots Webisode Pitch
Feb. 7-March 3: Editing Scripts
March 3: Femmebot 1.0 script reading; Femmebot Facebook fan page goes live; Skype meeting with Brigid Maher
March 10: Femmebot 1.0 rehearsal
April 20-22: Femmebot 2.0
May 11-13: Femmebot 1.0 & 7.0
May 18-20: Femmebot 5.0
May 25-27: Femmebot 4.0
June 2013-August 2013
Get creative, add meaning and layers to the story you could not think about during the writing process.
All equipment comes from American University; crew is made up of classmates and friends; actors are all friends. Funds for transportation and food come from credit cards until we can find a sponsor.
I would like to find food sponsors to fund each Webisode.
The proposed end-use and outreach for the project including festivals and contests, ancillary products or uses; how you plan to distribute your project and how it fits into your career plans as a showcase of my talents.
My specialty is the integration of Web as a platform for interactive short films/Webisodes. In order for faculty to judge my creative work’s scholarship of application, I am developing a strategy to nationally and internationally disseminate my work for peer review in the festival circuit. “The Femmebots” story takes place in various cities around the world. The strategy would be to release each episode in its hometown market:
- Femmebot 1.0 at the San Francisco International Festival of Short Films, Oct 10-12. Fee – $40 (April 12); $45 (May 31); or $55 (July 5).
- Femmebot 2.0 at the New York International Shorts Fest, late March. Fee – $69. Transportation: Bolt Bus – $40 RT
- Femmebot 3.0 at the Miami International Film Festival, early March or Art Basel Miami Beach/,Spinello Projects early December. Fee – $55
- Femmebot 4.0 at Prague Short Film Festival early January (did not find entry fees on web site)
- Femmebot 5.0 at Slamdance Film Festival, late January; Fee – $40
- Femmebot 6.0 at SXSW, March 8-16; Fee – $25
- Femmebot 7.0 at the Rio de Janeiro International Short Film Festival in Brazil, August 22-30; No Fee
This is quite an ambitious itinerary, so other festivals to consider over a span of 3 years. Should any of the films get rejected, I will submit to other prestigious festivals listed here: http://www.shortfilmdepot.com/.
Once the tour is complete, all 7 episodes will be available for viewing on one of these networks, thus creating a sustainable relationship with a fan base, and a prototype for future students who take my classes.
What are membership professional associations, beyond the academic ones, in your area or field that could provide you with networking opportunities? Find one that is interesting to you and that you could join (check on this!); describe why and how your progress toward tenure would be helped by active participation in it.
Membership in Women in Film and Video would support progress toward tenure since its mission to promote and support women as filmmakers is aligned with “The Femmebots,” which is a films series promoting women as techies and entrepreneurs. As the ITVS Digital Initiative article suggests, leveraging the lists and websites of membership organizations related to the topic of my film will help communicate with viewers who may be interested in seeing/purchasing it. “Being a member of WIFV gives you a voice. As an advocate for women in the film, television and video fields, you can weigh in on issues facing our industry and make a difference. WIFV has six regular committees and several subcommittees you can join to help with our strategic plans.” As it turns out, my supervisor at work is a member of this organization and recommends that I join.
I am also interested in membership in the Interactive Advertising Bureau, “the leading online advertising association with over 300 active members, founded in 1996.” It is committed to ethical and consumer-friendly advertising practices. Members must follow its code of conduct. This would help build trust with the organizations and businesses who fund my film projects with product/location placement.
ITVS Digital Initiative, by Scott Kirsner, at http://www.itvs.org/funding/resources/report-from-the-field (there are ten pages)
This document reads like Bible stories for promotion strategies. Each case study sparks myriad ideas, and helps me recall promotions I have done in the past for others and for my own projects. I can do this!
The advice in the “Top 5 Digital Strategies for Social Issue Filmmakers” is exactly the information I have been looking for: “Consider ways to allow interested parties to get involved with your filmmaking process by having others contribute…by shooting far-off locations and interviews, and even some editing.” I have lived in many places, so I have friends in all the locations in my story – San Francisco, Thailand, India, Mexico City. To keep costs low, I had the idea a while back to “virtually collaborate” with these friends. I wasn’t sure if it would be OK for my thesis, but it looks like if I get the right paperwork together to maintain creative control, I should be in the clear.
Katy Chevigny’s attitude about new media mirrors my own: “We should be embracing the new era. There’s so much more capacity for impact and changing people’s ideas.” This is the business I am in. Not that I am into propaganda and coercion. That’s too extreme. “Changing people’s ideas” for me means helping them expand their consciousness so that they can live their lives more deliberately and solve problems more effectively.
I will be regularly checking back on the other case studies as I continue to build my own strategies for marketing and distribution.
Chapter 1 suggests that before you create a strategy for distributing and marketing your film, take stock of:
1. What you want and/or need from the film: to create a prototype for future clients/students, ie, Webisodes funded by product placement. I was not sure if product placement is allowed in films being showcased at film festivals, so I looked it up and it appears that it’s fair game:
2. The qualities of your film
How has the film been received so far?
What have your immediate mentors and trusted allies told you?
Are there “stars” with core following?
“The FACTory,” the second Webisode I created in Directing for Camera last year, was received quite well by both students and my professor. I was recommended for top honors in SOC along with one other student in the class. This was not an official award, so I don’t think I can leverage it much. It still needs a lot of work, anyway. The sound is horrible and it needs to be re-edited so that the story makes more sense. My professor recommended I work with another writer. As for “stars,” the actress who plays “Dr. Nutmeg” has a good following of Facebook fans since she is a well-known hairdresser and emerging DJ in DC. Also, Adrian Loving, a well-known DJ in DC, is a character in the film and would attract a fair amount of publicity to the project.
3. Your potential audience
Women entrepreneurs, sustainable brands, student Webisode makers. How does this audience connect with the above-mentioned stars? According to Dr. Nutmeg’s Facebook page stats, her fans are in the 25-34 age group and are DC professionals. As for Adrian Loving, he is an adjunct professor at Marymount to the graphic design and film student demographic. If I am smart, I will cast an actor to play Dr. Nutmeg’s love interest who could represent the sustainable brand/entrepreneur market. I have one person in mind, but I will have to find out if he is interested and available.
4. Your resources – aka Time and Money.
Creating a film is like giving birth to a child.
If you are spending $50,000 on a film’s production, expect to spend $50,000 on the release. Oh Lord.
1. Identify core values: loyalty, honesty, trust, faith, perseverance, humor, courage, love, patience, kindness and compassion. Is that too many? No. This list would fit in a Tweet.
2. Mission Statement – it helps to define this in order to accept/reject work, and to apportion time to be most effective. At one point, I set this mission statement to be “To transform Miami through multimedia.” I meant that literally (using sci fi to show how Miami could be if politicians and business people don’t get their shit together and start planning a more sustainable city before it sinks underwater from climate change); I also meant it emotionally – by showing a story about an angry woman who learns how to love, perhaps Miami could shed its image as a superficial plastic place. Is this still my mission? I don’t know. My original plan was to return to Miami. But then I met Francisco. Studied in Prague. My world has expanded from local to international. I think I need a new mission statement. To get to this I have to ask myself these basic questions -
- Why am I a filmmaker: Because I naturally see stories and characters wherever I go. I turn every situation into a lesson to be learned, an opportunity to expand consciousness, to break down the barriers that cause human suffering. I immediately see people’s psychology and assign them funny names like “Debbie the Biology Teacher,” “The Clumsy Cook,” “Major Due Dilligence.” I suppose I am a filmmaker because I can’t help myself. It’s as natural as eating everyday.
- What am I trying to accomplish with my work? To empower myself and others; to show audiences they can make positive change in their lives if they look within.
3. Vision Statement: What will my life be like as a filmmaker? I am writing/making lucrative Webisodes with my international creative family to support my family. Tying my creativity to money drives me, motivates me to keep pushing, to keep going. It loses momentum as a hobby.
The year is 2050 on Planet MyAmi. The evil Femmebots are a crew of bad girlz who invented the “Boob Tube,” breast implants that allow them to shoot brainwashing multimedia at anyone who stares too long.
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Won Cannes Jury Prize
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