Q&A with “Hell’s Kitty” Creator

I feel, as an entertainment-related blogger, that it is my duty to showcase new and upcoming web series that catches my eye. So whenever I come across one that I absolutely love, I am going to share it with you, my readers.

Fortunately, for me, the team behind the hilarious “Hell’s Kitty” sent me an email about a month ago to let me know about their series. I watched the first two episodes and after wiping tears of laughter from my eyes, I knew I had to show this one off to the world. So I contacted one of the creators, Nicholas Tana, who answered a few questions for me for this site.

“Hell’s Kitty” is a comedy-horror web series about a possessed cat that makes dating for its owner all but impossible.

Where did you originally come up with the idea for “Hell’s Kitty?”

We wanted to do something to help all these alley cats living in the streets. It gets expensive taking them to the vet. So – we needed to come up with a way to do what we love, making movies, and use what we create to promote the many non-profit cat organizations trying to save these cats. At the same time, I was joking with Denise, the producer, about how my cat has a reputation for being so possessive that she will scratch out – literally – any girl that romantically comes into my life. Denise witnessed this first hand being my roommate. We pondered how many other pet owners suffered the same dilemma. How many relationships were people willing to let go for the sake of their pets? Cats have a reputation for supernatural abilities, and so we considered what would happen if a cat were “truly” possessed? We figured this would make for a great original series, one in which we could parody our favorite horror movies, do what we love to do, and use to promote the many non-profits dedicated to helping cats. The rest is history in the making.

Who is the cat?

This is an amazing story. In fact, I’m working on a children’s book about how I came to acquire, Angel. About four years ago, I found an alley cat in Arizona, where I was living at the time. The cat was pregnant and on the verge of dying from the intense summer heat. My girlfriend, at the time, convinced me to take the cat in. We did and named the cat, Hope, because we were hoping that she would survive.  Well, Hope had her kittens. We gave the kittens to some friend’s, and kept one of them. We kept the runt of the litter, who at first, barely engaged with the other cats, and – eventually – turned out to be the toughest of all three. This kitten had the most innocent face so we named her Angel. However, Angel proved to be quite the devil.

I should have taken it as an omen that the morning that Angel was born – I skipped out to the bank to draw out money, before the bank was closed, and left the bank in such a hurry that I forgot my bankcard. When I got home in time to see Angel come into this world, I called the bank to ask about my card, and the person answering the phone said “I can’t talk right now, we’re being robbed.” The person on the other line hung up the phone, and I was left staring at Angel in the cat box, still bloody from birth, and wondering if what I heard was for real. I knew Angel was destined for strange and interesting things from that moment on. The events of the series were all inspired by real life situations that I experienced my three years living in Los Angeles with my cat, Angel, as I tried to find romance, and she tried hard to convince me that all I need is her.

We’ve always heard that it’s difficult working with children and animals? How difficult was it working with the cat? What was the process you used to get the shots of the cat? 

We were very concerned about this one. In fact, I pitched the idea to Super Delicious, and the development person there loved the scripts but suggested that we do the show as an animated series for Adult Swim because of the obvious challenges working with a cat. However, the producer, Denise Acosta, and I thought it would be super interesting if we could actually pull off utilizing a real cat as well. So – we decided to do some animation and keep the bulk of it live action. The first two episodes proved easier than we imagined. Angel actually took her mark in that first three shot between myself (Nick) and Lisa allowing the Director of Photography on that episode to rack focus on her cute little face, literally, as it comes between us in the frame. Angel was sitting on the couch the whole time before shooting that scene. So we planned on shooting her that way, but once the scene started, Angel took it upon herself to stand up and pose for the camera. It was amazing and so perfect. We even gave her a treat.

Also – it should be said that when the actress playing Lisa (who is really named Lisa by the way, as we’ve indicated, this series is based on true events) goes to pet Angel, she really gets scratched! We added tons of fake blood for effect and humor but the scratching is real. Lisa prepared to be scratched for the scene. She literally gave blood for the part! So while we can boast in earnest that no animals were hurt during the making of this series, we cannot say the same for people. It’s definitely challenging though working with a cat. Still, not much more challenging than working with some actresses. Some actresses can be extremely finicky, and equally demanding. Let’s just say, we have to plan many things around what our star wants and feels like doing, and in exchange, she gives us magic on camera.

What sort of specifics go into making a web series? Who writes the script, gets the actors and shoots the video? 

Many of the same challenges that go into making a regular television series with the added challenges of having – literally – no budget, apply when making a web-series. We imagine what we could do if we could find someone to Executive Produce the series and could bring in some financing, or if we get picked up by one of the many networks making a transition to digital distribution online. However, I come from a TV background having worked in production for over ten years at companies like ESPN and PBS, so I apply those skills in making this series. Denise is studying at LA Film school, and has also worked in news television, and brings that experience to the series as well.

Basically, we divide up most of the tasks. I write the scripts, cast the talent, and animation staff, act, and direct. She finds the production crew, gets the equipment (mostly from her school) and arranges the productions. We both team up on marketing and promoting. I mostly finance, whatever, needs to be financed (food for the productions, and some marketing costs), and we have various people come in to shoot it. The production crew is mainly comprised of film school students from LA Film school. However, the crew has varied. We’ve decided to start pulling in seasoned professionals working in film and television now for key roles to allow the students to learn and to improve speed and production quality. The editor (Gustavo Sampaio) moving forward is a professional moonlighting on our project because he thinks it’s got potential to grow into a great story and series. We have varied our D.P.’s and are starting to work with seasoned professionals as well.

How do you go about promoting your web series? How important is social media? 

Mostly, Denise has handled the promotion though we share in this task when possible. We have been using Facebook, and Twitter, and letting bloggers know about us by sending e-mails, especially those who focus on pets, cats, and horror. Social media these days is essential. The whole entertainment industry is changing right before our eyes. In fact, knowing that television will likely not survive the next five to six years (it’s all going to the web) and wanting to work in entertainment, this web-series is an exercise in working in this new distribution medium, so that we can impress enough people with our abilities to produce quality at a low budget, and to find our audience using social media to find our audience.

When can we expect Episode 3?

We hope to launch episode 3 this Saturday, December 3rd. It is shot and edited. Basically we are waiting for the sound designer to finish before uploading it to the Internet. Our talented sound designer, Christopher Glenn, is busy on several other films – so, we must wait for a time when he can get to our project. He’s promised to deliver it this week. We are shooting episode 4 and 5 this weekend, as well, and have Nina Hartley (Boogie Nights) in a guest role. For those who don’t know Nina, she is a famous porn star from the seventies and eighties; she’s even been on Oprah! Now, Nina Hartley has made a transition into sex education, and comedy. We play with the idea of sex with our title, although there is really no sex in our story.  And so we thought that working with Nina would be a blast. In the future, we hope to get other actors and actresses from various horror movies to make guest appearances. I’ve even recently reached out to Jamie King who appeared in My Bloody Valentine.

Since we hope to use the series to promote non-profits helping cats, we hope celebrities will donate some time to help this cause by participating in our series! Also – we encourage any companies that help cats to reach out to us and send us their logos, and we’ll be happy to promote them as well. We hope to get corporate sponsorship from commercial companies, too, that can promote on our series and sponsor the production of future episodes. In fact, we’re open to any sponsorship. If you know anyone interested, they can reach us on our website:www.mypussyspossessed.com.

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