Interview with Jason Cilo – President of Meetinghouse Productions

jasoncilo

What drew you to this concept for your web series with Melinda Hill All Growz Up?

With web content, we’re always looking for original projects that have unique elements; the alley location, for example, was something we knew would set this apart. As a company, our mantra is that we want to make smart, funny content with its heart in the right place. AGU ticked all those boxes for us, so it was easy to say yes. Meetinghouse prides itself on being really good at finding amazing female comic talent.

Melinda’s a great actress, as she displays on our other series with her, Romantic Encounters. She’s an original comic and an entrepreneurial thinker who knows how to work with a company like ours; so when she pitched AGU to me, it was an immediate “yes” for us…but a lot of that is because we’d done a bunch of other things well before.

That’s something I think aspiring content creators should take to heart: this is a business of relationships and momentum…it’s about having your ducks in a row so that good ideas can take flight. If it happens over night, it’s probably going to be really fucked up!

Can you tell me a little about Meetinghouse, how you got involved and how you started producing web series?

Meetinghouse is an NYC-based production company that is primarily involved in creating and producing TV series.  We also develop our own formats for the international TV market and create content for our web presence, Chuckler.com. We also we license and broker user-generated clips to other production companies, networks, and TV shows.

One aspect of our business is comedy and comedians, so we’re always looking for what I call “next-generation” comics; these are people who aren’t just funny stand-ups, although they are that, as well, they are people who also have ideas for content, who actually make stuff and who can work with our existing production infrastructure to create opportunities for themselves and for the company.

When our comics have an idea for a web series that is a fit; something affordable, repeatable, and original, we like to be able to say yes and rapidly provide the production resources to make cool stuff.

Can you tell me a little about your site, Chuckler?

Chuckler is a new business that Meetinghouse started about a year ago as the place for all our original web content.  We find comics for the shows we produce on TV; those comics have ideas (or we have ideas for them) and we produce funny, original web content like All Growz Up.  We also have a series called ‘Director’s Commentary’ which features hilarious fake DVD commentary tracks for actual movies that don’t really need them.

We also stage monthly live Chuckler nights at comedy clubs, where those comics perform.  We tape the whole thing and that becomes content for the Chuckler YouTube channel.  It’s like an Escher-loop of comedy!

The business arrangement with the talent is case-by-case and something I find so interesting that I better not get started here or you’ll never hear the end of it. Suffice it to say, we believe we have a business model that really works for everyone involved and protects the interests of the comics and the company. We want to be a home for comic talent to do the things they want to do that are a fit for our mission as a production company.

Are your web series projects passion projects or are they becoming a viable part of the Entertainment business? 

Totally a viable part of the business.  This is how we knit comics closer to the company. We end up hiring them to be producers, oftentimes on other projects of ours.  The web series also become proof of concept for things we think are funny that have gone on to become actual TV series.  We’re in development right now with a few networks and international distributors, actually, on TV series concepts that started as Chuckler web series.  And that’s just the first year of Chuckler being up and running. So I definitely think its as much a part of our future as the traditional TV business is.

As a producer, where do you see media consumption and therefore the focus of production headed?

Where ISN’T it headed? I really feel lucky to be in the thick of this fascinating time in the media business.  The opportunities for content creators to have a direct relationship with audiences is amazing. But at the same time, we still really need and benefit from the traditional models and roles that the networks play.

I think the things I am most excited about are the situations where Meetinghouse is able to really be a partner– be it with talent like Melinda, or a network, or a fellow production company — anytime we can get like-minded people coming together to work on things that are a fit for all the participants and, crucially, the audiences…to me represents the future.  This is a collaborative business with a vision at the top.

I don’t know where the media business is heading but I think companies like ours that walk and talk that philosophy will have a seat at the table.

Isn’t Melinda Hill adorable? 

I encourage everyone to go see Melinda’s stand up act if you haven’t seen it.  I love watching new audiences who haven’t seen her before sit there in the first few minutes as they try and figure out “is she for real? Is this an act?”  It’s very easy to make a bunch of assumptions about her, based on her looks and the presentation… and that’s what her act kind of plays on, and then brilliantly toys with.

What did you want to be when you grew up?  

As a reading-and-TV-obsessed only-child growing up with a single Mom in the 1970’s and 1980’s: something involving David Letterman, video arcades, MTV, Pink Floyd, and Lord Of The Rings. So that’s kind of exactly where I ended up!

If you enjoyed this, check out my article on the other series Hill and Cilo collaborated on, the scripted rom com, Romantic Encounters.

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