Locals pursue creative expression, 'dream jobs' on the internet

Locals pursue creative expression, 'dream jobs' on the internet (Photo credit: WLOS staff)

ASHEVILLE, N.C. -- "I've been working in film for like six years, and when I came here it was really hard to find work," said Andrew Vasco, director of the Asheville-based web series, Transplanting. "Being in Asheville, it's been a lot more of 'if you can't find work, just make it yourself.'"

Vasco and partner Lea McLellan launched the first 12-episode season six months ago. Vasco says it's been viewed about 30,000 times according to web analytics, and it was chosen as an Official Selection at both the Miami Independent Film Festival and the 2015 NY Comedy Shorts Festival.

"It's a show about a twentysomething young woman who moves to Asheville from New York City," said McLellan, who moved south from Boston and writes the show. "This season, we have maybe 40 actors and ten crew members."

All of the staff are volunteers and Vasco and McLellan paid the costs of filming last season out-of-pocket. They launched a successful crowdfunding campaign to cover most of the expenses for the second season, which wrapped up filming in May.

Despite the accolades and thousands of views, McLellan is still working multiple jobs and the show has yet to turn a profit. The pair spend hours shooting, writing, editing and producing Transplanting because they're passionate about it, and say they'd like to build a career around filmmaking.

"My ideal job would be writing for Transplanting and getting paid for it," said McLellan while on a break from filming a scene for season two at downtown Asheville's French Broad Food Co-op. "I think that new medium is really allowing people to express themselves in a way that maybe they just weren't able to before, because before there were these gatekeepers, and now there aren't. You can just put things on the internet and see what happens."

Watch the Transplanting episodes online here.

Turning online passion projects into sustainable careers is a challenge. As more people post content online, the internet has become a space for ambitious and hard-working people with big dreams to have their work seen--or heard.

"I've got a face made for podcasting," said Finding Asheville podcast host Benny Whitaker one Tuesday in May. "It really is kind of a dream job. I get to just talk with people, which is--I love talking to people." But, he admits, "if we got paid it would definitely be better."

Whitaker produces the hour-long digital audio show with co-host Emily Trimnal. For each episode, the pair interviews compelling local characters including entrepreneurs, business owners, activists and musicians.

Trimnal says the show has been downloaded about 120,000 times since the series launched in 2013, but has yet to turn a profit.

"Not yet. We're working on it. We're working on it," said Whitaker, before adding (with a laugh), "So if anyone's interested in advertising, please let us know."

The main way amateur filmmakers or creators can make money off of original internet content is through advertising. Many websites offer users the option to post ads on the edges of pages, run pop-up ads when a user moves to a site, or play commercials before a video airs.

"I do make money off of it. Yes, you can make money and you do it through Google AdSense, and Google puts ads on your videos," said Tommy, who declines to make public his last name but posts on YouTube using the handle TommyNC2010. "You can make money off of YouTube, and you can be successful at it just by making content."

Tommy has five million page views, and many of his videos are watched hundreds of thousands of times.

"It's been my biggest dream to be an entertainer, to inspire people, to help them," said Tommy from Black Mountain Bistro, a restaurant in Black Mountain.

He has autism, and his goal is to encourage young people with the disability to be brave. "There's lots of kids out there that have autism. They don't come out and say it because they're afraid that they're going to be shut down, so to tell them, 'Hey, you have a voice, you know it's not about how you look it's about what you do'."

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Tommy and friend Hamza post an average of two or three videos on Tommy's YouTube channel every week. He's been posting for four years, and the pair say they're expecting their first check in the mail any day now.

They hope to begin making a couple hundred dollars each month.

"You don't have to be in California, and that's why I call YouTube 'YouHollywood,'" he said.

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