Serial Dreamer: Co-Op
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Chicago’s artists inspired me to dream. A few years ago when I was new to Chicago, I would run down Lakeshore Drive, listening to R&B and dreaming of televisual narratives. I was serially dreaming, casting as characters the artists who would eventually become my collaborators on Open TV (beta), a research project and web platform that I created to develop artistic, intersectional TV. With this campaign, I am asking you to support Serial Dreamer: Co-Op, a collaborative comedy pilot for a new series of stories about residents in a Chicago co-op as they dream about other worlds. The full series will follow a different character in each episode through their everyday life and their dreams. Each character and story line is created by a writer who has pitched or produced a project during Open TV's first two cycles or participated in the Open TV Writers Group during our residency at the Chicago Cultural Center. This project is an experiment in using queer TV development to mobilize our community and exponentially increase the number of artistic, intersectional TV stories coming out of Chicago. Serial Dreamer: Co-Op represents my dream for Open TV: ever-growing, ever-evolving, community-driven, and continually generating value from telling diverse stories.
About This Project
Serial Dreamer: Co-Op takes me back to the origins of Open TV. I moved to Chicago knowing little except that I wanted to do innovative research and find community. For more than a year I was lost, depressed, and lonely because my partner was in Hollywood and I was in an intellectual slump trying to transform my dissertation into the book. I slowly found my way out of this depression by finding queer community through Chicago’s art and nightlife.
Serial Dreamer: Co-Op starts with Gia, played by Saya Naomi, whom I met as a drag performer in nightlife and co-starred in my directorial debut, Nupita Obama. The pilot expands her story to include the many characters created by writers who have joined me on the journey to developing Open TV. Co-Op introduces each of these characters at a tense co-op board meeting and gives a glimpse of their dream worlds. The following artists will be contributing their own characters: Aymar Jean Christian, Shelly Conner, Roger Fierro, Felicia Holman, Abra Johnson, Phillip Lambert, Jr., Jordy Marilyn, Elijah McKinnon, Meida McNeal, Saya Naomi, and Ashley Ray-Harris.
Serial Dreamer is an ambitious experiment in queer TV development: a series of pilots about intersectional characters. In the full series, each episode focuses on one of the co-op residents and we follow them in their everyday lives and jump into their dreams. Inspired as I was by dreaming while running to music, I imagine these worlds as music videos embedded in a serial narrative, but that may vary based on each artist’s vision and resources. Each episode will ideally have the same cinematographer but different directors and creative teams. Characters may show up in other series, or not. The relations in the show will be as organic as relationships in the real world.
Contribute any amount or choose from the levels below.
- Personal thank you on social media ($10.00 is tax deductible.)
- Above plus special thanks in the credits and a digital download of the pilot ($25.00 is tax deductible.)
- All of the above plus your choice of an invitation to the Open TV Friendraiser (June 4) or the Soho House Premiere of Elijah McKinnon’s cooking show (June 13) ($75.00 is tax deductible.)
- All of the above plus your Own “Co-Op” character and dream written by our team, exclusive behind-the-scenes photographs, and an invitation to the Writers Room in Summer 2017 ($100.00 is tax deductible.)
- All of the above plus an invitation to the first Read-Through, Filming + Wrap Party, and a signed copy of the “Open TV” book written by Dr. Christian ($220.00 is tax deductible.)
- All of the above plus your choice of Co-Producer credit or a walk-on role in the production ($970.00 is tax deductible.)
- All of the above, plus Executive Producer Credit ($2470.00 is tax deductible.)
Aymar Jean Christian
Aymar Jean Christian is an assistant professor of communication studies at Northwestern University and a Fellow at the Peabody Media Center. Dr. Christian’s first book Open TV: Innovation Beyond Hollywood and the Rise of Web Television (New York University …View Aymar Jean Christian's profile
Update 1: The 2nd Annual Open TV Friendraiser!Posted on June 05, 2017
The Open TV Friendraiser was a tremendous success! We raised $2,090 with the help of our advisory committee, including E. Patrick Johnson (Chair), Angelique Power, Jen Delos Reyes, David Getsy, Jeffreen Hayes, Metra Gilliard, and Ramón Rivera-Servera. At this event I gave an overview of how Open TV has performed over the last 2 years while E. Patrick and head of marketing Elijah McKinnon gave a cooking demonstration, a sneak peek of the last original series of the 2nd cycle, Elijah's Two Queens in a Kitchen, and two of our upcoming 2018 programs The T by Bea Cordelia Sullivan-Knoff and Daniel Kyri Madison and Quare Life by M. Shelly Conner! Brandon Markell Holmes, who created Inertia for Open TV, performed a short set of his music. Afterward we enjoyed E. Patrick's fantastic sweet potato pie, his mama's special recipe!
Here are some photos from the event, taken by one of my favorite Chicago photographers, Jackie Elizabeth:Update 2: We did it! But we still need your help!Posted on June 06, 2017
We reached $5,000! Thank you thank you thank you!
But wait: we’re not done! We need more funds to produce Serial Dreamer: Co-Op to the fullest. $5,000 gets us a great scene introducing the characters. If we can double that, we will have enough to produce a dream sequence for each character! These dreams show the inner life of these characters, almost like mini-music videos. The funds go toward licensing music and producing the sequences.Update 3: Open TV's Brown Girls sells to HBO!Posted on June 06, 2017
Open TV (beta) is focused on Chicago, but we're building pipelines to the industry in New York and LA! Yesterday ELLE Magazine announced HBO has optioned Brown Girls for development. This historic sale is the fastest I’ve ever seen by indie newcomers and positions Open TV as the leading incubator for the next generation of queer and intersectional talent. It supports my theory that small-scale, local, and intersectional networked development can create tangible value in the industry.
I must note that Open TV makes no money from this sale. Brown Girls is owned by Samantha Bailey and Fatimah Asghar. It’s incredibly important to me that Open TV invests in, and doesn’t take from, the artists and communities we represent. We want to help raise up talent to the next level, so our success attracts stakeholders who will help us do it again and again! Since Open TV is a research project, the complete story of Brown Girls will be published in academic journals and my next book. This is the value I seek from Open TV: deeper knowledge of how queer television can be developed artistically and sustainably.Update 4: Introducing Aymar Jean Christian, the creator of Serial Dreamer and founder of Open TV (beta)Posted on June 07, 2017
Serial Dreamer builds on my years of work building Open TV (beta) in collaboration with so many artists and crew in Chicago. Get an introduction to my vision with this profile in the Chicago Reader. Brianna Wellen graciously embedded my pilot, Nupita Obama Creates Vogua. One of the central characters, Gia, played by Saya Naomi, will be the star of Serial Dreamer!
Gearing up for our event at the Chicago Humanities Festival featuring Ricardo Gamboa’s Brujos and Shea Coulee’s “Lipstick City,” I told the Reader:
"The beauty in television to me is its ability to tell an infinite number of stories in really an infinite number of ways, and appeal to communities that might not get feature films made about them."
More recently I spoke to the Chicago Reader about our Open TV Writers Group, where I met many of the Serial Dreamer writers, in an article about why Chicago is now a hub for intersectional media. Ashley Ray wrote:
“So what is it about Chicago that engenders such distinct storytelling and production methods? ‘I think every city has people who want intersectional programming, it's just that Chicago has some institutions that will actually support it and make space for it as well,’ says Aymar Jean Christian, founder of Open TV. Unlike the large and competitive atmospheres of New York and LA, there's a communal sense of support across Chicago. ‘Open TV's done probably 30 events in the city, and we've never really had a difficult time getting organizations to give us that space so we can program,’ Christian says.
“Open TV recently started its first writers' workshop to help incubate scripts created by queer people of color. Its members meet biweekly at the Chicago Cultural Center, where artist Aram Han Sifuentes agreed to share her space with the group. ‘If we were in New York or LA or a space that was more competitive, another artist wouldn't have let us use their studio for a writers' workshop,’ Christian says. ‘We would've had to find our own space. The Cultural Center was pretty cool about that, and it's a pretty laid-back space. . . . The more space you have the more programming you can do, and the more ways you can try and combat other difficulties like segregation.’”Update 5: Introducing Saya Naomi and their character, Gia, from Nupita Obama!Posted on June 08, 2017
Serial Dreamer writer and star Saya Naomi is one of Chicago’s fiercest drag queens. Saya co-starred in the first Open TV (beta) pilot, written and directed by me, Nupita Obama Creates Vogua. The focus of that pilot is the drama between Erik Wallace and Kiam Junio’s characters, but many people told me Saya’s character Gia was their favorite! So I’m making Gia the star of Serial Dreamer!
Check out this article in the Windy City Times that features me talking about the personal and political reasons I created Nupita Obama with artists like Saya:
"When we look at TV representations of gay people generally, but especially gay people of color, you don't necessary see a lot of gender nonconforming people of color on television," Christian said. "In the world that I live in there's people of all gender expressions and they are all very different and interesting and creative so I wanted to showcase that."
I always use this video interview of Saya when I talk about the value of making and releasing local queer pilots. The fact that Nupita Obama screened in Chicago and she could invite her community was incredibly meaningful to Saya. We had about 50 people show up to that screening where Saya got ready in drag in front of the audience! That was a brave artistic choice and I think really showed her talent and the incredible labor that goes into transforming one's gender. This labor is often invisible. It's one of the reasons drag queens aren't often adequately compensated for their important work.
To watch interviews with Kiam Junio and Erik Wallace, the other two stars of Nupita Obama who would make an appearance in the full Serial Dreamer series, visit here: http://www.weareopen.tv/open-tv-community//spotlight-on-the-artists-of-nupitaobama
Please also watch Nupita Obama, where Saya serves shade, looks, and some fantastic drag all in under 10 minutes!Update 6: Introducing Elijah McKinnon and their character, Thyme!Posted on June 09, 2017
There would be no Open TV without Elijah McKinnon, who not only designed the logo, website, all the social media and many of our events, but has also directed a cooking show featuring many of the artists in our community!
Elijah will star in their own series as Thyme, a 26-year-old, black, queer, GNC masculine-presenting person. A copywriter turned graphic designer turned web developer, Thyme dabbles in sex-work occasionally. Thyme is active in the kink world; has been an orphan since 13; has trust issues but has had major psychological/emotional breakthroughs since recovering from substance abuse.
Elijah’s series is already in pre-production and connected to their work in health advocacy! Check out this video of their PrEP4Love campaign in Chicago, connecting people of color to resources to prevent the spread of HIV:Update 7: Introducing Honey Pot Performance, Althea and FuturewomenPosted on June 14, 2017
Honey Pot Performance has been bringing brilliant, Black feminist performance art to Chicago for over a decade! They also have the honor of being the first docu-series distributed by Open TV (beta) and produced by myself, Futurewomen. Futurewomen documents the development of HPP’s Afrofuturist masterwork Ma(s)king Her, which follows 4 women across time and space who must come together to save their respective worlds.
HPP’s Serial Dreamer character, Althea, is one of those four superwomen! Althea is a dutiful, particularly to her family, but starts the series trying to strike it out on her own and seeking adventure. In the show, she starts the process of discovering her calling and the other 3 women.
Here’s a short video profile of Althea I produced and Open TV head of production Stephanie Jeter DP’d:
Check out the 3-episode series to get the complete story!Update 8: Introducing M. Shelly Conner, Michelle and Quare Life!Posted on June 14, 2017
M. Shelly Conner is a fixture of Chicago’s black queer artistic community! She’s also one of the first artists to enter development with Open TV (beta). Shelly pitched me Quare Life, a comedy web series, in the early months of Open TV (beta). Quare Life follows Michelle after she loses her girlfriend, her job and her house all at once and how her friends, fellow women of color, help her back onto her feet. Michelle is a cis-gender, dapper-queer, early career (adjunct) professor.
Shelly doesn’t only make art for herself. She’s a cultural organizer. She runs Quare Square, a collective of black queer creatives in Chicago, and Quare Square Open Mic, a weekly night of stand up and other artists at Jeffrey Pub in South Shore.
Thanks to a small grant from Northwestern, Open TV is already developing Quare Life! We shot a short pilot in April. Here’s your first look at Michelle and her friends:Update 9: Introducing Phillip Lambert & Roger Fierro and their characters Langston and David!Posted on June 18, 2017
Phillip and Roger came to Open TV (beta) via our Writers Group that met this winter at the Chicago Cultural Center as part of our residency there. I was immediately struck by their wit, ingenuity, and chemistry. Their Serial Dreamer characters, Langston and David, traverse Chicago embarking on misadventures, solving problems, quashing mysteries, and tackling oppression!
Langston is 29, black, gender non-conforming: Taurus sun, Aries rising and Libra moon -- that means twice the luxury, three times the laziness. He’s a headstrong, Ivy educated, trap scholar from Englewood who works as a sexual health educator by day and is a rising camboy superstar by night. Langston uses comedy and poetry to bring lightness to their struggle with a recent HIV positive diagnosis.
David (Dah-veed) is a 30-year-old, cis-male, gay, Mexican ESL instructor who is a flighty, thotty and loyal Gemini. Education is a front for the work he’s genuinely proud of: the art of counterfeit. David’s scamming started off a as a revenge plot for being dumped by his sugar daddy of 10 years at his 30th birthday party. Now he’s trying to scam his way back from broke!
I’m so happy to have Phillip and Roger in the writers room!Update 10: Introducing Ashley Ray-Harris & Jordy Marilyn and their characters Nadine and Tawny!Posted on June 18, 2017
I was thrilled when Ashley Ray-Harris joined the Open TV Writers Group to start developing a show with Jordy Marilyn! I knew Ashley as a journalist and critic writing for Vice, The A.V. Club, Jezebel and other publications I was a fan of. I’d seen Jordy perform at Salonathon and watched them spread ferocity throughout social media.
Ashley and Jordy’s series follows two young queer Chicagoans as the stumble through young adulthood, Tawny and Nadine. Having heard plot summaries of the episodes in the Writers Group, I can attest this show would be absolutely hilarious.
Tawny is strong, opinionated and never backs down. Despite being from the South, they've felt comfortable in their skin since they were young. Their family always encouraged them to be who they wanted to be and never apologize for it. This makes it particularly crushing when the love of Tawny's life only chooses to date them in secret. Even though Tawny has given up jobs and friends who refused to accept them (the series starts with Tawny getting fired), they just can't shake their feelings for Daniel.
Tawny lives with Nadine and is the more free-spirited and delicate of the two. Nadine is younger than most of her friends and feels a need to prove herself as a responsible adult. She's focused on her career and has absolutely no time for dating, relationships or pesky ass feelings. Heartbreak made Nadine lose all desire for romance and she's settled into a rotation of fuckboys, married men and lovers. While her emotional roommate Tawny tries to convince her she wants more from life and suggests she give love a chance, she's not trying to hear it. Nadine believes real love will come when her career is settled and she meets the black man of her dreams, but she soon discovers the reality of what she needs does not match up with what she wants.
Welcome Ashley and Jordy! Let’s birth Tawny and Nadine into the Serial Dreamer universe!Update 11: Introducing Niki Madison and her character, Niki!Posted on June 22, 2017
I’ve known Niki for years and she’s consistently one of the funniest people I know. She frequently mentioned wanting to write and needing space for it so I invited her to the Open TV Writers Group. Niki’s show is loosely based on her life, including weight loss and surviving the pains of sizism and growing older.
“Niki” is 33, black, queer femme, outgoing, an needs constant attention and affection, Libra, overachieving gifted student as a child, now lost in the corporate world. She’s confused on a career path. She really just wants to have fun, look fabulous, travel, have amazing love affairs, and write about it as a comedic memoir writer, but is a mixture of too lazy to actually try and expectant for being handed everything in life due to the preferential tokenism from her childhood.
Help us bring Niki’s character to life!And see Niki in action with these DIY videos of her reading comedy in Chicago:Update 12: Introducing Felicia Holman and her character, Felicia!Posted on June 22, 2017
Everyone in the Chicago performing arts scenes knows Felicia Holman. As a member and marketing & communications manager for Honey Pot Performance, Felicia makes sure to support artists from all around the city. She has also curated exhibitions at places like Columbia College as she works to support artists in her day job at Links Hall, one of the city’s established venues for community-based and emerging artists.
Moreover, Felicia is a vibrant and fiercely intelligent person whose knowledge of music -- particularly Prince -- rivals that of any leading music critic or scholar.
Her character, “Felicia,” is a Gen X'er, Black cis-femme, Cerebral/Artistic/Resourceful Social Butterfly, still "finding herself". She (re)negotiates her dynamic metrics of personal/professional success based on the empirical lessons/skills gleaned during her homeschooled Latch Key Kid upbringing on the Southside of Chicago.
Here’s Felicia talking about the role of art in our current political moment for On The Real film:
I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks Felicia is long in need of her own show. Let’s make it happen!Update 13: The Open TV book is headed into production at NYU Press!Posted on June 22, 2017
Today I handed in the copyedited manuscript for my first book, Open TV: Innovation Beyond Hollywood and the Rise of Web Television! New York University Press will publish the book in its Fall 2017 catalogue. Donors have the opportunity to win a advance copy of the book signed by me and the Open TV writers!
The Open TV book argues the web brought innovation to TV development by opening development to independent producers, particularly those marginalized in the industry and America.
Among its contributions to the fields of television, media and communication studies are:
* The concept of the “networked era” to describe the transformation of television in the age of the Internet, characterized by the proliferation and convergence of strategies for developing original series
* In-depth case studies of indie TV series that have secured legacy and high-value development deals, including: Broad City, The Misadventures of Awkward Black (predecessor to Issa Rae’s Insecure), High Maintenance, The Guild, and The Outs
* A critique of “big data television” linking the development strategies of premium networks like Netflix and Amazon, ad-supported networks like Hulu and AOL, and multichannel networks on YouTube
* An expanded theory of “innovation” to encompass value creation not just in efficiency and scale but also public benefit and efforts to reform industry practices
* Expanded theories of production, representation, and distribution in TV
* One of few comprehensive studies of independent production and distribution
* One of few comprehensive studies of development and innovation in television
* One of few studies on TV production and distribution by producers who identify as Black, GLBT, Latinx, and female
* An innovative case study of “participatory action research,” in which I co-produce and market a web series, She’s Out Of Order, as a way to get a grounded view of the challenges of the open TV market for indie and marginalized producers
* A history of web TV from 1995-2005
* Data on crowdfunding, the scale of web series markets for Black/GLBTQ/Latinx/Asian American indie TV
* An analysis of “programmatic” and new financing strategies in TVUpdate 14: Remembering the Open TV Writers WorkshopPosted on June 22, 2017
Many of the writers on Serial Dreamer came from the Open TV Writers Group, held at the Chicago Cultural Center as part of our residency! Run by Open TV Head of Production Stephanie Jeter, the writers group focused on getting writers to refine who their central characters were and the arc of their story. It was phenomenal to hear so many diverse stories written from such different perspectives, in so many different styles. Stephanie gave great feedback and the writers really got into it. The workshop helped build a solid enough foundation for the writers to bring their characters to Serial Dreamer!Update 15: Introducing the showrunner for Serial Dreamer, Derek McPhatter!Posted on July 03, 2017
A show as complex as Serial Dreamer needs a showrunner. In traditional TV a showrunner is in charge of managing the “bible” of the series, making sure seasons have continuity from episode-to-episode and characters stay consistent even if written by different people.
The showrunner for Serial Dreamer is close the my heart: my partner, Derek McPhatter. Derek wrote and directed the first web series I co-produced, She’s Out Of Order, created by Teresa Lasley and a case study in my forthcoming book. Derek has years of experience as a playwright and screenwriting fellow. This summer, in addition to running Serial Dreamer, he’ll be writing a series of short plays commissioned by the Lyric Opera for three community-based organizations in Chicago.
As a non-profit development consultant by day Derek has the perfect experience to manage a writers room with artists from different disciplines and levels of television writing experience. Moreover, we live together, which makes communication very efficient!
In legacy TV it’s not uncommon for life partners to write together. The Good Wife, arguably the last great broadcast TV procedural drama, is headed up by a married writing team, Robert and Michelle King. Tina Fey has worked with her husband Jeff Richmond on 30 Rock, and High Maintenance was created by partners Ben Sinclair and Katja Blichfeld.
E. Patrick Johnson
Sarah Beth Woods
Julie & Jess Keck & King
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