Alex Dobrenko - Creator / Writer / Actor / Anxious Human Bean - AMA!


(Bri Castellini) #21

Do you have any insight into finding an agent/manager for non-acting things? I think many folks here are primarily screenwriters or producers or some combo therein.


(Alex Dobrenko) #22

The biggest lesson I actually learned while casting for Distance because I was able to see things from the other side of the table.

That lesson is that it has NOTHING to do with whether you get things “right”. Messing up on the lines, making mistakes, none of that matters (even though that’s what school has taught us does).

All that matters is that you come in and show who you are, and who you believe the character to be. 100 times out of 100 I would rather cast someone who is awesome and makes mistakes versus someone who gets it word perfect but has nothing going on inside.

So bring all of your soul and heart to the audition. And be okay with mistakes. Embrace them. They’re the holes that the light shines thru (I know that’s a bastardization of that famous quote but oh well we got more questions to answer)!


(Alex Dobrenko) #23

We just split every episode into two parts, so Episode one was “Episode 1 Sam” and “Episode 1 Emily”. Not the MOST ideal, but definitely workable.


(Meg Carroway) #24

Thanks! Is this your first time creating a show yourself? What was that like, coming from what sounds like a specifically writing/acting background?


(Alex Dobrenko) #25

It was wild, and god I learned so much. It was mostly people I knew, either closely or via friends. And a few peeps we brought on via writing samples.

Beyond the challenges of being super indie and not being able to really pay folks, I learned a ton about what mattered and what didn’t in terms of communicating my vision and what I wanted for the season as a whole. And how to allow everyone’s voice to shine through within that framework.

I learned that I tend to defer to others a bit too much, and sometimes would sacrifice my own vision to make other people happy. And ultimately I learned that I need to sometimes be firm and let folks know what I want and need.

And finally, I learned that after it was all written by everyone, that I did NEED to take every episode and rewrite it, usually with small edits but sometimes bigger edits, and that wasn’t something I should be afraid of, but quite the opposite.

In short - people WANT leadership, guidance, and vision. it deosn’t make them feel like their voices aren’t heard when you tell them and share in those things.

It was a real learning process. I think next time around, I would have less writers. 10 was too many, especially for this indie set up.


(Marc L) #26

That is very interesting, thank you for your advice! I think I may be a person who spends too much time memorizing lines exactly, thank you.


(Bri Castellini) #27

Can you give us some examples of this? Communication is a hot topic around these here parts.


(Jane) #28

Hey Alex! I read your article over on Seed &Spark and saw you relied a lot on instagram for marketing… for me, I hate posting on Instagram because I can’t schedule it like I can other social or use my laptop- do you have any advice for how to get over that? Or how to make it easier to add to a social media workflow? I know it’s a big hub but uuuuugh


(Alex Dobrenko) #29

Absolutely. So, first off, let’s not kid ourselves - web series are a super risky investment. As are films. So all of these investors knew that going in, and I think were going into it with a “double bottom line” - they know that even if they get none of their money back, they are able to help create some awesome art, and help me, and be a part of the journey that is my career, which mattered a lot for my investors.

BUT, money is money so I did need to make a case for how we would recoup. And that case was basically that there were a few different scenarios for recoupment:

  1. We shoot the season and sell it, as is, to a platform / distributor. This did not happen

  2. We shoot and release the first season, grow an audience, and then sell the show to a network / platform. This definitely could happen

  3. We shoot and release the first season, grow an audience, and then become very attractive to brands who want to come on and work with us to connect with our audience. This one is already happening

In scenario #2 and #3, the investors stand to receive a nice return. And in the best case scenario, Distance gets bought by FX or Netflix and runs for 5 seasons, and their return is HUGE.

The big thing that helped, and could definitely help all of y’all, is that these folks were investing not just in Distance Season One, but in the underlying IP - they were putting $ into a property that they saw value in, whether that be recouped after season one or in 3 years after a few more seasons release online.

I understand how this is obvi a big one for peeps, so happy to chat more about it here or privately :slight_smile:


(Alex Dobrenko) #30

No production classes at all, just writing. Acting I learned in Austin.

And yes, Lauren and I along with our team of producers produced the whole thing. I had no idea what I was doing, so I asked a lot of questions and learned. I have a few friends in LA who work in production, so they guided us on the things we didn’t know - insurance, SAG, etc. And the rest I learned as I went.

Now after wearing literally EVERY hat, I feel super ready to produce anything :slight_smile: You gotta just dive in and do it. And accept that there will be “failures” which are really just opportunities for learning.


(Meg Carroway) #31

How did you even FIND investors to make your case to?


(Jerome Keith) #32

How many writers would you prefer? Around 6? For a class I’m currently in we’re writing a fake 7 episode show with fourteen writers so two per episode and thus far it’s been almost impossible to really get the show down to one vision.


(Anna Bateman) #33

Did you or Lauren direct? Or did you hire out for a director? If the latter, how’d you make the decision of who to go with? Like, what’s the audition process for a director?


(Bri Castellini) #34

The mantra of at least 5 existing articles here on Stareable. Welcome to the family, Alex!


(Alex Dobrenko) #35

god, I could answer this for literally eight hours. There’s so many factors -

  1. You gotta believe in the project, somewhat. And like it. And ideally like yourself. Therapy helps, I go to therapy once a week and it helps a ton, it helps me get out of the negative space I default into, which it sounds like you do too. If you don’t believe in the project, find out why. Answer those hard questions for yourself. Happy to talk thru this with you too, if I can help anyone so its a little easier for them, I am VERY down to do so :slight_smile:

  2. You gotta remember that you and the investors have different scales of what money is. For them, a few grand is like asking for $20. They can stand to lose it, the same way you and I can lose $20 and be okay.

  3. You gotta just DO IT. And fail, a lot. I was rejected way more than accepted. But that’s ok. If you can get 5% of people you ask to invest, BAM you’re good to go.

Again, happy to guide you more on this privately or in here - I know its damn near impossible but ultimately super important!


(Alex Dobrenko) #36

I wish it was something that got easier with time, but alas it does not. And that’s ok. That’s the journey of being these little beans that we are!


(Alex Dobrenko) #37

Just let go a bit. And take classes. And enjoy the whole thing, if you can!


(Alex Dobrenko) #38

Honestly, not really. I am still trying to get lit reps. Though generally I think that those things come when they’re ready. And that you have to become undeniable. And they’ll find you. Mark Duplass has an amazing talk at SXSW that I was at in person - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZeWOAliA6Y. Watch this over and over and over.

The cavalry isn’t coming. We must do this on our own.


(Jaime Lancaster) #39

Thank you so much!!


(Alex Dobrenko) #40

It was amazing. I felt great, like I was doing something I was always meant to do. I enjoy all of the different elements, and the different hats. AND IT FEELS IMPOSSIBLE - which is a feeling I love. That kind of environment elevates me, and makes me forget about myself in the service of something grander, bigger, more fun. Flow state, and all that. Zen.

And in my best moments, I would realize that I wasnt the one making the art, but it was making me :slight_smile: