Wednesday 7 November 2012

One year on... Anne Flournoy

Anne Flournoy is the writer/director/producer/editor of The Louise Log, a 34 episode (so far) series of internet shorts detailing the life of a New York City wife and mother. The webseries has been running for over five years now.

interviewed Anne last year. She had agreed to conduct a twelve month follow-up interview, when Hurricane Sandy blew into Manhattan. The power went off and stayed off for days. During that time Anne remained in touch by texting on the smart phone she was able to keep charged by walking eighteen blocks to a coffee shop where she could access electricity. 

What follows is a mix of some notes typed during the blackout and texts she sent. As you'll see, and to my everlasting amazement, Anne was determined to keep her part of our agreement.

I want to preface this light-hearted post, written in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, by saying that I'm only talking about my extremely limited experience in parts of Manhattan. I haven't seen a television since the storm hit, but know from Twitter that there are people in parts of Brooklyn, Queens, especially Staten Island, and possibly even Manhattan, whose situations are actually dire and make what I call our 'have-not' situation look like the lap of luxury.

12:47pm 1 November 2013

Thanks Henry! Am on it. It s dark and cold w/o power but mercifully there's power 18 blocks away and wifi cafes where u can find an outlet not much further. We're lucky to b dry. Counting my blessings on that front. Thank u for this opportunity and should have something within 48 hours. Best, Anne
This just in from a cold, dark apartment in a blacked-out neighborhood which feels more like the John Carpenter movie Escape From New York than Louise's Greenwich Village.

Since Hurricane Sandy, Manhattan (known to people in the other boroughs as 'the city') has become two cities: the 'haves', who are above 30th Street where there is power, business as usual, and the worst traffic jams I've ever seen, and the 'have-nots' who are 'downtown' (roughly) below 30th Street.

Downtown, there are no street lights or traffic lights, there are few cars and only occasional bands of people with, or without, flashlights. The only businesses open are the occasional 'candy stores' selling newspapers from a darkened storefront and a few mirthless bars lit by tea candles.

Because the subways are down, the city put free buses on the streets to try and help people get around. The buses were taken off the downtown routes at night because the 'roving bands' in the streets were too hard to see in the dark. 

The place feels scary. Once safe inside, it also feels great. Time seems to move more slowly. I haven't slept for eight hours, or more, in years.

10:44am 2 November 2012
Henry I 'm not going to have it ready in 12 hours as l'd hoped. Sorry. Everything is taking longer and this hiking around with the refugee bag: the laptop, power strip, flashlight (extra batteries) , sandwich - you get the picture -- it's kinda fun but my back is in revolt. Furthermore l've succumbed more often than l'd like to admit to the temptation of *social media* once l hit wifi. This has cut into my productivity rather seriously.
But now l m humbled and will really
Knuckle down.

We're lucky to have a dry apartment (in a dry building), running water, a working gas stove for cooking and even a fireplace. So in spite of the vacated 5-story, single-family house across the garden that's been running a very loud generator day and night, (a house, I might add, which has a functional wifi, but with a secret password) I have nothing to complain about. I'm able-bodied and can lug my laptop, power strip, flashlight with spare batteries, and a sandwich out of the dead zone and up a mile to a store with free wifi. That's where the fun begins: jockeying for twelve square inches of standing room and an outlet in someone else's power strip, I balance my laptop and phone on the corner of a display and get back to work. I'm one of the fortunate.

The last year...
But to get to the progress report about The Louise Log, my number one priority since we shot Season 2 (in the late summer of 2010) has been to crank out the best episodes possible, generally one a month. In the past year we released ten, eight new and two remastered ones. Giving the audience something new every month seemed like the best thing to do. And actually the most I could do. By the time I needed a break, I really needed one.

And, it seemed like time to bask in the glories of the past year: Eve Ensler, playwright of The Vagina Monologues, saw and raved about the series ("brave, funny, real, deep and original"). The Independent named me "One of Ten Filmmakers To Watch in 2012", some blogs, including a National Public Radio blog, wrote wonderful things about The Louise Log: "brilliantly funny", "hilarious comedy" and "it could be a web sensation".

It was time for a break.

Or so I thought. Unfortunately, I thought wrong. Stepping off the treadmill allowed me to wake up to reality: as of this past May, 72 hours of video are reportedly uploaded to YouTube every minute. And oh, as you already know, every star in Hollywood is making or planning on making a web series. Well it does sound like a lot of competition but A) I'm very competitive and B) I have an old pet theory: "the cream will rise".

I went to some conferences of bloggers and 'vloggers'. I listened to smart and not-so-smart people and I had the wind taken out of my sails. Generally, the people on the panels, the 'comers' everyone wants to talk to, are the ones who have a high Alexa ranking, lots of followers, and lots of other websites linking to their blogs. Some of these people are brilliant. Some of them are hacks.

When one successful blogger heard me say that, to reach our audience, "I post on Facebook and Twitter—sporadically," her face started twitching involuntarily. Another put it to me bluntly: "Success on the internet is like winning the lottery. Otherwise it's all about promotion." I guess I'd been banking on the lottery option because, under my marketing guidance, The Louise Log has been living under a rock. It was becoming clear that, in this digital world, cream does not necessarily rise. All of this put me in a really bad mood, as I got back to the work of editing episode #34, a fun episode which hardly felt fun.

After uploading it, I couldn't bear to dive back in to edit #35. My heart was broken. My ego was enraged. How could I have spent FIVE YEARS virtually abandoning the promotion of my life's work? How could I continue to sit on the sidelines watching others get recognized and have their work become self-sustaining? On the other hand, how could we have made this very personal and quirky series on very little money without doing it in this completely single-minded way?

The year to come...
In spite of misgivings that we owe it to the actors and to our loyal fans to continue releasing episodes, I'm following my heart. For the immediate future, with our skeletal crew, we can either produce episodes or we can promote episodes. We can't do it all at once. The solution is that we're not posting any more episodes until we've done everything we can to get word about The Louise Log out to the world.

I've taken detailed notes from Jon Reiss' excellent book Think Outside the Box Office. I'm working with Jacki Schklar of Funny Not Slutty on facebook ads. My niece @NatalieGrillon (MBA) is giving me marching orders on how to put tactics and objectives under the overarching goal of making The Louise Log the GIRLS of the online world. And we're posting on Facebook and Twitter a lot more often than 'sporadically'.

I expected to feel frustrated and blocked doing this kind of work. Instead, I'm like a lion on the hunt. The biggest problem is finding balance in doing the social media and not having entire days swallowed up by the distractions of social media. (I would be grateful for suggestions on how others handle this...) 

I'm scared out of my wits about starting a weekly vlog in which I'll talk to the camera about the process of making the series. But as with the production and post-production phases, I'm going to give this marketing and promotion my all.

If you're interested in helping, there's a list of suggestions at the very end of this: ( If you know of anyone who might want to be an intern/"Producer of Marketing and Distribution", whether they're in New York or far away, please get in touch. Thank you in advance!
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Anne Flournoy said...

Thank you very much Henry for this opportunity. I love the way you put it all together!

Kim Tracy Prince said...

Anne, I sympathize so much with what you said about the promotion. It's so hard to create the content AND promote it as much as you can. There are only 24 hours in a day (and only so much wakefulness for one person)!

Anne Flournoy said...

Thank you Kim for taking the time to read this and even to comment (pant pant). As you infer, they're both full time jobs. And then if you're lucky enough to have a life...something's gotta give.

NLS 1993 said...

something DOES have to give. It's my house, sometimes my marriage...and then my husband says "hey lady, over there. with the computer...remember that all your fancy dreams that need promoting would mean poop to you if your family was gone." okay, he doesn't say that. It's not that dramatic, but it's true.

I loved reading this. I so understand it. Those pictures of NY are amazing, too. I feel for all the people in the dark and with little to no houses left.


Anonymous said...

I really like this interview. I found it very interesting and informative.

I never really understood the logic behind the break in production until now. I wonder if something like a kickstart campaign would provide a focal point for marketing activity and get production back in sight.

Anne Flournoy said...

Thank you Heather AKA Lady-over-there-with-the-computer!

You are one of the examples of people who inspire me that the internet is not completely overwhelmed by the lowest common denominator of marketers and hacks...that there ARE people who are throwing themselves and their hearts over the wall in their blogs, in their vlogs, in their videos. Thank you for being a comrade, a friend and an inspiration.

Anne Flournoy said...

@comedytvisdead A kickstarter campaign is an excellent suggestion and a strong possibility once we've done the legwork of spreading the word some more. Thank you very much for your thoughtful support!

Thomas said...

Anne is an amazing & supportive person & tireless creator! Go Anne!

Anne Flournoy said...

Hey. Thank you very much, Thomas!!

Kathy said...

Wonderful to see this webseries grow. Poor Louise is so seriously funny. Anne has really impressed us all with her determination to post to Adelaide Screenwriter despite great difficulty. I guess here in Adelaide it would be the equivalent of struggling through 115 degree heat to get to a place with electricity. Hey, I did that only two weeks ago.