Creating A Show – Part Deux

30 May

(This is a follow up to Creating A Show – Part 1, so please read that first, if not, I guess you could read this and then go back, but that’d just be stupid)

My mission: To make a great serialized comedy series.

   Welcome back Web Land! … Where was I? Ah, yes… So I had done a draft of a show, and it was crap. It didn’t stand out from anything else that has been on or is on TV. (In fact it was ‘Friends’, without Joey, and that would have never worked just like he didn’t work without his friends. Just let shows go out on a high note, ‘Frasier’ was a fluke!) I needed a new idea, but I was convinced that I was going to keep this nerdy character “Jessica Parker” in whatever else I come up with. At the time when all this was going on, I had started dating a girl, or a woman… or a chick. I started dating a female, bottom line. To protect her identity, (Not for any particular reason, but aliases are fun) let’s call her…Sharon, yeah Sharon works. Sharon was really cool and supportive about my writing, and that always makes things easier, just people supporting you in the things you really want to do. It just makes the days go by without weight on your shoulders. But the real reason I bring her up is because obviously as a writer, the things in your life just make it’s way on to the page. Sharon loved Harry Potter, all right, Jessica Parker is going to love Harry Potter, there would even be some Harry Potter jokes in the script. Sharon’s son was named Evan… Perfectly good name for a character in the script… Who’s name? I had no idea. I didn’t know what to write about. All I had was Jessica Parker… so I began to brainstorm more…

   I love sci-fi, and fantasy genres like Back to the Future, Lord of the Rings, Sliders, Heroes, Lost, Star Wars. Not too many successful comedies in the bunch. But still, along those lines, I really liked the idea of setting my story in a world that isn’t bound by the restrictions of our reality. A world you would have to suspend belief for, yeah that sounded cool, because it keeps things interesting and original, what my first attempt at a story severely lacked. I kept the fantasy genre in the back of my mind, cause I still had no clue how I would implement it. I came back to thinking about Jessica Parker… A nerd. I thought about her in the first show, she was just a side character, part of the ensemble. Now I would bring her to the forefront of the show, the main character. There are always shows/movies about the nerdy guy going after the girl. So let’s flip that shit! This will be the other side of the coin, the nerdy girl going after the guy. But what guy? Hmmm. Ugh. How about a guy named Evan!? Bingo, I was on a roll. But I couldn’t stop there, still not original enough, I was sure that format has been done in some form or fashion… I needed something else.

   Now I am not only a filmmaker but I am an actor also, and when you are an actor and a writer, it’s REALLY hard not to write yourself a part in whatever you are writing. It’s just that performer inside of you that wants a great part and hey, who better to give you a part you know you can nail, than yourself? I have typically been cast in nice guy/Michael Cera type roles, the goody two shoes, cookie cutter, all American, wouldn’t hurt a fly, bubble gum, candy coated roles. (Too many analogies? Nah.) So I started writing an asshole character. Was I writing it for me to actually play it? No. Was I writing it with me in mind to play it? Maybe. (Remember, it always helps a writer to visualize an actor playing the role) More so than anything, it was just an exaggeration of the sarcastic self I was many many years ago that I tapped into mixed with a cockiness and self absorbed attitude a guy who looked like Ryan Reynolds would have if he was a jerk. (Which I hope he is not, cause that guy seems SO cool, Hey Ryan!) He was another person I visualized when writing this character. You also write what you know, so I made the character an Actor, but a bad one, (You don’t ALWAYS write what you know) and I had recently watched the Charlton Heston ‘Planet of the Apes’ and so his name would be Taylor. So I had basically two storylines that I wanted  to start writing with two main characters, and no creative way to bring them together. I decided to put Jessica in an office, (Another thing I know very well, damn day jobs) I know what you are thinking “Josh, you just said you wanted something creative. There is an entire show CALLED ‘The Office’.” Well you need to calm down avid reader. I put her in an office cause I had the idea for the greatest evil company she would work for. “Kid Kontrol”. I saw a child at the grocery store who was so disruptive and making a scene and the parent did absolutely nothing! Just letting little Jimmy/Sally throw stuff off the shelves, scream and holler, without so much as a “Shhh little Jimmy/Sally! Shh…” So that got me thinking, what if this company punishes… err, ugh, disciplines children for parents that don’t know how or just can’t? Brilliant. And the boss of this company, the boss of Jessica Parker, would be my favorite character that I have ever created. A name any fan of the show, will come to know very well, Hal Miller.

   Hal Miller started off being my “bad guy”, the “villain” of the show. He was the opposing force to Jessica and would belittle her at the drop of a hat. But this was still a comedy, so I made his lines as outrageous as possible. The more it went on, I discovered, this guy was a jerk, he was rich, and he was oblivious… He could say ANYTHING! It also went back to my suspended reality that I was creating, because obviously a boss would never say to an employee “It’s called a vibrator Parker. Jesus, lay off the sci-fi celibacy.” One of Hal’s first lines, but in this universe, he could, he does and he gets away with it. Now I got my 2 main characters, my “villain”, but still no real story. I knew that Taylor and Jessica had to be forced to interact somehow. That would be my show putting these polar opposites together, but how?

   One thing that I HATE in shows and especially dramas, is the “walk off”. Two people get into a fight on screen about something, and after saying something impactful/hurtful or just a great comeback and then boom! They walk off. I thought to myself, how can I avoid the walk off? How will Taylor and Jessica be put together not able to walk off? The thought process was somewhat as follows: “Tayloris a bad person. Jessica is a loser who needs help. Jessica needs help. Taylorcould help Jessica. Taylorwould never help Jessica. How can I force Taylorto help Jessica? … …  (sip of bubble tea) … … I need to killTaylor and make him her guardian angel!”

To be Continued…

 Next time… How we tested the show before we even moved forward on it. The casting process, the good, the bad, and the Russian “model”, who walked in off the street to buy art but decided, “Hell, I audition for show of TV.” And all the other pre-production stuff that went into creating “Watching You”! (Leave a comment or a question and I will answer it next time!)

Joshua Thomas

 And remember, we only have so many tickets for the premiere, and it’s going to be damn hilarious, so get yours now at www.watchingyouseries.com !

Creating A Show – Part 1

18 May

    Hola Web Land! Joshua Thomas here with the 2nd entry in my Director’s blog for “Watching You”. Lots going on in preperation for the premiere, but I wanted to do a post about the creative process in making the show from scratch and how it came about. It’s also appropriate to discuss the beginning since this blog is just starting out, right? Yeah, that sounds like good logic, sure, so here we go. This is the story of the creation of “Watching You”. Enjoy!

    Summer of 2011 we (Frozen Fire Productions) filmed an Independent feature film entitled Erase Away, (www.eraseawayfilm.com) and it was a drama. I wrote/directed and acted in the film. It was a huge task to take on, and proved extremely difficult. But we got it done. (The film is currently in post production slated to be out later this year😉 Now aside from the difficulty I took on, the fact of the matter is, the cast and crew we had was amazing, and also hilarious, and we joked around on set a lot! It was hard to keep in mind, “Oh yeah, this is a drama about a memory loss and heart break.” So every time something hilarious happened on set, or an idea of how a scene in the film could be turned into something funny, and that happened all the time, my producer Nichol Rodriguez would turn to me and say, “Josh, you need to write a comedy next.” So we wrapped on the film in August and participated in the 2011 48hr film project. I took a backseat to acting and just co-wrote and directed the film. Which proved very fruitful in the overall quality of the product, cause I was able to see it through from start to finish from behind the camera. Again though, we did a dramatic thriller. And again, we joked around a lot on set. And again, Nichol said, “Josh, you need to write a comedy next.” And I said, “Get off my back Chol!” … I didn’t say that, she’s really cool.  I knew I would write a comedy, it was just a matter of time. I have always been a fan of comedy, I have performed improv comedy for years, written sketches for the web and a live show, and just in general I always like to crack jokes, laugh and have fun. But when it came time to WRITE this new comedy, I didn’t want to do a film again, we had just finished one, and features are very hard and take a lot of time and money, comedic short films go by practically unnoticed these days with all the hilarious shorts on youtube. So I decided to write a series. I had written a web series in the past, but it never got past the pilot, of course that was many years ago and back then I had no idea what I was doing, no real equipment, and the whole thing was very “amateur hour”. Now I had a terrific crew, I had experience, and could do this right! All I needed was an idea.

    I kicked around a few plot outlines in my head. I thought about my favorite sitcoms and television shows. Seinfeld, That 70’s show, How I Met Your Mother, Entourage, Lost, Prison Break, the first season of Heroes. I love sitcoms, but no where as much as I love serialized shows. Shows that tell an overall story, and have season arcs, they allow you to become very invested in the story and characters and leave you wanting more at the end of every episode… or try to. (When I watched the first season of Heroes, I remember I couldn’t NOT watch the next episode sometimes, even if it was 5 in the morning and I had work in three hours) Even on sitcoms, they are usually the strongest on two or three part episodes and those usually are the episodes with moments where the comedy takes a pause to make you feel for the characters. Yes, the show I write had to be a serialized show… but all the best serialized shows are dramas, and I had to write a comedy. It was a challenge, it was almost like creating a new medium, and that really excited me… sexually…. Or maybe it was just in general, I’m not sure, 2011 was a real blur. Now I needed my idea and whatever it is, had to have very strong characters, I wanted the whole show built around characters, not just a gimic or the story.

    I have a very strange writing process, a lot of writers map things out, or create an outline and then try and fill in the gaps with dalouge, and then go back and add jokes if it’s a comedy and edit, it’s a very long process with lots of planning and prep work. I write. I have somewhat of an idea for the story that I jot down as soon as I think of it so as not to forget since I’m not an elephant and that can happen. Then I write. I just write the show, or the film, or the sketch, or the poem, or whatever I am writing. I type keys and think of it as I go. Then when I get to a stopping point, I go back and read what I came up with, sometimes, it’s absolute brilliance. Other times… it’s pig semen, just crap, that no one would buy. So after I read what I have written, I make changes and adjustments and can usually then do the edits and mapping out where it will go, and that’s where I start my real planning, but the initial jolt of just typing away is always my kickstart into writing a new piece of material. This show would be no different. I had an idea, I had a local actress in mind when I was writing for one of the characters, I had been wanting to work more with her, and that always helps a writer when you visualize in that aspect because you can make choices within boundries, writing without confinments or stipulations is a scary thing and leads to lots and lots of writers block. So I started writing, went back and made some changes, wrote some more, went back and made some changes, and I struggled with it, I was forcing it. But “darn it to H.E. double L hockey sticks” as my mother would say to me as a child, I was going to get through it. And I did, I finally finished a draft, and when I went back and read it. Son of a bitch, I just basically rebooted “Friends”! How could this be? (I was watching the series at the time on DVD) Damn it. That wasn’t going to work at all! The only thing I liked about what I had written is that my “Central Perk” was a bubble tea bar, and the reason I liked that idea, was cause after I wrote it, I went to get some bubble tea. (Special shout out to Bobalicious!) But that script was unoriginal, unimaginative, and a standard recipe for a sitcom about friendships and relationships… It probably would have gone 8 seasons on network television…. But alas, not up to my own personal standards. I had to start from scratch again… But maybe I would carry over one thing, I mean the script wasn’t ALL bad. The only other thing I liked, or the one thing I really DID like, about my “Friends” reboot was one of the characters… It was a nerdy girl named Jessica Parker.

 To be continued…

    Please if you haven’t already check out the Trailer for the show and get your discounted pre-sale tickets now guys! June 7th is right around the corner! Until next time, peace and love Web Land!

– Joshua Thomas

Blog Numero One

17 May
    Hello everybody out there in… Web Land! This is Joshua Thomas, writer, director, creator, all around BAMF of Watching You – The Series. This is my Director’s blog for the show, and yes, I just told you something you already knew. The fact that you are reading this, I assume you are either in the cast/crew of the show, a family member, or have had a romantical rendezvous with one of us at some point in the past. Just being honest, the show hasn’t come out yet, so at this stage people haven’t experienced the awesomeness we have in store for the world. Either way, thank you for reading, and for your interest in the new comedy, “Watching You”!
    So, what is “Watching You”? (See the trailer here!) It is a serialized comedy series, the simplest way to pitch the show is “What if the biggest asshole on earth became your guardian angel?” That’s the hook line, and when you watch the show, you will see it is so much more than that. The show is premiering very soon on June 7th, 2012 at 8:00pm, locally where it was made, in San Antonio Texas. (Get your tickets here!) It is a serialized show, so that means that each episode will continue from the previous one, telling one big story, think “Lost”, only with a good ending already planned out from the start. The series begins following a day in the life of two people, Taylor – A self absorbed actor who cheats on his girl friend, and Jessica Parker – An innocent socially awkward office worker who is taken advantage of by nearly everyone in her life. The Pilot essentially lays the ground work to these two characters, what brings them together and the world that they live in, which includes the other people in their lives. The show is very character driven, yes there is a big overall story, but without strong characters, the story is nothing, so all of the characters, not just the main two, carry the show. I will save a lot of details for after the show is released. (Again, get your tickets here! ;) But the goal of this show is the same as every other, obviously we want to get picked up by a network and get this produced with a bigger budget, be shown to the world and become financially successful. But the biggest goal, for myself at least, is getting this out to as many people as possible and tell a story that people will care about and become invested in, and it’s a comedy, so make everyone laugh. The financial goal and success of the show and my goal go hand in hand of course. All the people associated with this project, this show, believe in it’s ability to entertain. I know all of this is just a lot of nice words, but whoever gives the pilot a chance can see for themselves. (What’s that? Tickets available here? AWESOME!)
    If you haven’t already please Like us on facebook at www.facebook.com/watchingyouseries for the most up to date info on the show!
    So more posts to come on the creation of the show, writing/casting/production as well as inside details on good times and problems we faced in making the show and on set with the cast and crew.
Until next time Web Land,
Joshua Thomas
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