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Director Dennis Dortch Talks To S&A About Turning His Popular Web Series 'The Couple' Into A Film

Photo of Tambay A. Obenson By Tambay A. Obenson | Shadow and Act September 12, 2012 at 11:08AM

If you missed our announcement of this, or just need to revisit the details, here's a quick recap:
4
The Couple Movie

If you missed our announcement of this, or just need to revisit the details, here's a quick recap:

The web series The Couple (created by Dennis DortchJeanine Daniels, and Numa Perrier, via their Black & Sexy brand, starring Perrier and Desmond Faison), is becoming a feature film!

The feature film's story will center on how winning a large sum of cash ($750,000) changes the lives of the couple, and those close to them.

To Kickstart the project, the production team launched a fundraising campaign yesterday, to raise $25,000 in 30 days (27 days to go).

I want to see the complete film, so I already made my contribution, and if you feel the same way, and can afford to, hopefully you'll make yours as well.

As I noted in my last entry on this, an interview with the team about this specific venture was forthcoming, which should answer expected questions. That interview is done, and the Q&A follows below, and you're encouraged to read it, as it's packed with some good really information - not just about this particular project, but also conversation on the general direction indie content creation and distribution might be heading...

Underneath the interview, you'll find the couple's video pitch for the feature campaign. 

And finally, to contribute, click HERE for the project's Kickstarter page, or click within the widget underneath the video. 

- Is the film’s total budget $25,000, and if not, long-term fundraising plans?

Well after Kickstarter/Amazon takes their cut and the expense to produce and send out perks to our pledgers, $20,000 is the real number you walk away with. We are able to produce content for not a lot of money. Combined with our current resources, producing the multiple web series for BLACK&SEXY.TV, $20,000 is just enough to get the film in the can. Any amount over that will go toward Post Production. We want to keep cost low and production fast to turn a profit and live to do it again.

- Will this be entirely a grassroots, indie production?

Yes, indeed. Exactly like the production on the current slate of series, including the distribution. Although the production values will be higher and more focused, we are testing a sustainable distribution model, not just a film that we put out there in hopes of getting picked up by a major. BLACK&SEXY.TV is a family business. We are entrepreneurs as much as we are creators.

- Overall distribution strategy? Embracing the new frontier and going all digital download, or plans for a theatrical, DVD/Blu-ray? Film festival circuit exposure? Combo?

Definitely embracing the new frontier of direct-to-audience distribution. We have 15,000 subscribers on Youtube and 40,000 individuals in our social media network. We don’t look at ourselves any different than a television network. We are not re-inventing the wheel. The “new frontier” allows a hybrid of existing models without the traditional gatekeepers. Our free advertiser supported content is focused on audience building. As we continue producing new shows our audience and subsequently our brand will continue growing. This will afford us the opportunity to promote our premium content within the BLACK&SEXY.TV network series for free and to an already engaged audience. The Couple Movie is the guinea pig to see if our audience will purchase premium content from us. And with the next project, avoid what the major studios are tasked to do with every new, non-franchised film--build excitement and an audience for every release. Tyler Perry became a millionaire before making movies, by simply recording his live plays and selling them direct to audience on DVD.

At the same time, we are not ruling out any theatrical, DVD, pay TV, and film festival opportunities. It’s just we are not relying on that. And that is the key change in my particular career path. We have flipped the pay windows around a little bit, where we pay ourselves first and control our product, marketing, message, etc, instead of being the last to eat after everyone else in the food chain got seconds and thirds. No different than Ava Duvernay and her AFFRM model. Of course, you also take all the risk. But I’ve always been a wild independent spirit who never followed the rules creatively or professionally. And we shouldn’t forget that there are so many other new opportunities for alternative distribution deals like HULU, Netflix, and InFlight entertainment like Virgin America.

Obviously, besides film festivals, there are gatekeepers to the other distribution routes. With the distribution of my film A Good Day to be Black & Sexy, I learned a lot firsthand. I learned what I wanted...and a lot of what I didn’t want. Ha, ha. I believe if there is an audience for your film, the other opportunities will naturally come to you and there is some leverage in the negotiations when you have choices. And this is the FIRST time in my career that I have choices in what direction I’d like to go with my creations. We have actually turned down a handful of distribution deals for THE COUPLE and THE NUMBER because we could. We have alternate plans that are real and sustainable for generating revenue now and in the long run with the sheer volume of content. When previously, you would almost have to take or seriously consider any deal that came to you, because they were few and far in between for especially black content...and the money offered reflected just that. Shit deals. Or you would have to spend a lot of time chasing after people and playing the Hollywood game and wait on someone else to say yes to get your movie or series produced. And if you are lucky enough to be anointed your project is subjected to their every whim. Now, I am in business for myself. No matter what the risk are, it feels good to just do what we want to do and turn around and deliver it and get instant feedback. It’s like going to Studio/Network school. Very valuable and no different than the same tasks the major studios and networks deal with.

- Any plans to package Season 1 in a DVD/Blu-ray compilation disk, and sell?

Yes, currently we are offering Season 1 as a digital download to our contributors on Kickstarter.

- Episodes will continue to be made and released weekly, even as feature film is in production?

Episodes of THE COUPLE will not be produced during film production to focus that energy where it’s needed most. However, the BLACK&SEXY.TV network will continue with weekly releases of the 2nd season of THE NUMBER and new series THAT GUY and ROOMIELOVERFRIENDS on Issa Rae’s channel.

- Any precedent for this – going from successful web series to feature film?

Not really That’s why we want to do it. I hear of projects here and there, but none have come to fruition yet.

- What audiences/fans can expect in translation from web series to feature film? Any expected changes in terms of style, structure, starring cast?

Don’t like to talk much about what “we are going to do” before it’s done. I will say it will have similar tone as the series, but a bit heightened. One story - not vignettes like Black & Sexy but the similar style of that movie because it will still be me and my cinematographer partner, Brian Ali-Harding behind the wheel.

- What if someone wants to invest in the project, rather than contribute/donate? Invest as in, significant upfront investment, with expectations of back-end participation?

We are open to all opportunities as they are attracted to us. Depending on interest, we would also want to take the conversation a bit further and talk about the a slate of projects like the feature film spin-off of THE NUMBER, etc and the back end participation on the long term venture.

- And finally, besides the perks associated with each contribution level, why should anyone contribute to this specific campaign/project?

I think we do a lot of complaining about the lack of images of realistic everyday black folks in interesting roles just like our white counterparts. It feels like a parent - child relationship where we whine that daddy or mommy don’t gives us the same treatment like our other siblings in the industry. But until we realize that we are not neccessarily part of that family, we are chasing our own tails. We don’t share the same cultural interest or desires with the gatekeepers of the Entertainment Industry as a whole. And that’s okay. I don’t, there’s a lot of things I don’t particularly care about either that continues to be produced on a regular. It’s just how it is. The “new frontier” is a revolution for black content creators. We call it the “underground railroad” where we produce and support our own projects within our own eco-system. And this kind of focus taken off what someone else isn’t doing and put on what people are doing is the sustainable and exciting industry that I would like to be a part of. The key is to cultivate and grow our own audience directly and produce content they want to see. That is what we are about for the long term. This feature film is the first step in that direction.

Once again, to contribute, click HERE for the project's Kickstarter page, or click within the widget underneath the video. 

Also part of the production team for The Couple, the movie, are series creator Jeanine Daniels, as well as Nikki Love (producer of Matthew Cherry's The Last Fall, and other films).

Watch the video pitch if you haven't yet.


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