News Column

'Freak Club' ready for web viewing

October 3, 2013

YellowBrix

Oct. 03--Just in time for Halloween, FilmDayton has released its first-ever web series, a spooky drama entitled "Freak Club."

The new series, which got its start as a FilmDayton contest in October 2011, was officially released to the public on Thursday, Sept. 26, via YouTube and Facebook.com/FilmDayton. The last episode will air on Halloween.

The new show, says FilmDayton's executive director Megan Cooper, reflects a growing trend in which more people are using online platforms to watch episodic programming, and more independent artists are creating their own online programming.

The local project began when potential writers were invited to "pitch" story ideas to a panel of industry experts at a Film Connections event in October 2011. The competition was called "Web Series 1.0" and was designed to bring together a variety of talented folks in order to demonstrate some of the skills that FilmDayton was developing and encouraging.

"This web series isn't just about the final product," says Cooper. "The purpose of the web series -- and why we're so excited about it -- is education. Aspiring filmmakers got the chance to work alongside professionals and experience different departments on a film set."

Cooper says they continue to hear from young filmmakers in the region who took their experience on "Freak Club" and translated it directly to a job on a professional set.

"We're really proud that we gave them their first opportunity," she says.

Grizinski wins contest

The grand prize went to Alexandra Grizinski, a University of Dayton chemical engineering graduate, who admits she hadn't really written or filmed anything since she was a kid making some stop-action films in her basement.

But the contest has been life-changing for Grizinski, offering her the chance to be mentored by veteran writers who taught everything from character creation to dialogue. One of them was Nichol Simmons, who ended up becoming a co-writer and co-creator on the series.

"My life career plans did indeed change as a result of this,"Grizinski explains. "It was a real triumph for me, not only because I won, but because I stumbled on my true passion in life. I've been a storyteller all along, it just took me some time (and 'Freak Club') to realize it.

Now Grizinski is devoting her life to writing.

"I am now living in LA, trying to become a professional fiction and screenwriter," she says. "Nichol Simmons and I are in the process of writing more webisodes in hopes of getting more funding to continue the series."

In addition, the two are collaborating on a pilot for a one-hour sci-fi drama series and have had a few of their ideas pitched to production companies in L.A. And Grizinski is also working on my first middle-grade novel.

Grizinski says she loves creating a series exclusively for the web because the episodes are so easily accessed and shared with friends and family using social media.

"They don't need a physical copy of a DVD or a ticket to a screening at a theater," she adds. "One click is all it takes to watch ... and share."

The "Freak Club" Story

Here's the freaky plot, as described by the filmmakers:

"Friends Morgan and Baxter are the founding members of the Dayton Paranormal Society at Erma Bombeck High School. They are less-than-affectionately referred to as the "Freak Club" by resident mean-girl Oliv and her clique. However, when Oliv starts experiencing her own spooky phenomenon, there's nowhere to turn but to the freaks. Morgan and Baxter agree to help Oliv explain the unexplainable, and they begin to discover more spooky secrets around the city and school as they recruit more members to the "Freak Club."

Other credits

-- Nicole Simmons, a Dayton native and Wright State graduate, earned a Sundance award for her short film, "Dry Mount." She's been a joke writer for 'Politically Incorrect,' and has been director of national workshops for the American Film Institute.

-- "Freak Club" was directed by Alvoro Leite who has a BFA in Motion Pictures Production from WSU. He's a member of the Ohio Arts Council Artist in Residence Program and teaches film-making at Stivers School for the Arts. His short film "Lucky's" played the Cleveland International Film Festival, was a semi-finalist in both the Kodak Cinematic Images Competition, and the UAFW Fox Searchlab Program. His most recent feature-length screenplay "Haunted" has been optioned, and he's busy working on his next screenplay.

-- Shaunn Baker worked as producer/director on "Freak Club." He's the Managing Partner of WorldStage Media, has directed for the Human Race Theatre Company in Dayton, and was also the founder of The Lighthouse Repertory Theatre in Seattle Washington. He is currently vice president of FilmDayton.

-- John Harden of Clayton is one of those whose music is featured on the original soundtrack. "What was really interesting about the soundtrack is that it is also a celebration of local talent," says Cooper. "Both amateurs and professionals submitted songs and were selected to be featured throughout the series."

-- Actors -- both professionals and students -- took part in the production, and there were dozens of extras from the community.

What it accomplished

Grizinsky says she's learned a lot from her FilmDayton experience.

"Most of all it taught me to let go of my ego," she says. "A lot of people looked at my stuff and they loved some things and did not agree with other things. I quickly had to learn to let go of any attachment I had to characters or dialogue or even entire scenes and ultimately do what was best for the story."

Sometimes, she says, that even meant starting over from scratch.

"I had six episodes completely written and nearing the finish line, but something wasn't right," she explains. "So we started over completely with the same batch of characters, but with a completely different story. It was a lot of work, but the new iteration of the series was just so much tighter than the first. Film-making is a huge collaboration; all kinds of people worked on 'Freak Club' and we felt like we were a big family by the end of it."

Cooper believes the project was a success from the get-go.

"Our goal was to bring together cast, crew, writers, directors, producers, locations, resources and more to provide a fun and educational experience," she concludes. "Young filmmakers learned a lot, the pros had fun and the community welcomed us with open arms. That we're getting great responses from audiences and our volunteers are receiving such positive feedback -- that's icing on the cake."

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HOW TO WATCH:

To see the first three episodes of "Freak Club" you can watch at youtube.com/filmdayton or visit filmdayton.com/freak-club

WANT TO LEARN MORE ABOUT SCREENWRITING:

WHAT: Feature Writing Workshop, a two-day writing workshop with L.A.-based writer Marisha Mukerjee

WHEN: Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 26-27

WHERE: Red Oak Estate, Dayton

REGISTRATION: $225, $200 for FilmDayton members.

PHONE: (937) 554-0031.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: www.filmdayton.com/education

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(c)2013 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)

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