Posts Tagged ‘Web Series’

new eden pilot update

26, February 2012

Those playing along at home will know that as of February I have been in London for three years.

What you may not know is that March 2012 will mark one year that Freek and I have been working on the New Eden pilot and hopefully the date, fingers crossed, we finish it.

Actually to be accurate, we’ve been working the New Eden series for over fifteen months now. Freek and I first teamed up four months prior to officially working on the pilot in November 2010. These first several months were spent fine tuning the script and working on the character designs plus the look and feel for the series. March 2011 marked when we first started working on the storyboards for the pilot episode.

When you’re working on something part-time around jobs, life and families things take time, especially animation. Despite this Freek and I have stayed the course and I have to say it’s been a ball. It’s still early days but we think we’ve got something very special on our hands.

Being new to animation it’s been a great learning curve for me as well. Yes it takes time but it also gives you the freedom to try and fail at various shots and even entire sequences before you succeed. I read an interview recently with WALL-E director Andrew Stanton in response to questions about reshoot on his live-action movie John Carter, which sums this up beautifully:

“You draw it, you put your own voice on it, you cut it, and you don’t like it, and you do it again. You do it every six months over three to four years. Every time you do that, that’s the equivalent of a reshoot, so I’ve been taught how to make a movie with four reshoots built in every time. And you wonder why our movies are good? It’s not because we’re smarter, it’s not because we’re better, it’s because we are in a system that recognizes that you don’t go, ‘Oh my god, okay, I’m going to paint this, but I can only touch the brush once and I’m only going to make one stroke’.”

Recently we went back and did some pick-ups with the actors and after some final tweaking I’m proud to say that we’ve locked off the vision for the pilot. We’re now working with a very talented sound designer Justin Bryant of Timesquared Audio on the sound and music. Meanwhile Freek is going back and redoing the opening titles to add some shots that will help set up the series premise a bit better.

Last weekend I hosted a script reading with the actors and Freek, who came across from The Netherlands to be there. It was exciting for Freek and I, not only to hear the entire series read, but also to show off an early cut of the pilot to the actors.

Anyone who’s follows my blog knows I’m a big fan of script readings because you finally get to separate yourself from your work, hear how it sounds and take on some constructive criticism. I’m happy to say that things went well at the reading and we’re more excited than ever.

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So what does the future hold for New Eden?

We have several international events that we’re hoping to be accepted to where we will get a chance to pitch New Eden to a room full of people who have the ability to help us get the series made – namely brands/sponsors, TV and online commissioners and production partners. We will also be doing a certain amount of pitching around the traps as well to see if we can drum up some interest.

Being an animated series this is not something we can just pull together over a couple of long weekends. That said, we have a production plan in place that will allow us to produce the entire series in less time it took us to produce the pilot, a reasonable budget plus a marketing and social media plan all ready to go.

As March gets closer you can expect to hear more on New Eden’s official Twitter and Facebook accounts as well as right here on my blog, so stay tuned.

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quick tessa & adam / new eden update

9, October 2011

I know it’s been a long time between drinks here at drettworlb so I thought it was time for an update.

I’ve been busy since my last post in July. The scripts for all ten episodes of Tessa & Adam are now completed and I’m currently working on the script for the eighth double-episode finale for New Eden.

Freek and I have been doing more work on the New Eden pilot and it’s coming together nicely. It’s taking a while due to the fact that we both have other work and contracts to complete but we’re very happy with the progress thus far. Freek is working up some more promotional images for New Eden that I can’t wait to share with you guys.

On the producing side of things, I’ve got some interesting leads on financing for both series. Now it’s just a matter of seeing how things play out. It’s too early to talk about and nothing is definite but watch this space.

In terms of distribution for Tessa & Adam and New Eden, I’ve being researching successful original web series and have drawn on my growing skills in social media to put together a solid distribution and marketing plan for both projects.

If you’re interested in the whole web series/original digital content/youtube space then you need to be reading NewTeeVee, TubeFilter and Reel SEO. Also follow NewEdenseries, which is littered with tweets and links from all three and many other sources.

And finally check out the YouTube Creator Playbook, a free resource breaking down the best practices in production, distribution, marketing and community building learnt for successful YouTube creators.

That’s it for now. Thanks for checking in and feel free to say G’day if you see me mucking about on Twitter.

interview with new eden animator – part two: animation process

13, July 2011

Here is Part Two of the interview with New Eden’s character designer/lead animator Freek Van Haagen. Be sure to check out the clip at the end. Enjoy!

What tools are you using to animate New Eden?

Adobe Illustrator for the drawings. Adobe After Effects for the animation. Photoshop for the backgrounds. And finally Adobe Premiere for editing.

What style and restrictions have influenced the look of New Eden?

I kinda shift style every now and then. But I like the strong shapes in the characters. It is a bit American maybe.

New Eden Character Line Up

It sounds weird but it should not be perfect animation. Simply because it’s a series that’s limited by budget and therefore can’t take forever to make. The animation should bring across the joke/story. That’s it. If I can get away with no animation, why not? So basically it’s efficiency. Try and do every shot as efficient as possible. Without falling into the pitfall of rushing over everything.

What was your process for designing the New Eden character?

I just scribble. And often end up with a different figure along the way. It’s a trick I learned.

New Eden Character Sketches

New Eden Creature Sketches

If you really try and get what you have in your head you can loose some spontaneity. You have some idea of course but you shouldn’t be blind to ‘lucky mistakes’.

How do you then convert these character designs into figure that could be animated?

That took a bit of figuring out. Since we use a kind of puppeteer animation technique there are some design elements that go out the door but you have to do that in order to animate. It was just checking what you can do without and still have some sort of design to the characters.

Break down the basic steps of animating a shot of New Eden?

Listen to the voice track about 10 times. Until you pretty much have it in your head. Then act like a fool in front of the mirror saying that line. And watch yourself say it.

Shot Sketch

See how your body moves and what faces you pull. Check out where the actor has put the accents in the dialogue and try to emphasize that with your body gestures.

Murray Face Sketches

After the sketch I draw the character in Adobe Illustrator with everything that needs to move in a separate layer and try to figure out where the pivot points are for each limb.

Breakdown of Character Assets

I have a rough idea of what I want to achieve in animation so I draw different hand gestures that I can use. We can’t animate the fingers bit by bit because that would really take too long. So in the animation style we choose to shift the hand in the middle of a movement. That way you don’t really notice the hard switch.

Breakdown of Character Assets

Then it’s time to import it into After Effects and set up the skeleton using Duik tools.

Character Set-Up in After Effects

This means that I have foot controllers and hand controllers. I only have to move those controllers and the whole arm or leg will move. Which saves time.

After Effects Arm Controller

I usually separate the head in a separate file so I can concentrate on the facial features alone. After that it’s just fiddling until you get it right.

After Effects Face Animation

From there I cut down the movement to the basic positions. “Keys” as they call them in the industry. This means basically that you try and capture the whole performance in two or three body positions/holds that bring across that line of dialogue.

After Effects Animation Keys

You set that up in the character and time it to the dialogue. Then it’s tweaking until the character becomes alive and seems to be saying the line all by themself. I usually start with the lip sync. But sometimes it’s easier to start with the body to see where the accents are put best.

What’s your usually time frame to complete a shot?

Phew … don’t know. A shot can take two to three hours maybe. For animation alone.

Thank you for your time Freek. It’s great to get inside the process and hear how it is being brought to life.  Where can people find you online?

www.freekvanhaagen.nl

As promised, here is a sneak peek of a short piece of character animation from the New Eden pilot.

The backgrounds and audio are still being worked on and it’s yet to be edited for timing but this is a good example of the quality of animation that Freek and our second animator Adam are pumping out.

The New Eden pilot is now complete, so I’ve updated the video below. Enjoy the trailer!

Check out Part One to read about Freek’s animation background and his career aspirations.

new eden – meet the cast

27, May 2011

Big day last Friday. We recorded the dialogue tracks for the trailer and episode one of the sci-fi animated web comedy New Eden.

Our recording set up was a little unusual as far as animation goes. Usually animation voice records are done one actor at a time with each actor recording a range of options for each line. For New Eden I decided early on that we needed to have all the actors together if we wanted to capture the comedy of the piece and the odd-couple relationship between Murray and Hamilton at the heart of it. So to accommodate this, my sound engineer Billy can up with the great plan to set up dividers that allowed the actors to still see and interact with each other while at the same time minimising the bleed of their voices into each others’ microphones.

Recording this way meant that I had to get four actors, Billy and myself into a facility that not only could fit us all and be willing to work with our tight budget. Billy ended up scoring us a four-hour recording slot at Keir Vine’s studio in Dalston but May turned out to be a stupidly busy time for us all. Some days trying to schedule the record felt like herding cats but as I’ve learnt at every stage of this process, the wait was worth it.

After the record I was pretty certain that we had got everything but later I couldn’t help but worry that I might have missed something or failed to be clear in my direction somehow. Listening back to the material though I discovered that my fears were unfounded. The actors had nailed it. Sparking off each other and delivering some fantastic improv bits, they really brought the characters to life and proved that tackling the record this way was all worth it.

So without further ado let me introduce the cast …

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Playing former shift supervisor and the pedantic pessimistic Brit Hamilton is Jonathan Rhodes. Some of you might recognise him as a regular on M.I. High as Chief Agent Stark. Most recently he starred in and co-produced a great short film called Big SocietyJonathan has a great voice and great timing and I’ve had the pleasure of working with him several times at my writers group ScriptTank and also on my radio sketch samples.

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Playing the sarcastic but easy going former ships pilot Murray is Kevin Shen. Sharing the same Chinese American heritage as his character, Kevin is always busy working in London or abroad on more shoots than I can keep track of. I was convinced Kevin was right for the role when during his audition he delivered one simple line that not only captured the character but also managed to surprise me.

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Playing mad Scotsman and former ships engineer Keith is Scott Christie. London based and heralding from the rolling hills up north, Scott can be often found treading the boards in numerous London productions and most recently received critical acclaim for his performance in the season of Short & Sweet at the Union Theatre. Also a ScriptTank actor, Scott is nothing like his gregariously volatile counterpart but perfectly captures Keith’s sense of mad danger.

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And finally playing the Ukrainian loner and black marketeer Ivana is Jo Bowis. Actor, singer, blogger and accordion player; Jo is an all round entertainer always busy with her cabaret theatre troupe Tiny Wallop or cycling around London from one gig to the next. Like Jonathan, Jo helped out with my radio sketch samples and has a great talent for bringing different characters to life. She also does a mean Aussie accent.

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Since the record I’ve been busy listening back to the takes and working with our sound engineer/designer Billy to piece together master tracks for our animators Freek and Adam to start working with.

Reflecting back on the process, when we get the chance to record more episodes there are definitely some things I will be doing differently:

Cans Cans Cans. Instead of hiding in the control room I was on the floor coaching the actors but didn’t have headphones on the entire time. The difference between hearing something live or through cans can be slight but it can make all the difference when you’re trying hear if an actor is hitting a certain tone or phrase just right.

Freek on the floor. Because of the logistic of our lead animator Freek being in the Netherlands and the record happening in London it was always decided that I would direct the dialogue record. If I had to do it again I would definitely have Freek there by my side or in the booth to co-direct. We have developed a great working relationship and I can’t imagine doing this project without him.

Rehearsals. Because of scheduling issues I decided not to do a rehearsal. Instead we recorded the rehearsal takes in the studio as I helped the actors find their characters, tweak dialogue and get the overall flow of the scripts. In future I’ll definitely be fighting for a read-through in a far less pressured environment where we can discuss the scripts and characters and ease into it all a bit more gently.

Next post: new eden – meet the crew.

Til then be sure to follow New Eden on Twitter and Facebook.

new eden update

18, March 2011

Before I jet off on holidays back to Australia I wanted to share with you what is making me happy at the moment, the development of my sci-fi comedy web series New Eden.

The sci-fi comedy web series New Eden follows Murray and Hamilton, two colonists aboard a starship bound for a new world to call home. That was the plan at least until they crashed … on the wrong planet! Escaping in a Life-Pod Murray and Hamilton find themselves alone and thrust right back to the bottom of the food chain on a strange primordial world filled with creatures determined to have them for dinner. Constantly at odds with each other but forced to work together, Murray and Hamilton use their quick wits and the random crew supplies they find scattered across the planet to defend themselves as they search for food, shelter and a way off this rock. Along the way they come across Keith, a mad Scotsman and former ships engineer who has gone completely native, and the calculating but socially inept Ukrainian black marketeer Ivana. Combining physical comedy, witty banter and gross out humour, New Eden is targeted at sci-fi fan, young adults and anyone who wants to see cool frick’n monsters make grown men poo their pants.

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I first had the notion for New Eden (previously called Planet Strange) around mid 2009. At that stage it was nothing more than a funny little scene in my head of an odd couple, Murray and Hamilton, marooned on a strange planet arguing over who pressed the red button. Inspired by Star Trek and Star Wars it amused me because it was about as far from Roddenberry’s altruism or Lucas’ epic heroism as you could get.


From that first idea I wrote a sketch and then later expanded it out into thirty-odd pages and had it read at my local writers group, Script Tank. After that it kind of just sat there in the back of mind and the bottom of the drawer while I pursue other projects that I thought were more worthwhile. New Eden didn’t stay dormant for long though. I picked it up again when I started to develop it as a low-fi live action + vfx web series with a comedy director mate of mine back in Australia. Due to nobody’s fault that didn’t pan out but it did help kick along New Eden’s development.

From there I decided to develop it as an animated web series. I advertised for an animator, tried out a few and finally found Freek Van Haagen, a Dutch animator and illustrator. Freek’s take on the characters grabbed me instantly and over the period of 2-3 months we talked and shunted sketches and scripts back and forth as we developed New Eden further. It took a while for us to both feel each other out but it has been great to discover that we have the same taste in comedy and can be brutally honest with each other, which is vital in any creative working relationship.

It was about the end of February when we discovered we were ready to start work on our five minute pilot, which was daunting and I was beginning to wonder if we had bitten off more than we could chew. Nevertheless I pushed ahead, held some auditions for voice actors and managed to secure my dream cast and quickly found myself re-inspired by their enthusiasm and excitement for the project.

At every turn I keep finding more and more reasons to do New Eden than not and this spirit of just cracking on has filled me an incredible amount of joy and satisfaction. All it has cost Freek and myself to date is our own time, energy and enthusiasm. I have a cast of great comedic actors who are not only happy to donate their time but also champing at the bit to record their characters and a great sound designer who I worked with on my radio sketches who is equally excited for the opportunity and kind enough to donate his time and energy as well.

Coming from a TV production background and as someone who grew up always writing and making stuff, this has been the first time in a long while that I’ve felt like my two halves (writing and production) have been able to come together. As I mentioned in my last blog post, nowadays there is more opportunities and less barriers than ever before for people to see their work realised and I personally can’t endorse this approach enough to anyone who’s considering it.

I would never knock back any opportunities that came my way but at the moment it just feels right to be doing this now. One of my goals this year was to “get work finished and out into the world” and all I can think is that sometimes the best opportunities are the ones you create yourself.

Freek and I have a production plan and style in place that will allow us to roll out episodes in a timely fashion and both see great potential in the project. At the moment we are having a blast working on the storyboards and discussing the finer points of pratfalls, comic timing and how best to pull off a vomit gag!

My aim for New Eden is to see it picked up, go to series and to get people paid. From there I hope that it can be a showcase piece that will lead to more work and more opportunities for everyone. So you can expect more posts about New Eden over the coming year as I continue to share my joy of this crazy process.

Roger & Val, Him & Her, Tessa & Adam

6, September 2010

For those wondering, yes Tessa & Adam is still going ahead. I’m in the process of finishing up writing episodes but have been side-tracked with some other opportunities and pitches I’ve had come my way, so I’ve been bashing away furiously on them.

A couple of new UK television comedies have popped up lately investigating the intimate nature of relationships that play in the same sandpit as Tessa & Adam and are worth mentioning.

Roger and Val Have Just Got In – A new Dawn French comedy vehicle with her playing off Alfred Molina. Very English, very bittersweet, very real – all in a good way.

Dawn French and Alfred Molina, two of the nation’s best loved actors, star in this new six-part series focusing on the everyday, seemingly trivial trials and tribulations faced by a middle-aged married couple. The bittersweet comedy looks at how they get on in the first half an hour after walking through their front door. Developed from an original idea by Dawn French, the series is written by Emma and Beth Kilcoyne (Dogtown).

In between the comic situations peppered throughout the episodes the series story arc is creeping in more and more, which is very tragic and heartbreaking, so it feels like it’s morphing into a drama more and more with each passing episode. You can read a BBC Comedy blog on it here.

Him & Her – A new young couple sitcom premiering tonight (Mon, 6th Sept) on BBC Three at 10:30pm:

Steve (Russell Tovey) and Becky (Sarah Solemani) are Him & Her – a young couple deeply in love, often in bed and rarely in employment. Content to commit days on end to little more than eating, drinking and lazing around the pair are happy just to exist, doing their best to avoid the world beyond their flat and only occasionally letting life find them at home to visitors. Written by Stefan Golaszewski, Him & Her is an anti-romantic comedy. It lifts the lid on love as it really is – warts and all with farts, bickering and toast.

I see Tessa & Adam as being a younger sexy version of Roger and Val and even Outnumbered to a degree, which I love, so I’m interested to seeing how Him & Her plays as I think we’re talking about some of the same things. Of course Tessa & Adam is web and Him & Her is television and there are other defining differences as well, so I’m not worried … not yet at least.

Anyhoo, that’s it, back to work!

reflections on script tank reading of ‘tessa & adam’

4, June 2010

As I mentioned in my last post, I had a couple of episodes of my web sitcom ‘Tessa & Adam’ read as part of a “short works” night at Script Tank on Wednesday and I’m pleased to say I’m very happy with the result.

I got to test out my new pilot as well as another ep that I have worked up. Just hearing it read was valuable enough because it allowed me to quickly weed out the lines that weren’t needed or didn’t work and tighten both scripts up as a whole, which I am always happy to do.

Building on the feedback from my last reading and this most recent reading I’ve now been able to refine my synopsis and the parameters for what makes a ‘Tessa & Adam’ episode:

Tessa & Adam follows the idiosyncratic antics of British lad Adam and his Dutch expat girlfriend Tessa. Capturing their clash of culture, love, life and sex the show reveals just how odd someone can appear once you start sharing your life with them.

  1. It’s observational comedy- finding comedy in intimate ‘truths’ or small moments within a relationship
  2. It’s about discovery – finding out just how odd someone can be once you start living with them
  3. The hook/comic situation needs to be set up ASAP – the first page if possible. If not, open with a joke
  4. Tessa and Adam must always have opposing goals or points of views within each episode to create the greatest amount of comic conflict
  5. The twist more often than not comes from some sort of reversal or reveal related to the characters
  6. Tessa and Adam are equals and must always be able to hold their own, no matter the situation
  7. The stakes may appear low but that doesn’t mean that what is going on in each ep isn’t vitally important to them in that moment
  8. Tessa and Adam have a real and loving relationship – their fidelity and commitment to one another is never in jeopardy
  9. Each episode is self contained and must be resolved at the end

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On another note, I also got my Channel 4 Coming Up submission in this week, early even, which makes a difference already to last year. I was also far less stressed this time around because I really believe in my writing samples (episodes of ‘Tessa & Adam’) and had a clear synopsis/pitch that I re-worked and re-worked over several weeks.

To celebrate I went out for fish and chips and a midday pint on Abbey Road. Nice!

So with Coming Up completed it’s back to the keyboard to bash out some more ‘Tessa & Adam’ episodes and mulling over my potential entry for this year’s Red Planet Prize:

Each year the Prize is slightly different, to provide a fresh challenge for those who enter – and to reflect the difficulties faced by professional script writers.

This year’s competition is for an original 60 minute television script, either a single play or a pilot for a new series. You are initially required to submit the first ten pages along with a short synopsis.  The full script should be available on request, you may be required to submit this within a month of the final closing date.

As before, the winner will receive £5000, a script commission and the option of representation if required.
Red Planet and Kudos will also mentor finalists for the Prize.The competition is open to anyone within the UK. The RED PLANET PRIZE with close to new entrants at midnight on 31st July.

another upcoming reading of ‘tessa & adam’

29, May 2010

This coming Wednesday I’m having another couple episodes of my web sitcom ‘Tessa & Adam‘ read, this time at Script Tank, as part of a night of short works:

This week’s reading is a Shorts Night, featuring our usual cornucopia of short pieces, extracts, ideas and pitches, headlined by ‘My Belarussian Wife’ (probably)’ by Terry Squibb.

Toby is about to collect his new Belarussian fiancee Masha and her son Kolya from the airport. She thinks he lives in the large house of which he showed her a picture when he met her in Minsk. In fact he is only the lodger of his uncle Ted. Toby did not intend to deceive her – he showed her the photo over a romantic meal, and pointed out his room, but he has now an uneasy feeling that she did not quite grasp the fact that it was not his house.

Toby is determined to make a success of his relationship with Masha, but worried about her initial reaction when she arrives. He persuades his uncle Ted to allow him to pose as the owner for a while, but how to explain Ted’s presence? Ted, keen amateur actor, fishes out a  butler’s costume, and lends Toby his Mercedes to go to the airport.

All this plus a new short play from Ben Francis, two more episodes of Brett Snelgrove’s web-sitcom, and an eight-minute sketch.  There may be some space for more short pieces, so please contact me if you’ve got anything.

The reading starts at 6:45 for 7:00, above the Blue Posts pub, Rupert Street, nearest tube Leicester Square.  There’s a £3 charge per session.

The last reading I had was with the London Comedy Writers back in January. Since then I’ve had plenty of time to solidify the style and format for the project and have been bashing out re-writes and new episodes like a crazy man.

I’m looking forward to hearing how my new pilot episode plays as well as a new ep that I’ve recently put together. For me this whole script reading process has been instrumental in the development of ‘Tessa & Adam’ and my writing in general. It’s a wonderful safe environment where you can hear what hits the mark, what falls flat and get well considered constructive criticism all for the price of a couple of quid and a beer! What’s not to love about that?

links for new media producers

3, May 2010

I came across this interview on NewTeeVee the other day, Five Questions With… The Guild’s Kim Evey, which I thought was worth sharing. Kim Evey is the producer of Felicia Day’s uber successful The Guild, so she’s someone worth listening to.

Reading this inspired me to share something else that I recently came across, New Mediacracy, from the team behind Epic-Fu. Zadi and Steve’s New Mediacracy podcasts run kinda long (usually over an hour) but it’s worth it to get the skinny directly from the web video luminaries they have on the show.

It also reminded me of Tim Street’s e-book “Ten Things You Should Do Before You Upload Your Video”. No matter what you think of Frenchmaid TV, Tim Street knows what he’s talking about when it comes to monetising online video and his e-book is a wonderfully simple blueprint for planning and distributing online videos.

Five Questions With… The Guild’s Kim Evey

1. What’s the one big issue/law/attitude/restriction that you think is holding back the industry?

For web series in particular I would like to see people stop thinking in terms of old media models for driving viewership. Old media would have tried to change the pilot episode of The Guild to increase the show’s marketing appeal to whatever demographic it deemed the most likely for success (probably 18-34 year old male gamers). New media is the opposite — it’s niche marketing that allows instant access to people who build their own communities based on common interests, often regardless of demographics rather than because of them.

New Mediacracy

New Mediacracy is a casual conversation in the form of an audio podcast about the world of web video featuring industry producers, directors, writers, and other content creators.

Tim Street |  eBooks10 things you should do before you upload your online video

©2009 Tim Street http://1TimStreet.com  Copyright holder is licensing this under the Creative Commons License.

If you are new to online video or just want to have a check list to run through to make sure you can get the most out of your videos take a look at this free eBook that explains 10 Things You Should Do Before You Upload Your Online Video.


For more information be sure to check out my blogroll for people who are also worth following.

quick update

26, March 2010

Sorry for the silence of late.

I’ve been busy going through the joys of moving house, nearly there, as well as working all odd hours at my day job.

But there has been some interesting developments on my web series ‘Tessa & Adam’, which I’ll report on later as well as new opportunities that have recently come my way.

When there’s more to report you’ll be the first to know! 😉