Local filmmaker Michelle Iannantuono’s (standing) Livescream explores the relationship between a streamer and their viewers | Photo by Celina Odeh

Filmmaker Michelle Iannantuono is blunt about the movie-making process: “There are some elements of pre-production that I kind of hate: financing and location-scouting. Begging people to shoot in their locations is exhausting, as is begging people for money … Quite frankly, I wish I could skip it and just wake up with a fully shot film at the end of a week!”

To make the process a little easier, Iannantuono has turned to Indiegogo and her loyal fanbase to help crowdfund her next feature, Livescreamers, a sequel to her found footage horror hit Livescream. 

Ultimately, all of those aforementioned pre-production anxieties and miserable production stresses that made food and sleep hard to come by proved worthwhile to Iannantuono: “I don’t like making films. I like finishing them. Hitting ‘export’ on that final render in Adobe Premiere is almost the best feeling. But really, the ultimate feeling is showing that finished movie to people. That’s the whole point, after all. I don’t live for an audience, but I do use film to connect to them.”

Livescream (2018) is deceptively simple: a popular streamer starts playing a haunted video game and trouble hits the fan for him and his followers. Right out of the gate, its premiere at the 2018 Crimson Screen Horror Film Festival yielded the film three awards: The Jury Award, Best Actor and the runner-up for Audience Choice.

Iannantuono’s short film Detroit Awakening, a fan film based on the Sony video game Detroit: Become Human, was released on YouTube in March 2019. A year later, she released a follow-up, Detroit Evolution. 

 “It’s probably a tie between winning the Jury Award at Crimson Screen Film Festival for Livescream, or watching the live response to Detroit Evolution the day it came out on YouTube,” Iannantuono said about her favorite moment as a filmmaker. “I’ve won a few awards for Livescream, but that one was my first award ever, and it was the first bit of external validation that people would actually like Livescream. Up until that point, I’d been in such isolation making the film. And it was such a strange film, I didn’t know if anyone would enjoy it.” 

“As for Detroit Evolution, launch day was just phenomenal. I will never have another feeling like that again. We were the number one trending topic on all of Tumblr. We were trending on Russian Twitter. Something like 2,500 people were watching the premiere live. The outpouring of comments and replies and Instagram stories we were all tagged in was utterly overwhelming. For a while I felt the hunger to chase another experience like that, but for now I am content with my memories.” Currently, the film has racked up over 1.5 million views. 

 When the subject turns to her latest project, Livescreamers, she beams. “I knew the next step was to take Livescream’s single player experience and make it multiplayer. So instead of having one guy interacting with his audience, you’ll have an ensemble of gamers interacting with each other.” 

“Livescream was a fond musing on what it was like to be a fan of an internet star, and the powerful, positive relationship between streamers and their fans,” she explained. “Livescreamers comes after four years of me living that life for myself and having a much more mixed perspective on it. I used to only be in the audience chair, and now I’ve been in the streamer’s chair. While it pulls upon elements of the first film, it is not a ‘direct’ sequel. The entire cast is new. Throw out most of what you expect, based on the first movie. The films are firmly in the same world and there are Easter eggs, but you can absolutely watch Livescreamers without seeing Livescream, or watch them in any order.” 

 This time around, Iannantuono was dedicated to casting nine folks who would bring their own unique energy to Livescreamers: “I also wanted to use this film as an opportunity to tackle some commentary on diversity and marginalization in gaming, since Livescream starred a very typical white twenty-something straight dude. So, there are multiple female, BIPOC and queer performers in this cast.”  

 This time, she reunites with her long-time collaborator and CP arts editor Michael Smallwood. Lukas Hassel of The Blacklist and the Shudder exclusive film Slapface is another friend Iannantuono has cast in the film. She’s also bringing Detroit filmmaker MJ Slide into the mix. 

She’s also excited to reunite with two other previous collaborators, Christopher Trindade and Jillian Geurts (Hell House LLC 2), both of whom she directed on Detroit Evolution. Rounding out the cast are newcomers to Iannantuono’s stable of actors: New Yorker Coby C. Oram, Floridian Evan Michael Pearce, and Charleston locals Neoma Sanchez and Anna Lin.

 To find all of Iannantuono’s films and projects, you can head to patreon.com/Octopunkmedia or the Octopunk Media Youtube channel. If you’re interested in checking out the Indiegogo campaign for Livescreamers, it can be found at igg.me/at/livescreamers

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