Here’s our failed Channel 101 NY pilot, Lyfe’s Little Mysteries.
Happy to announce that The Bananaman Show: Episode 1 (Cheer Up, Bananaman) came in 3rd place at last night’s Channel 101 screening!
That means a brand new episode (Bananaman’s Kombucha Stand) will compete in next month’s screening.
From a few years back, Jon and Jess show you the basics of submitting to Channel 101 NY.
However you don’t need to send tapes to Stephen Levinson anymore, you can nowadays just submit directly to Youtube: Go to http://ny.channel101.com/submit.php to learn how
It’s Katie Fisher Day, which is officially, objectively the sweetest celebration of a life well lived. Katie was tragically killed and her dear brother Matt decided to share her generosity by encouraging others to 1) Bake cookies & 2) Share them with someone you love. If you want to learn more about Katie and Matt, he wrote a touching tribute on Modern Loss.
Are you ready for Katie Fisher Day? Bake cookies and send love!
I wanted to write a bit about this video, since it holds a special place in my heart, and comes from an interesting time in my life.
Believe it or not, I’ve been working on Critical Hit! since 2006. For real. 2006. And it was finally finished in late 2013… SEVEN YEARS LATER.Crazy, right?So, first of all, I’ve had this weird imaginary weight on my shoulders for that entire time, and I’m relieved to finally be done with it and have a finished product out there for people to enjoy. (And I’m trying not to think about the steps necessary in promoting this video and sharing it with the world. Yikes.)But, yeah, 2006. It was a time when Mr. Ghost (a video-making trio made up of me, Dyna Moe and Bill Buckendorf) was coming to an end, and I found myself not really knowing what to do.In past years — thanks especially to Channel 102 (now called Channel 101 NY) — Mr. Ghost made a web series pretty much on a monthly schedule, and it was fun, it was productive, it was challenging. It was also stressful, time-consuming, and exhausting.I can’t really state enough how grateful I am for the opportunity Channel 102 brought to the NYC comedy world. Not only did I learn a lot about making videos, but at the end of it all, I had something to show for it. A real finished product!I tend to classify each year according to what project I was working on, and in 2005 we made My Wife, the Ghost, then in 2006 we made Cakey! The Cake From Outer Space, then sometime after that Dyna and I broke up, and that was the end of Mr Ghost.And all that really sucked, as endings and break-ups often do, but I still had these plans and dreams and ideas for a Dungeons & Dragons-like show, and so I went ahead. Draggingly slow, but still.My earliest email I can find about Critical Hit! is from 2/24/2006, to Birch, where it was still a web series (not just a web pilot) and he was gonna play an Elf Druid, not a Magic-User. Boy, did things change! Am I right, folks?BTW, someone asked me “How did you book all those great people?” Well, in those days no one was famous. We were just UCBers and, I just asked them. I’ve always considered one of my strong points to be casting the right person for the right role (and writing it tailor-made for them). But I just asked.And nine months later we shot the bulk of the pilot. NINE MONTHS.In that time I rewrote the script a dozen times, ordered costumes and weapons (after being given money by my brother — an act of kindness I’ve never forgotten, even if I’ve never repaid it), got advice from a park ranger on how to shoot in Central Park without a permit and not get thrown out, and, most time-consumingly, figured out the schedules of 14 or so actors. Also, real life and the inevitable sadness that follows a break-up.Anyway. The day we shot was perfect, I can remember that. It was one of those beautiful fall days that you’d want to spend outdoors. We didn’t get hassled by The Man, everyone was in high spirits (getting to play with fake weapons will do that), and while I felt I was too distracted to be much of a director, it’s a very positive memory.Six months later we shot the interior scenes. Same sort of reasons/excuses — finding a suburban-y location in NYC isn’t easy, but Michelle Dobrawski graciously lent us her East Village living room for the day. Plus finding teen actors (thank you, Louie Pearlman!) and assuring their parents I wasn’t a predator. And the usual scheduling nightmare, only now with teens and parents.But we shot the rest and it was fine and dandy AND THEN I DID NOTHING WITH IT FOR LIKE THREE YEARS. What the hell?!(It’s also worth nothing I didn’t even work on other video projects at the time. I improvised and coached and taught and did a lot of live-stage projects, but that’s all now lost in the time and space. I wish I had made more things that were less ephemeral.)Then in 2009 I finally asked Bill (who shot the pilot) for the footage… AND THEN I DID NOTHING WITH IT FOR THREE MORE YEARS.I dunno. I can’t even.Finally I gave the footage to a friend to edit and another friend to add special effects and they worked on it in their spare time and I didn’t think about it or prod too hard until I realized I was moving to LA, and then it was finally finished… AND THEN I DIDN’T DO ANYTHING FOR LIKE TWO MONTHS.I can blame moving to LA, but I was also looking for a “right time” to release it, whatever that means, and it’s also this fear of putting out your work — and this is something I wrote almost eight years ago, so I’m a different writer and creator now, it’s kind of embarrassing — and everyone looks so young, and this is before HD cameras, really, but then it was Bobby and Jon’s birthday and I figured “Now is the time.”It took a long time, but it’s done. The weight is off my shoulders, I hope you enjoy it, and I hope in the future I don’t let procrastination get the best of me (says the fellow who has another web pilot that’s been in post-production for years).TL;DR- Making stuff is scary and fun and can take a long time.- Eff that, make it anyway, then finish it.- Ask. Ask people you admire to work with you. Ask friends to help you.- Dreams do come true?Thanks for reading this.(And if you did find this story interesting and/or thought the video was fun, please reblog it and share with your friends. That’s always the next step, after post-production — sharing and spreading the world. I appreciate it, and thank you for your help.)Critical Hit! - http://youtu.be/2xihVdT72zA
I made this for myself last year, a blank Dan Harmon story circle that I can print out and write on whenever story ideas happen, or if I’m working on a story. The second page is a condensed version of Story Structure 104: The Juicy Details. Check out Dan’s original blogs about story circling from channel101. In the meantime, print out these templates for yourself if you don’t have a whiteboard (which I still don’t…) and get to work!!
Yeah Channy! Thanks to Ed Mundy for mailing it across the country!
by Tracy Soren
Mitch Magee has an impressive resume when it comes to Channel 101 NY. A detailed history of both his jaunts in front of the camera and behind, this list proves there was a time Magee was all over Channel 101 NY, even hosting the Channy Awards a few years ago.
Magee knows how to set a visual tone. While some content creators focus solely on story, it is obvious that Magee holds set design in high esteem. As a viewer, you are immediately ushered into whatever world Magee has created for you.
Magee has one of the most unique voices in the Channel 101 NY canon. Not only is his work visually stunning and thorough, he manages to stay consistent within the perimeters he sets. While Mister Glasses has tropes of a definitive era and style, he plays with those tropes with his strong characters and tight dialogue. While watching, I never felt his characters or jokes poked fun at what and who they are. They are never “in the know” to the world Magee has created around them. They are earnest characters playing to the height of their intelligence.
I also enjoyed watching Magee’s series because I was always surprised. There would be an intricate location for one quick shot and I’d wonder, “how did he get that?” Or there would be an odd story told by Mister Glasses that one, made me question my intelligence, and two was the perfect soliloquy for the character. Whatever the surprise, I instantly know I am ready to go along for the ride.
Let me start off by saying you have one of the most unique voices on Channel 101 NY. Watching your series, the direction and visuals were consistent but the writing led to many surprises. It was a really fun journey to take. Let’s take Mister Glasses for example, how was it to star, write, and direct the series all at once?
I think acting in something you’re directing is more difficult, especially if you’re concerned with achieving a certain “look.” Most of that series was shot by Paul Rondeau and we talked a lot about how that series should look before we got started—black and white, 40s Hollywood, strong backlight, etc. I sent him a lot of reference photos, I remember. And then when I was in front of the camera, I would just trust Paul to make it work. One of the benefits though of starring in your own show is that you know the tone, you know the character and how the jokes are supposed to land. Mister Glasses was the most plot-driven series I did. I tried to write complete stories (in the Dan Harmon vein) for each episode. Writing, for me, is what I struggle with the most. A lot of my writing comes from visual ideas more than story.
How did you come up with your series ideas? Mister Glasses and Sexual Intercourse: American Style (along with your failed pilots) are so specific and it made me wonder about your creative process.
When Channel 101 NY (then Channel 102) first started up, I tried to write something more conventional—a spy/espionage type show. I showed it to Will Hines and he said I should try to write something more in my own voice—Will and I had written sketch shows together at UCB. So I wrote down a few potential titles for shows in a notebook and “Sexual Intercourse: American Style” was the title I most responded to. The show started with the title. I had just finished reading The Position by Meg Wolitzer which was a novel loosely based on the couple who wrote The Joy of Sex. I thought that revolutionary/spiritual/exploratory 70s-style sex was funny and I felt a certain sympathy with the earnestness of it all. I also really liked the movie The Ice Storm and so I began to fill in the world based on the title I had written down and my interests at the time. For example, I remain interested in a certain Yankee WASP culture that I grew up around (but never in.) And Wes Anderson movies—the art direction, the framing, the general sense of melancholy in his movies. With Mister Glasses, that show started with the character. Dyna Moe and I started playing around with the character (who was based loosely on the architect, Philip Johnson) and I built the show from there. I was sort of thinking of genre types from 30s/40s Hollywood—the “His Girl Friday” ambitious career gal type, for example. Ellie Kemper had done a character like that on stage and I built the character of Kitty with Ellie in mind. My creative process is about being open to anything, just pulling from a lot of different sources and interests, throwing it all in and seeing what excites me. I try not to think about “will people like this” or “is this good.” I feel like it’s really stifling thinking about making everyone happy. But I don’t willfully try to make things weird or esoteric, I just want to feel excited about something.
You make bold choices - starting off an episode of Mister Glasses in a random bathtub…the four characters of Sexual Intercourse: American Style have an entire episode in balloon suits – was there anything you wanted to do that was even more random but you just couldn’t get done?
There’s lots I wish I could have done. I was spending as little money as possible to make the shows. I was broke. So we had to figure out creative inexpensive ways to make a visually interesting show, hence the balloon suits. For one of the SIAS episodes, I tried to secure a yacht—I had a tip from someone who knew someone at the Maritime Museum at South Street Seaport. That fell through; it turns out it was a ton of money just to get the insurance to go on the yacht. For Mister Glasses, it would have been nice to be inside some great modernist spaces like the lobby of the Seagram Building or something, but I knew that would always be an impossibility. That series seemed to call out for very self-conscious jib and dolly shots, but we were working with a very rickety hand-made dolly, so a lot of what I had in my mind couldn’t be accomplished. We had to work with the limitations. Those limitations probably made the shows more “random.”
The visuals for both Mister Glasses and Sexual Intercourse: American Style were purposefully chosen and really set the tone for the entire series. What was set designing like for both series? Feel free to venture into your failed pilots as well.
I tried to think from the start, “what is the look of the show.” And then I would begin to pull some visual references and try to think about what could be achieved. For me, the visuals create the meaning of the show. Like for example in Sexual Intercourse American Style, there’s a certain earnestness and “importance” to rural New England Landscapes for me. The seriousness of the landscape played against the silliness of the show. For Welcome to my Study I thought, “well, this guy built this set for himself but he’s been through something very traumatic.” So the set had to look like what a certain type of person would make for himself to feel more comfortable. I think the character felt comfortable being in an anonymous set. When people say “that looked good” about a certain show, I don’t really know what they mean because there is no such thing as a “good looking” show for me—the look is only there to serve the meaning of the show
How did you work to meet the monthly Channel 101 NY screening? Did you create the series as the screenings went along or did you work on them month to month? What do you think is better?
I created the series as the screenings went along. It was a lot of work. Especially with big casts, there’s just a lot of wrangling. For a lot of the shows, we would shoot two days to get five minutes. But screening the episodes each month was helpful for me; I got a better sense what was working and what wasn’t. If I had done them all at once, they probably would have felt more even—hit the same note over and over again. After the screening was over I would say to myself, “OK, what can we do that was different from last month.” So they’re maybe a bit more playful and inventive than if I did them all at once. An exception would be Welcome to my Study, but that show was canceled after the first episode and we only made that one episode at first. But after the first two episodes, we decided to make three in a day.
No, sadly. Those shows were mostly spearheaded by Dyna. I think without the armature of Channel 101, it’s just a lot more difficult to make shows. Because you’re doing it for free and because it involves a lot of work, you sort of have to be forced into it. I think Dyna was more upset than I was that the shows were cancelled. Not that I didn’t like those shows, I just think that sometimes the audience won’t respond at first to a vibe they’re not familiar with.
How was doing Welcome to My Study on Funny or Die Presents? How did that come about?
Somehow Owen Burke from Gary Sanchez Productions saw it. Dyna knew Owen well from back in the day at UCB. When I found out that Owen liked it, I started emailing him stuff. Gary Sanchez is closely linked to Funny or Die and Andrew Steele, the creative director at Funny or Die liked Mister Glasses. Originally, Andrew asked me to make something for the first season of Funny or Die Presents but it fell through. You know, I’m really bad around industry people and I get very nervous and think, “they’re not going to like me.” I shoot myself in the foot. I don’t “go for it.” But this time I did. I pursued a job. I ended up going out to LA for a few months to work at Funny or Die because one of their editors had left and they had room in their budget to hire me for a bit. When I was leaving FOD, Andrew (who was the EP on Funny or Die Presents) asked me if I could make Welcome to my Study for the show. So I was back on a plane to New York thinking of new episode for Welcome to my Study. The production was just a much bigger version of what we had already been doing—they hired a producer in New York and we shot four episodes in two days at a studio in Chelsea, I believe. Dyna and I were both on set. It was fun and weird. And thank God, we didn’t get any notes. Funny or Die just picked the three episodes they liked the best. My favorite episode was the one that Dyna came up with, the one with “Stuart,” Mitchell’s study friend played by Zach Woods. I edited the episodes myself. One weird thing is that I hired a lawyer to retain the rights to the character and to keep the old episodes on the internet. I maybe shouldn’t have fought for that because it might have made me seem “difficult.” I don’t know.
You obviously put two episodes of Welcome to My Study into Mister Glasses which I thought was quite clever. What made you decide to do that and what happened at the Channel 101 NY screenings when you did?
I did it because we couldn’t get the cast together and Welcome to my Study was a much easier show to produce. And we thought it would be funny. Tony Carnevale had changed a show midway, so there was some precedent. I think Ben Rodgers couldn’t make it one of the months (and eventually dropped out.) And even then, Ellie was becoming kind of a big deal in New York circles—very on the radar of casting directors and stuff—so she was always busy and couldn’t make some shoots. For some reason it worked out at the screening, we buffered each Welcome to my Study episode with Mister Glasses intros and outros, so maybe that helped. I really like the “grab your coconuts" intro we did for one of the episodes.
While researching your work for Channel 101 NY, I discovered just how many series you had a hand in. Can you explain why you felt 101 was a good outlet for you?
I came from an art background and started performing at the UCB when I moved to New York. So I had an art and comedy background. I ended up getting kicked off a house improv team at UCB and felt very discouraged and had a lot of stage fright and for some reason, never got back on the improv horse again. I loved performing, but didn’t really crave the audience’s attention and disliked the lack of control. For me, making videos was just a really good fit. I liked that you could craft things in private, like an art project. I had done a bit of film in art school so I knew the basic language and just took to it. It was what I secretly wanted to do all along. The thing is, it’s still not a great living or anything, it’s just the most interesting thing to do.
I saw the trailer for your short film, Thank You, Cabbage, on YouTube and as the Facebook page says you were in post-production in late September. Can you tell us where you are in the process with Thank You, Cabbage? Did your Channel 101 NY experience affect this project or any other creation of yours?
It’s been done for a few months now, it’s just that I’ve been going back-and-forth with a composer friend trying to get the music right. He lives in Virginia, and so the natural creative dialogue that takes place in person is impossible. The process is just much slower. Channel 101 was the beginning of everything for me. The short has a lot in common with Sexual Intercourse American Style—the humor is pretty bone-dry, even more so than SIAS. And Paul Rondeau, the DP for most of my Channel 101 stuff, shot the short. Right now, I’m still asking myself, “is this any good?” I still don’t know. It was very rewarding to do.
Any final advice to any Channel 101 content creators?
I would say try to avoid a making a show where the main joke is how crappy the production is. Just commit to the fact that the production is going to be limited and try to pursue a story and idea that excites you; don’t tell the audience “we know this looks like crap.” Also, don’t concern yourself with going viral because it stifles creativity. People who want to make “viral videos” are lame. Don’t be cute—don’t make “Dane Cook”-like jokes where you try to be everyone’s best friend. Just because your friends laugh at your inside jokes, it doesn’t mean the jokes are good—push yourself to make something that will be compelling outside your normal circle of friends. And in the end, it’s all just stupid fun; it doesn’t matter if you fail or not; you will have succeeded by engaging in the process of making something.