Steph’s LA Weekly Web Series Pick of the Week: The Program

Oscar Nuñez  and Maria Bamford in The Program

Oscar Nuñez and Maria Bamford in The Program, photo credit Mandee Johnson, FOD

“I’m Peace. I have a Ph.D. in medieval studies. Which means I owe $200,000 in student loan debt at 49 percent interest rate! Whoops,” Maria Bamford quips as she introduces herself and the other endearingly in-debt characters in her new Funny or Die series, The Program.

Bamford and fellow L.A. comedian Melinda Hill co-wrote the show, which follows the journey of five members of a 12-step, Debtors Anonymous program. The two came up with the idea while carpooling to various Anonymous meetings that they “may or may not” have attended in L.A.

Read the rest of Stephanie’s review of The Program in her column about the best series on the web in the LA WEEKLY. Watch The Program on FunnnyOrDie.  And check out with her full interview with Maria and Melinda below.

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Steph’s LA Weekly Web Series Pick of the Week: Bad Timing – Full Interview with Andy Goldgenberg

You’re the nebbishy, bumbling IT guy. She’s the hottest girl in the office, maybe the planet. Under no circumstances is she ever going to have a candlelit romantic dinner with you. OK, maybe one circumstance: You both survive the Zombocalypse.

Check out Steph’s full review of Andy Goldenberg’s refreshingly blood-soaked take on the “odd couple on an island” web series in her LA Weekly column HERE. And continue reading below for her full interview with Goldenberg about making the show.

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Howie Kremer (Community, Trophy Wife) Throws Down Mad Knowledge about Making His Latest Hilarious Web Series: Uh, Hey Dude

After working in the writers rooms of shows like Community, Hello Ladies, and now Trophy Wife, comedy writer Howie Kremer now has his own series – on the Internet: Uh, Hey Dude. Betsy Sodaro (Animal Practice), Joe Wengert (Playing House) and Tracy Meyer (Hello Ladies) in this slice-of-life, female-centric comedy about three hilarious friends and a whole lot of relatable ‘nothing’. Ala Seinfeld, Uh, Hey Dude explores the small awkward moments that affect us all — like universal experience running into a mutual acquaintance with your friends, and NO ONE being able to remember their F*%#* name. And then they invite you to their birthday party.

Check out Kremer’s hilarious, insightful answers below as to how he created and executed the show and all the steps in between. You can watch more at www.Uhheydude.com

You’ve worked a lot in the TV world. What did you learn from the writers’ room or on set that you carried over into creating your own web series?

EVERYTHING. EVERYTHING and EVERYTHING!

Being in a writers’ room has helped my writing tremendously. Not only have I been lucky enough to be in writers’ rooms, I’ve been in the funniest, weirdest, craziest, smartest, and most lovely writers rooms ever. Each experience has helped me unlock something that has led me to be able to make UHD.

Doing my episode of TROPHY WIFE also helped SO MUCH for UHD. Being onset as a writer, and working with KEN MARINO who directed my episode, was such an incredible learning experience. It helped me with so many things: writing ON THE FLY — when a scene wasn’t working and me and Sarah Haskins had to rewrite a speech for Malin, or when a joke could be beat and you had a few minutes before it shot to write an ALT to camera set ups, lighting, sound, editing and more.

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AMERICAN KOKO – Web Series Spotlight by TW Guest Writer: Lorelei Ignas

Ever wonder what would happen if Spike Lee and Christopher Guest had a brainchild who wrote a character-driven procedural web series?  Meet Diarra Kilpatrick, creator, writer and star of American Koko, a web series that follows Akosua Miller (Kilpatrick) and her fellow gumshoe “Race Detectives” at the E.A.R. (Everyone’s a Little Racist) agency.

On the surface a procedural about sleuthing out racism and racial ignorance in everyday political incorrectness, American Koko uses its equal-opportunity offensive sense of humor to highlight the many ways in which racism is pre-programmed into today’s American society — an objective that’s flipped delightfully on its head when Main Character Akosua falls for (gasp) a white guy.  Using the microcosm of an 8th grade musical to earnestly yet satirically ask “what’s the appropriate level of blackness?” — and then actually waiting for an answer — is no easy feat.  But, as Diarra so succinctly says, “you can talk about anything if it’s clever and it’s funny, and if you approach it with some irreverence.”

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Diarra and director Miles Orion Feld (both repped by CAA) to drink iced tea, discuss TV, race, making a web series, and the inspirations behind this exciting new serialized-procedural web series, whose humor manages to somehow be both irreverent, indeed — but also equal-opportunity offensive.

How would you define your use of the term “post-racial America” for dumb white folks?

D: When Obama was elected people were trying to peddle this idea that there was no race issue anymore, this was a cornerstone of how far we’d come.  a) we haven’t’ gone that far, we still have a long way to go b) I’m not actually interested in a “post-racial America.”… people’s culture and ethnicity is exciting information about who they are… it’s all a way in which we celebrate life.  Everyone’s culture shapes how they specifically celebrate life… I’m interested in how people do that in their own particular way.  I don’t want to live in a world that’s just beige.

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Steph’s LA Weekly Web Series Pick of the Week: LARPs: The Series

Following in the footsteps of Felicia Day’s hit web series The Guild, sleek, smart Canadian web series LARPs brings to life an endearing cast of characters from yet another oft-ridiculed ‘nerd’ sub-culture: Live Action Role Playing.

Hollywood loves to throw a LARPer into the cast whenever they need an aspersers nerdy escapist, ie Christopher Mintz-Plasse in Role Models, but the LARPing community of hundreds of thousands in the  US alone is, of course, far more nuanced. Read the rest of my LA Weekly Review of LARPs HERE, and check out my full interview with Director Julian Stamboulieh and writer/actor Jon Verrall about creating the show below.

 

Do you have an advice on anything from the conceiving to the writing to the shooting to the promoting of web series — things you learned that you wish you had known before?

JULIAN: The web is a free platform to showcase work. For some reason, most people take the word “free” as an excuse to cut corners and produce low-quality content. Take the budget, time and stress that one would usually dedicate to dealing with broadcasters and large production companies, and reinvest it into creating the best possible work you can, as it will be representing you to the potential millions of viewers we all are hoping for.

That being said, my three key suggestions are:

1) Spend as much time in pre-production as possible (for both script and organization), as an extra week of planning will cost significantly less money wasted than an avoidable production mishap.

2) Sound is the most overlooked, underappreciated aspect of production. Beautiful visuals can make a movie, but poor sound can so easily break it.

3) You can have 5-star actors, an amazing camera with a talented DOP, and the most amazing script for an established director to interpret, but if a cast and crew are hungry, the set will be one of pure anger and misery. A well-fed team is imperative to a smooth production. And I don’t mean pizza and beer, I mean healthy energy foods.

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Steph’s LA Weekly Web Series Pick of the Week: The Beauty Inside — Rediscovered!

Every morning, Alex (Topher Grace) wakes up in a new body. Some days he’s a virile, chisel-jawed man; others, a prepubescent girl or an overweight hipster. Some days he can speak only Mandarin. The pain of his predicament hits home when we see that he has to measure his feet every morning to find shoes, or when he wakes up next to his sexual conquest of the night before, only to find himself a withered octogenarian.

This is the premise of The Beauty Inside, a breathtaking six-episode series that follows Alex as he tries to woo Leah (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), a young antique-store owner. Unlike the steadfast antique pieces they both love, Alex’s appearance changes daily, rendering their love impossible.  Read the rest of my article here…

Jacqui Rego Talks With the Ladies of Hit NYC Web Series – Hot Mess

If schadenfreude came dressed in a yellow mini-dress and heralded from Kansas it would be Amy Kersten at the season three premiere of her digital-series, Hot Mess. Hot Mess is scripted non-fiction, the real stories of real NYC women keep together one post-it note at a time. This post Sex in the City, pre-Lena Dunham series was first hatched in 2007, and it’s come a long way baby.

NYC 2007 – Amy and I were roommates: two straight girls, two gay boys and two cats in a one-bedroom railroad apartment in a 4th floor walk-up in Brooklyn. We kept our sanity and the bed bugs at bay by playing “Enya cover band” with wooden spoons and pots in our kitchen. We laughed, because here’s the thing that can’t be conveyed in an HBO show. NYC is so inconvenient, physically uncomfortable, hot, sticky, and deeply human – that the only way to keep it together is to embrace the ridiculous. Community is forged in “Fire”, literally – I did a turn in an episode of that same name when our oven exploded.

Now ingrained in Hot Mess lore is the story of the seed money that birthed season one, compensation after a giant television fell on Amy’s head on Halloween while working at NYC’s poshest health club. The universe seemed to be whispering (loud enough to shake televisions from the sky) real life is funny. Soon Amy hooked up with co-conspirator Cheri Paige Fogleman and the series took off.

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Steph’s LA Weekly Web Series Pick of the Week: NOT LOOKING

HBO’s Looking offers audiences a cast of complex, gay male characters whose lives are just as mundane and confusing as the rest of ours. Funny or Die’s Not Looking does the same, only it’s way freaking funnier. After Looking’s trailer left Jason Looney and Jeremy Shane feeling flat, they decided to shoot an L.A.-based parody trailer with a dash more Girls and Sex and the City. The hilarious Drew Droege and Justin Martindale rounded out the cast. Read Steph’s full review in the LA Weekly film section this week and check out her full interview with hilarious co-writer/creator/star of Not Looking, Jason Looney, below. What are your thoughts on the HBO show Looking? What does it do right? What does it do wrong? What would you like to see? A lot of people in the gay community miss Sex and the City. The characters were so easy to identify with and they were fun.  I like saying “I’m like the Carrie” or “You’re the Samantha,” but saying that has gotten old and I was looking for Looking to give me some new fun characters to latch on to. I wanted a show where I could say “I’m the Patrick or you’re the Dom.”  If I were on the dance floor at Mickey’s and someone were to call me the Patrick or the Dom it would just make me sad. Michael Lannan has created a beautiful show with a beautiful cast of talented actors and it has its place, but I still miss Carrie and Samantha.

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Steph’s LA Weekly Web Series Pick of the Week: Wimpole Street

How did your background as a playwright influence the writing?

Short ‘webisodes’ are obviously very different from stageplays, but they both rely on good plotting, dialogue and structure. When I write a play I make sure I know my characters and I have a sense of structure before I even start writing – I did the same for Wimpole Street.

What web series do you like/what influenced you in the making of the show?

My friend Philip Whiteman made the series The Vessel. I loved the show, and he really inspired me to make a series of my own. He was so passionate about the web world – it was infectious.

How did you get such gorgeous costumes and set design?

My co-producer Rhiannon, who is also an actress, was in a play at the National Theatre (London) when we first started rehearsing and told me that the National also rented out old costumes. Every costume you see was once on the National theatre stage! Liz Evans, our costume supervisor, helped to choose the costumes, and our brilliant costume designer Emily Barratt made some other bits and pieces, and also designed everyone’s hair. Frances White, our production designer, really researched 1870 London and thought about every detail – from the Aspidistra in the background to the Victorian copper pots.

Catherine Skinner and Sam Wilkin as Gertrude and Matthew in Wimpole Street

Catherine Skinner and Sam Wilkin as Gertrude and Matthew in Wimpole Street

What was it like acting in the piece as Daisy? How did you get the right accent down?

It was so much fun playing Daisy, she’s so sweetly clueless – so inept, and yet so sure she knows what she’s doing. It was just fun. I didn’t want her accent to be too broad- just enough to suggest that she worked below stairs – a mild cockney.

Would you consider this a full comedy or a comedy/mystery? What influenced the tone and how would you describe it?

I see it predominately as a comedy -with a bit of mystery in the plot. I loved the British version of ‘The Office’ – what impressed me was the subtlety of the comedy – the way the characters gave themselves away without knowing it. I think Wimpole’s tone is softer and less acerbic, but hopefully that subtlety and nuance is still there.

When directing the piece, how did you get all your actors on the same page tonally? Did you use Downton Abbey as a touchstone or other comedies or dramas?

We rehearsed before the shoot days so everyone could meet each other and get on the same page. We certainly discussed Downton as a great point of reference for character research – also Downton’s precursors – the British tv show ‘Upstairs Downstairs’ and the film ‘Gosford Park’.

Writer/Director Caitlin Shannon and Rhiannon Oliver as Daisy and Clarabel

Writer/Director Caitlin Shannon and Rhiannon Oliver as Daisy and Clarabel

Would you say this a parody or homage to Downton Abbey at all?

I am certainly a Downton Abbey fan, and I’m sure in some ways the show influenced me in writing Wimpole. I love seeing the whole life of a household from the bottom to the top. So, in that way I would say it’s an omage. It takes place about forty years before Downton starts but that’s because I love Victoriana!

Any funny stories stand out from shooting/what happens when you’re on a shoestring budget?

We didn’t have the budget to shoot on a soundstage or in a Victorian museum (as we initially wanted to do ) We shot in a regular London home, – if the frame had been any wider you would have seen a tv and shelves full of CDs. The craziest thing to happen was that the doorbell rang on cue in Ep 2 . Our sound mixer was going to create a doorbell sound in post, but when we came to shoot the moment, the bell actually rang. It was a neighbour returning a set of keys to the homeowners. It was bonkers – that’s when you think there really are movie gods. The dog you see at the end of Ep 3 is there because the homeowners were dog sitting – I thought he made a great Victorian character.

How are web series regarded in England? Big following? People have never heard of them? People watch some?

I think there is a growing audience for web series in the UK. Granted there are still people who don’t know what a web series is, but I think all that will change in the next few years- it’s certainly a growing crowd. And now we have our own web series festival as part of the Raindance film fest in London.

What has been hardest/most surprising about promoting the show: festivals/where to distribute etc.?

I think most web creators will say that growing your audience is the biggest challenge, and I’m certainly no different. It’s been brilliant to see that word of mouth, and on line reviews have helped our audience to grow, but we’ve also had to put in consistent hard work on all social media platforms – it’s so true that when the edit is finished the work has barely begun! On the plus side, I had no idea that the world of web festivals existed when I started making the show. It’s been so fun going to festivals and connecting with other web creators. That was truly a lovely surprise, and a great way to learn from other creators and share ideas.

If you enjoyed this interview, check out the rest of Steph’s LA Weekly Web Series picks of the week HERE.

Steph’s LA Weekly Web Series Pick of the Week: Next Time on Lonny – Full Interview with Alex Anfanger & Dan Schimpf

As the final credits on the fictional reality show Lonny roll, the doe-eyed, mild-mannered protagonist waxes poetic about his hopes for his bowl-ing-alley date with Bethany. Then comes the teaser for the next episode: Lonny and Bethany’s date is interrupted by a spaceship that bombs New York City! Lonny is enslaved by a desperate race of blue aliens and must work in the salt mines until the aliens are defeated by their nemesis, the Bardox.

Who wouldn’t want to tune in for that? Well, you can’t. But each quick episode of Next Time on Lonny dishes up an equally hilarious, riveting, genre-bending take on where Lonny’s life will go next. Check out my full article on Next Time on Lonny in the LA Weekly HERE and my interview with writer/star Alex Anfanger and writer/director Dan Schimpf about how they made the show below.

How did the idea for Next Time on Lonny come about?

We were originally working on a different script for a television pilot that featured insane and totally unrelated “Next Time On” segments.  However, rather than shoot an entire television pilot (which we really couldn’t afford), we decided to pursue a more manageable web-series that focused solely on those segments. As we started to discuss that concept, we thought it would be funny to pair really extreme circumstances with a mindless and pointless reality TV show. It also seemed like such a great platform to showcase different genres and styles for us — Alex as an actor, and Dan as a director.

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