Sitcom Genesis– What it Took to Create + Produce Original Sitcom- Flawed

by | November 7, 2019

Sitcom Genesis You’d think the world of creating a sitcom would be fun and easy. You have a fun idea, a few good characters, so you go ahead and you write a script, get your friends together, a couple of cameras, and you shoot. You submit it to someone at NBC, they love it, they bring you on the […]

Sitcom Genesis
You’d think the world of creating a sitcom would be fun and easy. You have a fun idea, a few good characters, so you go ahead and you write a script, get your friends together, a couple of cameras, and you shoot. You submit it to someone at NBC, they love it, they bring you on the lot, give you a multi-million-dollar studio deal, and you live happily ever after. Hollywood is the world of make-believe. I’m creating this blog so that you can have fun, at my expense, at the difficulty of creating and producing a viable sitcom.

The Tip- Sleep Around
I want to start by giving a tip to all you all you aspiring writers out there. Only your very best friends want to read your screenplay. The process of getting your material read by anyone with “power” goes something like this. 1) submit script to somebody you’ve met, preferably, in this town, someone you’ve slept with, or at minimum, saved the life of their first born child. (Submitting material to a stranger, you’d honestly be better off chopping down a rainforest with your bare hands. “Karate chop! … Timber!”) 2) A few days after their self imposed completion deadline has passed, call them and get them to swear on their mother’s eyes that they will have it read within one week. Trust me when I tell you, their Momma has been blind for years. 3) But this should not stop you. You are go-getter, you are persistent, never give-up, never surrender. You make sure to repeat the process and keep the pressure on, until, finally, at long least, God has mercy, and you die of old age.
The simple fact is that no matter how good a writer you are, there are immense initial obstacles to breaking into the business. Who’s to blame? The blasphemous liars who promise to read your material and pass it on up the food chain, even though they have little intention of following through? Absolutely. The truth is, everybody and their mother is begging to have their script looked at, and even your entry level agencies have stacks of unread screenplays piled to the sky. In the business, these are known as “Screenplay Trees” and are planted around Hollywood as a warning of what happens to those who attempt to write. (Note: This is not the case at major studios whose Einstein like executives have invented the elegant solution of dropping freshly received screenplays directly into an incinerator. If only our government would study this model of corporate efficiency!!)
I used to ignore the Screenplay Trees, believing that I was different, that I could take the high road and sleep my way to the top, but after several years of running into the same brick walls, I came to the painful realization that I must not be as good in bed as I thought. Either that or most people don’t really have the power, will, or motivation to help you which they profess. The truth: to get ahead in this town, you have to do things yourself.
The Good News
Here’s the beautiful, excellent, outstanding news that levels the playing field. What’s that you say? Hope? In Hollywood, a place known for dashing dreams in the same manner a lion dispatches a baby gazelle? Yeah, I’m telling you the gazelles finally received that order of jet packs they ordered. First off, as technology has advanced, production costs have dropped significantly. Not only are cameras, film and video, and editing equipment cheaper, they are also superior in quality to past generations. But perhaps more importantly, ask yourself, how are you accessing my writing right now? You have never even met me! With the Internet and high-speed bandwidth, youtube, and more powerful computers, distribution is available to billions of people around the world. Any aspiring filmmaker has the ability to not only make his project, but to have it seen by more people than the most illustrious Hollywood executive pre-1995 could have prayed for.

A Little Background In Fear
I believe most people operate on the basis that they would rather avoid pain, than gain pleasure. Cases in point: 1) a guy sees a pretty girl at the grocery store and doesn\’t approach her– fear/pain associated with rejection overrides the pleasure of getting to know/ date her. 2) someone tempted to experience skydiving, having heard about the immense pleasure it can bring, but chooses not to 3) a guy with some money, but wants to keep it squirreled away for a rainy day rather than invest it in something that could bring him immense wealth/pleasure   I\’m an example of number three. Not much in life scares me. I\’ll approach any girl, have skydived many times, swam with hammerhead sharks, touched a live cobra, walked around the slums of Bombay, India where they hadn\’t seen a white person in twenty years, but spending $5 on a Coke at the movies, are you crazy?! When I graduated from college and moved to Los Angeles, I couldn\’t afford to pay rent on a $300 a month room. My diet consisted of tuna and spaghetti, and when I positively “splurged” I would add a bowl of “Raisin Bran” to my gourmet palette. I worked really hard, sacrificing any social life in my early twenties and saved every dime I made. I considered spending any amount above that of a movie ticket to be an anathema. I associated a lot of pain to being broke, and I refused to go down any road that I felt might possibly lead me back there. But after doing a lot of inner work, I’ve come to the realization that living with any fear ain’t living at all. When you realize that nothing truly matters, that no matter what great things we might produce in life, it all gets buried by time, plus, what are we if not the eternal I am presence that this entire Universe is created … easy Rich, you\’re losing your audience … The point is, I have come to the point where I realized, I\’m not living forever, and who cares if I go to the afterlife with a few million, screw it, let\’s create something wonderful right here right now, so I can bribe my way past Saint Peter with a few billion. (I ain’t getting in without it) In other words, it was time to take some money I had saved up, and produce one of my scripts!

Inception- the phone call to Cherise
So with this certainty, this knowledge, I make the first call to my long-time friend, Cherise Bangs. It\’s difficult to describe Cherise and do it justice in print.  Sure she\’s pretty, and has the most gigantic eyes you\’ll ever see, but more importantly she\’s just the most wide open, starry eyed, feminine woman you could hope to meet. She was raised by wonderful hippy parents who never once raised their voice to their children, would not allow a piece of meat to touch their lips, and loved their kids no matter what. Cherise is lovely, caring, and honest, which makes her so out of place here in Los Angeles, she becomes a character, written for and played by her. She\’s the type of woman who is so naturally open and trusting, that, at least in sitcom world, while she is the moral voice of the show, she\’d also need someone there to protect her. Thus, I created Wendy, to be caretaker of Cherise, and kind of the “den mother” to this wacky group of characters. As long as I\’m off topic, the characters Richard and Peter, are largely based on my alter egos. Richard, in the show, has no social etiquette, is overly blunt, and able to cause disastrous Larry David like social chaos, while Peter is the opposite, a weaselly, oily, unctuous liar who very much enjoys the thrill of outfoxing someone. The guys have polar opposite flaws, and Cherise being street dumb, naive, and open flower child, and Wendy being more realistic/pessimistic, I figured a good name for the show would be “Flawed.” “Cherise, I want to make the first episode of Flawed,” I stated into the phone, finally getting to where I should have started this chapter. “Great Richie! I\’ll line up the actors”
Hints on beginning stages of production
Do not be pigeon holed by the actors that you know, or are recommended to you. Have auditions! There are so many GREAT actors in this town. It might take awhile to find the right one, but finding the best actors is the most vital thing you can do for your production. And do it from the get go. I had to replace several roles, several times, and each time, the show got better. And the truth is, having gone through this process, I think most producers would have made more changes, but at some point, I really felt like I owed my actors that had given so much time to the process. Which is funny, because, and I will write about this more later, my lead actor dropped out 36 hours before we were supposed to shoot our first scene due to a change in another production he was in that now overlapped my shooting schedule. Personally, I am overly loyal, and unless the movie was Spielberg or something, or I got to play opposite Angelina Jolie in a sex scene, having previously committed to a friend\’s production, I would have told the other producers to shove it. I simply will not leave a friend hanging. Here I was, with past directors trying to convince me to replace my male actors for various reasons, and me feeling I owed them for the time they had put in, and even if there might be better actors out there, I should protect them and my word, and BAM, one of them leaves me high and dry. This is a tough tough town man. With that said, we had a reading of the script at my house, and I was excited to see my words come to life, though I wasn\’t sure of all the actors that Cherise brought initially, I figured I would live with it. (wrong attitude, I repeat, have auditions!!!!!!!) Also, as long as I\’m giving hints on preproduction, concentrate on nailing down your locations, your permits, your cameramen and schedule. In Los Angeles, your actors will magically appear, the other stuff will not.

It’s who you know!
So I met with Shirly Brener, a friend of Marshelle Fair’s, who was playing the brunette bisexual guest star, and she recommended Shirly to play opposite her. Shirly’s a wonderful actress, and we really hit it off in the hour that we spent together, and when she found out that I didn\’t have a director yet, she sung a high note praise of one of her friend Griff Furst. So I called Griff, sent him the script, he loved it, and met with me the next day. He seemed like a cool guy, and we agreed that he would direct. Would I have met Griff without Shirly, who was friends with Marshelle, who’s Cherise’s best friend? Heck no, it\’s who you know! The most important lesson in Hollywood.

Losing Director #1 and actor
Maybe two hours after I met with Griff, I headed to the airport for a previously planned tripped to Asia. Upon arriving in China, I received an email from Griff that the budget of a movie he was considering directing had gotten a big bump upwards, and he would be working on that instead. Totally understandable, but sucks for our project. I\’ll deal with it when I get back to America. I also decided, I would be far better served to at least audition some more actors for one of the roles. By the way, skip China and go directly to Krabi, Thailand. I have been all over the world and this is the most beautiful place I have ever been.   So I got back into town at the beginning of November and held auditions for the role of Richard, and found a great actor, Keith Stone, who I was really excited about. Unfortunately, two days later, he told me there would be a conflict because he had another job that was paying him far far more. So I went with my second choice, an Israeli named Gadi Erel. As I was also looking for a new director, Keith recommended someone to me who he said really knew what he was doing, a “three camera sitcom God.”

Zubi- our DP, and Tom– Line producer
One thing absolutely essential in any production is to surround yourself with good people. Production is such a monumental process, you unequivocally need the added know how, good will, and resources of others. Marshelle, (or Marshmallow as I proudly nicknamed her) recommended two of her friends, Zubi, a DP whom she had worked with, and Tom, a line producer she knew from Saint Louis. I met with Zubi first, and he was everything the name Zubi might imply. Black, dreadlocks, glasses, he looked every bit of the Venice dwelling artist that he is. He\’s also a really nice guy, super professional, and very easy to get along with. I brought him on board instantly. Tom Bellos, (Line Producer) also a very nice guy, may very well be a future character on my show. Remember, previously my show was called “Flawed,” and while he is professional, honest, kindhearted, and thorough, Tommy does have a eensie weenie minor flaw: in the amount of time that it takes him to express a thought, you could circumnavigate the globe two and a half times, and that\’s stopping in Rome for a leisurely lunch. I nicknamed him Mr. Verbose. But that doesn\’t change the fact that he was absolutely integral to the process, and without him, producing the project would have been a nightmare- he did an outstanding job. (I add this stuff now so Tom doesn’t machete me) Surround yourself with great people.
Director #2– Oh so whiny
Look, I have to include what happened with our second director. As I have nothing good to say about him, I won\’t be including his name, but it\’s an important lesson for you aspiring writer/producers out there in Readerville. I met with the guy out in Hollywood, only days after I had returned from Asia. He seemed nice enough, and with the in emphatic recommendation that Keith had given me, and Cherise had echoed, I put aside the subtle doubt that I had in my gut (especially because I couldn’t pinpoint it), and acquiesced to his deal demands even though, although it\’s not a tremendously large sum of money, it was more than our production could afford to pay him. My actors were very excited about him though, so we read for him, and after we were done, he immediately suggested replacing Gadi, the actor playing Richard, stating that he was too good-looking for the role, and had an Israeli accent that would often get in the way of his words, and we could do better, etc etc. One of the weaknesses I have as a producer, is my kindheartedness, and I wasn\’t very comfortable with his recommendation to replace Gadi. This is my fault, because the truth is, in this town the only things most people care about are their wallet, their ego, getting laid, or having the best production possible, people’s feelings be damned. I, on the other hand, when I give my commitment to somebody, do everything I can to follow through on what I have stated. Nevertheless, I agreed to meet later with an actor whom our director had suggested. Also, I had a lot of preproduction to accomplish.  Locations, permits, extras, equipment, setting up a corporate bank account were the first five of a list of a hundred tasks to accomplish. With a tight shooting schedule coming up, the director found it quite unsettling that we didn\’t have everything nailed down yet, although I had made it clear exactly what we had in place when he had agreed to join us a few days earlier.

Getting Locations
Remember how I said earlier that most guys associate pain to going up to a girl they don\’t know and asking her out. For some reason, I associated pain in asking people if it would be okay if we used their locations. Nevertheless, my budget was 15k, and there wasn\’t going to be any one else padding the streets. It was time to either do it or quit. Like Master Yoda says, “There is only do or do-not, there is no try.” So I went out and looked for possible locations that I knew of or were recommended to me. To my surprise, every one I met was quite cordial, and more than willing to lend out their place for a few bucks. I was genuinely surprised how easy it was. Jump little bird, your wings shall appear. We have a section of this website devoted to tips and videos of amenable businesses in the LA area. Anyways, one of the locations I thought was a possibility was a really old school restaurant/diner called Delores in West LA. The owner was nice enough, and agreed to rent it out to me for the cost of keeping someone over night there to baby sit us, plus a hundred bucks. The place is great to shoot, because it has multiple rooms that we could double up, and make look like separate restaurants. True, it\’s not a high class restaurant you would be dying to take a date to, but for our production purposes and the price we were getting, it would do just fine. So, I called up my production team, which consisted of Zubi (DP), Tom Bellos, (Line Producer) and Whiny (our director) to let them know of my find. A few minutes later, Zubi told me that they were all meeting at Delores in an hour or so to take a look at it. I quickly noted our director wasn\’t really enthused with the place. It\’s not what he had in mind … it\’ll do .. he supposes … but, there are reservations. He leaves to head back to his side of town, I get a call soon after he\’s gone and I can tell immediately he\’s unhappy. “We need to talk,” a refrain I had heard before when he was doubting our ability to shoot everything in the four days I had allotted, and wondering why I wanted to shoot the whole thing rather than just a few segments of it. I wasn\’t really pleased with him at that point, but my actors had sung his praises, and I\’ll be damned if I\’m not going to give them what they want. Anyways, I have to meet with him and the actor that he wanted to replace Gadi with in a couple hours anyways … I had better go look for more locations before that …

Replace or not Replace
So I met with Whiny and his actor. His actor was good, but he didn’t blow me away, which was the only way I was going to replace Gadi at that point, and so when the actor left, I told our director exactly that. He became upset, you could see it simmering inside him. He started off telling me I didn’t know what I was doing pre-production wise, that when there is a short movie to be shot you get your locations two months in advance, and have a crew of thirty-five people working on it. Rather than ask him whether he was crazy, I wanted to see where this would lead. He went on saying that it would be impossible to shoot everything I had in four days, on the budget I had, and shooting the moving car scenes, are you crazy? And with the schlock restaurant I had chosen that was anything but fine dining. He said that he had signed on to direct for four days, one day of preproduction, and one afternoon to look at the actors, and there is no way we would be ready in time. No way, not a chance, cause normally for a mere short film, you get your locations 2 months in advance with a crew of thirty-five (it bears repeating) He tried to say that I lied to him, that I made it seem like I had everything together, which he retracted when I reminded him the fact that I told him that we had a DP, a Line Producer, 15k, and a will and a way. You see, most people, at this point would have fired his whiny ass. I, honestly, don’t have much of an ego, and thus, rather than reacting from an egoic place, I really try to see and understand things from someone else’s point of view. I came to the conclusion, right or wrong, that this was another Hollywoodite who’s decision making is basically structured by fear, and from his standpoint he was doing this solely for his director’s reel, and he wanted everything to look absolutely perfect, restaurant and all. So what do I do? At this stage of the game, do I really have time to replace the director, probably not, and especially if this guy really knows what he’s doing, better to put up with him for a second and see if you can work it out. (WRONG attitude!) So I echoed to him what I believed about was his motivation, and with my actors having so much faith in the guy, I told him that if, in 48 hours, I didn’t have a substantial part of the preproduction nailed down, that he could excuse himself from the project. “Okay,” he stated, shaking his head. “You’re shaking your head as you say okay to me,” I replied, calling him on his dichotomous body language. “Okay, you have two days,” he stated.
People Are Crazy
So with forty eight hours and the clock ticking, I delayed not a second, and visited the Cacao Coffee House on Santa Monica Boulevard. I started taking pictures inside, and suddenly an older man yelled at me, “You take my picture!  Let me see!” I was a little perplexed.             “I wasn\’t taking a picture of you,” I explained.             “Show me the picture,” he demanded.             “Dude, you\’re not in here,” I stated, “I was taking a picture of the entire coffee shop for a movie shoot.”             “Let me see it!”             The guys face was redder than an overripe cherry tomato, so I figured I\’d show him the picture before he exploded.  Low and behold, to our mutual disgust, about half of the back of his bald head was in the photo frame. He took my camera to the counter.             “He took my picture without my permission,” he complained.             “Then ask him to delete it”, stated the coffee shop employee.             “Delete it,” he demanded, handing the camera back to me.             After deletion, he followed up by demanding I show him every picture in the camera.  Fortunately for him there were only four, and I really didn’t need any more headaches that night.  Then for good measure, he decided to assert his masculine authority over me, telling me in an Eastern European accent, “you\’re lucky I did not confiscate or break your camera.”             Well, frankly, at this point, I had had enough. “You break my camera, I break you,” I retorted in a Russian accent.  His nostrils flared (an indication of possible physical action) and he stared at me kind of like a wolf determining if he can take down a big moose on his own. Recognizing the body language, I raised my finger to warn him I had some big ass antlers. “Go back to Russia,” he finally retorted, and staring at me, Bullwinkle the Moose, ever so slowly, Boris backed off, grabbed his Natasha and took off. The question belies itself, who would react so strongly to being in half in the frame of a photo.  A fugitive, a Russian spy, someone incredibly vain, an adulterer? Living in LA, offers far better material than the imagination ever could.

My 48 Hours
I was out until 2 AM I was out looking at locations, and woke up at 8 AM to go scout some more. I had to make the most of my 48 hours because, as whiny as Whiny was, my actors (especially Cherise) were very excited to be working with him, and I didn’t have time to look for a new director. My process went something like this: I would talk to the owners/managers to see if I could work out a deal with them, then take videos of the locations, exterior and interior, and when I had about five or six possibilities, I went home, and posted the videos online. I thought this “genius” maneuver would save my production team time, gas, and frustration in viewing the locations, and overall, speed up the process of choosing, especially since Whiny made it clear that he did not have time for this part of the process. So, after spending all morning and early afternoon doing this, Tom Bellos told me to go check out the Veterans Administration in North Hills as a possible hospital location. My phone rang, I glanced down at caller ID, it was Whiny. “Do you have a second to talk?” came his voice on the other end of the line. “Sure,” I stated, “just checking out— “—I was going to email you the Wikopedia definition of pre-production, but I didn’t want to be that much of an ass— “Too late,” I thought, what the hell is this guy’s problem. The conversation went down hill from there. He told me there was no way I was going to be ready to shoot in time, that if I did it would look like schlock, and that I was betraying not only him, but my actors! Now, I got hot when I heard the betrayal part. Me, betray. Hell no. I’m as loyal as they fricking come. Then he told me, I owed him an apology. Me, owe him?! We had agreed to 48 hours of pre-production to get the ducks in a row, and here this guy is telling less than 24 hours later that I was betraying him.             Basically, that was that, he would no longer be working with us. Or, as Zubi said after I related the story to him later, “Why don’t we email him the Wikopedia definition of ‘asshole.’ “               I took a look at the facilities the VA was offering use of, and I have to tell you, they were spooky. No lights, decrypted rooms that hadn’t seen use in 30 years and were falling apart, leaky, dripping water faucets. If I was shooting ah horror movie, I would jumped all over it. You definitely don’t want to be there at night.

I have to admit, after leaving, I felt down. Doubt reared its ugly head. I didn’t have a director, I hadn’t nailed down any locations, is it possible I really didn’t know what I was doing? Well, yes, I really didn’t know exactly what I was doing, but when you believe in something, you cannot give-up. I truly believe that if there’s a will, the way will appear. The first call I made was to my Grandfather. I always talk things over with him, and as I had been keeping him updated on everything that was going on, he had a point of view. “Be thankful,” he said, “this is the best thing that could have happened.” “I just lost my director.” “You haven’t been in the business long enough, that guy would have caused you nothing but trouble. Nothing would have been good enough for him, he would have brought the morale of everyone around him down if he did not get exactly his way. Be thankful. And, I know you feel down right now, but chin-up, things will work out. Somehow they always do for you.” It’s nice to have people in your life that care about you so much you can lean on them when you’re not at the top of your game.
Director #3
Well, I took a half hour and just sat there and made the decision to continue on my noble sitcom quest, which was inevitable I suppose, and went back to work. People referred me to a few different directors, as I went out and continued to scout locations. My actors were supportive, although probably slightly deflated. I met with one director, smart, nice, thorough, and I thought about hiring him, except I realized, he was born without a funny bone. Still, at least he knew what he was doing on a technical end of things, and I was still considering it. Again, wrong attitude, you have to find the right people. That goes for everything. I always set ambitious goals, especially time wise, and do everything in my power to complete them. My lesson, allow for more time and do things right. Find the right people!    My clock was ticking, and I got a call from my older brother, Chad, whom I hadn’t even thought to call about this. Chad is a former actor, turned professional poker player, and he was out of town playing in some tournament. He told me he had spoken to Grandpa, and asked me to tell him the story. When I was done, he told me he was going to make a call for me. He called me back a few minutes later, and gave me the name of a friend of his, whom he had played baseball with in New York. His name was Chris Bruno.   Chris Bruno, if you look him up on IMDB, has quite an impressive resume. In addition to being one of the leads on “The Dead Zone,” and numerous other shows/features, his personal goal was to begin a career as a director. He had in fact, included in his contract, a provision stipulating that he got to direct one of the episodes for the latest Dead Zone season. I met with him at a Starbucks, and Chris is super cool. I mean the guy’s crazier than I am in terms of the things he’ll do for a thrill. You have respect that, plus he liked my script. So we agreed it would be Bruno to direct. I can’t tell you how grateful I was, how things had once again worked out, how the Universe had come into play for me.

Thanksgiving Gratitude or Panic
So, I left for Thanksgiving weekend, satisfied, secure, grateful. Then on Sunday, only hours before I was set to fly back to Los Angeles, I received an email. It was from Bruno, “Just wanted to check and see if you got my message, I’m really sorry about everything …” Frick! What the hell. Apparently Chris had left me a voice mail message a few hours earlier that I hadn’t picked up yet, telling me that he had gotten the lead in a movie that was shooting six days a week in Utah starting tomorrow, and he just couldn’t turn down the money they were offering. He had tried to structure it so that he could still be back here to shoot with us, but just couldn’t make it happen. Oh my God. What in the world is going on? How could the Universe be treating me this way, I thought we were friends Universe … So I spent a few agonizing hours wondering what to do next. Do I tell my actors we lost our director yet again, do I hire Captain NoFunnyBone, what do I do. My ride to airport I was lost in thought, the possibility of failure reared its ugly head. Could Whiny have been right?

But didn’t I mention before that Bruno is super cool. Not the type of guy to leave people hanging! He sent the script over to a friend of his, Sean Patrick Flanery. (Young Indiana Jones, Powder, Boondock Saints) So I’m at the airport, running out of juice, I call Flanery (which, as I learned, is what he calls himself, as in getting a phone call, “Hey Rich, it’s Flanery.”) and he tells me my script is funny, and he’d meet with me tomorrow. So I’m excited, and head over to the jujitsu school he teaches at to meet him first thing in the morning. Like Bruno said, Flanery’s a very cool easy going guy. He agrees to direct the piece under one provision, he has to like my cast (as actors.)    BAM, my actors come in at the appointed time, we read for him. He’s satisfied, they are solid, I could have chosen a couple better actors he says, but they’re all solid.   Great! We are back on track, now it’s time to find all my locations. We start shooting in less than two weeks. Not a lot of time to take care of everything

Rehearsal/ Blonds
Well, Flanery wanted to rehearse with the actors. So we all got together, and frankly, the little things he found in the context of the script, were simply genius. I am the Founder, President, and Dictator For Life of the Genius Club, and we have only three existing members. I’m pretty sure Flanery will be inducted as the fourth. Needless to say, our cast was super excited about working with him.   We also had to audition the last part that I needed to cast, the blond guest star to play opposite Marshmallow. We auditioned the ladies at the jujitsu academy, which is probably one the odder places the young ladies ever went to for an audition. Ever present with us was Flanery’s super sweet dog, Donut, who kept us company while we watched the actresses. Oftentimes to settle a debate over an actress we would ask Donut her thoughts on the matter, but she was only interested if we offered her food. Believe it or not, we saw A LOT of blonds. We just couldn’t agree on one. No one came in and blew us away.

Going SAG
I quickly started nailing down our locations. Delores’s was in play, as was my apartment. Via Chris Bruno, who I was still in contact with, we found The Town Grind Coffee Café in Santa Clarita, which we could rent for a reasonable price during the day that looked like a cool, hip, LA coffee house. Via Zubi, we got equipment rental, camera, and boom operators. Things were looking good.   Another thing that I had to take care of before we started shooting was going SAG. (Screen Actor’s Guild) Because all my actors were SAG, they are not allowed to work for a non SAG production. In the past, going SAG might have sunk a small production like mine, but with Internet shows starting to pop up online, they altered their requirements to enable writer/producers like me to use professional actors, and defer their pay. It took some doing, but I managed to meet with a SAG rep and convince him that my production wasn’t being run at a Dreamworks size budget. I still promised all my actors a little something something though. We were pretty much set for the first day of shooting.

Panic + Bedlam
Of course isn’t it the nature of the Universe to test you when everything is firing on all cylinders? As mentioned, 36 hours before we were to get our first shot off, my lead playing Peter, called me and told me he that the producers of a movie he was concurrently cast in, had switched days on him, and were now directly interfering with our shooting schedule. For a moment, I was absolutely beside myself. I could not believe he would do this to me after all this time. Where the hell am I supposed to find another actor on this short notice?! I told Flanery our predicament, and he was excited. Excited?! “Dude, this is LA, actors are everywhere,” he explained. “You get to recast a solid, but compared to your chicks, weak actor. We can do better.” Here I am, with no blond girl, and no lead 30 hours before our first shot.   The next afternoon, with everyone pulling their resources, we auditioned a bunch of actors. I have to tell you, in general the actors we auditioned for Peter were much more solid than the girls we were auditioning for the blond. Discussing this, we wondered whether chicks get into acting for the wrong reasons. The second guy we saw, Randy LaHaye, pretty much knocked it out of the park. He was just naturally funny and comedic, and could deliver his lines. There were a few good guys to choose from, but for me it was Randy hands down. We started shooting the next day, so Randy had a lot of material to learn. I let him know that I would be there for him, to answer any questions he had about the script, and put my faith in him that he would learn his lines and be ready to shoot come morning. We also cast a tall gal named Amy Rasimas to play our blond, which made for a funny contrast with little Marshmallow.

Showing up to set
On practically no sleep, I showed up to set at 5 AM. The crew was unloading their stuff, and Aria, the friendly owner of the shop, was milling about taking care of morning needs. I was excited, and just had faith that things would go well. We got off our first shot a little later than I had anticipated. As was the case throughout the shoot, I only was able to watch bits and pieces of filming as I was taking care of many other things. The first scene went off pretty well, though we took a lot longer time on it than I had imagined. Our next scene, Randy (Peter) simply could not remember his lines. We shot a very bad version of the scene that frankly, was unusable. Discussing things with Flanery, we both agreed that it would be best to postpone our next long scene, and shoot the shorter coffee shop sequence first. Randy was also melting down, so I went over to him and did my best to make him feel comfortable. The scene we ended up shooting was absolutely hilarious, but that was the day’s end. It took a long ass time to do everything, and we had to make-up about six pages of material (what for a movie is a day’s worth of shooting), into an already super-tight shooting schedule.

Sunday Shoot- Delores
Randy had promised to do nothing but study his lines for Sunday. Fortunately he had 48 hours before he would have to perform again, which gave him a bit of time. I spent my time getting ready for the shoot, and Sunday early evening, we shot in my apartment. Flanery kept things moving, and we got over to Delores without a hitch. We were slammed for time at Delores. Everyone had brought their friends to be extras, which I was very grateful for, as Flanery wanted the place hopping, and we had a few wonderful extras, that I got via Craig’s List, who spent the entire night with us. Man, am I grateful to them, especially cause they were only getting food, and a chance to meet us. I have to say, I was really happy with what we shot. It was very very funny from what I could tell, and I have to tell you, I had A LOT to do, and was pretty stressed. I had to call in Cherise and Linna Carter (playing Wendy) for an extra day of shooting to make-up those two scenes we didn’t get in the coffee shop, which was costing me more money, but hey, I’d rather re-shoot the crap we shot, than have a mediocre show. Have to do what you have to do. By the time Flanery came up with his funny ass ad-libs, and we finished with five minutes to spare, I think everyone was pretty excited about what we had. I stayed for an hour, cleaning up with the crew, and went home at 7:30 AM to catch a couple Z’s.

Setting up for Next Shoot
Monday quickly turned into Tuesday, and I needed extra hands on deck, a hospital location, and a street to shoot on. Still hadn’t nailed that stuff down. I won’t tell you what I did to get a shooting permit for our street sequences, but I will tell you it was by no means easy. I put up a help wanted ad at LA Film School, and we got a very nice set designer named, Rachel Montgomery, and a to help decorate and set-up the hospital we chose, which ended up being a house out in the hills with some hospital props, greenish walls, and a wheel chair. I picked out our street, which would have been very different if there was not a moratorium in shooting in front of businesses right before Christmas.             Sure there were a few loose ends, like reserving the parking spots since we weren’t getting signs put up, getting an ambulance and paramedics for a sequence, (or to haul me away) but after an absolutely grueling week, I thought we were ready to go.

Champ’s House- Saturday shoot
We shot the hospital and Peter’s apartment sequences up in the hills, at a house that I rented. I have to confess, one big worry that I had as a producer, was getting everything lined up, making a deal with someone, having everyone arrive, and the owner of the place either jacking up his rate, or worse, not being there. Fortunately, this did not happen here, and things went pretty smoothly on Saturday. There are going to be “alternate” endings that Flanery thought of (which in general are cruder than my humor allows me to go.) I doubt they’ll make the final cut, but you can enjoy them in our outtake section. But dammit all if Flanery wasn’t a genius (as previously mentioned.) The guy batted about .973 in the humor department, and most of the ad-ons he thought of were pretty damn funny. We wrapped this day on time, and had to start setting up for our toughest and biggest day of shooting, the Sunday street scenes

When Anything that Can Go Right Goes…
I didn’t think the metered spaces we needed for our shoot would be an issue since we’d be getting there at dawn, but darn-it if there weren’t cars parked in every spot that we needed to shoot our parking sequence. Worse it was Sunday, the only day of the week the meter maids don’t terrorize motorists so these cars didn’t have to move til Monday. I was on the phone with Zubi (on my way there) when he exclaimed, “Wait! I think I can get someone to move.” And I listened to the impromptu conversation via cell phone as he politely asked a woman if she would move her car to one of a jillion open spots down the street or the empty parking lot ten feet away. “There are no signs telling me I have to move. Where are your signs?!” she nastily queried. After a few more foul comments, she started swearing at Zubi, promising, “I’ll sue you! I’ll sue everyone you know!”  (LA- come for the weather, stay for the crazies.)  “Dude, just offer her ten bucks,” I whispered into the phone. As he described it to me, she was striding away, shouting as she went, and it didn’t look like an electro-magnet could pull back if she was wearing a suit of armor, when Zubi calmly stated, “We’ll give you ten bucks to move your car maam.” “It was as if I had said magic words,” Zubi explained, “She stopped in mid stride, spun around balancing on one leg, and demanded to see the ten bucks.” And Zubi didn’t have it on him. He had to scrounge with the rest of the crew, to come up with the duckets, and so, very begrudgingly, she moved her vehicle, only after inspecting the ten spot to make sure it wasn’t a fake. But at least we had one of the meters!

My Wuss Car
We were shooting a scene with the boys arguing while they drove. It took Flanery all of three seconds to decide what car to have the boys drive. “A Prius dude,” Flanery explained, “You know, some wussy-whimp car.” “But I drive a Prius,” I contested. “Perfect,” Flanery exclaimed, If only I got one mile per gallon.   We finally got the cameras mounted on the wuss mobile, and Flanery, Gadi, and Randy went on their merry way. I had no idea what was happening, they kept circling the block, while the finally mounted cameras rolled (or so I hope), with Flanery laying down in the backseat of my car watching the monitors we managed to get in there. Since we only had two cameras, after the first pass, we had to remount a camera to the passenger side. When we finally got it done, Flanery and the boys drove around for another hour while the rest of cast and crew sat there, praying for the best.  The whole thing took quite awhile, but we got it done to Flanery’s satisfaction.   Then we had to shoot the two Mr. Mean parking sequences where our boys and Mr. Mean argue over parking etiquette and fight over a spot. — The problem was, none of the other cars had moved. They had been there ALL day, from 7 AM until 3 o’clock now, and we could not wait any longer to shoot this sequence. And I swear to you, right as we were thinking of creative ways around the problem (if we tip over car, we might be able to get it up on the sidewalk), within 5 minutes of each other, all three owners of the cars, came and moved their vehicles, thus proving once and for all to all you atheists out there, that there is a God. But we still had shoot this little adventure, and with our cameramen playing dodge-ball against oncoming cars, gawking onlookers getting in the way, and while I was relaying the message from Flanery, still directing from my backseat (we allowed ‘Backseat Directing’) over to Mr. Mean that we were ready for him to attempt to back-in to the space, Gadi crashed my car. Okay, he didn’t crash it, but twice came within INCHES of causing my brain hemorrhage. So we got this sequence done, and now it was time to shoot the ambulance scene. Where the hell is a production like ours going to get an ambulance? Bribe the fire department? Buy a million dollar insurance policy so we can rent one for a thousand bucks a day and blow our budget out of the water? Hell no! Midway through the day, Mr. Tom “I should be on Heroes” Bellos, confirmed that through a series of actions, he had managed to find someone that owned an ambulance, and a couple paramedics uniforms. The ambulance was on it’s way. What more can I tell you about the day? Everything that I saw shot was pretty fucking hilarious. I honestly could not contain my laughter some of the time. We shot in the cold, all day, and into the early evening, and somehow, magically, we got every single shot that needed, and with fantastic results! Or so I hope, I still haven’t seen the tapes. Nevertheless, I am very excited about what we got. You often hear the refrain, “Anything that could go wrong, went wrong. This was just the opposite, anything that could go right, went right! I am so grateful.

It goes to show what happens when you persevere and work hard. Honestly, I have done a lot of really good things in my life, and I was always asking, when can I withdraw some of my Universal karma? Certainly, at first, it seemed like nothing was going right. I was beset by problem after problem during our production, and no matter what, I just kept moving forward. So many times people recommended that I delay the project, and in all honesty maybe, odds wise, I should have, but all said and done, at the end of the day, I found the Universal Bank Of Karma and was hitting the maximum withdrawal every day of our shoot. I feel incredibly lucky, and I hope the results match, and you, the viewer, get as much pleasure out of watching our show, as we had in creating it! Peace and laughter be with you, with special thanks to Sean Patrick Flanery, Tom Bellos, Zubi Mohammed, Cherise Bangs, and Marshmallow Fair.


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