Hi. My unnecessarily-long commentary for episode 18 of WEBCAMS is after the break. Read it at your own risk.
Making videos for youtube is not easy. At least, not if you give a shit about the things you create and/or what you attach your name to. For me, I'm hard-pressed to find something as fundamentally important the makeup of my personality.
Simply put, you're not going to find someone who cares as much as I do about his stupid youtube videos.
Which really doesn't help me, you know, in the long run and episode 18 of WEBCAMS is a shining example of that.
In the short history of this collaborative internet show, there's been a total of two scripts that were so good--and important--that it was critical to wait for the perfect timing before producing them, inasmuch as that there needed to be certain people involved and it was better to wait for them rather than take the more standard, one-size-fits-all approach of the rest of our episodes. Both scripts, perhaps not coincidentally, were written by Benzone50. One of those scripts was for "Sheeple".
I don't write commentaries for this stuff very often ... I did it once or twice through the first iteration of Krumbination. (btw--that shit is back in business, in case you didn't know. It's all for the community, so have fun with it.) I dunno, I think I see each episode as an individual microcosm. Everything you need to know exists within the episode and none of it is relevant when you watch the next episode. It's the perfect form of passive entertainment: give me five minutes (or twelve, in our recent case) and I'll tell you everything you need to know to enjoy this episode, within the episode. Wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am.
So then why the hell am I writing a commentary for this episode? Why am I investing even more time into what has ended up being the single most challenging collab video I've ever produced?
I dunno. It's probably just because it's late and I feel unproductive. And when I feel unproductive, I tend to do things I'm not usually predisposed to do.
Right from the beginning, the Sheeple episode was a challenge. In fact, I never understood how difficult it was to really re-write a script until I started looking at other people's scripts for WEBCAMS. When Ben sent me his first draft of the Sheeple episode, I knew right away that it was going to be a pain in the ass to rewrite. However, in spite of my first reaction, I did see a hell of a lot potential in the script. Ben's writing had been improving dramatically, script over script, and this one had one of the more solid premises that had been floated past me. Additionally, he had done his research, and although at times it seemed like the facts were being beaten over your head (something that I wasn't quite able to smooth out in my own draft of the script) it was still a solid piece of work. And I dig me some informative facts.
So the re-write process goes something like this: I open the original script on one screen and open a blank document on the second screen. Starting from "scratch", I start writing. Every time I incorporate a major point from the original script, I scroll down to the next point. When I finish, I hand the script off to Sam and then I send it back Ben for any more changes. So far, this process has worked out very well .... suffice it to say, there haven't been any complaints yet.
Like I said, one of my main concerns in the rewrite was to smooth out the heaver hemp-related facts in the second half of the script. And Ben wasn't the only one who can do research: I dug up a few facts of my own during the re-write! I can't tell you which one's are mine, but that probably has more to do with the aforementioned late hour and the handful of drinks I've already consumed.
When I finished my draft of the script, one thing was very apparent to me: it wasn't funny. Now, I think it's certainly up for debate whether or not ANY of my stuff is actually funny, but it was clear that "Sheeple" didn't even TRY to be funny. Sure, there was an amusing quip here and there, but overall it was a message-driven piece of infotainment.
And I was pretty cool with that. It's one thing to be able to entertain people .... but to entertain and enlighten? Pardon my graphicness, but such a possibility kinda gets me hard.
On top of all that, there's the simple premise that the legalization and utilization of industrial grade hemp is a message that needs to be spread. You'll note in the credits of the episode that Ben based his original script on the vlogs of one TheChurchofDave. After having spent time re-writing the script, I watched the vlog that inspired Ben. It was this 30 minute epic rant about hemp. I won't say it wasn't effective--it had a reasonably high view count and the guy certainly was enigmatic. What I will say, however, is that between our script, the format of WEBCAMS, and a cross-section of some damn fine talent, our 12-minute video is way more effective at delivering the message. Now, I know this isn't a contest or anything, but I think it should be said that this is an instance where a SCRIPTED, well-produced episode KICKS THE ASS OF A RANDOM YOUTUBE PARTNER VLOG. With all due respect.
Once the script was locked down, and we got to casting, I took the opportunity to officially slot Ben into the position he had been filling for a while: casting director. And it's been much more than simply letting him call the shots for who's to play which part. Ben has consistently been the ONLY person that I regularly--and honestly--discuss various aspects of our collabers with. So in addition to be surprisingly well-connected on youtube, Ben has been an invaluable sounding board for this whole process, which makes me more than confident in my decision to call him the casting director for WEBCAMS. That being said, one of the first decisions Ben made (which, admittedly, was in both of our minds during the writing process, so it's not entirely his fault) was to give character B to TheChurchofDave. His material inspired the episode, so he should play the part of the Hemp Evangelist, right? It was only fair.
For those who don't know, the way this works is that once the parts are cast, I usually give the players a week to tape their footage. Then they send it to me through whatever means necessary (we have yet to stoop to carrier pigeon) and then I edit. Lo and behold, I have everyone's footage accept for Dave's. Ben informs me that there are technical difficulties and should be another week. Honestly, this was fine because I needed a break from the whole process--as much as I love producing WEBCAMS, editing these episodes is flat-out, knuckles-to-the-grindstone, WORK ... and it gets tiring after a while. So I needed a break and Dave needed more time ... all's well that ends well.
Only that's not the end. Wink-wink. But you already knew that.
After word of another postponement from Dave came down the pipe, Ben and I lined up our understudy. And let me take a moment to say that THIS is why I've insisted (for the most part) on writing WEBCAMS generically. If someone bails or can't do a part, I still have three other people who have already committed themselves to the episode. One of those people, in this particular instance, was looking at her WEBCAMS debut. As producer, I have a hard time letting one person drag down the entire show. When we write generically, if someone can't do the part, I can find five other people who will eagerly throw down. And just so you don't think I'm painting Dave with the brush o'negativity, I knew from the beginning that his part was challenging. There were a lot of long monologues and that can be challenging to put on video, especially for a WEBCAMS uninitiated. I pretty much never hold anything against anybody. We're all doing this for little more than a short credit and link in the description and if you can't pull it together for that, no sweat.
When it became clear that Dave wasn't our man, the part was sent to the person whom I personally preferred for the role. If it had not been for Ben I's feeling that we owed it to Dave to let him play B, my number two choice would have been our number one call.
While I waited for footage and while I worked my way out of creative funk that I was wallowing in, something started to happen: BP got closer and closer to fixing the oil leak in the gulf. The timeliness of this crisis was quickly slipping away from us. I set a do-or-die deadline and informed our backup actor. There had been another delay in the footage because of the complexity of the part and it became clear to me that if I didn't have his footage by the Wednesday before our scheduled Friday debut, I would just record the part myself.
In the end, it was the complexity of the character and scheduling issues that took our backup actor out of the game. Again, no hard feelings. I am, if nothing else, understanding. But the show must go on--never more so than when the show refers to an leak that's currently gushing millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and BP had literally just plugged it. We ended being a day late in our effort to be timely and topical, but I think the message of the episode outshines such minor details.
Am I missing something of importance in my commentary? Remind me in the comments.
The anguished musings of a jack-of-all trades creative professional based out of Longwood, Florida. Find out more about him here. You know, if that's your 'thing'.
Most of my production music is original but if I need something extra-special, I usually get it from AudioNautix.com: