Christin Baker – Riley Parra
By: Krista Ann Freego
Q) You are the CEO of Tello Films. How would you describe Tello Films to our readers?
A) We are like Netflix for lesbians.
Q) Tello Films started in 2007? HAPPY 10 YRS ANNIVERSARY! What led to the creation of Tello Films? How did you get the idea for Tello Films?
A) Thank you! Thank you very much. The lack of content with lesbian storylines that were available definitely was the impetus to start it. Just having something that you can geek out about and talk with your friends, or at least something that you can see yourself represented that was in a positive way. Love stories (gay or straight), are common storylines in film and TV, but I think there is also something very specific about the lesbian experience. So, we wanted to represent that. We started it right around the time that YouTube was becoming really big. And right around the time that Netflix was starting up. It was around the time of the democratization of making content cheaper, like digital media.
Q) Congratulations on the Emmy Nomination for “secs & EXECS” Actress Mindy Sterling for best Actress in a Short Form Comedy or Drama Series.
A) Yes. Thank you. Thank you. We are very excited and we are doing everything we can to help Mindy Sterling win for us.
Q) Can you tell us a little about “secs & EXECS”?
A) It was written by Stan Zimmerman and James Berg. Directed by Stan Zimmerman. It basically follows Leslie who is coming back after maternity leave, she is an executive. It is her first day back on the job, but it takes it from the perspective of four executives and the perspective of their four assistants. So you see the day in very different ways, taking it from each perspective.
Q) You have been credited as an Executive Producer on 23 projects, Writer on 4 projects and Director on 11 projects. Which role do you like best?
A) I love directing. I realized, especially after Maybelle and Riley Parra. I took a big break during that time and I realized how much I missed it and how much it means to me as a creative process. So I would say that’s my passion, that’s my favorite thing to do.
Q) How did you first get involved in the entertainment industry?
A) I lived out in L.A. in my early twenties and was working for the Writer’s Guild and for a small production company. I have always loved movies and t.v. and storytelling. So I came out here to live in that world. I got really frustrated because there were so many people telling you if you could or couldn’t make something. So, I ended up leaving it and going back into non-profit, but I was always called to be creative so I continued to dip my toe in the water, making fund raising videos, or videos for my family. When YouTube became more digital and accessible, that’s when I got back into it full time.
Q) Tello Films has made it a point to promise to never have programming that ends with the death of a lesbian character, why did you make this promise to your viewers?
A) We did that at the very beginning. My co-founder and I (she is no longer with the company), decided that early early on. It was specifically after the movie with Piper Perabo, where she has the hawk, Lost and Delirious. I was so angry at how they treated that character, and this was before the lesbian deaths on television. I always said that “I’m not going to have that happen”, no lesbian deaths on tello, because I think it sends a horrendous message. So that was at the very beginning of tello. So when someone asked “will you take the Lexa Pledge”, we were founded on the Lexa Pledge before anyone knew what Lexa was. I have actually had to tell some people who would submit a short to me “look this is really great, but the lesbian kills herself at the end. So we can’t distribute it”. I had this one producer get so mad at me saying: “This is truth. This is what happened to women back in …” and I said “You are right and that is truth, but we just aren’t going to put it on our website”.
Q) The current political climate, as it is. What if any effect has that had on Tello Films and what you are trying to do?
A) Earlier I would have said none. It just makes us more committed, but I don’t know if you saw recently that we actually had our site go down? We think it had something to do with all of that. Not because of us specifically, but because of the people who host us. I am very proud of them, they declined to give the IP addresses of people visiting an Anti-Trump site. It just gives me something creative to turn to when I get frustrated. It is a good outlet.
Q) I had the pleasure to meet you and listen to you present at ClexaCon in 2017. Do you have any plans to attend ClexaCon in 2018?
A) Yes. We are another proud sponsor of ClexaCon. We are absolutely going to be there. I just met with Danielle and Ashley the other day and I am very excited to be part of it again. I think we are going to be on some panels. I think one of our projects might be there. We love ClexaCon! We love what it does and what it means! We support it now as much as we can!
Q) You are doing Pitch to Production, which I think is so amazing that you are trying to support new creators. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
A) Thank you. One of the people that I met at ClexaCon ended up winning this year. The project was Passage. We always run that in the summer. We used to be able to take open submissions and say “hey if you have a great idea send it to us”, because so many places don’t. We have gotten to the point where we can’t take unsolicited material anymore. So, that is our opportunity when someone is like “I have a great idea and I want you to help me make it” now we can say, “here is where you can submit to us”.
Q) On August 20, 2017, Tello Films released the first episode of the new series, Riley Parra, (of which you are both Executive Producer/one of the Writers for 2 episodes/Director) what can you tell us about this new series?
A) I threw my name on two episodes, because even though Geonn (Geonn Cannon) wrote most of it, I came over and rewrote a couple with him. I just love Riley Parra so much! It took us four years to get to this point. I believe that it wouldn’t have been this good if we had done it earlier. The people that we got to be in it and the crew that we got, made it beautiful and amazing. We got to have cool things that we are doing with special effects. We were able to make this because we took that much time. I think our fans are going to love it! I just think it is a great story for our community.
Q) How did that come about? Did the writer approach you or did you come across his writing?
A) It was a fan of both of ours on twitter who was like “hey you should send in one of your scripts.” Geonn, ended up reaching out to me and I said “well send me a script. Take your book and make it into a script and I’ll read it”. I loved the concept. I was like, “oh my gosh this is like Buffy, Rizzoli and Isles, Castle all rolled into one. Where do I sign”?
Q) What was the most challenging part of filming?
A) I think it was going to set every day and making sure we were doing justice to Geonn’s vision. You always want to make sure that you are honoring the source material you are getting the story from. Overarching, that was the hardest thing, but that is really it. Everyone was just amazing. We had an amazing crew and amazing actors. They were all in! They were all just fantastic!
Q) What is one thing you learned from working on Riley Parra that you will carry forward with you to future projects?
A) I learned a lot about using a green screen and special effects. I learned that I love being surrounded by creative powerful women. I will never do a project without having them around me. Kitty Swink Co-Producing with me and Shannan Leigh being an AD. I felt like we were just like this amazing, creative powerful force. Who no matter what, we were going to get the job done and it was going to be high quality. It the same when I work with Bridget McManus- these awesome creative women.
Q) Are there any plans for a Season 2 of Riley Parra?
A) Season 2 and 3 are already written. What we are basically hoping is that our subscription numbers show enough interest to help fund it. So that is pretty much where we are. I would love to have a Season 2. I hope we do have one. It’s written. The people who are going to come on board and have already said yes, are amazing! It is essentially, now do the numbers make sense? It looks good, but we are not where we need to be for a season 2. But, again, we have only had one episode. If the subscriptions prove out, we are definitely going to do a season 2 and a season 3, actually.
Q) What are the current costs of your subscriptions right now?
A) It is $4.99 a month. We do have currently, until September, if you use the code RILEY, you get 20% of your first month’s subscription.
Q) Do you have anything in place where someone can gift a subscription?
A) We don’t have that right now. We can do it on the backend. I need to figure out how we can have people buy a gift certificate. I think we have the ability to do that. We just figured out how to do the coupon codes. That is the next thing we are going to work on.
Q) I wrote a feature on Riley Parra for StarryMag. You were kind enough to give me access to the full first season of Riley Parra (thank you for that). There was a smaller character in there, Willa, who was just so captivating…
A) Yes. I read that. You were the one interested in seeing her backstory. We were so lucky to get Whitney Mixter to come on board. I have to tell you, that comment started to make me think a little bit. So I just want you to know, I don’t have her written into Season 2 or 3. But, I kind of started thinking about what would Wilma’s backstory be? I like that idea, so we might do a little something with that. I don’t know. I totally was like “that’s a really interesting thought process”. I liked it. She is such a player too, you know. I’m putting that in my back pocket. So if you see something, know you inspired it.
Q) A lot of web series are doing Indiegogo campaigns. In addition to subscriptions, is there anything that fans can do to help support and fund Tello Films?
A) Telling friends is a huge help. We are probably going to have to do another campaign for Seasons 2 and 3, because we want to do it justice. If you want to, subscribe, that would be amazing. Tell your friends. Think about when we do launch it, helping out monetarily. We usually have really cool perks that we love giving out. That is always just super helpful.
Q) Is there anything else you would like our readers to know?
A) Yes, that with every subscription, the net goes back to helping make more content. When you subscribe to Tello, you are able to get original lesbian content that you can’t get anywhere else. But, it also goes back to the filmmakers, who make the content. In the hopes that they will be able to make more or at least make money back. It truly is a way to help make more content that people really want to see. I am a big Wynonna Earp fan. People are always like “make sure you get the numbers. Make sure you DVR. Make sure you watch it”. That is great and I love that people want to know what action steps can be taken. This is an absolute direct way that helps us to continue to make more content for our community.