2023 Year In-Review
Last year, I stood before roughly 30-40 people who had all come to our first Holiday Party at Ten 21 and told them what would be happening in 2023: the production of LAWSON, a TV pilot based on the bestselling series of novels that I write. At that point last year, we’d been in pre-production for 3-4 months already: writing the screenplay, casting the roles, forming the LLC, and a host of other minutiae that are typical of any production.
As 2023 began, we continued steamrolling ahead: me for Ten 21 and my cousin Dan for Extrasolar Rock Productions. We locked down the actors for the cast, lined up locations for shooting, got insurance, recruited a small, but awesome crew, and set about nailing down our first day of shooting. We were delayed by a host of factors – not the least of which was simply choreographing all of the actors and their schedules. Because we aren’t a huge company with a huge budget, we had to be flexible with schedules and worked to make sure we could get everyone we needed on each of our shoot days.
Making Ten 21 Studios pay for itself during the first half of the year was largely forgotten because of the time demand on Dan and me to bring LAWSON to life. And there is a ton of work that happens prior to even getting anyone in front of the camera. We also had the Writers Guild Strike that happened, and we heard that SAG-AFTRA might also go on strike. I’m a proud member of SAG-AFTRA and so are most of our cast. When the strike was authorized, we had to wait to see if our production could go ahead. Fortunately, we had one day of shooting in the books by the time the strike was authorized, so we could at least put that in the proverbial bank.
As the strike continued, we were beset with other difficulties: COVID reared its ugly head several times, that meant we had to push shoot days back several times. And each time you have to push a shoot day, the wonderful task of scheduling again resurfaces. We also had crew members who needed to attend to their day jobs, which further complicated our schedule. We also had to deal with several personal issues, including death, that again delayed us.
In July, I set about listing Ten 21 Studios out on Peerspace for the first time. And since then, as we’ve progressed with shooting LAWSON, I’ve been simultaneously working on making the business-side of Ten 21 a success. The very first client I welcomed into the studio in July was the Gina Fritz band for their music video shoot. It was an absolute blast watching them perform and film their video. And it made me really feel great to know that I have a space where fellow creatives can come and make stuff.
In August, as the health of a family member started to decline, I welcomed Elise Miwa Photography to the studio for her ambassador weekend. A throng of extremely-talented dancers descended upon the studio and spun, twirled, and pirouetted through the sunbeams that routinely stream through our amazing windows.
September saw our first international client, Weltrecorder, hit the studio. This German documentary outfit was lean and mean as they shot an interview with a noted Brown University professor regarding the use of artificial intelligence in the music industry and beyond. It was a blast and they “really liked the freight elevator.”
September was also the first time I had legitimate Youtube superstars in the studio: the paranormal research team of Sam and Colby (who have just surpassed 11 million subscribers) swung by after their weeklong investigation of The Conjuring House. They’d developed some theories they wanted to test in a new environment so their production team reached out to me and we made it happen. As they were leaving, I asked them if they’d gotten some good results. “Life changing,” was Colby’s reply, which left me wondering what they may have discovered. And of course, because I had a client coming in early the next morning, I was sleeping over that night. Luckily, whatever spirits Sam and Colby may have contacted weren’t interested in me.
September also saw us host several casting sessions for Kristie Raymond and her company Humankind, which endeavors to make sure underrepresented groups are normalized within commercial productions. Kristie does some amazing work and I got the chance to meet some of the models she works with.
October was music video month! Two amazing artists came by the film in the Ten 21 space. Haitian rapper Masterbrain hit the studio for a late night shoot that came complete with a very cool entourage of folks and a director from Miami who loved the space as well. Then Latino singer Dhatchulo (Alexander Casilla) visited, shooting a couple of scenes for his new music video.
As the holiday season loomed, bookings slowed down understandably, but Ten 21 saw its first photography group – Furnace Fashioned Photography – come by to use the space. The amount of amazing shots they were able to get with a handful of photographers and models was astounding and seeing them blasted all over social media is phenomenal. Truly talented folks with a keen eye for amazing images. I hope they come back soon.
December has slowed even further, but this past Monday we welcomed yet another music video production for a brand new Latino singer whose song has stayed trapped in my head, which I suppose is a good thing indeed. Plus, the director was awesome to deal with and as usual, they all loved the space.
Perhaps that’s one of the things I love most about having Ten 21: the clients I welcome in truly marvel at the natural light, expansive environment, and the fact that they can just create without having to worry about anything.
So what’s up in 2024? First, the completion of shooting for LAWSON. Our first teaser drops on 12/31/23 (1 2 3 1 2 3) and then we’ll be racing to get it completed. A lot has been done, but we still have more to do. And given all of the delays and death that we faced in 2023, it’s understandable. But what’s important is finishing what we set out to achieve.
Beyond that, on the Ten 21 business side of things, we are already booking days in January. A New Year’s fitness reset is happening on our first Saturday and then we welcome a faith-based music video that next Saturday. Additionally, we are aggressively marketing our “nights at Ten 21.” We are proud to welcome Jay Street Systems – whom we’ve hosted for several seminars – for a series of 5-week acting classes. Level 1 starts on Thursday night January 11th. If you’re local and want to take part, click here to register. Jay is a phenomenal coach and I learn something new everytime I train with him.
In February, I’m thrilled to be welcoming Thom Jones, who is perhaps one of the most-respected dialect coaches in the business. He has worked with a whole host of great actors in the entertainment industry including Nicole Kidman, Javier Bardem, Jennifer Hudson, Sissy Spacek, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, and pages of others. Thom will be leading a seminar for actors on Saturday, February 17th in-between his extremely-demanding schedule now that the strike is over. Registration opens for that soon.
Ten 21’s podcast production facility is close to being open for business as well. I’m working on it currently to get the acoustics squared away. Expect news on that very soon.
Last Saturday, at our second Holiday Party, we debuted the teaser of the LAWSON teaser, which was literally 5 seconds of footage from the teaser. We’re going to be releasing that within the next week ahead of the actual teaser.
Ten 21 operates in two spheres: producing our own content and acting as an environment where others can come use our space for their own endeavors. That will continue into 2024 and beyond thanks to the new lease that I’ve signed with my landlord. That said, if you’ve used our space, please continue to be vocal about your experiences there. We rely on positive word-of-mouth to help bring new folks into the space. Hit us up on our socials: we’re at @tentwentyonestudios on Instagram. And be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel!
Thank you to all of our amazing clients for using Ten 21 Studios throughout 2023! We hope to see many of you back again in 2024! In the meantime, work on LAWSON continues and we drive full force into 2024 looking forward to accomplishing much, much more!
Happy Holidays everyone!