indieactivity: Give a background of your experience with the story, writing, production & marketing?
Crystal: I started to write Crystal episodes five years ago. Just writing tons of different short episodes, so I could later figure out which ones I would use for season one of my web series. During that time I did work on smaller budgets to get myself ready for this bigger project! I started off by co-directing a commercial – I came up with the concept and made a dinosaur from nothing. Art is the main inspiration in all my projects, I like to have colorful and fun environments to help tell the story. After that I made a short called Copy, Yourself which was just me taking a childhood photo and recreating it as in adult, through film.
The best part of doing that short was I did it all myself, and it taught me so much about what I needed to know to make each episode of Crystal. And I did promote the short, but mostly to be able to network and find good people who were of a similar vibe, who were interested in collaborating on future projects. I really used the two projects as a way to share my “proof of concept,” of what is going on inside my mind.
During this time, I got obsessed with making memes and sharing my humor little by little. That’s a big part of personal branding now – creating or curating the content you share online. I’m on all the major social media platforms so I can make sure to understand how they all work, and make them work for me and help me get my work out there.
indieactivity: Did you start writing with a cast (you or any) in mind?
Crystal: I play the main character, which wasn’t what I initially set out to do, but everyone kept flaking on me and I didn’t have the budget to pay actors, so I took the lead role. When it came to writing the other characters, I really didn’t have any specific character type or gender in mind. To be honest, I write characters that could be anyone. It’s very important to me to be limitless, and have as many options as possible.
It’s my bigger picture mentality that helps me. My motto is to “make it work.” It just turned out that two actresses from a casting director workshop agreed to join the cast, and the guy role was played by my main grip. He usually focuses on his music, but was so kind to step in for the role of Nikki’s new boyfriend on the show.
indieactivity: How long did you take to complete the script?
Crystal: I started around five years ago, writing down all my stories and experiences from living in LA. Once I got those down, I started branching the stories out into their own worlds, and that was how the core idea behind the series started. Once I was only focused on Crystal, finishing the script took around six months, but I wasn’t in a rush, because I was saving money for the production.
It was nice to have that time to make sure I locked down my favorite six episodes and fine-tuned them. And I made sure to pick topics that weren’t going anywhere anytime soon. From sending nudes to the annoying roommate, I wanted to make the series themes relatable to a wide audience – you know, good old ‘people problems.’
indieactivity: When did you form your production company and why?
Crystal: Having a safe place. I wanted to create a safe and constructive environment to work in, and I knew the only way to make that happen was if I made it happen. I have been an artist all my life, but it isn’t just about the ideas and conceptual work – I also love getting things done. Starting a project and ending it, no matter what. To me it’s not about being perfect, but giving what you can at the moment, and taking the time to build a good team where and when a project calls for it. C+ Media Productions is about getting that “proof of concept” out there for the world to see and join in.
indieactivity: What was the first project out of the gate?
Crystal: Crystal is the first project from C+ Media Productions. I wanted to this to be my introduction as a filmmaker. The show’s sense of humor and the character portrayals are so close to how I think, which makes sense, since a lot of the show is based on stuff I went through in my 20s, so it works out perfectly. In many ways, Crystal is like a little window into my mind. I also wanted to film Crystal first because it was the most realistic character to film and do it on a reasonable budget.
indieactivity: During production, what scene (that made the cut) was the hardest to shoot?
Crystal: Episode Five had a lot going on. It was the hardest to shoot, especially the first scene we shot of the season. This was the car scene with Nikki and Hasi, who had to imagine there was a guy jerking off in front of them. I wanted them to have more fun vs. being totally disgusted, so it took a moment for them to figure out a good balance. I was also feeling out how they had decided to play the characters, as I didn’t have auditions so I was kinda going in blind.
But it also helped me work with what I had, and roll with the punches. Once we started filming and I saw the tone, I was able to bounce back and make quick fixes and rewrites. My goal was to make the scenes believable and fun, because at the end of the day, it’s a comedy. No one needs to be hurting. I did let Nikki cry for her breakup scene and changed a line in the script to better highlight how differently Crystal and Nikki handled their respective breakups. I like to think of myself as a fair director who listens to what my actors have to say. It’s a group project after all, and if it works, it works.
indieactivity: What works better in this production that mightn’t have worked so well in the last one you did?
Crystal: Having a really clear outline on paper, and really getting people to mean what they say. I really made sure to keep things light and positive, but also very professional. Sometimes people forget this is still a business and you should really ask for what you want. So taking the time to sit down with everyone, one-on-one, and ask them about their goals, really helped get me ready and put that end-game plan into motion once everyone agreed to join. It help run the production very smoothly and we finish each day a little earlier than what we originally scheduled.
indieactivity: You produced and directed the film, what measure of input did it take to don these hats?
Crystal: Staying organized and valuing others’ time. I was also three months pregnant at the time, so I really needed to make sure I stayed on track throughout the whole production. And now that I know what I can handle, doing a production while NOT pregnant is definitely going to be easier. They say you shouldn’t miss out on your personal life while going after your dreams, and I’m really happy and proud that I made it all work.
Also I do yoga, so that helps me find my peace if the chaos is too much and I have to start at the beginning. But doing the right paperwork and scheduling is key to keeping anything in life going.
indieactivity: Is there anything about the independent filmmaking business you still struggle with?
Crystal: I think there’s always going to be a struggle, so it’s hard to say because I feel like that answer changes a lot. Some days, it’s about gaining respect, and on other days, it’s figuring out what kind of budget will work for a project.
I think for a project to succeed in this business, it is always has to be moving, like a machine. Something goes wrong, you fix it and carry on. It’s more important to understand that that’s normal and it’s okay. You aren’t failing. I turn fails into episodes, so to me that’s a win.
indieactivity: Where do you think your strengths lie as a filmmaker?
Crystal: I could from a very close and grounded family. We keep it real and honest and I think that’s always going to be at my core. I think it’s very important, especially in this day and age, to talk to people as humans, and not treat them as resources and commodities. Staying humble is something I hope to always carry with me and not forget, which is why I started this journey in the first place: to share stories with a message. Growing up, I lived in the south, so I bring a bit of southern comfort to my projects – on-set I always feel the need to feed people and make sure they are comfortable.
indieactivity: Let’s talk finance, how did you finance the film?
Crystal: I am a hairstylist , have been for over 14 years, and that’s how I am able to finance my projects and find the time to work on different projects. Some people double their books, I doubled on careers. The skills that I learned from doing hair wasn’t just hair. I have time management skills and over a decade of experience running my own brand and business. I rent a chair, so in order for me to make my money, I have to market myself and showcase my work. Doing hair gave me a great foundation to learn about self-promotion, and now I can do it for film. Instead of individual clients, whom I love and adore, my goal is to sell ideas to companies, so I can take money earned and put it back into the production company.
indieactivity: How much did you go over budget? How did you manage it?
Crystal: Probably around $700, and that was mostly for film festival entries and marketing. Thankfully, I didn’t have to pay out that lump sum at once, so it wasn’t too bad for me. And now I know for the future to add that into the budget.
indieactivity: How important is marketing? Do you think a project can make any dent without it nowadays?
Crystal: So important. It took me six months to come up with my marketing plan and get the right look and feel for Crystal. I am very into different fonts, because fonts really do help tell a story. Colors tell a story. It’s all important. And my title character is a graphic designer, so I was able to really refine her style and make the show’s identity stand out. It’s not that different to refining a brand.
You can look at all my social media outlets and know which posts belong to Crystal, or if I am talking about the show. And because the show deals with mostly pop culture and people problems, I could make funny memes to go with the episodes. I had Carlos Rosario do voiceovers for the preview clips. It’s all about little details that people can later go back and check if they missed something. Marketing is important to get the right following and it helps send you message out which is what I was trying to do through film.
indieactivity: Can you tell us about your marketing activities on the project – and how it’s gone for you?
Crystal: So far I have done a trailer, which was for the film festival circuit. And when I was getting ready for the public release, I started to make episode previews that were 15-20 seconds each – two per episode. I also shared branded stills from each episode so that people could go check out that episode if they wanted to. Viewers can decide what episode they want to watch. If they want to check out one, that’s fine, it’s supposed to be like a slice-of-life vignette. I didn’t do a strong main story arc because I wanted to keep it light and fun, and so that people could get into Crystal at any point without having watched a previous episode.
And like I said before, I made some funny memes and taglines to help people identify with the humor on the show and the type of everyday situations Crystal was in. When you push your work on social media, it’s really important to use the right hashtags so people understand what is going on.
Overall it’s been going well, the response has been nice, averaging 200 likes per post and around 6k followers on Instagram.
Crystal has also gotten lots of views on Vimeo, so I can’t complain. Now I just have to keep going and focusing on new projects to add to the mix.
indieactivity: What do you hope audiences get from your film?
Crystal: A free laugh on me. I wanted to make sure I had fun with my first project and keep it sweet. It’s been really nice to bring people together through comedy.
indieactivity: What else have you got in the works?
Crystal: I’m currently getting ready to shoot a series of shorts for Neighborhood Nights. This is a marketing project for the salon I work at, Neighborhood Salon in Echo Park. And I did finish writing season two of Crystal. At the moment I want to keep sharing the first season before I decided where to go next. I’m also writing a beauty school-themed pilot based on my own experiences, and developing another webseries to be shot in late summer. I stay busy, I always have!
The post Crystal Correa, creator of ‘Crystal’ talks her filmmaking process appeared first on indieactivity.