Film Syrup interviewed Co-Founder & Writer/ Director of Congested Cat Productions, Christina Raia, hoping to bring to the surface this resourceful production company’s in-progress projects and creative motives. Read the following series of questions that Film Syrup presented to this independent filmmaker. Congested Cat Productions, based in the New York City area, is made up of an inspiring team of young creatives, including Raia.
Film Syrup (FS): Among the short films you are currently working on, which do you foresee your audiences receiving best, relating to most closely, and responding to through social media, writing, etc.?
Christina Raia (CR): I think both shorts, “Not Our Living Room” and “We Had Plans,” will appeal to our audience, but the latter may resonate more with the audience we’ve acquired from our past collaborative work, “Kelsey.” Our fan base for the series was predominately female and within that mostly comprised of lesbians. I think the “Kelsey” fans appreciated that we created a series centered on a lesbian whose sole existence was not wrapped around her sexual orientation. Yes, that was a prominent aspect of her identity, but she was an individual with experiences and emotions that all people go through, who also happened to be gay. We believe in portraying people as people, and expect our audience to look at them that way, and relate to them on an emotional level. We don’t do caricatures or stereotypes. We aim to do the same with both of these shorts. However, since “We Had Plans” is about sisters (while “Not Our Living Room” is about brothers), where one is a lesbian, I believe it’ll draw in our audience a little more.
FS: What are your long term creative goals in your management at CongestedCat Productions, LLC? What message do you wish to send to audiences? Do you think this message has previously been achieved?
CR: CongestedCat Productions started as a branded umbrella for me and my collaborators to produce and release our creative content. However, in the three years that we’ve been around, we’ve evolved more into a company that believes in unifying and empowering independent film and filmmakers. We believe in creating and showcasing innovative and original content, not just by ourselves but by our peers as well. This is how our free monthly film screening series, IndieWorks, got started. Ultimately, we believe in portraying and giving voices to underrepresented individuals, both in terms of the content creators and content created. I do believe that is something that sets us apart from other production companies or teams because not many that I’ve encountered have made diversity and challenging social norms a priority.
FS: What components of your company do you feel are very essential to the industry it is based in? Is there a gray area where film meets business that takes away from creativity, or that makes business more creative?
CR:Our company was started not as a way to profit, but as a way to create. So, for us, artistic merit and creativity comes first and then it’s a matter of figuring out our strategy in gaining funding and/or an audience for each individual project. I personally never aspired to be on the business side of film but no one was knocking on my door offering to bring my work to fruition; so I had to create that opportunity for myself. Because of this, it’s been a bit of a steep learning curve for me since founding the company three years ago. However, all the team members (we like to think of ourselves as a team rather than just a company) are under 28 years old, which I think benefits us because we’re sort of coming up in this new generation of film making and film technology. We’re very aware of the more traditional methods, but are most open to more innovative ones. Often filmmakers feel pressured to conform to mainstream expectations in terms of creative choices as well more production-based aspects like casting, even in the festival circuit. Since our team aims to make less mainstream, more diverse content, we’re much more into modern digital based distribution platforms and options. For instance, creating a web series worked well with our more youthful appeal and approach both on a creative side as well as in advancing the new-media industry reach of our company.
FS:Where did the name “CongestedCat” derive from? Do you think it influences your interested audiences to view your videos, website, or general media? (Cats are apparently in right now).
CR: I founded CongestedCat Productions with my childhood friend Chris Carroll (who mainly acts as resident photographer and graphic designer within the company). When trying to name the company, we knew we wanted the title to have two C’s to represent our names. We tried to think of what we had in common, and the two things that came to mind were that our zodiac sign is cancer and we both love cats. The former wasn’t so appealing name-wise, so we decided to work with the latter. Chris typed into google “C Cat” and the first thing in the drop-down menu was “congested cat.” Chris said it jokingly and we laughed about it for a while, not seriously expecting to use it. However, the more we said it, the more it grew on us. We felt that when heard, the name would likely not be forgotten by people. Additionally, since the intention was for originality with a touch of familiarity to become a bit of a company trademark, we thought it’d work well because it was offbeat in a way that would force people to presume that the content they’d be seeing from us would be anything but generic or predictable.
Because the name came before we really established the team or the content we’d produce, it has very little to do with our target audience. I suppose if people like cats, though, they may be drawn to viewing our work. Our crowdfunding campaign is under the name ‘CongestedCat Shorts’ in order to attract our already existing audience that associates our company name with the content they enjoyed and supported (most notably “Kelsey” but also my upcoming feature ‘Summit,’ past shorts films or IndieWorks).
FS:Do you think the viewership of short films are majorly different from the viewership of full feature length films? Specifically, how does this question apply to CongestedCat Productions?
CR: I think that traditionally people who enjoyed short films were exclusively filmmakers themselves or cinephile types, while feature films appealed to people across the board. However, with Youtube and Vimeo becoming the norm for how people consume media content, there’s a deeper appreciation, I think, for short form content and the ability to tell a compelling story in a short amount of time. For CongestedCat, this is beneficial because we enjoy short form content and believe it’s a useful way to reach people quickly and effectively. With that said, we do have a plethora of stories and styles we want to convey; so feature films are definitely part of our long-term plans. They’ll be more of passion projects that we’ll choose to work on very selectively, and hopefully be able to build an audience around through our future shorts.
FS: What is the main premise of IndieWorks? What is the viewer turnout like for the screenings at People’s Lounge & Bar?
CR:IndieWorks is a way to showcase and support local filmmakers in New York City, and create a sense of community in an environment that can often be overly competitive and about stepping on each other. Ideologically, we believe in working toward a middle class of indie film where we’re all supporting each other and rising together (while still showcasing what makes us all unique), rather than hoping to be the chosen one in a group of many. So, for us, we wanted to start an event free of the politics and capitalism that tend to overrun the festival circuit and, of course, Hollywood, and create an environment where we can see and appreciate the work of our peers and allow discussions and networking that could spark collaboration and support. We have one screening of 6 films every month and average about 45 people at each event. The weather often plays a part in the turnout. The least we’ve ever had was 30 people. The most was 120 at our 1st year ‘Best of Fest’ screening 2 months ago.
To find out more about CongestedCat Productions & Indieworks: http://www.congestedcat.com/