Tuesday, December 1, 2009

December Drama: 4 Webseries That Put a Chill in the Air

Happy Holidays! We’re excited to announce the release of our seasonal special, “I’m Dreaming of a Big Bother.” This musical romp features the BB cast playing Santa’s elves and dancing to hip-hop, country, disco and more. It also contains previews from BB’s upcoming weeks 3 and 4. Look for the return of new episodes in January. You also may have noticed the mini-redesign our website has undergone. We’re doing our part to be green. And now for our latest selection of webseries to see. We may not like it among our friends, but on the small screen, we love Drama!


Today marks the premiere of DailyMotion's new thriller, Compulsions. Creator Bernie Su draws us into a world where everyone has a secret. Justine (Janna Bossier) is the girl next door, except for her need to hunt -- people. This is handy for Mark (Craig Frank from The Crew), who has an insatiable need to hurt people. The compulsive trio is completed by Cassandra (Annemarie Pazmino from Sorority Forever), whose need remains a mystery. Director Nathan Atkinson and company were all on-hand for Monday night’s premiere event, complete with interviews by WebTV personalities Kristyn Burtt (The Web Files) and Cricket Lee (Fangirl's Guide).

After Judgement

Our next selections can all be viewed at KoldCast.tv, beginning with the post-apocalyptic drama, After Judgement, which garnered six Streamy nominations. Writer/director Michael Davies Jr. (from HTSAAAR) offers a grim picture of the future. The sun never sets, the oceans are poisonous and the world’s population is quickly dwindling. But one day, survivors Steven (Joel Bryant from Hillers), an ex-priest, Michelle (Taryn O’Neill, also from HTSAAAR), an ex?-prostitute and a cop (Jim McMahon) learn that things may be changing when they see a child for the first time in 100 years. Has humanity been forgiven?

The Darkness Descending

Deep beneath the streets of New York, a network of dark tunnels, hundreds of miles long, provide shelter for the homeless, escape routes for criminals and, possibly, answers for the rest of its inhabitants. In The Darkness Descending, some of these inhabitants, like ex-cop Jake Armstrong (webseries creator Frank Krueger), addict Skeeter (Michael Walton) and artist Harmony (Wylie Small), will soon learn there’s more to be afraid of here than the dark. “The Chosen,” a cult of sorts, have now laid claim to the tunnels. Director Mark Clebanoff and company have already begun developing the webseries into a feature film.

The Fall of Kaden

We travel from beneath the streets of New York to the mean streets of Chicago in our final dramatic selection – The Fall of Kaden. Loan shark Kaden (co-creator Adam Leiphart) has enough to deal with in his ne’er-do-well brother Danny (Joe Andaloro). Loose cannon Burke (Brian Troyan) has his own problems with unstable wife Nerissa (Diane Hren). But when Burke gambles away Kaden’s last $10,000, the fall truly begins. Director and co-creator Matt Doubler shot the series on location in Chicago. Wilson Cleveland (From the last Bblog post’s The Temp Life) associate produced (Perhaps during his 33-week vacation).

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Office Humor: 4 Webseries You'll Be Discussing at the Water Cooler

What’s this? A new “Big Bother Bblog” just two weeks since the previous one? There are so many new webseries popping up that we may start Bblogging a little more often. Tell us what you think by becoming a Bblog follower (Link above, or comment below), a Facebook fan, a Twitter follower, and or a YouTube subscriber. Before we get to the new webseries picks, check out the new poster artwork for Big Bother (right). Find a larger version in our Facebook Pictures. And now, what you’ve all been waiting for. Our latest WebTV category – Office Humor.

The Office: Subtle Sexuality

The mockumentary style of The Office (BBC & NBC) has influenced the look of many different webseries, like The Crew and MyJobESearchOnlinester.com. But Dunder Mifflin fans may not realize that the show branched into WebTV with its own webseries, The Office: The Accountants, and several follow-ups. The latest of which is the recent The Office: Subtle Sexuality. In this newest incarnation, Kelly Kapoor (Mindy Kaling, who also directs) and Erin Hannon (Ellie Kemper) take advantage of their co-workers’ absence and shoot a music video for their girl band, “Subtle Sexuality.” Kaling also writes and stars in Strike.tv’s, House Poor.

Blue Movies

Intern Tom began his first day of work in a very different type of office – a porn office. Blue Movies, created by Scott M. Brown, is the story of what goes on behind the scenes of some of our favorite films (Adult films). Though Tom (Beck Bennett) has always dreamed of working in Hollywood, Pornamount Pictures was the last thing he had in mind. But with a little coaxing from Pornamount execs Max (Jareb Dauplaise) and Anna (Sascha Alexander), Tom learns that there just may be some dignity in films like “The Porn Identity,” “Forrest Hump” and “Men in Black Men.”

The Temp Life

One of the longest-running shows on the web is The Temp Life. They’re about to launch their 4th season (Imagine 10th season in TV world) in which Nick “Trouble” Chiapetta (Writer and creator Wilson Cleveland) returns to work at the temp agency after his 33-week vacation. Employee Mark Sebastian (Mark Jude) informs “Trouble” that he has been demoted from CEO to temp. WebTV fans will recognize many faces in this office: Sandep Parikh from The Guild and The Legend of Neil, David Nett from Gold, Taryn Southern from Private High Musical and Sorority Forever, and Wendy Rosoff and Angela Espinosa from:

Goodnight Burbank

“Breaking news -- broken reporters.” Long before Hayden Black was summoning spirits in The Occulterers, he was spinning tales in an even more fantastical realm – broadcast news. Goodnight Burbank, a fictional local news program (and what goes on behind the scenes there) has garnered praise from USA Today, TV Guide, L.A. Times and a slew of other publications. Co-anchors Gordon Winston-Smythe (Black), Kelly Jones (Shulie Cowen), Susan Jones (Jamie Denbo) and the rest of the newsroom do their best to keep the public informed, even if they aren’t. Look for Black in the upcoming sci-fi comedy, The Cabonauts.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Horrors!: 4 Webseries that bring Halloween to the small screen

Big Bother is still on hiatus for a bit, so be sure to watch (and tell all of your friends to watch) the first 10 episodes if you haven't done so already. I can tell you that housemates will be "checking out" at a faster pace in upcoming episodes, be it by way of eviction or more dangerous challenges. But while you wait for the BB season to continue, check out our next selection of other great webseries. This month we feature horror webshows that set out to make you nervous, make you shiver and, some of them, even make you laugh.

Circle of Ei8ht

Today marks the official launch of Circle of Ei8ht, the new horror series from MySpace (and a list of other producing partners). Jessica (Austin Highsmith) has just moved into the Dante, a creepy apartment building whose residents include Ed (John Bishop), the superintendent who anticipates your EVERY need, Bale and Elaine (Josh Kelly and Katie Lowes), the expectant couple with TMI, and the always comforting stranger-with the camera, Randall (D.J. Qualls of "Hustle and Flow" fame). We first believe Jessica's only problem is neighbors with boundary issues. But by Episode 3, she'll learn what horrors lie in the Dante.

The Occulterers

Another long-awaited horror series releasing this week is Babelgum.com's The Occulterers -- a comedy of terrors. It features paranormal "experts" Jennica (Ellen Sandweiss of "Evil Dead"), Kevin ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer"'s James C. Leary), Chelsea (Amy Kline) and Herve (Not that one) Villechez (Hayden Black). The foursome investigates the dark secrets of Count Vampire's Castle and receive help from audience members who tweet about ghostly activity in various rooms. Black, who also produces, directs, and composes for The Occulterers, is widely known in the WebTV world for his webseries: Goodnight Burbank, Abigail's Teen Diary and the upcoming The Cabonauts.

Bumps in the Night

Continuing with the comedy-horror genre, we come to Strike.TV's Bumps in the Night. Got ghosts? Hard water? Look no further! Pool cleaners Emmet (Furey), John (Reha) and Greg (Benevent) discover a haunted swimming pool on their first day of work. Though John remains skeptical, it's hard to disprove paranormal activity when Emmett is dragged into the pool by unseen forces and Greg has his own wet nightmare. Unfortunately, catching their haunting on film will be difficult with a camera man afraid of ghosts. Furey is also the creator and star of the "Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-Long Blog"-inspired webseries: Fury of Solace.

Penny Dreadfuls

Finally, we return to true tales of horror with Penny Dreadfuls, another Strike.TV offering. We almost expect to see Rod Serling lighting a cigarette and offering his two cents in this Twilight Zone-esque collection of short films. Penny Dreadfuls is written and shot beautifully. But that's where the beauty ends. These tales of neglect, abduction and apocolypse have one thing in common -- their lovers suffer a gruesome fate. Creator James Arnall paints a grim picture of what love can do to castmates Carolyn Hennesy, Donald Agnelli, Christopher Collard and Michele Boyd (from The Guild).

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Dice vs. Mice: 4 Webseries That Turn Geek to Chic

Hey Big Bother fans, we're continuing to feature other webseries we hope you'll enjoy with a different theme each month. Wondering what's with WoW? Don't know your charisma from your constitution? Are you baffled by dice with more than six sides? Then RPG webseries can help. From the traditional table-top games like "Dungeons and Dragons" to the high-tech, online versions like "World of Warcraft," role playing games have provided a fountain of source material for some of the internet's most popular webseries (Upon completion of this bblog, you will be awarded 400 experience points).

The Guild

If you know WebTV, then you know “The Guild.” This viral series attained legions of fans and even a sponsorship from Microsoft. You may have caught creator/star Felicia Day in the Dr. Horrible's Sing-a-Long Blog sketch on last month's Emmy Awards (Look for "Dr. Horrible" in a future, musical-focused BBlog). The show centers around Day and her "guild" of online gamers, including Sandeep Parikh, whose other webseries, The Legend of Neil, was featured in last month's BBlog. Other cast members include Jeff Lewis, Robin Thorsen, Vincent Caso, Amy Okuda and new to this (third) season – “Star Trek: TNG”'s Wil Wheaton.


The "World 'Goblins & Gold' Role Playing Game Championship" is only a few short weeks away. The perennial second-place American team has undergone an upheaval -- their longtime team leader, Jonathan Drake (Webseries creator David Nett), has suffered a tragic, gaming-related accident. Maverick player Richard Wright (Rick Robinson) takes the reigns and tries to wrestle his new team (Nathan Mobley, James Paul Xavier and Gary Karp) into shape before the competition. Writers Nett and Andrew Deutsch pull us into the world of table-top RPG. "GOLD" was recently featured in the 2009 New York Television Festival.

Project Lore

If you're a serious gamer and interested in play rather than the players, then "Project Lore" is for you. This unscripted webseries provides strategy tips and other vital information for "World of Warcraft" fans. Each episode, we watch Joshua Brentano play
a Draenei Warrior, Zand Broumand play a Dwarf Hunter, Jeff Cannata play a Draenei Paladin and Brandon Sato play a Draenei Shaman. Several roles are also played by host/creator Alex Albrecht. Albrecht also co-hosts the podcast Diggnation and is a member of improv troupe Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em along with "Guild"'s Day, Lewis and Parikh (small world wide web).

Chaotic Good Online

Finally, we return to the table-top with newcomer "Chaotic Good Online." In this RPG webseries, the game of "Magic and Monsters" is ruthlessly played out by "Game Master" Bri (
Amy Vorpahl), Grant as "Fortinall" (Matthew Buchholtz), Taylor as "Nefariel" (Barbara King), Anthony as "Ra'Assinmatta" (Jake Regal) and Kyle (Ian Gary). Vorpahl also cowrote the webseries along with Essiem Buchholtz. Jason Axinn directs this geeky realm where "emotions run high and dice roll higher." Episodes 1 & 2 are available now. Keep an eye out for a "rockin'" third episode this fall.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Release the Bother!

Welcome back to another "Big Bother Bblog." In the last six months of Bblogs, we've covered everything from begging the actors to show up to multiplying gorilla suits through the magic of Final Cut. The final phase in the process was the June 18th release of "Big Bother." We must have done something right, because everyone loves it! We're still looking for all the viewership we can get, so be sure to spread the word. Since there isn't a whole lot else to say about the release phase, I thought I'd use the rest of this Bblog to share some other great webseries with you:

B.J. Fletcher: Private Eye

Just when you thought you'd never see a lesbian detective web comedy, along comes "B.J. Fletcher: Private Eye." Creator Regan Latimer and Associate Producer Rochelle Dancel have already won the 2008 AfterEllen.com Web Series Contest. With an all Canadian cast and crew, featuring Lindy Zucker and Dana Puddicombe in the leading roles, "B.J. Fletcher: Private Eye" is a distinctly new and unique production bringing to life strong female characters with the right balance of action, comedy, and diversity (Source: "B.J. Fletcher" website).

The Legend of Neil

After a drunken game of "Legend of Zelda," Neil wakes up in the fantasy world of Hyrule. Here, he must battle Ganon's minions -- from Tektites to Dodongos. If he can vanquish these foes and avoid an oversexed fairy, he just may save the princess. "Neil" has just begun its second season. "The Guild" star Sandeep Parikh created the fantasy comedy, which is a co-production of EffinFunny.com, Atom.com and Comedy Central. "Big Bother" fans may recognize "Neil" star Tony Janning as the voice of Lou the Dog.

The IT Chicks

What do you get if you add Playmates to "Office Space"? "The IT Chicks" comes pretty close. Written by National Lampoon's Scott Rubin and Phil Haney, this new webseries follows Stephanie (Elspeth Keller) and Chloe (Jade Catta-Preta) as they take on the biggest computer challenges an office can offer. But the real problems in this workplace are the workers. The worst of the bunch is Barry, played by Kato Kaelin (Who interestingly is mentioned in an upcoming "Big Bother").

“A fake reality show made by a real couple about a fake couple who have trouble facing reality on their way to the altar,” is how creator Matt Enlow, half of the aforementioned "real couple," describes his latest venture, "Engaged." Matt's previous WebTV offerings include "Mountain Man" and "MyJobESearchOnlinester.com." In addition to the webisodes, "Engaged" couple Chrissie (Christine Weatherup) and Keith (Ted DeVirgilis) offer supplemental video "Quick Tips," such as: Call the waiter a prick, so that everyone knows who's boss.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Don't Bother -- We'll Fix It In Post

It's been another great month for "Big Bother." Fans got to see several new episodes this July, including "Big Bother: Family Edition," edited for all ages. We also recently switched from YouTube as our main webcasting site to Break.com, so let us know what you think of the new site. I have a small apology to make for the month of August. I'll be visiting family in England for the first two weeks, so "Big Bother" will be on a brief hiatus. Look for a the next new episode on August 20th.

Last month, I finished discussing the principal shooting of the web series. The next step in the process was (& continues to be) post-production. This turned out to be the longest phase of the (ongoing) project.

After we finished shooting, I thought I'd go to Shawn, our editor, with the footage and we'd start slapping together some scenes. Turns out there's a great big step that I wasn't aware of which needs to come first -- capturing. This is the process of transferring the recorded footage into digital files as well as labeling and filing them efficiently. As a first-time capturer working in programs and using methods I was unfamiliar with, this took me months.

Alas, between Thanksgiving '08 and Easter '09, I captured the entire project. Shawn and I were finally ready to cut a teaser -- a 30-second promo of the show. It took us eight hours. But we released it on April Fool's Day to rave reviews.

Next step was the trailer -- a 3-minute promo of the show. Composer Ben was hard at work coming up with some great stuff for the show, but it wasn't ready yet. So we added some of my favorite music by The Killers. We released the trailer in May, but got some immediate static from YouTube.

It seemed Universal Music Group caught wind of The Killers music and was not happy. I got an e-mail telling me they were deciding what to do about the situation. In the end, it was decided that the trailer could remain online, but it would have a link to The Killers music available for purchase on I-Tunes. Fantastic! It now looked, to the untrained eye, like we had some kind of cross-promotional deal set up with Universal Music Group. Works for me.

In June, we were finally ready to edit the web series itself. Though we shot a lot of great footage, we frequently found that we were missing a shot, an angle, a cut-away, whatever. This is where Shawn worked his magic and unceasingly found ways to execute the creative ideas we came up with to fill the gaps.

There were many video elements that ended up looking better than I could have imagined -- like the shrinking fairy, the gorilla filmmakers, and other visual effects in nearly every episode. What surprised me most about post-production (And it shouldn't have) is how long it takes. Each 3-minute episode amounted to over 20 hours of editing for Shawn and I.

Another major part of post-production were the voiceovers. Actors Nick, Perry, Mike T., Lavonne, Jen L., Mike H. (of web series "The Crew") David (of web series "Ghost Town") and Tony (of web series "The Legend of Neil") all lent their voices to bring the "fuzzy" characters to life.

As of this Bblog, we've edited and released the first six episodes. Just 24 more to go. :-)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Big Bother Goes Live!

It's been a very exciting month, BB fans. "Big Bother" went live on June 18th, 2009, with our first episode, "The Start of Something Big." It's received rave reviews from everyone we know :-) . June 27th was our Premiere Party. No red carpets or Hilton debacles, just cast and friends enjoying the fruits of our labors -- the first five episodes of "Big Bother," most of which haven't aired yet. Now is of course the time when it's critical that we get all the viewers we can. So please be sure to tune in for a new episode every Thursday and encourage your friends to do the same.

Last month, I chronicled the crises of the first stretch of shooting. We next planned to shoot one brief "Farf Infader's Day Care" Scene at my Dad's house in New Lenox, IL. My Brother Jim was in costume as Farf and my nieces and nephews, MacKenzie, Jessica, Camden, Alexandria, Jimmy, Lochlan and Tyler were to play the daycare kids. Sadly, there was a video camera malfunction, so we had to create the scene with still shots.

I'm happy to report that things went much more smoothly after that. We had several more shoots in the Fall of 2008. The scenes with the largest cast were out of the way, so not spending my evenings begging people to fill costumes was nice. The weather was much cooler as well, as Southern California goes, so the cast appreciated that.

Several new actors joined us at this time. Jenna and Anne did several days as Citronella, Super Chick. Amanda, Austin, Becky, Cameron, Elwood, Ilana and Nick took turns in character costumes as well. I forgot to mention the earliest scene we shot in August '07 when friends Pete and Betsy helped us turn the Arizona landscape into our "Buttcrack Mountain" scene.

Some of the new locations we added were the "To Catch a Character" and hospital sets (Joelle and Nick's house), the Prince's castle and various bedrooms (Nate's house) and Poppy Place (My and Mike's house).

One of the final scenes we shot was that of Mermalade's family. Originally written for my Mom and Dad to play, my sister Jil filled in admirably. Her husband Dan played "Ironing Man" as well. The three were on their first trip to Los Angeles, and were willing to set their vacation aside to get the true Hollywood experience. It was a lot of fun to turn them into mermaids, though we had a lot of trouble with Dad's squid crown.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Lights, Camera, Bother!

Alright BB fans, it’s the month you’ve been waiting for. “Big Bother” is scheduled for release on June 11, 2009. This means that we’ve got 10 days to complete editing, voiceovers, music, opening titles, reshoots and more. Good times. Please give us your best wishes, prayers, positive thoughts and tune in on June 11th.

Last month, I covered the pre-production process of BB. Next phase in the project was principal shooting. After spending the night before rewriting the shot list every time another actor dropped out and looking for new actors on Craigslist, I was ready to begin shooting at Colin’s house the morning of June 21, 2008.

The crew showed up, so that was good. Most of the actors I found on Craigslist who couldn’t wait to be in the series did not show up, so that was bad. The one Craigslist actor who did show was Taka. He and my college friend Jen were ready and willing to wear a whole lot of costumes that day, making them two of the most valuable members of the team.

The first day of shooting was the hottest day of the year. This would be a challenge on any set, but on a show in which over half of the characters wear heavy, fuzzy costumes, it was a near impossibility. But the cast persevered amazingly.

I’d been told a first-time director should do two things on the first day of shooting: 1) Get the first shot right in one take (To boost morale) and 2) Fire someone (To boost fear). Fortunately or unfortunately, I did neither of these things. The first shot required 17 characters and I had seven actors, so it would take a few tries. Since I was short on bodies and almost no-one was getting paid, I opted not to fire anyone.

Turning seven actors, including myself, into 17 characters was only possible because actors were able to put on different costumes/masks and have their lines supplied by our A.D. Michael Klug, who was fantastic at keeping the shoots moving along as well.

Though efficient, the drawback of having the actors tag in and out as different characters was that they rarely got a break. But everyone rolled with the punches with hardly so much as a complaint.

Another Day 1 snag was that the Dumbob costume (a parody of SpongeBob) was required for a kids’ party that day. That was the primary function for all the costumes, so I couldn’t really complain. We rewrote or postponed Dumbob’s scenes and moved on.

By the end of Day 1, our hair and make-up person quit. This would be unfortunate on any set, but particularly on one where actors are constantly coming out of fuzzy costumes with sweaty faces and disheveled hair. Since there would be no time to find a replacement before Day 2, actors would have to help each other out, which they did admirably.

Also by the end of Day 1, we shot 90% of what was on a very ambitious shot list. Kudos to all.
Days 2,3 & 4 of shooting (the next day and following weekend) brought a few new challenges. Days scheduled for a location change required anyone with a car to fill it with as many props and costumes as possible. We just hoped that no head would be left behind.

My and Mike’s apartment (the bedroom scenes) was small and offered little room for actors not on set to relax. John’s house (the pool house) had plenty of room. It’s a huge house built in the ‘60s that has hosted many a Hollywood gala. But its old-school charm and scenic gardens were tough on anyone with allergies.

Through a fantastic group effort, we made it through the first two weekends and the 1st half of the script (mostly). At this point, just to prepare you, the story takes a sad detour. Moments after we finished shooting the second weekend, I got a call from my Dad. Mom had suffered sudden and unexpected bleeding in the brain and was undergoing emergency surgery.

I flew to Chicago first thing in the morning to learn that the surgery did not provide the results they’d hoped for. I’m thankful that I, my siblings, and many other friends and family members were able to say good-bye to her there in the hospital in the few short days before she passed.

As I mentioned before, she and Dad are my biggest supporters and inspiration. They were looking forward to seeing the scene I’d written just for them, which would now be modified. The show must go on. And so, I dedicate “Big Bother” to Anne Marie Marchert, 1949 – 2008.

Friday, May 1, 2009

The Bothersome Process of Pre-Production

Welcome back to the Big Bother Bblog. My digital editing education continues. We're hoping for a June release of BB, but it will all depend on how editing goes. We will be releasing an (approximately) 3-minute trailer this month, so keep an eye out for that. You can also follow us on Facebook, MySpace and Twitter, where in addition to BB news, you can receive my Web TV Pick of the Day Tweet, which features many other great web series.

Last month, I discussed the writing of BB. Next step in the process was what most filmmakers will tell you is the most important part -- pre-production. This entails doing everything you can to be prepared for the first day of shooting: casting, assembling a crew, SAG paperwork, planning sets, costumes, scouting eastern European locations, testing the mechanical shark, convincing the unions this adult film won't interest them, and props.

Casting began easily enough. The male roles were practically written for myself and three friends: the aforementioned Nate and Mike, as well as Ray, who would be playing Farf Infader, the only surviving character from "Heroes of Hollywood Boulevard."

The female roles presented a bit more of a problem -- but I could not have been happier with our final cast. The first choice for Mermalade was Ray's former live-in girlfriend (sound familiar?). As their split pointed to highly volatile working conditions, she graciously bowed out. Mermalade as well as the Ninkumbell character had a pool of uncertain actresses up for their roles. In the end, they were filled by the wonderful performances of Joelle and Jamie.

We held a read-through with the cast which went smashingly. But as each actor was reading six different roles, I realized I'd written more "fuzzy" characters (Achoo, Dumbob, Hooby, etc.) than I thought. So I began recruiting everyone I know in L.A. to play these roles.

The crew was the next element to line up. I spent many a lunch break in the middle schools I was subbing at begging cameramen and boom operators I found on Craigslist to work for well below scale. I needed someone intrigued enough by the concept to make the pay cut worth their while. Alas, I found Ty and Chris, who also had the equipment we were going to need.

As things fell into place, I became more and more aware that outside a couple of plays, I had no idea how to direct. So I enlisted the help of a Chicago friend who was currently assistant directing on "CSI: New York." With her as my AD, what could go wrong? Two weeks before we began shooting, she learned she'd need immediate foot surgery. C'est la vie. But as that door closed, a Klug came crashing in my window. Another Chicago friend, Michael Klug, had just arrived in L.A. with a suitcase, a dream (sound familiar?) and most importantly, no job in the immediate future. The AD position was filled.

With the addition of a composer, editor and make-up artist, the crew was set. Next were locations. BB is a parody of "Big Brother" (Did I mention that?). So to get our ultra-hip, MTV-style house, we planned to shoot the exterior of some house we had no business being near, then shoot the interiors in our (Mike's and my) apartment. There were two problems: 1) Our place is not air conditioned and the summer heat was going to kill anyone in a fuzzy costume. 2) Many scenes take place on the front porch, so we'd need to actually shoot it at an actual house.

So, I went to the only person in this city I knew who owned a house -- my cousin Colin. He and the family were extremely accommodating, even amused by the project. Their wonderful home (ultra-hip motif and all) would be the setting for the majority of the script. The host's house and pool were provided by the only person anyone knew who owned their own pool, our friend John in Sherman Oaks. The bedrooms would be shot at Mike's and my place, right back where we started.

As shooting day approached (June 21st, 2008) pre-production got hectic. Some of the most difficult elements were creating a fairy-size version of Ninkumbell (I ended up grafting an I Love Lucy head onto a Tinkerbell body), a bedroom containing three matching beds (two of them ended up being cardboard) and some other props that would be plot spoilers to mention.

Days before we began shooting, I started getting calls of regret from the many actors I cast as the fuzzy characters. The 17 performers I had lined up for day one were dwindling. This became the most stressful week of my life, trying to recreate the shot list every time another actor dropped out. Finishing up sets, costumes, props and my day job weren't helping matters. Delegate? What's that?

Also on Friday, while bringing a stack of costumes to Colin's house, I asked his wife Gretchen how to turn on the air conditioning. She kindly explained that you didn't need AC in breezy Santa Monica. Except perhaps on the summer solstice, the hottest day of the year. This would be tomorrow. Our first shoot day. When half the cast would be in huge fuzzy costumes.

By that night, the 17 performers needed for day one were down to eight. I contemplated postponing the entire shoot until we could reassemble the cast. But this would only hurt the morale of the cast and crew who were brave enough to accept this project. So I spent the night posting Craigslist ads offering money for actors to show up in the morning and rewriting the shot list by the hour. We were going to shoot Big Bother tomorrow or die trying.

Next Bblog: "Lights, Camera, Heatstroke!"

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Should I Bother to Write a Script?

Happy April Fool’s Day! We couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate this foolish holiday than to release the “Big Bother” teaser. Check it out at www.BigBotherShow.com . What’s a teaser you ask? It’s a 30-second promo for a show that is usually released a year in advance. Not to worry, it will (hopefully) be no more than a few months before our web series officially launches.

In the last BBlog, I brought you up to speed on how the concept of “Big Bother” came to be. It turns out it’s a long way from concept to final product (Or even 1st day of shooting). Writing began innocently enough in August 2007. We’d shoot and release a 10-minute webisode. Then we’d repeat this simple process every month or so until the series was complete. Right?

As I mentioned, I’d recently come into a windfall of cartoon character costumes. Their previous custodian was moving to a studio apartment. This would have been fine for roommate Mike and me at any other point in our cohabitance. However, the one hundred plus costumes were dropped off at the same time Mike’s fiancĂ©e moved in. Suddenly every available square inch of our bachelor pad was filled with either fuzzy creature heads or necessities from the softer side of SEARS.

To justify the menagerie of costumes I was forcing everyone to live with, I vowed to use as many as possible in “Big Bother.” The vision of four or five characters sharing an apartment suddenly became 16 characters living together. It was soon evident that there was no way we’d reassemble this cast once a month for the next year. The bulk of the script would need to be shot over a few weeks.

So, the simple 10-page script I was hoping to delve into the world of directing with was now going to need to be a feature-length 100 pages. Somehow, it took me four months to write the first 10. In my defense, I had a lot going on at the time, with multiple jobs, trying to pursue acting and writing careers, etc. I also did some limited research of the reality TV show I was going to parody, “Big Brother.”

The only show event I directly satired in the script was taken from the beginning of Season 8 when one girl is mortified by her unflattering photo. I thought it would be great to have our Farf Infader character experience the same trauma. Over the next four months, I nearly completed the rest of the script. Go figure.

In March of 2008, I made an Easter visit to Chicago. I had a great idea to cast my Mom and Dad in a scene I had yet to write. Actors in their own right, I owe all I’ve learned about the stage to them. They’d play the parents of one of the housemates, Mermalade the mermaid. Despite being midway through her chemotherapy treatment, Mom was already pulling out possible costume pieces (She’d sewn hundreds over the years). We made plans to shoot their scene when I returned home that summer.

As I continued writing the final stretch of the script, Mike and our friend Nate (Both will also play roles in “BB”) helped me begin the pre-production process—finding props, creating set pieces, moving furniture, etc. During this process, Mike’s fiancĂ©e was less than thrilled with the space it required. It began looking like this apartment wouldn’t be big enough for both a female and a digital film production. As fate would have it, she and Mike had their final fight (amazingly unrelated to "BB"), called off the engagement, and we suddenly had room to shoot. Go figure.

Alas, by May of 2008 the script of “Big Bother” was complete – 140 pages. An easy task for a first-time writer/director/producer/performer. Right?