If the windy road from the web to Hollywood were paved with view counts, you’d be able to watch Fred‘s show tonight on The CW. If it were lined with awesome, you could see Tiki Bar TV Tuesday nights on FOX. But a clear trail to how the transition is made hasn’t yet been blazed…maybe it never will be.
The handful of shows that have managed to ink deals with a broadcast network have done it via consistent, quality content, excellent storytelling, and novel ideas, building audiences and acclaim over the course of several episodes. But the sample size isn’t large enough to say that’s the only way to make it.
Paul Gulyas (along with Patrick Beck and Jorge Gonzalez III) hopes to receive recognition and a ticket to network Hollywood by taking a decidedly different, even old-fashionedish approach.
The Connecticut native currently living in LA and working at HBO’s online sandbox, HBO Lab (and the guy that’s partially responsible for the Seven-Minute Sopranos) is releasing Graduates – a grad school-aged (hat tip to RADuate School!) comedy that’s still stuck in college, trying to balance TA responsibilities with fratacular parties – all at once. The show is scheduled to drop later this month in one, 30-minute pilot episode.
Here’s the trailer:
Just as the greater internet savvy population is starting to realize that web series are coming of age (finally!), it seems like releasing a pilot is an anachronistic use of the medium. Shouldn’t you build a brand through successive installments, interact with your audience, and then see if anyone at a studio takes notice? Depends.
A) If your end-goal is television, there’s no cheaper distribution mechanism and way to garner an audience than the web, and it’s a helluva lot easier to navigate than the byzantine conduits of the studio system. And B) If Dr. Horrible and Childrens’ Hospital are any indication, viewers are open and willing to viewing long-form content in one sitting, if the quality is good enough.
I recently asked Paul Gulyas why he chose go to the pilot route and got some more info on what looks to be the start of a promising series.
Tilzy.TV: Tell me about Graduates.
Paul Gulyas: Graduates is about three early-twenty year-olds going to grad school at Fowler University, a large fictional party school in the Northeast, and they’re caught right in the middle of these two distinct worlds…the tempting party-lifestyle of the undergrad which is still fresh in their memories…and the world of the school’s faculty, as they gain more responsibilities (i.e, being teaching assistants, teaching small classes of undergrads on their own) and generally becoming peers of their professors.
We populate the campus with a cast of fun, quirky characters like a frat-boy professor, a suicidal Dean of Students, etc. and as you can imagine,… hilarity ensues. It’s basically a comedy about that part of your life where you don’t know what to do (with your career, relationships, etc.), so you just do what seems logical, whether it makes you happy or not. That’s why these guys are in grad school.
Gulyas: Yes, Josh plays our lead John Corkery. And you recognized Steve LaChioma, who plays Gus, from We Need Girlfriends…That’s actually where we first saw him, too.
Also in this is David Futernick, who plays Cameron, who you might recognize from numerous College Humor shorts. We also have Jo Armeniox playing Sarah, a cute TA Corkery may or may not be into. Dan Shafer plays the ex-frat boy Professor Evan Young who you probably saw in a few viral videos including the recent Laid off by Lehman. Mitch Wissick plays a fat, drunk undergrad named Petzold who kind of takes Gus under his wing. And Rachel Cora Wood plays a feisty young undergrad named Marisol with the hots for Cameron.
Somehow we landed the most talented up and coming actors and actresses, and that’s not just because I have to say it. Like, I am still in shock. We were very lucky to have every single one of these people.
Tilzy.TV: Who’s involved behind the scenes?
Gulyas: As far as behind the scenes…I wrote and produced this with my best friends since forever Patrick Beck and Jorge Gonzalez III. We all grew up in Milford, CT together. I also grew up in Milford with our director Matthew Pollock who works out of New York, and just got a job editing for College Humor.
Matt co-directed and did casting out of New York with Bryan O’Connell, another good friend. They held all the auditions in New York City and sent Pat, Jorge, and me videos of them through YouTube. Our Director of Photography was Vincent Peone, who DPs for Dutch West and College Humor. He is incredible. Our AC Creighton DeSimone also works for College Humor.
Pat, Jorge, and I financed the entire thing ourselves. We were able to save a few bucks in the time we were writing, raised a bit, and then took out a big ol’ loan that we’ll be paying off for a million years.
Tilzy.TV: From someone who condensed the Sopranos down to 7 minutes, you know the web likes its videos short. Are viewers ready for independent content that’s this long?
Gulyas: Well, Graduates wasn’t written specifically for the internet. Ideally, it will go to television… But we always knew it would have a home on the internet as well (what doesn’t?). Especially because it is a story for, by, and about this internet generation.
And really, we wanted to do something different. There are a lot of half-hour sitcoms on TV and a lot of five minute webisodes on the internet, but there are only a handful of half-hour sitcoms, independently produced at least, on the web. And there is so much stuff to sift through on the web, we wanted to stand out.
We believe the quality of the work will speak for itself. We’re not afraid of “diminishing attention spans.” There are studies that show internet audience dropping after two minutes and then drastically so after three. Well, what are they watching? If it’s a raccoon hitting itself in the nuts with a hammer repeatedly, then yeah, I would turn that off after two minutes, too.
What I’m saying is that the challenge of internet content creators shouldn’t be keeping their videos concise….it should be keeping their videos entertaining enough that people will stay and watch. Television sets a certain bar for that, and I believe that’s why Hulu and sites like it have been successful. People ARE spending a half-hour, or even an hour, watching TV on the internet because a lot of it is good, fun stuff. Graduates can be seen as an attempt by independent producers to compete with content on Hulu, but without spending the millions of dollars. We hope that that at least will be attractive to some people.
Tilzy.TV: Would you be unhappy if the show found a home on the web?
Gulyas: In the end, we wouldn’t be unhappy if we were able to make Graduates strictly for the web. A web audience or a primetime audience, it’s still an audience! And our true passions are to get our creations out there for people to see and enjoy. We could easily adapt “Graduates” for the web. We actually have a three minute script written. We just wanted to do things the hard way. It’s going to pay off.
Watch Graduates when it bows later this month at GraduatesPilot.com.