A behind-the-screen look at the making of a web comedy series.

Something Awesome is happening

I got the call from Cai this weekened. My show, Something Awesome, is officially go-live. We begin shooting May 1st back in Brooklyn. Time to ramp up production.

As I contemplate what I’m about to do I realize that this is either the stupidest thing I’ve ever done or the most rewarding. Either way, it’s definitely the craziest.

Here’s the situation. A year ago I concepted a show about four vaguely-employed twenty-somethings living in Brooklyn who are trying to make it through the recession. The material was easy enough – I wrote about my roommates and friends. Rigo and Andrew were particularly key in pushing me to write. So I kept a journal on me at all times and wrote about the wacky things my friends did and said.

Then I met Alec.

[Enter Alec.]

Laura and I stepped on the Q train at Atlantic Station and I noticed a guy with short, spiky dreads reading “Atlas Shrugged”.

“What the hell is that guy doing reading Ann Rand?” I thought to myself.

He looked up and exchanged a look of recognition with Laura.

“Aren’t you Laura?” he asked. “Remember me? I’m Alec. We went to high school together.”

Alec had just moved to NYC to make it as an actor. Laura pitched my show.

“Cool, man,” he said. “Let’s get coffee and talk more about it.”

I didn’t expect it to go anywhere. After all, how often do you meet someone randomly on the subway who turns out to be a cornerstone of your next creative endeavor? Or, for that matter, who becomes your twin brother?

[Enter Isis.]

Alec and I played around with scenes and ideas. We found two other friends and met every Friday afternoon for the next few months to lay the groundwork. Then one friend went off-radar and moved to LA. The other friend launched a Twitter app company. So we scrambled for more actors.

Alec brought Isis to a rehearsal in early summer ’09. She was another high school cohort who knew my wife. Isis fit right in with us, bringing a whole new level of energy with her. Like Alec, she had moved from Seattle to NYC to pursue a professional career. And, like Alec, she’s going to go far. She is courteous and professional. Always on time for meetings, patient with the ebbs and flows of the industry and always has a smile on her face. That is a recipe for success.

[Enter Cai.]

Cai … is my surrogate sister. She had worked with Isis in the past and was interested in trying comedy. She joined Alec, Isis and I for coffee at Starbucks in Union Square a month before our film date. I had spoken with several directors about the project and was relieved when Cai asked all the right questions. Towards the end of the interview I asked her, “So what attracts you to this project?”

“Well … ” she hesitated. “You know how to capture dialogue. I like all the ‘Yeah, no’.”

She and I had several conferences before we filmed a scratch pilot. It was clear that we got along well enough, but it wasn’t until we were on set that we connected. Holy crap. Off set she is as scatterbrained as me. But give that girl a crew and a DP that she trusts and she comes alive. You can see it in the actor’s performances. That first script we filmed wasn’t anything to write home about. But she brought out some beautiful — and fun — performances from the cast that day.

After 14 hours of on-set intensity I pulled her aside.

“Waddya think?” I asked.

She burst into a grin. “I was kinda unsure about what it would be like to do comedy,” she admitted. “I gotta say, it’s awesome to film something that you’re excited to watch again and again. I can’t wait to edit this!”

[Enter Mike]

I met Mike at 7 am the day we filmed the scratch pilot. I needed a Rigo character badly. Alec assured me Mike would be on set. He was. Hilarity ensued.

Mike came from a theater background. He told me this was his first time acting in front of a camera. What did I care? This was my first time writing comedy. Between us we worked it out.

There were some gaps in the script, so I spent the day pow-wowing to plug holes and experiment with ideas. We captured a magic moment with Mike. He improv’d eating an entire pint of Ben & Jerry’s, and ate up the camera at the same time. It was the best scene we shot all day.

[Leaving The Awesome]

The next day Laura and I left NYC. We drove across the country to our new home in Seattle, Washington. I was high as a kite for a month, just grooving on my crazy feat. After years of struggle and disappointment it felt awesome to have pulled off a TV show pilot.

I stayed in touch with cast and Cai to brainstorm our next shoot. I disappeared into my own universe to work on characters and tighten scripts. I enlisted the help of my (actual) sister Marah who has done a ton of theater work over the past decade. As I pestered her over the next few months she taught me how to live and breathe a character beyond quirky one-liners. I sent scripts to EVERYONE I could think of — friends in LA, NYC and Seattle; family; screenplay writers around the world. The feedback was incredible and went right back into the scripts until one day Cai called me, plastered in a cab after partying in Manhattan.

“Nick,” she said, “I gotta tell ya — you’re surpassing everyone’s expectations for these scripts. They’re not there yet, but you’re doing a kick-ass job.”

It was the most inspiring phone call I have received.

[Returning to The Awesome]

So here I am: a year after kicking off this bizarre internet comedy show I’m planning my return to the big city to film the next three episodes (and, possibly, a tight pilot). Our 2nd table read is coming up in two weeks. The week after that I’m flying in to do prep work before the shoot. Most locations are nailed down, some are still up in the air.

I have no idea who I’m going to show this to — I’d like to pitch it to the BBC or HBO/Showtime … or, really, anyone who’ll give me the time of day and a budget. Regardless I’ll be posting it on YouTube where it can get lost in the dearth of 30 second one-liners, goats in trees and well-intentioned comedies.

Most of all, though, I’m doing this for the project. Because it’s awesome. And it deserves to see the light of day.

As a writer I cannot tell you how amazing that feels: to have a project worthy of seeing the light of day.

Until next time,
nick

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