Yuri Lowenthal and Tara Platt created (& produced, wrote & starred in) 4 seasons of Award-winning Shelf Life, they have 3 seasons (which they write/shoot/direct/star in) of comedy travel series Up, Up and Away, they produced and created Breaking Silence a docuseries on PTS with season one currently streaming, and they just created/produced/starred in season 1 of Whatta Lark which is currently streaming on all platforms (Amazon, YT, Vimeo, Daily Motion). Yuri and Tara also host a live webshow on Unlocked called PeanutButterStoryTime Tues nights at 8p on the YURIandTARA channel. They can answer questions about creativity, indie production, and collaboration!
Wooo welcome Tara and Yuri! First question- When did you get into film/filmmaking, and into web series in particular?
Oh wow you guys have done so much! Welcome! What’s your low budget, high quality secret? What do you prioritize?
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Thanks for the Q - I think it is because we are so passionate about storytelling and creating worlds… that we just have to tell the stories inside of us and get them into the world. We officially started our prod co MKP (Monkey Kingdom Productions) a little over 10 yrs ago to start making films/webseries.
Thanks for being here today! Is your travel series scripted or unscripted?
Thanks for asking! We had made some stuff on our own before we started working together, but we really began in earnest in 2004 after several years working as actors frustrated by roles we weren’t really invested in. We realized that to play the roles we wanted to play, we would have to create those projects ourselves. We started with a by-the-seat-of-our-pants feature, and went to webseries from there!
Oooo can we hear more about this seat-of-your- feature?
Thanks! Good story/good script will always equate to higher quality… and then creativity and problem solving on the fly helps to keep cost down while still making aesthetically and artistically interesting choices.
Totally unscripted! We shoot what we think is interesting-- okay, that’s a lie, we shoot what we think is fun – and then write narration for the piece once we’ve got a pretty solid edit.
Why did you decide to make a production company? What were the benefits of incorporating all legal-like?
Can you expand on creativity and problem solving on the fly? I’m an aspiring indie producer and I always panic to cut ANYTHING and then I see the budget and want to cut EVERYTHING haha
Welcome to Stareable! How do you approach a scripted versus live versus unscripted shoot? What goes into those different processes?
Honestly, we just video the things we do while we travel (and often pre-plan before the trip the events we wanna hit) then once we have all the footage, we get an edit (by our amazing editor Shahab Zargari) and then we decide the narration that will string it all together but still be fun/silly
Man, in retrospect, I wish we had filmed the making-of feature while we were doing it! We found out we’d be house sitting at a fancy house, and decided then and there that rather than sit on our butts by the pool for 2 weeks, we’d make a movie while we were there. So, in 3.5 weeks, we wrote a feature, cast it, crewed up, and shot it! It was a psychological thriller called TUMBLING AFTER. ANd yes, the lead characters were named Jack & Jill…
You mentioned Shelf Life is award-winning- what is your festival submission strategy (like, how do you decide where/when to submit), and do you think film festivals are worth it for web series?
Hi! Have you ever crowdfunded? How do you finance your projects, if not?
Great question. with scripted we have more time (usually) and can get a chance to plan (which often gets derailed per production adventures) but it lets us all get on the same page about the vision/goal… with our unscripted shoots we still focus on preplanning (have we mentioned the importance of planning!! hahah) but we are much more willing to let things happen as they will – improv so to speak – and then we collect all the good nuggets of fun once it is shot and then we piece it all together based on the overall plan at that point.
LOVE this question. And we totally get it. I’ve had to become less precious with my stuff for sure. Remember this: the story you dream up is different than the script you write, is different than the film you shoot is different than the film we end up seeing. It’s a group activity full of chaos (no matter how much pre-production you do), and you have to trust that that’s a good thing! Sometimes the biggest cuts/changes/implosions that happen end up being the best thing that could have happened. Trust the process!
What kinds of things do you find yourself planning for now that, say, ten years ago, you didn’t even think about?