Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and other video streaming options are quickly becoming the great equalizer in the entertainment industry. No longer do writers need to know somebody who knows somebody to land an agent who can pitch their ideas for TV shows (or films) to producers and studios who will either reject the idea or put it in the lengthy development process. Industrious folks — like Rockford-based Kris Williamson and Wyatt Elliot — are making their own shows and releasing them on YouTube.
Elliot‘s company, Notebook Entertainment, has produced over 300 short YouTube films, including 200 episodes of FMyLife, which he calls his flagship show. So last fall when Williamson had the idea for a retro-inspired zombie-centric sitcom, she wrote a pilot for The Deadersons and shared it with Elliot.
“After I sent the script to Wyatt, it took him three or four months to actually read it. But once he did, we went right into planning mode and now he knows better than to question me,” Williamson says.
Unlike a conventional TV series with a huge crew and studio support, The Deadersons is a labor of love, shooting around everyone’s schedules. So instead of weekly installments Williamson and Elliot are aiming to release new episodes on a monthly basis.
“This is a whole new challenge because it’s a full 30-minute sitcom. The internet has a real short attention span, which is why my FML series works well. It’s only 2-3 minutes an episode,” Elliot says. “The advantage is Kris and I get to be our own boss, and whatever she writes, I read it and film it. We don’t have to go through network executives, producers and censors. On a creative level, it’s completely freeing. The downside, is the budget is low. Kris and I are funding this series entirely ourselves. “
Williamson says the advantages can also be major challenges when producing your own series.
“Complete creative control over your work is something writers like myself dream about,” she says. “But that also means we’re in charge of every aspect of production, including finding the funds to keep going. But the challenge is definitely worth the advantage and so we’ll keep pushing on with the hope of finding a VOD [Video On Demand] service to pick up our series and let us maintain creative control of it through Notebook Entertainment.”
The crew is small, so the division of duties starts with Williamson writing and overseeing costumes, hair & makeup and Elliot handling filming and finding locations. They share other tasks, like directing, editing, casting and funding.
“We’ve been lucky enough to have awesome and talented friends like BJ Boehm and [Rockford filmmaker] Travis Legge come help out as cameramen, as well as Val Marin, Chris German and Veronica Handeland to assist with makeup,” Williamson says. “We’ve been lucky to have the amazing Derek L. Cook and Valerie Meachum as parents David and Donna Deaderson, as well as Jennifer Lenius and Eric Reed as the older Deaderson children. And we couldn’t have asked for a better or more entertaining supporting cast.”
The Deadersons is shot in and around Rockford. For the pilot — which you can watch at youtube.com/watch?v=6zZ-IaVQV3c — Elliot says, “We had some help from the great people at Game Pros in Freeport. They allowed us to turn their video game store into a butcher shop. [But] the front of the store is Clyde’s Comic’s on Broadway, in Rockford.”
The second episode is currently filming, and a third is in preproduction.
The Deadersons isn’t a slickly produced network sitcom, but the time, energy and skill Williamson, Elliot and company have put into it shows. It’s quirky, entertaining, and best of all it’s a local production. For those reasons alone, even zombie haters have to give them credit —or better yet, volunteer a location, donate props or play an extra.
“We can use as much help as we can get from the community,” Elliot says. “We are actively looking for sponsorships. The show features fake commercials now, but we would love to have The Deadersons promote real products, local and national.”
Williamson adds, “It would be wonderful if we could continue to get support from other businesses when we need new locations. We’re also planning to start an account on a crowdfunding site to help us begin raising funds— most importantly so we can start paying our actors. Right now, they are all passionate enough about The Deadersons to work for food.”
One of these days you might be able to purchase The Deadersons merchandise online or in local stores to help raise funds to keep the show going.
- To offer a free filming location or if you’re interested in appearing in The Deadersons, email Williamson and Elliot at Deadersons@gmail.com
- Subscribe here: YouTube channel YouTube.com/Notebookmovies
- Follow them on Twitter @notebookmovies
- Like them on Facebook facebook.com/thedeadersons