The move from feature film to web series isn’t always a smooth jaunt through the editing bay. For writer-director Marc Clebanoff that meant a hard look at what he had in his hands—a gritty indie action flick that would also prove to be one of David Carradine’s final films. But after taking their film Break out with modest success in the saturated indie market, he and Frank Krueger (who also stars in the film), re-imagined the whole project as a serialized online release, hoping its new life as a web series would draw some critical attention that passed over its previous incarnation.
After months in the editing room trying to pick apart a 93-minute narrative into an episodic, the team soft-launched their new series, now called No Clean Break on KoldCast in December. And this week, with the release of their fourth episode, the pair are looking to enter the recent drive to create more drama online, following the attention around other dark indie series like Compulsions and Asylum.
Krueger stars as a remorseful hitman tasked with a bizarre contract from “The Man,” (Chad Everett) who happens to be the biggest crime boss in the city, to take him out of his terminally ill misery.
The episodes so far are short, no more than about 3 plus of action with about a minute of credits thereafter. Slow to get moving, which seems to be a hang up of most feature-to-series conversions. We caught up with Clebanoff and Krueger to find out just how—and why—they decided to turn their feature into a web series.
Tubefilter: When you first started this project it was as a feature film—then called Break—did it garner any distributor interest as a film?
Marc Clebanoff: Yes. The project was originally produced as a feature and it garnered a lot of distribution interest. Ultimately we released the film through a small boutique distributor called Cinema Epoch and we are also currently in the trenches of selling internationally.
Frank Krueger: The film did have a limited theatrical release in the US (we did a tour of a few big cities), and made it onto the shelves of Blockbuster—when people still rented movies from shelves. I think it beat out hundreds of other movies to get there. It was great to have it on the big screen in LA and we were lucky enough to have David Carradine make it to the LA premiere just before he passed away. Even with that success there is so much more audience that a smaller budget independent feature doesn’t have access to and we want to get the story out to everyone who might enjoy it.
Tubefilter: What made you decide to morph it into a web series?
Clebanoff: The feature film version was released on DVD 6 weeks after the highly publicized death of David Carradine. Although Break was not Carradine’s final film, when he died we were the only film with a release date and a PR firm on the payroll. As a result, the global press embraced Break as his final film. For nearly 2 weeks following Carradine’s death Break was being mentioned in over 6,000 publications globally on a daily basis. Immediately outlets like Blockbuster and Netflix upped their orders but ultimately the film was mass pirated and our DVD sales became stagnant. Since people were already watching the film online for free illegally, I figured the best way to combat them was to release it online for free, but under my own terms.
Morphing the film into a web series ended up giving me a huge opportunity to completely rework the project from scratch. Ironically, reworking it as a 20-part web series ended up allowing me to incorporate a lot of elements that I had wanted to incorporate into the film, but was unable to for an array of logistical reasons. At the end of the day, No Clean Break ended up being much closer to my original creative vision than the film was.
Krueger: I am a big fan of the web and I believe that we are in a time when a good story will have to be able to live on different platforms to reach it’s full potential and the find it’s audience. Marc worked with me on The Darkness Descending and through that process we were able to see the new creative opportunities a web series provides.
Tubefilter: What can you tell us about the creative process of cutting from feature to episodic? Did you add Frank’s narration for the web?
Clebanoff: Cutting No Clean Break into a series was definitely challenging but also a lot of fun. Since I cut it myself, whereas the film was cut by an editor, I was able to go back and utilize a ton of footage that never made it into the film. A lot of times with films you leave a lot of extraneous dialog in for time purposes but with the series I was able to make it nice and lean. There are scenes in the film that didn’t make the series and scenes in the series that didn’t make the film. I took a lot of things out of order with the series and actually changed some of the focal points. James Russo’s character becomes a consistent driving force in the series whereas in the film he was very peripheral.
About 50% of the footage in the series is different than the film, as is Frank’s voice over and most of the comic book elements. The big picture was “comic book come to life”, which is really driven home better in the series than the film. Ultimately the film and the series are two significantly different products.
Tubefilter: What’s a success now in your eyes? Are you looking to extend this storyline?
Clebanoff: As the creator, success would be giving the project new life on the web, and in a manner that is legal and encouraged. We’re hoping that the series will garner a lot of new fans who can enjoy what we’ve done and potentially explore what we did before, and give our existing fans a new taste of what they originally bought into.
As far as extending the storyline, a sequel was being discussed and even partially written originally. I had discussed it with many of the cast members including Michael Madsen and several new prominent actors who I would have liked to involve, but once we began feeling the effects of piracy we abandoned the effort. However, we are in the process of shooting some new additional content to follow up the 20 part series so our fanbase will definitely have that to look forward to.
Krueger: We are talking about ways to extend and expand the story right now. There are some fun things we want to try now that we wouldn’t have been able to do. For me, success has always been about getting the movie or series to the most of people possible. Whenever you are making any kind of entertainment, you are making it for an audience. You are hoping people will see it and be entertained by it. This is something the web provides better than a lot of other outlets for independent filmmakers, access to an international and broad audience. In the end if people see it and like it that would be great—and so would a Streamy.