On a hot August night in Minneapolis,13,000 lucky cat video fans filled the CHS Field stadium for the 4th annual Internet Cat Video Festival. The reel, curated by Will Braden, the creator of the Henri Le Chat Noir videos and recipient of the festival’s first Golden Kitty Award in 2012 handed this year’s award to Alana Grelyak for “Cat Behavior Finally Explained.” Grelyak, a Chicago-based writer, musician, actor is the co-creator with Michael Gabriele of the web series CATastrophes. She co-stars in the web series with actor/comedian Kris Flanagan.
The Grelyak/Gabriele team are on a winning streak for their creative work. In the past year they won the Cat Writers’ Association Muse Medallion for Best Video, The Nose-to-Nose Award for Best Video at Blogpaws and the CatDance Film Festival top prize. Until now, the Golden Kitty proved elusive.
Layla Morgan Wilde: Who came up with the concept for “Cat Behavior Finally Explained” your winning video?
Alana Grelyak: Michael Gabriele, our director, had the idea to do something that was a kind of parody of the Mastercard “priceless” commercials. We worked together to come up with the final tagline so that we could turn it into a strong adoption message.
LMW: Usually your videos have real cats playing roles. How was Cat Behavior Finally Explained different? Was it easier or more challenging to film?
AG: It was definitely easier to film! This film is atypical for us because we focused on the puppet paws, which were CatPaw! toys from Wicked Cool Toys. We didn’t want to make our own cats uncomfortable by trying to stick their paws everywhere, so these little puppet paws were a great way to work around that. We didn’t ask permission to use them, but when Wicked Cool Toys saw how well the video was doing, they wanted to connect with us. Thanks to this video, they ended up donating almost 200 paws to the Kitty Bungalow Charm School for Wayward Cats’ CATbaret on August 1st in Los Angeles so all the sales could go to rescue.
LMW: This was your third year competing at CatVidFest, how have you and your team improved your skills and creative direction?
AG: In 2013, we were nominated and came in Runner Up for the Golden Kitty. In 2014, we were included in the reel but not nominated for any awards. After our first year, we were inspired to start the web series, and after committing to making an episode each week for almost twelve months, we’ve really gotten good at streamlining our process! It’s changed our creative vision for the series, though. Originally, we wanted to have six episodes, with one released every two months, that were all of a longer length and larger production, similar to French CATastrophe or MagiCATastrophe, our first two films of the series. We had to come up with other ideas for formats and adjust things for a web specific audience, so it has really changed our script writing. It’s more about quick concepts versus longer stories.
LMW: You lost winning by a whisker to Grumpy Cat in 2013, how meaningful is this year’s win?
AG: Just a few hundred votes, from what I heard. This year’s win is very meaningful to us. We were thrilled to have a second shot at it and we went all out on our campaign. We definitely couldn’t have won without the help of our awesome audience who jumped right in to vote. We are super touched by all the support!
LMW: The award looks substantial. What is it made of and where will it be displayed?
AG: I think the kitty is metal. It weighs about 12 pounds and will be displayed smack in the middle of our other film awards as the centerpiece. We won best cat video of the year. That’s pretty much the pinnacle for a cat web series.
LMW: How do your cats (who star is your videos) feel about the new golden cat in their home?
AG: Crepes loves it. Louie and Sprinkle keep sneaking up on it and staring at it suspiciously. Peabody and Niles are too cool to care.
LMW: What’s next for the CATastrophes series and your ultimate goal for creating cat videos?
AG: Our ultimate goal is to save lives. If we can do that through our web series, we have succeeded. That requires building a larger audience, a bigger network, and sharing more information. We’d like to find ways to include the faces of more homeless cats in our episodes, so we’re trying to get more creative with technology in order to do that. If rescues want to use our faces or our work to help themselves raise money and rescue more cats, we’re all for it. They are all invited to reach out to us and we will do whatever we can to help.
To view more award-winning films from the CATastrophes team visit CatCATastrophes.com or Alana Grelyak’s blog CatInTheFridge.com
Layla Morgan Wilde is a holistic cat behaviorist, writer and celebrity cat consultant. Her award-winning site, CatWisdom101.com, enlightens and entertains cat lovers one purr at a time.