Joel Answers Your Questions about Remote Production, Virtual Set Visits and more. PLUS: A New Plan – and REWARD – for REAL Set Visits!
over 1 year ago
– Sat, May 01, 2021 at 05:15:06 AM
- PROGRESS REPORT: 82% of the way to 9 NEW EPISODES!
- BONUS CHALLENGES: Just $166K more by Sunday night!
- UPDATE: What You Should Know About Remote Production
- FAQ: More About Remote Production & Virtual Set Visits
- NEW REWARD: Live, In-Person Set Visits!
Dear MST3K Preservation League,
Hey, it's Joel again, and I've got something specific I want to talk about this time... but first, how about a few quick updates?
First, thanks to everyone who came out last night for our livestream with J. Elvis Weinstein to re-watch Untamed Youth, an episode from all the way back in our first season. If you weren't able to join us, you can rewatch the whole thing here – but you should also know that, during my chat with J. Elvis, we confirmed that his character – Dr. Laurence Erhardt – will be back for an appearance in our next season!
You'll also be happy to hear that Josh has also agreed to write on the new season as well. As long-time MSTies probably know, he's one of the best joke writers to ever work on the show, so we're always honored when he's able to join us.
Tonight, I hope you'll join us for a special "late-night" event: our rewatch of Quest of the Delta Knights, which you unlocked when you beat Bonus Challenge #2 last week! This time, we'll be joined by my old friend Mary Jo Pehl (aka Pearl Forrester), who is always a fun hang, and several other members of our cast. We'll be starting at 10pm ET / 7pm PT, but it's a Friday night, so if you can, stay up late to hang with us on YouTube, Facebook or Twitch – and be sure to leave your questions for MJ in the comments below!
Also, it looks like we still have a good shot at finishing Bonus Challenge #3, and reaching $3.75M before the end of Sunday night. Here, take a look:
As you can see, we're just managing to hold our lead over our original Kickstarter... but if we have one or two "bad days," we'll fall behind. So, I hope that we'll be able to keep up our momentum, and that the new rewards we're releasing at 1pm PDT will help us stay on track.
If we can reach $3.75M by Sunday night, MST3K will riff our first 3D movie... and if we reach $3.8M, we'll add KINGAVISION 3-D GLASSES to all pledge levels at $75 and up for FREE!
We're at $6.3M now, which gives us three days to raise another $170,000, which means we just need about $57,000 each day to reach $3.8M and unlock a 3-D episode and free 3-D glasses.
And I hope we can do it, because I've also got a few ideas about how 3-D glasses could work with some of our other rewards. But anyway, I'll tell you more about that if we reach the goal.
Now, I want to talk a little bit more about something I know a lot of you are still wondering about.
What You Should Know About "Remote Production"
So yeah, ever since our big "video update" last week, we've seen a handful of messages and comments asking for more details about how "remote production" is going to work, and whether it will change the "feel" of the show.
And you know, it's like I said on Friday: Sometimes, it's pretty difficult to really imagine how something is going to turn out, especially if you've never seen it before. So, I understand if you're not sure what to expect.
Also, we're still at the beginning of this whole process, so even though some of the questions you're asking are really important – and questions that we're already asking ourselves – the truth is that we don't have all of the answers figured out.... and we shouldn't! We're still at the beginning, not the end. After the Kickstarter ends, we've set aside some time and money for "R & D", which is where we'll really get to refine this process.
The Risk of Knowing Too Much
Now, I understand that for some of you, it's important to have a better more sense of how this is all going to work, especially if you're still deciding whether or not to make a pledge. I want you to feel comfortable being part of this process, so I'm willing to explain more... but I also want you to understand that if you read the rest of this update, you might not be able to watch these new episodes the same way, or enjoy them quite as much.
To tell you the truth, this reminds me of my early days as a teenage magician. Once I had fooled people, I had lots of opportunities to explain how a magic trick was done. And at first, if people were curious and persistent enough in asking, I would do my best to explain it to them. But that's also how I found out, over time, why magicians never explain their tricks: because ultimately, the trick is more fun to experience, and to think about, if you don't know how it was done. Once you know the secret behind a thing, it's harder to feel any wonder in it.
So yeah, the reason I'm telling you all of this is because I think the way we're planning to make these new episodes will be as fun and interesting as any of the shows we’ve ever done... simply because of the talented people we use, the movies we choose, and the format of the show. That’s what makes the whole thing hum.
I think you'll have a much easier time enjoying the episodes, and seeing them for what they are, if you don't focus too much on how we made the whole thing work.
But again, I also know that some of you need a little bit more reassurance that we'll still be able to make a show that feels just like Mystery Science Theater, even if we use remote production.
So, if you're in that group, I'll do my best to explain a little more. If you're able to just trust me, and skip past this to the last part of the update, I think you might be happier in the end. But, it's really up to you.
The Structure of MST3K
If you want to talk about how we're planning to make these new episodes, the first thing to remember is that Mystery Science Theater 3000 really has two different "components" in each episode: the movie riffing, which fills 80% of each episode, and the host segments, which are what we call the scenes outside of the theater where the host and bots interact with each other, the Mads, and so on. Those scenes make up another 15% of each episode. And then, actually the third component is the titles/credits and theme song, which take up about 5%, but I don't think you need an explanation about those.
Anyway, if we're really talking about how an episode gets made, and what makes MST3K "work," I think it's helpful to talk about each part of the show separately.
Like I said, most of each episode – about 80% – takes place in the theater, where our characters watch and riff the movies. Not only is this the biggest part of each episode, it's also the part that's the easiest to shoot – even through remote production. It's like Servo said in our video: most of the time, you don't even see our faces – just our silhouettes.
Now, a lot of the most important work with riffing happens before we ever start recording, when our cast and writers watch the movies and come up with our riffs. And you know, the process for writing this season will be exactly the same as it was for the last several seasons.
The difference will really just come in how we record the riffs.
To talk academically: when we're creating the theater segments, the most important thing is the timing and delivery of each riff. I know I've said this before, but when MST3K really "works," it should just feel like you're hanging out and watching cheesy movies with a couple of companions, and making each other laugh.
That's why it's important to understand that – even in remote production – all of the riffing will be recorded in "real time," with all of our cast performing together in a virtual recording studio as they watch the movie and deliver their lines. They'll be able to hear and see each other and the movie, which will let them react and respond to each other, and really focus on the riffing.
As I mentioned, we used this method to riff three shorts last fall. We were really pleased with the way those came out, and as far as I know, everyone felt the riffing worked out great.
As long as we record all of the riffing in "real time", so that our actors can react to the movie and each other in a way that feels natural, there's not really any reason we need to be sitting in the same room.
Also, if COVID rules relax, we'll be able to adjust our production plan so that most of our performers can record their riffs together in person. I'll explain more about that below.
Now, even though the host segments – all of the scenes that happen outside the theater – only make up about 15-20% of the show, this seems to be the part of the show where we're hearing the most questions about remote production.
But, to help with some of your concerns, here are a few things you might want to know:
1. Our cast will be able to perform scenes together in small groups.
Last week, when I shared some basic details about how we plan to use remote production, I should have explained this a little bit better:
Whenever a scene calls for it, most of our cast will be able to shoot scenes together in person.
For example, when Felicia and Patton shoot their scenes, almost every shot involves both of them together, and there's often some physical interaction between them. So, our plan has always been to shoot the two of them at the same time, in a single location.
In the same way, if there are scenes where Jonah or Emily need to interact with their bots, we will be able to have them perform in a room together.
Here's how I see it: While some host segments will be easy to shoot from separate locations, we know that some of them will only work if our hosts and bots are performing together – and we've already planned for that.
2. Shooting in small groups is a lot safer – and less expensive – than having a full crew.
The last point I want you to understand is that, even if we have our performers shoot most of the host segments together in small groups, we'll still be taking a very different approach than we did for Seasons 11 and 12, when we had a giant crew, huge physical sets that took weeks to put together and break down, lots of professional lighting, high-end camera equipment, and so on.
Remote production gives us the ability to shoot a lot of the show from multiple locations, but it doesn't mean that we have to shoot everything that way.
What it really means is that, even if we put a few of our cast members in a room together for a few hours, we still won't need to put 100 people together in a room for weeks at a time.
(And you know, this is actually a lot closer to how the show worked at the beginning, when we first shot MST3K in that industrial park in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. Back then, we each mostly handled our own props, costumes, and so on, instead of having a lot of crew to help us.)
The most important thing, especially if we don't want to wait another year to get past COVID restrictions and fees, is that we need to keep each shoot to the smallest group possible.
3. Shooting will use a combination of greenscreen, props and small set pieces.
I've seen some people in the comments who seem worried that remote production means we won't be able to have props, inventions, costumes, or a lot of the other fun details that make host segments work – and I'm glad to tell you that it's just the opposite!
We're planning to build lots of new props and inventions. (If you want, there are even a few rewards left that give you the chance to help us design one of the new inventions!) For those of you who know her, I'm also happy to confirm that Beez McKeever will be back with the show for Season 13 to make all of the costumes for the bots and our human cast.
Basically, what I'm saying is that we'll be sending each of our performers everything that they need for their scenes.
So, that's the basic idea. I hope some of this information will help those of you who are concerned about how remote production might change the show... and I hope it will also help all of you trust our team to figure out all of the specifics, and to make the show work just right.
Now.... does anyone have other questions about this?
We thought about that, sure, but there are a few reasons we didn't do it.
1. No one knows when that will be, and a lot of you don't want to wait that long. We don't actually know how long it will be until COVID is "over," especially since there's always a risk that it could surge again. But even if life does get back to "normal" by the end of this year, that's still months away... and we've heard from a lot of backers that being able to follow along with the production, and be part of this community, gives them something positive to focus on until they can get back to life as usual.
2. Even if we could shoot late this year, we'd have to hold for our live tour. If COVID does become more manageable, our live tour has already been contracted to go back on the road in October or November of this year... so if we don't start working on new episodes as soon as this Kickstarter ends, and start shooting this fall, we won't be able to even get started until next spring. That means we wouldn't have new episodes until next summer, at the earliest, and a lot of you have been pretty clear that you'd like them sooner than that.
3. Even without COVID, remote production gives us a lot more freedom. It's like I said when I first talked about this: even if COVID weren't an issue, there are still a lot of good reasons for MST3K to add remote production to our "toolkit." We have a lot of cast and crew we want to work with all over the country – in New York, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Chicago, Philadelphia – and by making a lot of the show remotely, we can include a lot of talented people who aren't in a single location. And you know, even if they had time, it would cost too much to fly them all to a single city and put them all in hotels for the entire season. By using remote production whenever it makes sense, we're able to include them from anywhere – and to spend more on making new episodes!
Well, like I said, sometimes our performers actually will be together, especially if the script calls for that. But to help explain this, I can also show you a few concept drawings we've been working with, so that our team can start figuring out the technical approach we'll use.
Well, like I said in our video, we're not going to make Mystery Science Zoom Meeting 3000.
These new episodes will look and feel pretty much like the Mystery Science Theater 3000 that we've always made. They might look a little less "professional" than our Netflix seasons, and a little more "DIY" – just like they did when we had a much smaller crew and did more jobs ourselves – but I don't think you'll be able to "feel" the difference on screen.
Also, a lot of our expenses don't really change. No matter how we make the show, we still have to pay...
- The movie owners, to let us use their movies in the episodes
- Our writers, to come up with all of the riffs and host segments
- Our production team, to make props, costumes and puppets
- Our crew, to figure out all of the technical details to make this work
- Our performers, to work as actors and puppeteers
- Our editors, to put the show together once we finish shooting
And, even though we don't have to cover the cost of renting big film studios, hiring professional crews or building elaborate sets, we do still need to rent spaces big enough for our performers to shoot some of their scenes together. We also need to get all of the cameras, lighting and other equipment that each performer needs to be part of the show.
So yeah, I understand the question... but we're making the same show we've always made. We're just devising new methods to do it, that keep our cast and crew safe, that get new episodes done sooner, and that give us the freedom to work with talented people from all over.
Actually, I'm glad you asked, because I actually think the "Virtual Set Visit" is going to be a pretty wonderful experience... but since Ivan has been planning that, I'll let him explain this one.
IVAN: Hey everyone! For the last few seasons, we really enjoyed having backers join us on set. During those visits, a lot of you got to watch scenes being shot, and we also tried to give you a lot of behind-the-scenes access, department tours, and conversations with our cast and crew.
This time, since there won't be a "single" set that puts all of our crew and cast in one place, we've done a lot of thinking about how to recreate everything that made those set visits so fun – both for backers and for our cast and crew – and we've got a solid plan.
The virtual set visits will happen over multiple days, in multiple sessions, from multiple locations!
That means that you'll actually get to see more parts of the production process, and meet more of our cast and crew, than you would if you did come to set for any single day of shooting.
So, you will get to watch some individual scenes being recorded – and that's likely to include a few cast members together, not just one – but we'll also be scheduling specific times for key members of our cast, crew, writers, and production team to sit down for conversations with all of our "virtual set visitors."
Unlike the show, the format of the "Virtual Set Visit" probably will be similar to a Zoom meeting – or at least like the livestreams we're running this week – but we actually think that'll be ideal for having group conversations, tours, and "show and tell" sessions.
So if you're doing a virtual set visit, you'll get a chance to hear from each of our main cast members, to see some of the props and costumes... we can even take you into the workshop where props are being built, and maybe even into the editing process, so you can see how it all gets tied together!
You'll also be able to see it all happening live, so that you can suggest questions in the chat, or tell us what you want to know more about. And, if your rewards include "VIP Access," you'll even have the option to turn on your camera (or send us a message) and ask questions about whatever you want to know.
Plus, unlike our past set visit rewards, we can work around your schedule! If you can't make it to one of the "set visit" sessions, we'll make sure you have access to re-watch whatever you missed.
Happy to answer more questions about this, so if there's something you're still wondering, just drop your question into the comments on this update! And now, back to Joel.
Hey, it's Joel again – and yeah, it's true: if we use remote production to make all of the new episodes, the one thing we can't really do is give anyone the chance to come spend a day on set, meeting some of our cast and crew in person, and experiencing everything first hand.
But like I said in my last update, we've gotten a lot of requests from backers who still want the chance to come for an in-person set visit, and I understand why that's so appealing. So, we've spent the last couple weeks trying to figure out a solution, and I think we have one:
Even though we'll start production this year, and finish shooting most of the new episodes as soon as we can, we've looked at our schedule and come up with a plan that will let us "save" 2-3 days of "live production" until next February or March, after the next MST3K Live Tour is over. We figure that when it's safe enough for a national tour, we'll also know it's safe enough to gather in larger groups. So...
Starting at 1pm PDT, we'll be adding a very limited number of SET VISIT ADD-ON REWARDS, where you can join us in person for our final day of production and our "Season 13" Wrap Party!
Now, I want to make sure you know what to expect, because "in person" production will still be a little bit different than it was for Seasons 11 and 12.
- Even when we do these last couple of days "on set," we'll still be shooting mostly with green-screen, props and costumes, but we won't be constructing big physical sets.
- We'll do our best to involve as much of our cast as possible for our final shooting days, but it probably won't be everyone. (But if we're able to reach our next goal, visitors will get to see me back in the old red jumpsuit.)
- We expect that these final shooting dates will happen somewhere near Philadelphia, not in Los Angeles, but we won't be able to guarantee the final location until later this year.
- We won't know the exact dates until late this year, but we're guessing these final shooting dates will be in February or March of next year.
- We'll make sure you get at least 6 weeks of advance notice before your visit, so that you have time to arrange travel and somewhere to stay.
- Since we'll have a lot of our cast and production team in one place, we're also hoping to organize a few other events just after we wrap, if you want to stick around for those.
- And, really important, you'll need to be vaccinated before we can let you visit in person, because we have a responsibility to keep our cast and crew safe.
And before you ask, we don't want you to have to choose between the Set Visit and whatever pledge reward you already selected, so we'll be adding this new "Set Visit & Wrap Party" option as an Add-On Reward, which will be available starting at 1pm PDT. (If you're not sure how Add-on rewards work, we've got a handy how-to guide for that.)
So yeah, there you have it: more answers about our plans for remote production, and – if you really want to – a chance to come out to see us shoot in person early next year, when it's safe.
I hope that this helps with any concerns you might have about remote production. If nothing else, I hope you'll be able to appreciate the planning and care we’ve put into this latest chapter.
Also, I hope that learning some of these behind-the-scenes deets won’t inhibit your ability to have a good time watching a host and some robots riff a cheesy movie.
And you know, even if you don't want to see the new episodes, you can still help everyone who does! We've got plenty of rewards that give you classic episodes of the show to rewatch as often as you want – including a "mega-collection" Add-On Reward with 125 classic episodes, available starting at 1pm PDT. So yeah, just think of the new episodes as a "bonus!"
And really, if you still don't feel like you can trust us and come along for this new chapter, I understand, and that's OK. For the rest of you, though... I think it's gonna be a lot of fun.
Cheers & Thanks,
This is Crow T. Robot. I’m invoking the power of the Internet to control you and tell the world that we need your help. Without you, we won't be able to make a full season of MST3K, and then where would we be? Somewhere damp and musty, probably. And a little bit cold. I dunno. Anyway, it's easy.
Just post ONE of these messages to your Facebooks, Instagrams or Twitters:
- If #MakeMoreMST3K backers can hit @JoelGHodgon's next BONUS CHALLENGE before Sunday night, it’ll unlock @MST3K’s FIRST 3-D MOVIE *and* FREE KINGA-VISION 3-D GLASSES… but we’re gonna need you! Pledge now – even $1 helps – at MakeMoreMST3K.com!
- Do you or someone you love STILL have questions about the #MakeMoreMST3K plan for COVID-safe remote production? @JoelGHodgson provides new details that – spoiler alert – might help you “just relax.” ks.mst3k.com/update12
- Set an alarm, friends: NEW #MakeMoreMST3K REWARDS DROP TODAY AT 4PM ET/1PM PT, including a new IN-PERSON SET VISIT option that you’ve been asking for! More details in @JoelGHodgson’s newest update: ks.mst3k.com/update12
- You asked for it, so now it’s a thing: #MakeMoreMST3K rewards now include options both VIRTUAL and IN PERSON set visits. Find out more in @JoelGHodgson’s newest update: ks.mst3k.com/update12