Film Courage: Marc, when you were first creating SPACE COMMAND, was it in your mind that you were going to attempt to sell it to a studio?
Marc Scott Zicree: It’s very interesting, you know…when I started in television…I’ve been in a professional writer since I was age 19. I sold…well actually in truth…my first radio play aired when I was 18 on [Los Angeles radio station] KPFK, my first short story I sold when I was 19. I started writing my first book when I was 22, the TWILIGHT ZONE COMPANION and I was writing for television by the time I was 22 or 23. And when I started in television (and if you wanted your work to reach millions of people), it had to be through a studio or a network. And there were only 3 networks, ABC, NBC and CBS…and also PBS, you know, public television. And that was it. So now…and also you had to shoot on 33mm or 16 mm and you edited on a Moviola and it cost millions of dollars to make any television program per episode.
Now (of course) it’s very, very different. You can shoot on a digital camera (we own a Red camera) and you edit on a laptop. Our editor is back at our place right now editing SPACE COMMAND on laptop and it’s hooked up to our big screen TV. And you can reach out to your audience. Your audience can help finance what you’re doing. You can also reach millions of people via the Internet.
“… A lot of people stay stuck in the way things used to be and I think that’s a mistake. I embrace the new model and I love the new model. And I embrace the direct communication with my audience. I feel that I’m the same as my audience. So if I like something…if I feel enthusiastic about something, I know my audience will be, too.”
So a lot of people stay stuck in the way things used to be and I think that’s a mistake. I embrace the new model and I love the new model. And I embrace the direct communication with my audience. I feel that I’m the same as my audience. So if I like something…if I feel enthusiastic about something, I know my audience will be, too.
And so with SPACE COMMAND, initially my idea was…it’s funny. When I first came up with the idea of doing a hopeful view of the future, it’s a multi-generational saga that covers 150 years in the future. It takes place in the solar system and beyond. And a lot of my friends run network shows and a lot of them said to me “Well, listen. We can team up and walk this into the network and we can get a pilot deal.” But I new from experience that if I sold it (and I knew that it probably would sell), I’d be hired to write the script, then the network would cut it off at the script and then they would own it and no one would ever see it. Or they could green light the production to pilot, and then we’d shoot the pilot and if we didn’t green light it to series (again) no one would ever see it. Or if they green lit it to series, they might have notes that would screw it up and ruin it, so….[laughs]. So I thought no “Well let me see if I can raise money?” I’d never raised money before, but I said “Let’s see if I can reach out to the audience?” I mentor thousands of young people in Hollywood (well actually people of all ages) via the roundtable I run [called THE TABLE] and the classes I teach and I’d been hearing about crowdfunding so I thought “Well let’s see I can do this?”
So the target was $75,000 to raise in 2 months. We hit that it in 3 days and we kept going and we raised $221,000. And then I sold investment shares to my backers and raised another half a million. And we’re still going strong. And that was enough to open our own studio, shoot the first 2 hours of SPACE COMMAND, shoot 30 minutes of the second two hours, I’ve written the first eight hours and outlined hours 9 through 12. So that’s a season.
So then the question is “Well do I want to take it to a network?” Is there a reason to take it to a network if you’ve gotten this much ahead of steam? There are over 500 scripted comedies and dramas of all the various networks and platforms now. 500 series. The cost of rolling out a show and promoting it (just so people know it exists) is $23 million dollars. I can raise enough money to make SPACE COMMAND, I can’t raise enough money to promote SPACE COMMAND. So that is where a studio or a network (or more ideally, more specifically a network) or a big platform like Netflix or Amazon makes sense because if I really want to reach a world audience on a broad scale, if I really want this to really last, and reach the people I want to reach, that makes a lot of sense.
Elaine Zicree: And the fact of the matter is he started out wondering if this would be a single film. And what happened was once we started with the crowdfunding, something that we hadn’t seen as an aspect of crowdfunding, wasn’t just gathering money to shoot something, but it was gathering money for awareness worldwide. And that awareness through us because we’re both self-bound people and we thought maybe a few other people are really down on this dark trend and will want to see something that is hopeful, a hopeful vision of the future. And in fact, the outpouring was so great, that is what ignited this crazy ambition in this mad person, and it started to grow and grow and grow. And we thought well maybe 2, maybe 3, and so all it started as a single and it became a much larger story. And it became “Well how about ongoingly?” And we’ve had investors just walk up to him and say “I invested in this because I wanted to see something that gave me hope.” Specifically. And so we realized that something that was troubling to us, was profoundly troubling to vast numbers across the globe.
Marc Scott Zicree: Well it’s funny because during our SPACE COMMAND campaign, I got a phone call. And it turns out that there is a real space command. It’s the space going arm of the U.S. Air Force. And they called me! A Major in the Air Force called me. And I thought “Oh, gosh. There are either going to want to shut me down or have me change the name.” And I get on the phone with Major Glenn Roberts of the U.S. Air Force and he says “We love what you’re doing! We want to be part of it.” Great! But the funny part is, during our (Kickstarter) campaign if you type SPACE COMMAND into Google, we came in first and the Air Force came in second. And even to this day, if you type in SPACE COMMAND, the Air Force comes in first and we come in second even still. So millions of people around the world know about SPACE COMMAND. Thousands gave us money, which is very, very heartening. But as Elaine was saying, originally it was going to be one 2-hour story and I actually wrote half of it before the campaign and then immediately sat down and wrote the second half of that 2-hour script. But because I was doing media interviews every single day of the campaign, as I talked about SPACE COMMAND, the story started to grow in my mind and (as Elaine said) it grew from 2 hours, to 4 hours to 6 hours to 8 hours and then suddenly it was a whole series. And so when I sat down and what was originally going to be the first 2 hours, ultimately became the fourth story (the fourth 2-hour story) and so I sat down with all the other scripts…so I had written 4 of the 2-hour scripts already and what was going to be the first one is now going to be the fourth one. So if you ever go back to our original Kickstarter campaign, the actors I’m talking about as being in SPACE COMMAND actually now are in that fourth one. So it’s Armin Shimerman from STAR TREK: DEEP SPACE NINE and BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER. Christina Moses who just starred in CONTAINMENT, Ethan Phillips from STAR TREK: VOYAGER, etc.
Elaine Zicree: It’s sort of like a loose tornado, it sweeps more and more people along…[laughs].
Marc Scott Zicree: Well the lovely thing is that all of the actors I’ve approached (many of them stars from shows I’ve worked on) said “Yes” [to the project] and so …I mean my friend Mike Harney from the show ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK and Doug Jones who starred in PAN’S LABYRINTH and HELLBOY and THE STRAIN and he’s going to be starring in the new Star Trek TV show STAR TREK DISCOVERY. And Mira Furlan from BABYLON 5 and LOST and Bill Mumy from BABYLON 5 and LOST IN SPACE and Robert Picardo from STAR TREK VOYAGER and STARGATE ATLANTIS, these are wonderful actors. James Hong who was in BLADE RUNNER and BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA (he’s one of my heroes). He’s phenomenal to work with. And Faran Tahir who was in J.J. Abrams STAR TREK movie and IRON MAN and ELYSIUM. I mean these are phenomenal actors and I’m honored to be working with them. It’s just such a joy.
Question for the Viewers: How did you raise money for your last project?
About Marc and Elaine:
Working both together and individually, writer-producer-directors Marc Scott Zicree and Elaine Zicree have sold over 100 teleplays, screenplays and pilots to every major studio and network, including landmark stories for such shows as STAR TREK– THE NEXT GENERATION, DEEP SPACE NINE, THE NEW TWILIGHT ZONE, BABYLON 5, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, FOREVER KNIGHT, SLIDERS, LIBERTY’S KIDS, SUPERFRIENDS, HE-MAN, REAL GHOSTBUSTERS and SMURFS. Their work has been nominated for the American Book Award, Humanitas Prize, Diane Thomas Award, and Hugo and Nebula Awards, and they’ve won the TV Guide Award, prestigious Hamptons Prize and 2011 Rondo and Saturn Awards. Fans of their work include Steve Spielberg, J.J. Abrams, Ray Bradbury, Damon Lindelof, Frank Darabont, Joss Whedon and millions of fans around the world (Read more here).
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From The Film Fund – Get up to $10,000 to make your short film by writing one sentence. The Film Fund is providing funding up to $10,000 for a short film in a way that’s a lot simpler than screenwriting contests, crowdfunding, or applying to grants – read more about Founder and CEO Thomas Verdi’s The Film Fund here via his website.
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