Lorin Wertheimer and Kristiina Hackel have many stories to tell. Their character and dialogue driven web series, Speedie Date for Strike.TV, is the perfect forum to share these tales of people looking for love. Tubefilter asked them about creating the show, their thoughts on relationships, and what dating horror stories they will tackle next.
Tubefilter: How did you come up with the idea for Speedie Date?
Lorin Wertheimer: Eight years ago, my agents wanted a short play as a writing sample. Brainstorming, my mind turned to the coffee shop I had been in a few months earlier, when I had watched a speed dating event (I had no idea what I was witnessing). That short play became the basis for a full length play, which became a low budget feature Kris and I thought we would produce. When a group of WGA members put together Strike.TV and put out a call for web series, Speedie Date seemed a perfect fit. I took the twenty characters from the screenplay, borrowed some of their interactions, and generated a lot of new material.
Tubefilter: How did your research speed dating? Had either of you gone to a speed dating event before?
LW: Midway through writing the screenplay, I found myself single after a long relationship. One of the first things I did was go speed dating. I wasn’t really looking to meet someone, just wanted to see firsthand what I had been writing about for years. It was not as bad as I had thought it would be. Actually, it made me admire the people who were taking a chance and putting themselves out there. There wasn’t much in the way of research, other than that. I’ve always been interested in the dating dynamic, and in how people interact when they are attracted to each other (or not attracted). I went through a phase when I was obsessed with personal ads: who was placing them, who was answering them, how people coded their desire… I think my fascination with this, and with speed dating, was due to the fact that I didn’t have the courage to do any of it, so the only way I could experience it was by writing about it.
Kristiina Hackel: I researched speed dating by being single for a year and a half.
Tubefilter: Why do you think men and women seek out dating service companies to meet people? Why it is so entertaining to watch?
LW: Dating companies, internet dating, all these things exist because we as a society have allowed our social structures to fall apart. A hundred years ago, you were born, lived and died in the same place. It was unusual to migrate more than a couple miles. When a young person was ready to mate, family and friends could guide them, introduce them to suitable matches. With the advent of highways, and improvements in communication and transportation, our world has become much larger. While this has distinct advantages, the old social bonds don’t serve someone who grows up in Boston, goes to school in Missouri, and lives in San Francisco. It is harder to meet people, and harder to vet them. Combine this with the diminished amount of leisure time and the sheer number of people to choose from and it is understandable that people have so much trouble finding a mate. So people look to dating services to provide this service that was once undertaken by family and friends.
In general, it is very easy for me to empathize and sympathize with someone on a date. Everyone knows what it is to be single, and knows that desire to not be single. Even the greatest misanthropes feel pangs of loneliness. And I think there’s a real curiosity about dating, especially if you’re not doing it. So these dramatic reenactments allow us to live out those scenarios from a safe distance. You are able to experience the situation without having to go through the pain.
KH: When you’re single, meeting people becomes this whole project. It’s time consuming and you have to get really inventive if you want to meet different kinds of people. The speed dating concept–many people, short time–is especially good in you are into efficiency, or if you really just want to throw yourself into it. The nice thing about speed dating is you are pretty sure that your are meeting people who are single–which is why Veronica’s dates are so mad. Nothing is worse than meeting some nice guy at a party, only to be introduced to his wife two minutes later. At least with speed dating that’s not usually a problem. Also, it’s amazing the walls that people can put up–and how much you can learn about someone in just a few minutes.
Tubefilter: When did you meet and start working together?
LW: Kris and I met eleven years ago. We started dating, and eventually got married. We were together for seven and a half years. We got divorced a number of years ago, but we have remained good friends. When we were together, we would always consult with one another on our various projects. Kris has a great critical eye. Her feedback has made me a better writer. We’ve always wanted to work together, but this is our first major project together.
KH: I think Lorin and I work well as a team because we have very similar taste. We both are big believers in character and story arc. We also are big fans of artistic collaboration and community: we like working with talented people and giving them the space to do their thing.
Tubefilter: How did you get involved with Strike TV?
LW: During the writers’ strike, a number of WGA members were talking about producing media for the internet independent of the studio system. After all, the benefits of studio involvement were that they would provide funding and had the market cornered on traditional means of distribution (TV and film). With the advent of high quality video, the price of filming has come way down. And distribution on the internet doesn’t require the involvement of Sony Pictures Entertainment. I was inspired by a number of conversations with the great writer David Milch (NYPD Blue), who started teaching a seminar on the writer as producer. At the same time, other writers were writing up business models to make this idea a reality. One of the groups, Strike TV, put out a call for web series. I went to a big meeting they had and, inspired, talked to Kris about Speedie Date.
KH: Michael Tabb, Ian, Peter, those guys from Strike.TV have been great. I really can’t thank them enough for their encouragement and support.
Tubefilter: Why did you feel that that a web series was the best way to present this material?
LW: I wanted to create a series that took advantage of the possibilities of the internet. We were not bound by the conventions of television or feature film.The idea was (and still is) that we would make the first ten episodes, each one with a new pair of characters, then we would make another ten episodes, recombining the characters from the first round of speed dates. By the end of the series, each character would have been on a date with every other character, and we’d get to see the changes each character had undergone through the course of the evening. And we’d have a hundred episodes! The internet would allow a viewer to follow the evening chronologically, or sequentially, watching all of one character’s dates before moving on to the next character. I like this, that the viewer makes choices when watching, that they are actively involved.
KH: We were originally developing Speedie Date as a feature. About a year and a half ago, I was looking for low budget features and thought of Lorin’s speed dating play. I approached him about it, and we started collaborating on turning that from a play to a script. When Lorin told me about the Strike TV opportunity and I was like, great, sounds good. And then the more I thought about it, the more excited I got. It just seemed like this was a perfect short series concept.
Tubefilter: Each episode relies on the ability of two actors to hold the audiences attention for the length of a speed date conversation. Tell us about the casting process and how you found actors that were up to the challenge.
KH: We found a lot of our actors thanks to our talented casting director, Lauren Dickey. Some of the actors are our wonderful actor friends, who I have always wanted to work with.
Tubefilter: Are any of the stories you tell in the episodes that are based on real people?
LW: One of the episodes that hasn’t yet aired is based on an experience a friend of mine had. The episode is about two people, a black man and a white woman, who get into a heated debate about literature and race. My friend had gone on a date, I think a blind date, and got into a fight about this topic. He left in a huff after half an hour, but in retrospect he realized that both he and the woman might have been a good match – they had a real connection, but both were too hot-headed and couldn’t stop arguing.
Tubefilter: How do you rehearse and shoot the episodes?
KH: Our biggest challenge on our no-budget shoot was finding a location. When we found one, a stage, we basically had three days to build a set, paint it, dress it, and pre-light. I think we had time for am initial conversation about character, one or two run-throughs, and that was it. We shot 72 pages in 4 days. Also we filmed the dates in long takes, so the actors basically had to do the scene straight through. It was challenging, but when you don’t have a lot of rehearsal time, there needs to be time to do a little scene work on the floor. Thank god for our fabulous actors! They just threw themselves into it.
Tubefilter: What other projects do you have coming up?
LW: Kris and I have a number of projects we are working on together. My favorite right now is the web series, which takes place in a Texas hair salon. I have a couple of screenplays that are in various stages of development.
Tubefilter: What has been some of the reaction of your audience? Does everyone want to tell you their dating horror stories? Do you want to hear mine?
LW: I love hearing about bad dates. I’ve spent hours looking at sites where people recount their disastrous romantic encounters. If a friend tells me about a date, I might not use the actual events, but I try and capture the emotions. A friend told me about a date, and I can’t remember if it was a speed date or a regular date, where the man she was with had written a novel, and brought it with him. All he could talk about was the novel. I love this character, someone who is completely self-obsessed. It starts me thinking about what he wants, and why his strategy is so poor. As a writer, I am very interested in failure — success is boring. A date can be a success in a handful of ways. There is no limit to the ways it can fail.
KH: The reactions have been really positive. I think one reviewer called it “the best writing on the web” and some one else left a comment saying that this was were the real acting on the internet was. So nice! I’m just so happy that people are enjoying it.