The phrase “‘Almost’ only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades,”
…is a bunch of alpha bullshit.
Almosts are beautiful. We learn from them. They count.
Only 10% of the work I generate as a filmmaker ever comes to market. For every web series or feature film I’ve made, there are stacks of treatments, outlines, and even finished products that didn’t make the cut. Lest you assume it gets easier in fame, Guillermo Del Toro just announced he has 18 completed screenplays that have never been made. 18! And he’s the dude who convinced someone to give him 20 million dollars to make a movie about silent amphibian sex.
Only sharing a tiny fraction of my work and talents is slowly killing the part of me that loves to create. And I don’t think I’m alone. It’s why show business has so many Twitter addicts, actual addicts, and well, podcasters.
I need the almosts to count because otherwise, I can’t keep justifying the time it takes to make them. So I’m opening a Digital Museum to show mine off. And maybe yours, too.
The Museum of Almosts is a place to see the beauty in the projects that don’t quite make it. With some distance, artists return to view their work in the way a museum curator would, to appreciate it for its time, place, and meaning. The collection includes gems with bad timing, overstuffed ideas, flawed premises, and a few “ones that got away.” Want to donate to the Museum? Email submissions to mail[at]jeremyredleaf.com.
THE PROJECT: COUPLE FIGHTS
Artist: Jeremy Redleaf
Curators: Alex Rubin & Sarah Raymond
Project Type: Youtube Series
Overview: Mark and Kate fight. You get to choose how it ends.
Project Credits: Jeremy Redleaf (Creator), Peter Fackler (Director of Photography), Mike Simses (Camera Operator), Caroline Kelly (Sound), Sarah Raymond (Producer), Mark Gessner (Actor), Kate Simses (Actress), Jason Kravits (Actor), Monica Trombetta (Actress)
The Artist in 2014:
“Short form content was taking off, but I found most things that were popular to be a little… light. I wanted to make something fun and layered, and most importantly, contained. After my first web series got stuck in the TV development machine, I couldn’t afford to keep it going on my own. I wanted to control my destiny. Could I find a story that exists in one location? Where I could shoot multiple episodes in a day?
I landed on my fascination with the ways couples fight. My parents are both therapists, so looking at conflict with curiosity is in my blood. And fights are everything, they hold our flaws, desires, neuroses, wounds, and rage. They can be simultaneously silly and Shakespearean.
YouTube had just released their annotation feature which, for the first time, allowed filmmakers to create interactive, choose-your-own-adventure series. I was interested in using this tool to let the audience determine how the fights ended. Wish fulfillment for the therapy set, if you will.”
The Creation: “I was lucky enough to land Mark Gessner and Kate Simses, seasoned television actors and two of the most affable people I know. It was enjoyable to watch them yell at each other. I planned to roll three cameras and have them improvise off an outline to make it feel authentic. I was beginning to think this just might work.
The night before the shoot, I decided to investigate the YouTube annotation system further. And I discovered you couldn’t see the interactive buttons on mobile devices. (Ed. note: YouTube didn’t add mobile support until two years later.)
Ughhhhhhhh. The whole premise of the series had been that viewers could control the fights. The concept wouldn’t make sense on mobile devices, which meant this wasn’t going to work. I scrapped the ‘choose your own ending’ concept entirely and decided to move forward. Hopefully, it would still be interesting…
The shoot went off without a hitch. Everyone worked for free. My future wife saved the day multiple times. We spent very little money and grabbed four episodes in one day.”
Note: Videos not mixed or color corrected
I shared them with my literary managers. The episodes are short, but the attention span in Hollywood is shorter, so I also cut a little trailer:
My reps didn’t say much about the episodes. But the trailer! They thought if I shot some other scenes, it could be taken out as a pitch for a television series. Well okay! I put the series on hold and worked on that. ”
THE NEW TRAILER
I sent it to my team of suits. It was a little broad, but it seemed as good if not better than a lot of the pitches I had read that sold that year. But I hadn’t yet learned that:
If you’re ‘hot’ and they want to buy a show from you, they’re going to buy a show from you.
If you’re not ‘hot,’ they’re not going to buy a show from you. Unless it’s incredibly unique.
I‘m not the former and this wasn’t the latter. Nothing happened. Crickets.
Disheartened, I buried the project in a hard drive and moved on to the next thing.”
RETURNING TO THE WORK (2018)
- LOSING NORTH
“The point of the experiment was to create something I could steer on my own. But when the ‘Grownups’ thought it could be something bigger, I jumped to the passenger seat and went along for the ride.”
- SHAME BLANKET
“And then I was so discouraged by that bigger ‘rejection’ that I wrapped the project in a blanket of shame. I’ve lost it. This is fucking terrible. Move on. I was still at a place in my career where I was looking for people to tell me my work was good enough and that by proxy, I was good enough.”
- IMPOSTER SYNDROME IS LIMITING
“I should have released it. One person might have laughed who was having a bad day. It could’ve led to opportunities for my actors. There even could have been an audience! I was just too afraid to find out it wasn’t as big as I would’ve liked. Coming off a hit web series that launched my career, I was afraid that if I released anything that was less successful, everyone would discover I was a fraud. It was intoxicating to only hit home runs.”
- DATED DYNAMICS
“The original concept where the viewer got to control the fights would’ve allowed for a nuanced exploration, but without that, the guy’s character now strikes me as a little toxic. I wrote that part before I started to look at the ways in which patriarchy had been injected into me, so it’s an interesting (And humbling) artifact!”
- PREPARATION IS EVERYTHING
“I shouldn’t have waited until the night before to really play with technology that would underpin the entire concept. Since getting burned by this, I now over-prepare. I can’t know everything, but I do push through the fear to engage with the elements. Sometimes doing this means I find out my idea won’t work, but it’s better than wasting a lot time making something destined to fail.”
ZOOMING OUT 100 YEARS
Curators: When the internet began to disrupt how content was made, packaged, and distributed, filmmakers fumbled to find ways to fit complex ideas into “shareable bytes.” Couple Fights was one independent storyteller’s attempt to use a new medium to reach adults who weren’t yet partial to that medium. Caught between the empowering DIY movement and the traditional Hollywood system, this filmmaker wanted to please everyone and ended up pleasing no one, least of all himself.
Jeremy Redleaf is a Daytime Emmy Award winning artist and entrepreneur. He makes things that sometimes get released through his Brackets Creative shingle including: “Odd Jobs,” winner of “Best New Web Series” at the Streamy Awards, and 3rd Street Blackout, a feature film co-starring Ed Weeks, Janine Garofalo and John Hodgman. He is the co-founder of Caveday, a movement to help people focus to get their deepest work done. Sign up for his mailing list here.