Anytown USA Creator Darek Kowal - AMA

Hi, I’m Darek Kowal, creator of the comedy/horror web series ANYTOWN, USA! I’m a graduate of Columbia College Chicago, where I received a BA in Film with a concentration in screenwriting. I’ve written a feature script for Beacon Pictures (producer of Air Force One & ABC’s Castle), written, directed, produced, & financed my own micro-budget feature LULLABY, and created my 10 episode web series about a lovable family of cannibals!

I’m here to talk about the ins & outs of creating content with little to no money, answering any questions about film school, moving across the country to follow your ambitions, working with actors & crew, the writing process, theme, satire, social commentary, offending people, and any other general life queries you may have!

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Hey Darek! Thanks for being here! Can you talk about how you got into the industry, and when/why you decided to do indie content?

Hi Bri! Thanks for having me! After graduating film school in Chicago, I moved to LA with a buddy and started looking for work. For the first few months, I was working full-time at 2 unpaid internships, losing money by the day haha, but learning a lot. I eventually got a job at a VFX studio, but just as an office manager. It was cool because I could be alone at my desk writing all day. Through my job and my internships, I made contacts w/ a producer at Beacon Pictures who saw that I wrote really great script coverage, and eventually asked me to write a spec comedy for them.

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Did that script ever go anywhere? What did you learn about that process, and can you explain what you mean by “spec”?

As far as creating indie content,

I think I just got tired of waiting for people to read my work. From what I could tell about people I knew in LA, nobody really likes to stick their neck out and endorse an unknown writer/his work, because it’s their reputation on the line.

So, I figured if I was going to direct my material, I was going to have to pay for it myself. I’ve worked a million odd jobs, serving, mopping floors, etc, to fund my projects.

It’s hard work but it allows me complete control of my content.

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I definitely want to know about the ins & outs of creating content with little to no money! How DID you end up financing your projects?

I’m contemplating doing that whole moving for my career thing. Any tips on how to do that without going into debt?

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Sadly the script fizzled out. It was a very broad, hangover-esque comedy about 4 kids who discover the world is ending. I learned a ton about the creative process at the producer level.

I was sitting in a mansion in the Pacific Palisades listening to these highly successful people spew out ideas, and it was very intimidating. It was like watching people throw different ingredients against a wall and then saying “make a meal!” …

it taught me that people don’t always know what they want, and you have to make sure you’re pleased with what you write, because you’ll never please EVERYBODY in a big room.

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hey man, good to see you. didn’t you write that article a while back about practical effects? that was dope

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Also, if you don’t mind me asking- what is your day job right now?

Hi Meg! I finance everything through part-time jobs. Just to afford moving to LA (from a small town in Indiana), I served at a Red Lobster for 2 years.

I’ve served food, mopped floors, substitute taught, baby sat, painted houses, and become a personal trainer all to get money for my work.

The trick is, LIVE LIKE A HERMIT! lol I stopped myself from going out because I knew that any money I spent on drinks/food was money I didn’t have for my content.

It’s a tough discipline, but a necessary one if you are self-reliant.

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nevermind! You answered this! ahaha!

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Right now, I am a personal trainer and I sell homemade pies & cheesecakes lol yes, it’s quite the contradiction!

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I did! Thanks for reading! Our season finale (episode 10) put that effect to good use! haha

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Would you consider trying to get a more traditional, in-industry job, to make connections/ move your way up, or are you cool staying part time and hoping one of your indie projects connects?

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how do you balance making an awesome, bloody effect and being safe? especially with fake weapon props that look fake

Hi Joseph,

Six months to a year before you move, you have to start saving like a mad man! I moved cross country w/ $10,000 I made waiting tables and never leaving the house lol

Also, when my roommate and I moved, we drove 35 hours non stop. No wasting money on motels, food, etc. Just gas.

I would say apartment hunt online and (if you can) take a trip to see the places in person before committing.

Going with a roommate is also a great way to cushion the blow of having to pay for everything yourself.

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Seconded, with a sub-question- how do you know when you’re ready to move? What’s the threshold, in your opinion? Do you need a job opportunity, interview, or a set number of connections already there? Or do you just need your dreams?

Any sharp, stabbing weapon we use is dulled first. So that helps. Just be very honest with your actors and let them get used to the weapon. Take things VERY slowly and rehearse A LOT before rolling camera, because you may only get one take when all is said and done.

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how do you dull a weapon? also doesn’t it then look kind of dull on camera?