1. You are writing, directing and producing the webast-series Something
to be Desired. First of all, what is the series about ? And of course,
where can the dedicated surfer find it ?
Something to Be Desired (or STBD) is a web sitcom about a group of DJs,
artists and writers living in Pittsburgh (formerly America's top steel
town, and now a city trying to find its identity). The series
follows their loves, lives and very bad ideas, with a new 10-minute
episode uploaded every Monday.
We're also available on iTunes
as well as the new Network2.tv.
2. How did you come
up with the sitcom/soap opera concept for the series ?
The original concept behind the show was a story I'd intended to do as a
short film for festivals back in 1999. The more I thought about it, the
more interesting I found the possibility of expanding these characters'
lives beyond the 30 minutes I'd need to tell that slice of their story.
Thus, the idea of a serialized story became apealing, and since no one
was doing a web video series at that time, I saw an opportunity and
started exploring the possibility.
made you choose the internet as the platform for your series ?
knew web video would explode into the mainstream sooner or later. As
soon as anyone realized you could move audio over the web, it was only a
matter of time before the video technology was in place, and then I
realized no one would need to be tied to their TV sets at a specific time
of day -- they could watch everything on-demand. So we starting going in
that direction early on, and now the market has caught up with us.
you don't mind me asking, is there any kind of money to be made of a
project like yours or is it just a labour of love ?
is certainly money to be made, but we haven't made any money yet. I was
just at a pair of conferences in Boston last month (PodCamp and Video
on the Net), where that question was the hot topic. Traditional
media are realizing that there's a whole new online video market emerging
and everyone is coming to this space with their own ideas of how to profit
from it. We, as show producers, are in the unique position of having
content to offer people who have channels which need content. We're
also working out deals with advertisers right now, which would
provide a steady means of revenue for the show. And then there's
merchandising and DVDs, which we haven't tackled either. (But yes, the labor
part is definitely accurate.)
5. Your series
is filmed in Pittsburgh, PA. Is there any kind of (independent) film scene
im Pittsburgh and how receptive is Pittsburgh to projets like your own ?
a healthy independent art scene here in Pittsburgh, but it's fairly small
and self-referencing. Beyond the initial enclave of like-minded artists,
Pittsburgh itself (like most mainstream cities) isn't always as fast to
adopt new ideas and technologies as we early adopters would like. But I
feel it's important to give cities like Pittsburgh a voice, because
otherwise the world might believe that all of our media is created in New
York or Los Angeles, whereas there are millions of vibrant viewpoints
easy/difficult is it to find actors for your series, especially since you can't pay
them anything ?
Finding good actors willing to volunteer
for a project like this isn't easy, but our casting has improved every
season. This year, we had over a dozen new cast members join the show, and
many of them have taken on additional duties (like PR, scheduling, etc.)
because they believe in the potential of the project. Everyone realizes
that this has the capacity to become something large (and
revenue-generating), so it's in our best interests to work together and
grow it into what we'd all like it to be: a self-sustaining success.
The current cast of the series, from L-R: Hans
Rosemond (Lloyd), Clare Fogerty (Chloe), Will Guffey (Leo),
Jennifer Koegler (Liz), Erik Schark (Rich) and Ann Turiano
7. Since the series has started in 2003, several
(key-)actors have dropped out. How did that affect the narrative of the
Whenever we lose an actor, it affects the
direction of the show, but rarely does it derail any major plans.
Only the loss of Jack Boyd (played by Dan Stripp) after the second
season directly affected our goals for the show, forcing us to
evolve into more of an ensemble piece rather than a central
character-driven storyline. Fortunately, the series is often
semi-improvised, and that provides us with the ability to adapt to
situations as we go. Plus, as old cast members leave for other work, new
cast members cycle in to take their place, so we're never at a loss
for narrative options. We just need to remain flexible at all times and
keep our eyes open for ways that potential problems can be turned into
Ann Turiano (Caroline)
Will Guffey (Leo)
Lacey Fleming (Dierdre)
8. On the other hand, you also have a handful of actors
who were with the series since the beginning. How easy/difficult is it to
keep them ?
Ann Turiano (Caroline), Will Guffey (Leo) and
Lacey Fleming (Dierdre) have been with STBD since the first season,
and we've been fortunate to have them as long as we have. Each of
them has their own side projects they work on, and Ann spent 9
months attaining her Master's Degree in London last year, but
otherwise they've made themselves wholly available to the production
and have provided it with the small amount of stability it's retained.
Enabling the actors to offer story ideas and improvise to various degrees
also helps with cast retention because they grow to feel a closer
ownership of their characters than they might otherwise experience in a
production that was fully scripted in advance.
9. Are any of your actors actually trained thespians
or just guys playing pretty much themselves ?
current cast, 2/3 are working actors (either full or part- time). The
remainder are aspiring actors or individuals with strong
personalities who just happened to fit a certain role. I won't
spoil the guessing game by explaining which are which. (Interesting
trivia note, though: Dan Stripp (aka Jack Boyd) was not a trained actor,
yet he became the lead character for our first two seasons.)
10. How has the series evolved since its starting point in 2003, and how will it
continue to evolve ?
When we began, we really just wanted to see IF we could do
something like this. Once we realized it was possible, the challenge
became, How MUCH can we do with this? The seasons have grown from
an hour's worth of episodes in the first season to what will be 40
10-minute episodes this season (over 6 hours' worth). The storyline
has evolved from seeing the world through Jack's eyes to seeing the
various conflicts among an ever-widening pool of friends and
coworkers who rarely see eye to yet are are all bound by a desire to get
something more out of life. Friends one day, enemies the next -- kind of
like real life, only bite-sized.
We see the show continuing to evolve, especially as our storytelling
tyles shift and we find new ways to engage the audience. User feedback is
becoming increasingly important, and we've just begun a feature called What
Do You Want Weekends, in which the audience will (soon) be able to
directly impact the kind of media we create. Giving viewers a say in the
outcome of their favorite shows is not something traditional TV
would have embraced, but the web video climate is enabling viewers like
From a story point of view, should we continue with the series
indefinitely, I foresee marriages and babies in the future as the lives of
the characters begin to intersect the lives of the actors involved.
But, like any twenty-something American with a few bucks in-hand, I doubt
we're in much of a hurry for that ...
11. Do you plan to eventually let Something to be Desired end ?
certainly prefer to end the series on our terms rather than having it end
due to ennui, but as long as we keep gaining viewers (and generating
revenue), I'm content to see the series continue to evolve. In the big
picture, I've never seen a show (other than a traditional soap opera)
evolve over more than a decade, with its characters' lives continually
changing as they mature. That concept fascinates me more than the
delivery method, which means I can see STBD
next wave of portable media revolution as well -- perhaps
holographic projection or mental telepathy is next ?
what's in store for future episodes/storylines of the series ?
immediate sticking point is the fate of the radio station, WANT FM,
where the characters have worked (barely) for the past 3 seasons. The
station is in jeopardy this season, and all signs point to its immediate
demise ... though that may not officially be the case. If it
happens, where will everyone move on to ? And, if it's saved, how and
by whom ?
On the interpersonal level, none of the central characters are in
particularly healthy relationships this season, but that's all likely
to change as well over the coming months. (Though, really, how healthy IS
the average relationship ?) Since we've never had a happy couple on
the show for longer than ... ever, possibly ... it would be a nice
change of pace, and serve to offset the naturally sarcastic vibe of the
And then there's the musical episode ... and the film noir episode ... and
the zombie shootout ...
were the key influences for Something to be Desired (if there were
I was a college radio DJ for a year, which
profoundly affected the way I process media (and the people who create,
publicize, distribute and consume it). I also worked for a few web and
print publications, which set the stage for the Shout! Magazine
portions of the show. And I've frequented coffee shops for
inspiration for years now, which has taken shape in the form of the
Affogato Cafe where Dierdre works this season.
Other than those direct experiences, the interpersonal relationships
between the characters are drawn from composites in my own life, as well
as voluminous notes taken while eavesdropping and people-watching over the
past 30 years. Fortunately, the characters have been so well-established
at this point that their mere existences generate new conflicts at all
times, but my dialogue recording ear is always set to on, no matter
where I am in the world.
14. Do you have any side projects besides Something
to be Desired
I'm currently juggling half a dozen new
projects, some of which are tailored as business plans and some of which
would be nice hobbies if I could find the time. But STBD
takes up so many of my waking hours that I'm rarely able to invest
adequate time in anything else. Should that change, I have several more
web series up my sleeve, as well as a few business ideas that could change
the face of media. All in due time.
15. How would you describe your
approach to filmmaking and did you have any formal training ?
had minimal formal training in video editing and production at The Art
Institute of Pittsburgh, where I studied animation and multimedia. I
then spent 6 years creating industrial safety training videos for the
steel and power industries, which involved conducting interviews and
accident recreations in working plants. STBD grew out of
that environment as a creative escape, but I was able to apply a lot of
the same guerrilla techniques I used in my day job (always under
deadline, never enough time) to the on-the-go production of the series.
As much as I realize our lives would be easier if I had the time to plan
everything out well in advance, we'd lack some of the dive in and make
it work approach that I think helps gives the series some of its raw,
unpolished flavor. That's not to say we wouldn't all appreciate a shooting
schedule a few weeks in advance, though ... That, I should work on
Feeling lucky ?
any of my partnershops yourself
for more, better results ?
The links below
will take you
Your favourite filmmakers/films/series ?
favorites change on a regular basis, but the ones that usually float
near the top are:
Filmmakers: Michel Gondry, Whit Stillman, Spike Jonze, Jim Jarmusch,
Atom Egoyan, Sofia Coppola, Quentin Tarantino, Baz Luhrmann.
Films: It's a Wonderful Life, Casablanca, A Hard Day's
Night, The Sweet Hereafter, Swingers, Down by Law,
Dead Man, Pulp Fiction, Trainspotting, Barcelona,
Metropolitan, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, The
Series: The BBC's
version of The Office. I grew up on American sitcoms (Cheers,
Night Court, Family Ties, etc.) and grew into
Seinfeld. Lately, I watch very little (although I still
enjoy The Simpsons and Family Guy).
Online: I'm still trying to find a number of shows that hook me and
keep my attention, but I can usually find time for Tiki Bar TV,
Ask a Ninja, Rocketboom and Jim Dupree:
future plans besides more episodes/more seasons of Something to be
We're exploring the opportunity to become a
fully-operational production company, which would enable us to create a
full array of shows. I'm also working with several emerging web channels
as we decide, jointly, how best to promote web video content and what we
need to bring it to the mainstream without losing the niche elements that
make it vital to so many audiences already.
18. To plug the series once again, give us the URL,
and what can be expected from the website (apart from the entire series so
Here, you can find all 4 seasons' worth of our show, as well as cast
biographies, interviews, our production blog and our Flickr photo
gallery. There's much more to come, especially as we keep unveiling the
interactivity behind What Do You Want Weekends, so stay tuned!
19. Anything else you
are just dying to tell but I forgot to ask ?
Creating a web
series is both harder and easier than it looks.
Thanks for the
and good luck with Something to be Desired !!!
you and best wishes on your site as well !