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MakeMoreMST3K Kickstarter Rewards

Created by Joel Hodgson & Team MST3K

Looking for a
GIZMOPLEX SEASON PASS?
Get it here.

Want to grab any of our Kickstarter-exclusive rewards before they disappear forever? If it's listed below, you've still got time to pre-order now! PLEASE NOTE: The physical rewards below will not ship until at least July 2022. Digital rewards will be distributed as soon as they are ready.

Latest Updates from Our Project:

MST3K Forums Now in BETA! PLUS: Reward Survey Update and #MST3KLive Ticket Sales!
over 1 year ago – Sat, Jul 10, 2021 at 02:15:05 PM

In This Update

  • Introduction from Lesley
  • Reward Surveys have NOT GONE OUT YET!
  • Time Bubble Tour Tickets on Sale at 12pm ET
  • MST3K Discussion Forums: Join the Beta Test!

Hello again, friends new and old!

It is I, Lesley!

You may remember me from Joel’s introduction a couple updates back. And I know that many of you are already familiar with me as a part of the MST3K team, either through the Kickstarter campaigns, or through the blog at mst3k.org. But just as a brief refresher:

I’ve been a devoted fan of the show since my preteen years. I wound up connecting with Joel after writing an article about the show that he really clicked with. I did this back in my former job as an editor in women’s media, and after I’d made a dramatic, less-positive first impression at a Cinematic Titanic meet-and-greet.* Anyway, Joel kept in touch, and within a couple of years I found myself advising on the first Kickstarter campaign, and then writing and riff producing on the new series…. and here we are, with me today taking charge of more regular communication with all you backers.

I share all of this to let y’all know that I am one of you (us?), and as I pick up the reins for more consistent backer updates, that I take communicating with you super seriously, because I know how meaningful it would be to me to get regular missives from the front lines of production.

I have a professional background as a writer and editor in many different spheres, and I hope to deploy those skills to keep these updates exciting for you. I know it’s not as magical as getting letters from Joel — and you will still get those! — but I am hopeful that I can provide inside looks at the making of MST3K that will be almost as interesting. If all goes as planned, you’ll be hearing from me – or another member of our team – at least once a week. We’ll be reporting on lots of different angles of how MST3K is built, but if you have a specific question or something you’re particularly curious about that you’d like to see covered in a future update, you can leave a comment below. There’s also an even better way to give feedback on updates, but I’ll get there in a second.

First, a few general updates for you.

No, you did not miss the reward survey!

The post-campaign reward survey is where you will make your final reward selections, like specifying what name you’d like in the credits, telling us what size t-shirt you wear, and also any remaining last-minute Add-On Rewards you’d like to grab.

We have not sent it out yet.

There are a lot of details to cover and we want to make sure we only need to do this once, so it’s taking a little longer than we’d anticipated, but we’re hoping it will be ready to send in the next few weeks. When we do, everyone who signed up to make a late pledge will also get a chance to finalize their pledge, select Add-On Rewards, and have their pledge collected.  So, if you know anyone who was trying to get in the door before it’s too late, spread the word.

In the meantime, hang in there, and keep an eye on your inbox.

#MST3KLive tickets go on sale to the general public at 12pm ET TODAY (Friday, July 9th)!

If you see this email early enough, you’ll still have a little time to squeeze into the backers-only presale for the first wave of announced dates for THE TIME BUBBLE TOUR, featuring Emily Connor (Emily Marsh), Tom Servo (Conor McGiffin), Crow (Nate Begle), and GPC / Mega-Synthia (Yvonne Freese) taking on the legendarily ridiculous 1980s fantasy/horror film Making Contact. Find your local venue at MST3KLive.com and use the code MVSGN to get into the presale before noon ET today. After that, you’re buying tickets along with the general public, so no code is needed.

Also, remember, there will be additional dates announced in the coming weeks, so if you don’t see a nearby venue yet, it may still happen for you! I will keep you posted on new dates and cities as that information gets confirmed. 

Also also, if you run into problems with buying a ticket, please contact your local venue directly — the ticket buying process resides with each theater and we can’t help you with problems related to ticketing.

Finally, I hereby formally invite you all to join a beta test for the NEW MST3K DISCUSSION FORUMS!

It’s actually absurd that we haven’t had “official” forums before now — luckily, MSTies are incredibly resourceful and independent thinkers, so you’ve been launching and running vivacious forum sites and online groups for literal decades.

We’re not trying to replace these existing MST3K communities, but I think we can all agree that it’s long past due for a fully-sanctioned MST3K community gathering place to complement the fan-run spaces. So, we’ve created Mystery Science Discourse 3000 (so named for the forum platform we’re using, Discourse, which is incidentally the same community software used by such internet luminaries as Boing Boing, Woot!, and Atlas Obscura).

Right now, we are still very much in a beta testing phase: kicking the tires, making sure the engine doesn’t burst into flames, that sort of thing. And now, you can be a part of it, by signing up here, taking a look around, and sending us feedback on what you think works well, as well as what could be better. 

When you sign up, I strongly recommend using the same email address associated with your Kickstarter account. This will allow your status as a Kickstarter backer to be reflected there, and you can get access to any backers-exclusive forums stuff we do in the future. You’ll find a small group of folks has already been chatting on the forums for a few weeks; the #MakeMoreMST3K Street Team members got in first to start testing things out. 

But, starting today, the forums are ready for everyone!

(Please do keep in mind that this is a beta test, so we are working on improving the space every day. When you see something that could be improved, we have a whole Forums Feedback category explicitly to collect your suggestions, or you can also direct message me.)

All right, friends, that’s all I’ve got for today… but I’ll be getting started on the next update on Monday, so be sure to speak up if there are things you’d like to hear more about! 

Leave your questions and ideas in comments below, or head over to the Backer Updates Suggestion Thread on the forums and make it a more collective enterprise!

And in the meantime, have a splendid weekend.

--

*I fully freaked out and made actual squeaking noises, which was as much a surprise to me as anyone, given that I am very much not a starstruck, squeaking-noises type of person. Also I do not recommend this as a job search strategy! I got lucky. Very very lucky.

First MST3K Live Tour Dates Announced! Backer Presale Starts at 12pm ET on WEDNESDAY!
over 1 year ago – Wed, Jul 07, 2021 at 12:09:17 AM

This post is for backers only. Please visit Kickstarter.com and log in to read.

A New Plan for Updates + Meet the Alternaversal Team!
over 1 year ago – Fri, Jul 02, 2021 at 12:09:15 AM


Dear MST3K Preservation League,

Hey everyone, it’s Joel again, and it’s officially summer now! You heard it here first. Now, get out there and have some fun! (And I really mean that: I’m making an assumption that I don’t think you’ve had enough fun yet. Got it? Good.)

Production Update

Things around here at Alternaversal are good and busy.  As you can imagine, we’re still deliriously happy to be working on new episodes of MST3K, and things are seaming together nicely as our plans move ahead.  

The big focus right now is on writing. Last week, I had a lot of fun being in the Writers’ Room with my old pal Mary Jo Pehl, and this week, our long-time “Prop Diva,” Beez McKeever, is also joining the writing team. In a few weeks, she’ll start making costumes for our cast and robots, but first, she’s spending two weeks writing riffs and sketches with us. Anyway, we’ll be telling you a lot more about the Writers’ Room in a future update. 

But yeah, there’s a lot going on already. Remember, we’re not just working on these new episodes for Season 13. We’re also building the Gizmoplex, developing your Kickstarter rewards, and preparing for the upcoming MST3K LIVE tour. So, there’s a lot going on every day, which means I can’t always take the time to write these long, detailed updates.

However, no matter how busy things get, I also want to be alert to our promise to send updates more often for this Kickstarter, and not to leave you hanging when we’re focused on deadlines. 

Even if I can’t always write each update myself, I want to make sure we’re still keeping you informed, so I’d like to fill you in on our plan for making sure that you do get regular updates through the entire process as we make and release Season 13, the Gizmoplex, and everything else that the Kickstarter made possible.

Basically, what it comes down to is: Starting with the next update, you’ll begin to hear directly from several important members of the Alternaversal Team, who are often the most qualified people to tell you about specific parts of what we’re doing.

See, I know it might seem like I’m responsible for everything happening around here, but if you think I’m able to manage a Kickstarter, develop our rewards, negotiate film rights, plan a content calendar, run a Writers’ Room, supervise all of our partners and artists, and also write a shimmering update every week, all by myself… well, I’m flattered, but no. I’m just a man. A man who has lots of talented help. 

After all, MST3K has always been maintained and produced by a team of very talented people, and the Kickstarter campaign is no different. So, moving forward, these updates won’t just come from me, but from several members of our team. That way, I can spend as much time as possible doing the greatest job in the world – making more MST3K! 

(Also, I know it’s important to some of you to hear directly from me, so don’t worry: I’ll still be sending my own backer updates every month or so.)

But yeah, by introducing you to more people on our team, we’ll be able to keep one of the promises we made during our Kickstarter campaign: to update you a lot more often this time around. And also, it’s important to me to give credit where credit is due. All of these folks have been helping all along, and we wouldn’t be making more MST3K without them.

So, I’m happy you’ll finally get to know them a little better.

The Alternaversal Team

SHARYL VOLPE is our Operations Manager. I’ll explain what that means in a minute, but first I want you to know that I met Sharyl when both our sons were on the same Little League team, about eight years ago. We started hanging out and talking – there’s lots of “hang time” when your kids are in sports – and it was nice to have another parent around to visit with who wasn’t overly involved with evaluating the performance of the team or the coaching staff. So we had time to talk, and our families became friends.

After the season was over, we stayed in touch, and I remembered that she had managerial experience with a big investment bank in New York City. So, when we were starting MST3K back up again, I decided to give her a call. Since then, we’ve worked together day in and day out for the last six years, and I’ve come to rely on Sharyl’s keen insights and ideas. She’s also written on the show as well. 

As our Operations Manager, Sharyl is essentially the connective tissue between everyone working on MST3K. She makes sure we’re all where we need to be, and doing what we need to do. Right now she’s wrangling over 50 different writers for Season 13, and making sure that their schedules work out. She also oversees all of our administrative processes, from invoicing and budgets, to the numerous behind-the-scenes tasks that need to happen for each episode’s writing to eventually take shape as a usable script. And on top of that, she’s also a producer on the series!

Also, Sharyl is so great with people, and our team loves working with her. Part of that is because she’s an amazingly warm and thoughtful communicator. But, even more important, Sharyl is really intensely invested in making these connections. That’s important to me, because it means I can feel safe focusing on other stuff, and knowing that all of our relationships will be well maintained. Plus, she has a really keen sense of both the creative and practical considerations that have to be balanced to make the show great. We trust her judgement to keep the rest of us focused on what needs to get done, and to know what we have time for. So, the show really wouldn’t be able to get made without her.

MATT McGINNIS is a writer and producer on MST3K – and if you were able to join any of our Livestreams and Riff-A-Longs during the Kickstarter campaign, then you’ll also remember him as the host who introduced everyone, and helped us answer your questions. 

I met Matt in the Movie Riffing Camp I did at Bucks County Community College, back in 2012. It was an eight week course with about forty people in it, so there was a lot of time for talented  people to stand out. Matt’s group did some really funny, great creative projects... and it didn’t hurt that Matt sat in the front of the class, which made him easy to remember. When he first joined Alternaversal, Matt worked as my assistant when I traveled to cons and other events. But, when I started thinking about reviving the series, I knew I wanted him to be a part of it. 

Since then, Matt has worked on basically every aspect involved in making MST3K. He’s the first person to screen possible movies and shorts, and he also works closely with Shout Factory to acquire film rights. Then, once we’ve got the rights, he’s a central part of making every episode. During pre-production, he is helping run the Writers’ Rooms, writing on every episode of the season, and also coordinating with all of our vendors and artists to make sure we’re getting everything we need.  During production, he’ll be working on set, and will even be directing an episode or two, and then – when we’re done shooting – he’ll also be coordinating post-production to make sure everything gets edited and finished on time.

Beyond all of that, I really depend on Matt’s help for so many creative aspects of the show, from visual development, to world-building, to coming up with the series’ storylines. 

Besides all that, Matt has written on several episodes per season for Seasons 11 and 12,  as well as every live tour, and every issue of the MST3K comic book. The man’s a powerhouse, is what I’m saying. Plus he’s extremely creative and easy to work with, and a great person to spontaneously generate ideas with. Matt makes the whole process fun, and the show wouldn’t be what it is without him. 

IVAN ASKWITH is our producer, and also the “man behind the curtain” when it comes to our Kickstarter campaigns. You already know Ivan from some of our other updates, but I still want to mention him, because you’ll hear from him throughout this whole process. 

While Ivan is currently a producer on MST3K – and the voice of Ardy’s bulldog, Bonesy – he’s probably most famous for managing our two record-breaking Kickstarter campaigns… and several other big ones, like the campaigns for Veronica Mars, Reading Rainbow and Super Troopers 2. Each time he finishes one of these big crowdfunding campaigns, he swears he’s never going to do another one… but, as you can tell, he changed his mind and “came out of retirement” to help us with this one, and I think he secretly enjoys it.

During the Kickstarter campaigns, Ivan is really our “director”, and guides us through the process of figuring out everything we need to say and do each day.  We rely on his insight to help us understand what’s important to all of you, and this season, I’m happy that we’ve expanded his role to also work more directly as a producer overseeing both the new episodes and the development of the Gizmoplex.

If you’ve never met him, you should know that Ivan loves making people happy, organizing details, and finding elegant solutions to problems. As part of our team, he puts his autodidact’s mind to solving challenges, and also to making sure everyone on our team is communicating well, and knows what’s going on. So, he’s a really important part of the MST3K picture.

LESLEY KINZEL is our Community Manager, and has also worked on MST3K as both a writer and an Associate Producer. 

I met Lesley for the first time at a meet-and-greet after a Cinematic Titanic show in Boston in 2013, and the thing I remember is that when she met the cast, she kind of lost her mind. (Sometimes this happens. I get it.) But after that meeting, she wrote an essay about the experience, on the website she worked for back then -- and when I read that, it really filled in the blanks about what she was really like, and showed the intellect under the surface. 

When I was first thinking about bringing back MST3K, she seemed like a good person to talk to about what the fan community would actually want to see. So she advised us a lot during that first Kickstarter, and went on to write and riff-produce on Season 11. 

Today, I rely on Lesley to help me understand the “fan perspective” on MST3K.  She really understands what MST3K is, and is also really good at sussing out what people expect, and how much to share in these updates, without sharing too much and boring everyone. And, because we know that she’s always listening to what everyone thinks and feels about the show, she also creates a really important “buffer”, so that I don’t get too caught up in everyone’s feedback and input while we’re making the show. Since we trust Lesley to understand and advocate for MST3K fans, it makes the rest of us confident that we can turn our focus to making the show, and know we won’t miss anything important that comes up.

So yeah. There are, of course, many more people involved in making MST3K happen, but for today, I wanted to “introduce” you to Sharyl, Matt, Ivan and Lesley, so that you’ll know a little bit more about them when they send out their own updates.

The Plan for Updates

Also, to make sure that we keep you updated, we’ve actually shifted most of Lesley’s job for the next year to make backer updates one of her main areas of focus. And remember, Lesley was already a professional writer when I first met her, so she’s got plenty of experience with planning stories, interviewing people, and writing quickly.

Moving forward, Lesley will act both as an editor for all of our backer updates, and also as a kind of “correspondent” who can act as your eyes and ears behind the scenes. She’s already got a lot of neat ideas that she wants to cover in future updates, but I’ll let you tell her more about that herself, since she’ll be writing the next update we send out. Also, if there are topics you’d like to suggest for future backer updates, you’ll be able to do that too.

So yeah, that’s the plan for updates, at least for now. And again, don’t worry: I’ll still send you updates too, when I have time. But whenever I don’t, now you’ll have at least four more people who can answer your questions, and keep you informed about what’s happening.

What do you think, sirs?

Cheers & Thanks,

Joel

Writing for Season 13 Begins! PLUS: Joel Answers Your Questions (Part 1)
over 1 year ago – Wed, Jun 16, 2021 at 11:36:35 PM

  •  Production Report: The New Writing Process
  •  Next Steps: What Comes After Writing?
  •  Ask Joel: Will production take place in Minneapolis?
  •  Ask Joel: Will MST3K riff more black and white movies?
  •  Ask Joel: What MST3K movie do you secretly like?

Dear MST3K Preservation League,

Hey, it’s Joel again. I hope you’re having a good week so far. 

There’s a lot going on here at Alternaversal, so I want to give you another update on what we’ve been working on – and also, before I go, to answer a few interesting questions that we’ve gotten.

Starting the Writing Process

First, I’m pleased to tell you that we’ve been able to keep to the schedule we were planning, which means that our first group of writers started working last Monday.

We’re still experimenting with our approach to remote writing a little bit, but for now, our plan is to spend two weeks – that’s a total of ten writing days – writing each episode, with a group of 8-10 writers assigned to each movie. Since each episode of MST3K is about 90 minutes long, that means that our goal is to work through about 10 minutes of an episode each day, with a little time left over at the end to focus on anything that still needs extra work.

The way the day breaks out – at least for now – is that our assigned group of writers meet online for several hours and watch a section of the movie together, replaying it several times and pitching our ideas for riffs wherever we need them. Then, in the afternoon, our writers break off into pairs to “riff produce”, which basically means looking at all of the possible riffs that were pitched in the room, and selecting the ones that work best to put into the script. This is pretty similar to how we did it back in the day Minneapolis – except that now, of course, our writers are spread out and connected via Zoom.

And, even though we were planning to use last week as a kind of “trial run” to test out this new remote process, I’m really pleased with how it’s going and how much we’re getting done. Last week, a group of writers started on the movie and script for the next MST3K LIVE touring show, and this week, another group of writers started watching and riffing Robot Wars.

Anyway, that’s where we are with writing so far. 

What Comes After Writing?

Of course, completing the script is just the first step in the pre-production process – there’s still a lot more that has to happen before we’ll be ready to start shooting.

So yeah, after we finish all of our revisions and “lock” the script for an episode, the next step involves working with our producers to “break out” each script, which means that we make a detailed list of all of the things that we need to create for each episode, like costumes, props, models, artwork, music and so on. 

That list is important, because once we have it, we’re able to make sure that everything we need can be realized within our budget and schedule. So, that’s a big part of what our producers do – taking the ideas that the writers come up with, and handling all of the arrangements to make sure those ideas come to life on time, and without going over budget. 

Of course, it also helps that we have relationships with so many wonderful, talented vendors and craftspeople, whether that’s Mike Norton creating concept art and production designs, Paul and Storm composing our music, or Beez McKeever creating costumes.

Going Inside the Writing Process

Now that I’m revealing more about how our writing process works, Ivan also asked me to mention that – for any of you backers whose rewards include the “Virtual Set Visit” – he’ll make sure you get a chance to see the writing process first hand before it ends, and to chat with some of our writers about what that process is like for them. 

We want to make sure that we’ve really got the process worked out first, so that we don’t fall behind schedule, so it sounds like we’ll schedule that for August or September.

Also, I know that after the last update, we got several messages from backers asking how to submit samples and be considered as writers for the new season, so I wanted to talk about that here in case there are more people wondering. At least for these new episodes, I’m afraid we just aren’t able to review applications or consider new potential writers. In fact, we actually reached out to almost all of this season’s writers during the Kickstarter, to make sure they’d be available during the right dates, and able to start fast enough to keep us on schedule.

But, because I understand that a handful of you are interested in learning about movie  riffing, I do want to remind you that we’ll still be hosting an online “Introduction to Movie Riffing” class later this year, and that there will also be a few spaces left to pledge for the Kickstarter reward that lets you join me, some of your fellow backers, and a few of our staff writers to riff a short film that will be included in the new season. 

So yeah, if you are interested in attending the online riffing class, or joining me to riff a short for the new season, you’ll be able to do that when our Reward Survey comes out.

Anyway, that’s the main thing we’ve been focused on for the last few weeks, so I wanted to tell you a little bit more about how it’s all working.

Also, before I wrap up this update, I thought it might be good to answer a few questions that we received during the Kickstarter campaign, and just didn’t have the time to answer back then. 

And, since I know a lot of you are still waiting patiently for more information about what you can expect in Season 13, I think some of these questions might be interesting to you.

Joel Answers Your Questions: Round 1

Justin Lerbakken, on Kickstarter, writes:

Thanks for your question, Justin -- and for helping us hit the goal, too! 

On one level, the reason we put “Minneapolis” on our Kickstarter page is because that’s really where the show is from… and also, I think that there’s a specific Minneapolis “feel” that will always be an important part of the show, that we try to keep in the mix. Minneapolis will always be our “ancestral home”, and we want to keep that connection alive. (Some say it’s the water.)

But to give you the full answer, I also want you to try to remember how the world was just a few months back – prior to our Kickstarter – when there were a lot of open questions about how the show would be shot. When we were trying to figure out the best location for the Kickstarter, Ivan and I also agreed that it made the most sense to list Minneapolis as our home... because simply put, if strict lockdowns continued, we’d be shooting the show from EVERYWHERE! 

(Remember, our original plan was built to keep the show going even if we had to shoot most of it remotely, so it was possible that each person involved would have needed to shoot their segments from home – which would put production all over the map: Florida, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, Los Angeles, and Minneapolis! But yeah, since we can’t list the location of a Kickstarter as “everywhere”, we thought Minneapolis was the best place to acknowledge.)

Anyway, to answer the other part of your question…

Now that the COVID restrictions have started to relax, we’re planning to split most of the production between the West Coast – since a lot of our cast reside in Los Angeles – and the East Coast, since the Alternaversal offices are located near Philadelphia.

However, some aspects of this season will still involve Minneapolis:

  • Several of our writers for Season 13 are working from Minneapolis.
  • Costume diva Beez McKeever will be responsible for all of our new costumes, which means those will all be made in Minneapolis.
  • And, depending on how things work out with remote production and her schedule, Mary Jo Pehl might shoot some or all of her scenes from Minneapolis. 

So yeah, even though a lot of our shooting will happen on the East and West Coasts, a lot of the creative magic will still come from Minneapolis. I hope that helps answer your question!

Rachael Rustin (@RustyRachel on Twitter) asked:

That’s a great question, Rachael – and to start, I want to reassure you that there are lots of old black and white movies that we haven’t riffed yet, good and bad.

Also, this seems like a good time to address something I’ve seen some speculating about online, about why we didn’t riff any black and white movies for the last few seasons. See, a lot of people seem to think that –

Well, that's what people seem to think... but I’m glad to finally talk more about this, because I think there was a misconception that Netflix asked us not to use black and white movies in Seasons 11 and 12. So, I want you to know that Netflix was really respectful of our choices, and never asked us to change the movies we wanted to riff.  

Actually, it was my decision not to include some of those “sans color” movies for the last few seasons, and I’m happy to explain why.

To tell you the truth, when I watch stuff with my own kids – who are in high school – I’ve come to realize that kids that age don’t naturally find black and white movies all that inviting, at least at first blush. My kids enjoy some classic black and white movies like Hard Day’s Night, Dr. Strangelove, and the Marx Brothers… but those usually come with a bit of a pitch from me or their Mom. 

So, I sometimes think that presenting a black and white movie may not be as engaging to newer viewers who are still getting used to MST3K.

Of course, I’ve never been interested in “dumbing down” Mystery Science Theater 3000…  but, I also really felt that part of the value of having the show on Netflix was to help a new generation discover the show, and feel like they could get on board and be part of our community. 

Also, when MST3K had to compete with big, expensive Netflix productions like Stranger Things for attention, I thought it might help – at least at first – to include some movies that felt a little more “accessible” to audiences that didn’t know about our show yet.

And you know, I think – at least for the last few seasons – that it was a good decision, because a lot of new folks have joined our community. In fact, when we looked at all of the reports after our Kickstarter ended, we found out that about 47% of you weren’t backers during our first Kickstarter, back in 2015. And, even more encouraging, we’ve gotten a lot of messages from that group telling us that they did discover the show on Netflix, and have now worked backwards to watch most of the older episodes as well. So yeah, I think it was a helpful experiment for us.

But now that we’re talking about it, I’m frankly relieved that so many of you also enjoy black and white films, because I truly love them. When we started making MST3K, we naturally included a lot of older movies – but it wasn’t because we specifically were trying to include black and white movies. (For one thing, older movies were more likely to be in the public domain, which made them easier to use.)

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that there might still be a place for those older movies on Mystery Science Theater… and since I know a lot of you have been missing them, I’m pleased to confirm that we’ll be riffing at least one black and white movie in Season 13. 

I’m not ready to tell you which one just yet, but I will tell you it’s from 1961. 

So yeah, even though we made a decision to riff more “accessible” movies for the last two seasons, I don’t want you to worry: we’re not just riffing newer movies.

Brian Kent (@wizofvideogames on Twitter) asks:

Brian, I’m really glad you asked about this. When I read your question, I actually thought it was really funny, because it reminded me that a lot of people assume we don’t enjoy the movies we riff. But yeah, it might surprise some of you to hear it, but I actually enjoy all of the movies we riff on the show, even though they’re not necessarily “good” in the usual sense.

I think I’ve talked about this before, but when we riff a movie, we don’t really think about it like we’re mocking or tearing it down. In fact, if you look at the percentages of our riffs, there are only a very small number that even reference the quality of the films we’re working with.  

What we’re actually doing – at least, the way I think about it – is treating the movie like our “partner”, and working with the movie to make something new… which is a lot harder to do if you can’t find anything you like about it. 

(Or, maybe I’m overthinking it. Maybe it’s also a little bit like Stockholm Syndrome, where we spend so much time watching these movies to come up with riffs that we start to love them... or we find things to love about them, at least. )

To use an example from Season 11: I really love how awkward Carnival Magic is. I’m not saying it’s a “good” movie, but I think it’s still important to recognize that it really did its best.  For example: that long Goodfellas-esque tracking shot walking down the midway was really ambitious... it just didn’t work with that many people in it. But you still have to admire the scope of the way they were thinking. 

(Also, I don’t know if this is common knowledge, but in the first version of Carnival Magic, the chimp didn’t talk... but when the filmmakers watched it, they realized it wasn’t really tracking. So after the scenes were shot, they decided to make the chimp talk in post. That was their solution, and you can see how it turned out… but I think you’ll agree: having the chimp talk, and not say anything particularly funny, had a strange sort of magic and confusion to it.)

To give you another example, I remember watching The Magic Voyage of Sinbad, and at one point, there's a scene with that amazing-looking bird lady who sings, the Bluebird of Happiness:

I remember thinking that scene was just so beautiful… and the thing is, when there’s something beautiful in the movie to work with, it really also makes the whole episode of our show better too. That’s what I mean, when I say we’re really “partnering” with each movie we riff. If they happen to bring some moments of beauty and quality, it makes our episode better.

So yeah, the thing to remember is that the people who made each of these movies had to do a lot of problem solving to make things work. Sometimes they got it right, and sometimes they didn’t... but I still admire that they tried to make it all work. 

Some people go on fishing trips to the boundary waters, Some people go on Ski Trips to Utah. Some people spend their time helping people in need. And, some people make movies. 

As long as they accomplish their own goals, and the people working on them feel valued and respected, and hopefully have a little fun along the way, I don’t think these movies are failures.

Now, I know there are still a lot of interesting questions we haven’t gotten to talk about, so I’ll try to answer more of those whenever we have a few minutes free over the next few months. 

Also, if you have other questions that we haven’t talked about yet, you can leave those in the comments below and we’ll do our best to answer some of them in future updates.

And finally, you should know that we’ve been making plans that will make it easier to share updates with you more often, even when I don’t have enough time to write them all myself. 

I’ll tell you more about that soon, so that you know what to expect.

Cheers & Thanks,

Joel

What We've Been Doing For the Last Three Weeks. Plus: Reward Updates & Sneak Peeks!
over 1 year ago – Fri, Jun 04, 2021 at 01:01:49 AM

  • Progress Report: What We've Been Doing!
  • Starting Pre-Production & Riff Writing!
  • Kickstarter Reward Update & Sneak Peeks!

Dear MST3K Preservation League,

Hey, it’s Joel again. 

First of all, I hope that you enjoyed the long weekend and had a chance to relax. And if you’re outside the United States and didn’t have a long weekend celebrating Memorial Day, you really gotta try it sometime. 

Here at Alternaversal, we’re still recovering not just from all of the excitement of the Kickstarter campaign, but from all of the work that went into planning the Kickstarter, and then all of the new work we’ve been focusing on since the Kickstarter ended

So, we're really grateful to be back at work... but we were also glad to have a long weekend to rest.

Anyway, it’s been a few weeks since our last update, and I didn’t want to go too long without letting you know what we’ve been up to. There's a lot going on right now. Our team at Alternaversal has been putting all the pieces in place to make thirteen new episodes, twelve shorts, another live tour, the Gizmoplex, our new apps, our Kickstarter rewards, and… well, you get the idea. 

Anyway, a lot of what we’ve been doing for the last three weeks might not be that exciting to read about, but I thought it would still be good to share a little bit, for those of you that are curious about all of the “ins and outs” of bringing Mystery Science Theater to life. 

So, here are some things that have been keeping us busy for the last few weeks.

In-Person Meetings

Now that our whole team has been vaccinated, we’ve been able to start working together in person again. And you know, after 18 months of “remote work” and meetings, it’s been really nice to spend time in the same room. I guess this isn’t really that specific to MST3K, but it’s been nice, so I wanted to mention it.

Finding a New Office

For Seasons 11 and 12, we did most of our shooting in Los Angeles, so the Alternaversal offices here in Pennsylvania were just located near our homes, so that we wouldn’t spend a lot of time getting to work. But yeah, as you know, one of the changes we’re making for Season 13 is that we’re handling pretty much all of the production work here in Pennsylvania this time, including the design and fabrication of our props and models, and also a lot of the actual shooting and green screen work for the new episodes. 

So, we’re actually working on moving to new offices that will be right next to our production workshop, and connected to the space where we’re probably going to shoot a lot of the new season. Naturally, this will make a lot of things easier, so we’re all looking forward to the move.

Watching & Selecting Movies to Riff

Another thing that has been taking a lot of our time is finding all of the new movies – and short films – that we’re going to riff in the new season. This has to happen as quickly as possible, because without them, our writers can’t get started on the scripts. (In fact, we actually started doing some of this work during, and even before, the Kickstarter, because we knew we'd need a lot of lead time to put all the details together.)

But yeah, finding the right movies for MST3K isn’t as easy as you might think. For each movie that ends up on the show, we probably “audition” (watch) at least 3-4 possible candidates... and remember: the ones on the show are generally the best movies we watch.

Anyway, the good news here is that we’ve put together a “final list” of about 20 movies that we think we’d like to riff for the new season… which brings me to the next thing that we’ve been working on.

Negotiating Movie Rights

See, as some of you already know, finding a movie that we want to riff is just the first step in the process. A lot of the time, there are movies that would be great for MST3K, but we aren’t able to use them because we’re not able to get the rights we need, or negotiate a deal with the movie’s owners.

This is one area where our partners at Shout Factory are especially invaluable, since they often handle the specific points of those deals, and also help us determine which movies might be available (and achievable within our budget). We’ll share more details about how this all works in a future update.

But yeah, I’m happy to tell you that this part of the process is also going really well: We’ve actually finished making deals for NINE of the movies we’re going to riff in the new season, and if things stay on schedule, I think we’ll have all of the movies for Season 13 cleared before the end of June.

Starting Pre-Production

Also, now that our Kickstarter campaign is over, we finally have two important pieces of information that we really needed to know before we could start work on Season 13: the number of episodes we’re making, and the budget we can use to accomplish making them. 

Those two numbers are especially important, because without them, we can’t figure out the answers to a lot of important questions, like…

  • How many films we need to clear
  • How many writers we need to hire
  • How long we’ll need a crew and production space
  • How long it will take to shoot all of the episodes
  • How much we can afford to spend at each stage

So yeah, as you can see, everything starts with those two numbers… and now that we finally know them, we’ve also been able to start a lot of “next steps” that will be important to letting us write, shoot, edit and deliver the new episodes, like:

  • Hiring a production staff, who will manage our schedule, budgets and contracts
  • Hiring our first writers, who will start watching movies and writing riffs next week
  • Meeting with our fabrication partners to design and build new models, props and puppets
  • Planning a detailed production schedule for 13 new episodes + 12 new shorts
  • Planning a detailed production budget, and getting bank accounts, insurance, etc.
  • Setting up new tools and practices, and training our team to use them

Also, that’s just some of what’s happening.  

As our team gets bigger, it’s also harder for me to be involved in everything that’s going on, so these are just some of the “high level” details that I'm tracking.

And...

Finally, while we at Alternaversal have been focused on preparing for the new season, Ivan has also been hard at work dealing with all of the moving pieces and relationships involved in delivering your new Kickstarter rewards. Since he’s closer to those details, I’ve asked him to give you a quick update.

Kickstarter Reward Update

Hey Everyone!

Like Joel said, we’ve been working through a lot of the details involved in fulfilling your Kickstarter rewards, and we should have some more news later this month… but for now, here are a few quick updates things you might be interested in:

1. We’re still preparing your Reward Surveys.

I’ll send a separate update about the Reward Surveys in the next few weeks, but the important thing to know for now is that you haven’t missed anything! We have a lot of rewards for this campaign, and we’re trying to prepare as many details as possible before we send out surveys to get your final reward selections and requests. 

For example: If your rewards include a T-SHIRT, you’ll use your Reward Survey to let us know what size and design you want. But, in order to let you make those choices, we first need to prepare near-final DESIGN OPTIONS, so you can choose the shirt you want, and an accurate SIZING CHART, so that you can select the right size and fit. And that’s just one of our rewards.

At any rate, we’re working through all of this as fast as we can. We’ll send out the Reward Surveys as soon as they’re ready... and when we do, we’ll also send another Backer Update with more details, and a deadline for providing your answers and confirming your rewards. So, as long as you follow these updates, you won't miss anything.

2. We’re setting up a new “Customer Support” system.

We’ve also been setting up a lot of new details – and expanding our team – so that we’ll be able to offer more reliable “backer support” over the next 12-18 months, and to make sure that you’re able to get help whenever you need it.  

As part of that, we’re working on a new “#MakeMoreMST3K Support Site”, where you’ll be able to find answers to most questions, and to request help whenever you need it. We’re aiming to launch that site before the end of this month, so that it’ll be available when you receive your Reward Surveys.

3. Reward Update: Musical Snow Globe

We’ve almost finished work on the design of the Musical Snow Globe, and the model elements are looking pretty great. Once we approve some final adjustments, our partner will do a first “paint test” to find the right colors for everything. The whole thing will look a lot more detailed when it’s finished, but here’s a first look at how it’s coming together:

We’ve also been learning a lot about the limitations of wind-up music box elements, and it turns out to be a lot trickier than we expected. Here’s a music sample that we got back yesterday:

As you can hear, the music doesn’t sound quite right yet, especially at the beginning, where the speed gets a little irregular... which means we're still figuring out if we can come up with a better option. 

To that end, Paul Sabourin has been tinkering with the music, and testing out some other variations, so that we can find a version that sounds good, and can be reproduced using the mechanical elements.

4. Reward Update: Todd Nauck Poster

During the Kickstarter, Joel also shared a concept sketch for our second poster design, from superstar comic book artist Todd Nauck, which features a lot of familiar faces from Mystery Science Theater’s 30+ year history. 

And, while it's still a work in progress – Todd hasn’t started coloring the image yet – we wanted to give you a look at how it's been evolving, so that you’ll have a better sense of what the final poster design is going to look like:

I mean, I don’t know about you... but watching the design come together, it's kind of blowing my mind how talented Todd is, and how fast he's able to produce this kind of work.

--

Those are the major reward updates for today, but again -- we’ll have more news for you soon, and we’ll do everything we can to send out your Reward Surveys by the end of this month, so keep an eye on these updates to make sure you don’t miss anything.

More Soon!

Ivan

So yeah, I think that’s everything for today, but I hope it gives you a better sense of what’s been going on since the last update, and how hard we’re all working on the new episodes and your Kickstarter rewards.

If you have questions about any of this, or there are other things you’d like to know more about, please let us know in the comments on this update, and we’ll do our best to answer whenever we have time.

Cheers & Thanks,

Joel