Sunday, February 10, 2013

Happy Birthday to...uhm...us!



I've noticed my blogs have been a little melancholic of late, so I’m aiming for one with a practical tone. 

Just over a year ago, Mark and I had an idea. (we'd had ideas before, don't get me wrong, but it was one of those ideas that wouldn't go away.)
Over a glass of wine, I was complaining about how workwise, everyone seemed to want a "half hour" of scripted comedy, and that unless you were driven by some great idea, it was pointless writing yet another half hour to be added to the pile.
 “If I have to write a half hour, ” I said, “I’ll write 30 individual little minutes”
“How would that work?” Mark asked, pouring me another glass.
“Easy,” I said, “Like the Google Doodles. You know, something based on this day in history, but delivered as a joke. A different minute every day, delivered by a different performer.”

The next day, he set about building a green screen studio in the room above the garage,  and despite the fact that till we moved to LA,  Mark had been Mr Suit and Tie Ministry of Defence (or stateside 'defense') Consultant,  set about learning how to light, shoot and upload video.

We shot five vids, just with me talking to camera - and even though they were pretty rough, bizarrely and magnificently, we managed to rope in an amazing line up of performers such as Alfred Molina, Bradley WalshGina Yashere and John Thomson literally in our first two weeks of shooting.

Less than 4 days of shooting and we had well over out 30 minutes. A brilliant designer friend came on board. We had an identity.
And the performers kept coming:  Cold Case star Jeremy Ratchford and Disney star, Brian Stepanek, movie actress Kathy Baker and novelist Colette Freedman, actor and presenter Ross King. All good friends.

Soon, Mark and I acknowledged we were going to go for the whole calendar year and that we’d shoot, edit and upload a video every day until it was done - a ridiculous decision as the urban legend that viral videos make people millionaires on YouTube is really just a legend.
True, some people do make millions, but just like not every software programmer turns out to be Mark Zuckerberg, not every YouTube video goes Gangnam style. We battened down the hatches, tightened belts and forged ahead.

Mark decided we needed a teleprompter and promptly set about building one out of wood, (don't ask).

I took my first shot at show running: scheduling, assigning and emailing dates, writing, and collecting scripts, arranging shoots.
We explained to everyone involved that we weren't paying anything. That technically, really there was nothing in it for them other than us taking up their time, but everyone came and did it anyway, sometimes even in the middle of a vacation like Stephen K AmosJack Docherty and Moray Hunter and Greg Hemphill.

The past 12 and a half months have been kind of mind blowing.

We’ve had writers from pretty much all continents emailing me jokes for no more thanks than an end credit, logos and titles and corporate identities designed for nothing more than a thank you, all manner of great, clever and talented people have been gracing our little studio in the room above the garage,  performing little stories about what happened on this day in history for completely no money -  and merely the off-chance of a bowl of homemade soup, or maybe a bit of quiche if they're lucky – even our two kids have even taken to it, performing possibly my favorite tribute to Elvis Presley ever.

But we set out to do 30 minutes and then a year and now we’ve pretty much covered what we set out to do….except…

We’ve had such a brilliant time, we’re going to continue. Not uploading every day any more – the videos are becoming longer and too complex to do that.
Aside from that Mr. Tweddle has a hankering for a job outside the green screen studio, (maybe even wearing a suit and tie like the old days, or maybe not)
And me?  I’ve had this notion for a scripted half hour….

So we're going to make the move from being calendar bound, to character bound.
Instead of 7 uploads a week, maybe just two or three.
Astronomy will still be sexy. Kurtwood Smith will still be the "Bing Crosby of comedy". Kathy Baker will still be as wise as the sphinx. Meanwhile Alfred Molina is introducing a new character to go alongside Fabio the Italian dentist and Nigel in the Laundromat, and our great assortment of just bloody brilliant and bizarre performers, will still be turning up to shoot in the room above the garage somewhere in North Hollywood.

And though I promised this would be a practical blog, just typing it, I find myself getting pretty sentimental.

I’ve learned a lot this year, about video production and the world of online and a mountain of trivia about what happened on certain days in history.

Mostly, I’ve learned though that there are some people who will do amazing things for a bowl of soup or a slice of quiche or a thank you and that to those people I will always be indebted.

Thank you all, you mad old bunch.