Shows You Should Know: Viscera (Indiegogo Campaign)
It’s takes dedication, long hours, and lots of creativity to make a successful superhero. Vanessa Baden Kelly ups the ante with her new interactive web-series project: Viscera.
The Viscera web-series and crowd funding-campaign, led by producer, writer, and actress Vanessa Baden Kelly, looks to create a “multicultural choose-your-own-adventure Superhero show” that will shatter the current stereotypes of who and what a superhero is. Perhaps most importantly, the web-series wants to defy the status quo by not only being the first fully interactive web show about superheros, but also star a Black woman:
Tatiana King Jones: What was the thought process behind making the show an interactive web series format?
Vanessa Baden Kelly: The choose your own adventure part started as a cool idea (laughs). It was just a way to stand out from other web series and just get creative and fun. The more I thought about it, it made business sense too. While the pie in the sky goal for most creators is to get the “big” break (like a network or studio), web is naturally the most accessible format for creators. And we’ve seen great successes come from web. But the continual problem is how to make your content “worth it” to advertisers and to make it stand out from the thousands of other web shows. Studios have been working on second screen content for a while to supplement their shows and capitalize on the popularity of the web and it hasn’t worked in a real tangible way because there isn’t a real reason to go to the second screen. If you have to choose the ending…you HAVE to engage.
TKJ: How did you meet the team you are working with to create the pilot? I understand you’ve been in the industry for years now so was it just a group of friends getting together or something more?
VBK: I have been in the industry for years and the cool thing about that is eventually your colleagues become your friends. So these were both. The great thing about indie film making and webseries is there is definitely a community, everyone supports everyone because a rising tide lifts all ships. Eventually the lines get blurred. Vic Styles who did our wardrobe is one of my best friends but she is a stylist for a number of brands and runs her own business teaching aspiring stylists. We bet through the indie community but now she is one of my best friends. Jermaine Brandon who did the BTS video and editing I met through work and now spends holidays with us and is like family.
TKJ: On a personal level I appreciate that Reese is a normal Black woman who seems to be very relatable (obviously having super powers make her even more extraordinary). Did everyone support your vision for the main character or was there any push-back?
VBK: I didn’t tell anyone anything during the creating process because I didn’t want to be influenced by any push-back. I just wanted to identify with someone on screen. One of my closest friends, James Bland, left me a voicemail during the process and said “Do not let anyone tell you anything about this project. Stay true to your vision. People won’t get it until it comes to life”. And I found that to be true. At my first read through, I already had Reese’s character fleshed out. Any question anyone had, I already had an answer. They could hear [Viscera’s] voice when I read her and everyone “knew” her that way.
TKJ: How do you balance having a very young son and a young marriage, (congrats by the way!) while at the same time wanting to film this venture along with managing other projects?
VBK: You don’t. You just hope no one starves and nothing burns down while you’re working (laughs). It’s a challenge, but in the best way. My aunt had to fly in from Florida to be with Ryder (my son) while we shot Viscera because RJ (my husband) was out of state on a gig. I just had this feeling that this project couldn’t wait. It couldn’t wait for a “good” weekend when RJ would be home, or for Ryder to be older, or for me to be more physically ready…I just had to do it or I never would. That meant some dishes went undone and I fell asleep with jeans and shoes still on and I wore lots of black (laughs heartily), but I’m so glad we did it. Eventually you do the dishes, and you get in pajamas and that stuff will get done.
TKJ: Your response is so interesting and honest. It always seems like creators have everything together (at least in public) but there’s really either chaos or uncertainties happening in the background. How does the Viscera project make you *feel*?
VBK: Super scared (laughter). I can’t believe we are really doing it and trying something this hefty. But it also is empowering. We don’t have to settle for what studios are feeding us. We can be the superhero we want to see in the world.
TKJ: Why did you choose Indiegogo to raise money for this project? Many of our FanBrosShow listeners who also want to run a crowdfunding campaign have a hard time choosing between Indiegogo and Kickstarter.
VB: We are trying to raise A LOT of money. The VFX for a sci fi/fantasy show are not cheap. Choose your own adventure makes for some lofty budgets (for Web) Indiegogo allows you to be paid out regardless of whether you hit your goal or not. So even if we don’t raise all of the money we can at least START the season and continue fundraising. Another cool feature about Indiegogo is the availability to keep your campaign open for donations after the time ends. We may not get it all now, but we can continue to make appeals and it will work.
TKJ: What are your thoughts on the current state of multiculturalism and/or inclusivity in geek culture?
VBK: I love the way the tide is turning in multiculturalism and geek culture, but there is obviously still a long way to go. Right now being different or weird or quirky is the new black which is cool. I like that people of all walks of life are techy and into Marvel (I lean Marvel…the only DC I really mess with is Batman). But I also feel like there is still side eye when I say I want to be a superhero, or this idea that having a multicultural superhero or someone of color that is a “geek” is an exception to the rule or some kind of inclusivity exercise. I’m really ready to see [the idea that] whatever a person is into, is [accepted as normal] without other people responding in surprise that “someone like you” would be into it.
TKJ: What’s your geek culture background? Are you into cartoons, anime, video games, comics, etc.? which ones?
VBK: Cartoons and comic culture are who I am, far more cartoons than comics. There are only a few shows that I am really into–Game of Thrones, Kimmy Schmidt, Blackish, to name a few. Normally the TV in our house is on some kind of cartoon. I was a big Powerpuff Girl fan (my 17th Birthday was Powerpuff and so was everything until I was in college). I used to love Spongebob and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends. Not a huge fan of the new Spongebob, but I have the first 3 seasons on DVD. My uncle was into comics growing up. We only have a few years age difference, and I really wanted to be like him so I would read all of his comics. I read X-Men and Wolverine hand me downs for years, so that’s probably why Viscera is so reminiscent of that. I did like [my uncle’s] Batman stuff. I remember he read a novel about the history of The Joker that I read after him. It was a far cry from the Batman The Animated Series I was watching, but it made me appreciate The Joker so much more that I have a slight obsession with villain backstory. The building of deep backstories is something you will see a lot of in Viscera.
TKJ: Are there any dream actors/writers/directors you would love to work with (for this project or anything else)?
VBK: Tina Fey is my [patronus]. I would like to be her with natural hair. I really want to work with Jada Pinkett Smith on Viscera and have been emailing her manager incessantly. I love Tom Hanks and Dick Van Dyke as actors and would love them for this…or generally in life. There’s a woman named Tessa Thompson who is emerging as a force right now and I think her acting instincts are incredible. I think she’s going to be big and would love to work with her. Obviously Spielberg is the dream director wise. J.J. Abrams too. In a non related matter I wrote a script for another pilot with a role specifically for Carol Burnett. She’s my fairy godmother (and called me once to give me advice and encouragement and is incredibly down to earth and gracious and is a beautiful human being).
TKJ: What (or who) keeps you motivated?
VBK: My husband is probably the thing that keeps me going. He’s my biggest fan and supporter. He has been blessed to live out his dreams as a musician and he really believes that I’m not at my best unless I’m creating. He makes the impossible happen for me. Things I don’t think I can do or have apprehension, he pushes me to do so I don’t live smaller than I should because I’m too in my head. I’m a terrible perfectionist; I am sadistically critical of myself, and have next level anxiety so I can talk myself out of something because I don’t think I can do it the way I want to. He stops me from being my own worst enemy.
TKJ: What are your long term goals?
VB: For my son to know that there are no limits to what he can accomplish. For the world to learn about itself without even knowing it through what I create. And to be financially stable enough to go to Starbucks and not say “I can’t believe I’m spending $5 on burnt coffee…”. I’ll probably always say that but the emphasis will be on the burnt coffee, not the money.
TKJ: Do you have any advice for budding film industry students?
VBK: Shoot, Edit, Release, Repeat. There is no better teacher than just doing it. There is no better thing to have in this industry than momentum. You have to be creating constantly to keep momentum. Don’t be paralyzed by perfection. It will never be perfect. Putting it out is what’s most important. Conversely, something I learned from Lena Waithe is the importance of table reads and notes from your colleagues. You might think you have a masterpiece but you are so “in” the script that you can’t see it. When actors read dialogue and it comes alive you really hear your voice, and pace, and tone and sometimes what you were thinking doesn’t translate the same. Also you create from your own prism. Its important to be mindful that what you write can be interpreted in varying ways. to know if you are really accomplishing what you hoped. So really it’s balance. Trust your gut and your vision, but still run it through quality control and take the critiques, no matter how hard.
TKJ: On our podcast we do a segment called “BRAPP” which is our rapid fire question and answer segment. We ask a series of short form questions where you have to choose one option between the choices. Here’s some questions for you:
1. Black Panther or Luke Cage?
Black Panther because adamantium
2. Magneto or Professor X?
3. Storm or Misty Knight?
4. Star Wars or Star Trek?
5. Wakanda or Zamunda?
(after lots of laughter) Zamunda
6. Breaking Bad or The Wire?
7. Foster’s Home: Bloo or Cheese?
CHEESE! CHEESE IS MY ALTER EGO! (I liike choclate miilk!)
8. Star Wars or Star Trek?
9. Comic Books or Hip Hop–one gotta go.
Me. Just take me.
10. If you could have any one superpower what would it be? (outside of Viscera :))
Ultra healing powers like Wolverine
You can support the Viscera crowd-funding campaign by hitting up: https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/viscera-the-show#/ or use the widget below: