Independently produced series Just Seen It, which features reviews from USC students and alumni and industry professions reviewing the latest movie and TV releases, is set to make its national debut on PBS on January 16th, a long cry from its start as a Web series. We caught up with creator David Freedman to discuss the Culver City-based show’s expansion to the national market and the challenges with running an independent production operation.
Inspired by Gene Siskel, Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper’s now-defunct series “At the Movies,” Just Seen It reviews the newest films and TV series—advising viewers to either “see it,” “stream it” or “skip it”—and features industry interviews and reviewer rants. After more than 250 Web segments later, Just Seen It made its first television appearance locally on PBS last Fall before the national distribution deal.
Congratulations on getting picked up by PBS nationally. Has the show format changed much since debuting on PBS in Southern California last fall? Have you had to make any adjustments?
Really, not much has changed. After producing the show as a Web series for a year and a half, we had the format and content refined. We fine-tuned the camera angles, the lighting and the production design, but that’s about it.
How did the deal with PBS come about?
After we had been on PBS for about a month and as we were starting to pick up viewership, I contacted two national distributors and asked them to take a look at the show. The National Educational Telecommunication Association (NETA) was the one to pick us up.
Before PBS, Just Seen It was mostly distributed online. Can you describe how you got the word out there about the show and how it grew?
Through social media—using Facebook and twitter and slowly spreading the word about the show. We are also carried on a number of other websites: blip.tv, whysoblu.com, Movie Review Query Engine and Eclipse Magazine and Apple PodCasts, so that helps as well.
How did you come up with the idea for the show?
I was sitting in the cafeteria at USC listening to three students sitting next to me passionately discuss a movie they had just seen—and Just Seen It was born.
Where do you shoot the show? What is a typical shoot like for you and for your reviewers?
The show is shot on a closed set in Culver City every Saturday. A typical half hour show consists of three review segments as well as a DVD pick of the week and a ‘Closer’ segment. I have a wonderful cast and crew. We start the day around 10am and usually wrap at 4pm, which is pretty amazing.
What are the challenges of being an independently produced show?
This is a hard question to answer. Everything is challenging, but the biggest challenge for us now is getting a national sponsor for the show.
Where do you find your reviewers and how did you decide who to pick for the show?
Almost all of them are graduates from USC film school and are now working professionals. We initially put the word out at USC and did a number of rounds of auditions. We have guests reviewers from established outlets as well.
What is your favorite episode or segment?
That’s like asking me which is my favorite child. Every episode and segment is unique but the consistency is that we strive to fair and respectful and provide reviews you can use.
What are some of your favorite movie theatres in Los Angeles?
In the Los Angeles area, Just Seen It can be seen every Saturday on PBS OC on the following channels: Charter Communications 314; Cox Communications 810; Time Warner Cable 235; Verizon FIOS 470; Over the air 50.2; And on pbssocal.org/justseenit.