When I’m trying to find something to do on summer nights aside from being alone and reading My So-Called Life fanfiction completely bored by going out with my extensive, awesome, and numerous social circles, I often take a respite from the known, real world and venture into one that’s more digital, anonymous and classified. Craigslist, after all, is kinda like Ellis Island, except instead of immigrants, it’s a beacon that beckons the the tired, the poor, the procrastinating/sexually curious/apartment-hunting online masses yearning for casual encounters and Salvation Army strata furniture.
But while I thought Craig Newmark’s classifieds were just good for perusing while putting off work, discovering new living situations, testing explicit acronyms, and making NSA play dates fun of the people who go on the site to try to make NSA play dates, enterprising individuals without a steady pay check use the site to earn a living, which can sometimes even be higher than their previous white-collar pay grade.
And one especially enterprising individual has used those other enterprising individuals as the basis for a sweet web series and burgeoning bull market business.
Jeremy Redleaf of Brackets Creative created Odd Jobs after being inspired by investment banker friends whose Castle Grayskull crumbled on the eve of the Great Recession, sending the former Masters of the Universe to craigslist to look for myriad ways to make money. He realized postings of available, paying positions like “Stand in line for me to get tickets for Phish Concert,” “Fake Employees for an Agency (We laid-off too many people and have a client coming in!),” “Fat man to dance to Madagascar 2‘s ‘I like to move it, move it’ for a wedding,” and “Male Balloon Busters,” provide excellent sitcom material.
Perhaps in part due to the premise of the series, Redleaf is also acutely aware of our current economic climate and the difficulty of spinning an online show into cash. To finance the program, he’s created his very own Odd Job Nation job board and a t-shirt company that makes customized apparel for the unemployed. So far, the businesses have been a moderate success. While he can’t quite quit his day job, Redleaf definitely isn’t scouring craigslist for work.
I recently caught up with Redleaf to find out more about the series, the insane amount of press its received, and the life and times of our country’s quirky, piecemeal workforce.
Tilzy.TV: How’d you come up with the idea for the show?
Jeremy Redleaf: I needed ideas for a pitch meeting and the concept came out of a brainstorming session with my girlfriend. Joe, the Craigslist-Hustler, is loosely based on a friend who’s odd-jobbed his way to owning a 5-bedroom house that pays for itself (he gets random sublettors and rents it out to porn shoots). Nate, Joe’s straight-laced roommate, was inspired by my gaggle of shell-shocked, ex-investment-banker friends.
Tilzy.TV: What’s your relationship like with craigslist? How much has what you’ve seen on the site made it into the show
Redleaf: Every job the pair does will be an actual opportunity we’ve heard of. There’s really no need to make them up. We saw one the other day that said “I’ll pay you seventeen dollars to tell my parents that I’m gay”… not twenty…seventeen is apparently the going rate for that gig.
I’ve always been a Craigslist fan – it’s really one of the earliest social networks. One year, I was out of town on my girlfriends’ birthday and was able to hire someone off the site to bring her breakfast in bed. (I got *big* points!)
Although Odd Job Nation also has listings (including feeds from craigslist), we’re not trying to compete. They do what we do very well. We’re after a much different experience.
My co-star, Devin Ratray (a.k.a Buzz from Home Alone), plays Joe, Odd-jobs entrepreneur. Snack-food lover, Shower-eschewer. This is the part he was born to play- plus, Home Alone residuals only really kick in around Christmas time, so he’s gotta hustle like the rest of us.
Devin’s a pretty smart fellow, so if he’s courting Condoleeza, I’m sure he’s got his reasons. She recently signed with William Morris Endeavor, so maybe it’s a career move…
All buzzing aside, we’ve got Finn from the The Sopranos guest-starring on Episode 3 and Alex Daddario, who plays my fianceé Cassie just landed the lead in Chris Columbus’ Percy Jackson and the Olympians trilogy.
Tilzy.TV: You’ve created a community, too. Tell me about that.
Redleaf: We launched Odd Job Nation in March and the response has been sort of overwhelming. The site’s a survival kit for the self-starter: along with the web series, it has national listings of odd jobs, advice on working the system (i.e.: cheap dates and free snacks), articles for the restless and unemployed, the ability to make a profile, and additional recession comedy. As our tag line states, we’re trying to help people turn their ‘pinkslip’ into a ‘golden ticket.’
Within two days, CNN.com found the site. Then NPR, Then Newsweek, Fox News, MSNBC, The Washington Times, CNBC.com, and the Associated Press came calling. I literally did nothing! It was the craziest thing. To date, we’ve received over 3 million unique views. And The Today Show just called – they’re gonna have me on soon.
To help finance this whole endeavor, I launched ResumeShirts.com – which is just as it sounds: you send us your resume or cover letter, and we print it on a shirt– because you never know who’s standing behind you in line at the grocery store. We’ve had a bunch of orders and we’re patiently waiting to announce our first job success story.
Tilzy.TV: How many episodes are in the bag? What’re you looking to do with the series?
Redleaf: We’re launching Episode Two today, the third one next week, and we’re shooting more at the end of the month. There’s been some sponsorship interest and we’re hoping that’ll raise the production value a bit and give us more flexibility to really sink our teeth into the concept.
I’m so excited by the possibilities of where we can take this – I’d love to grow it into something like The Guild and be able to pay everyone involved something a lot closer to what they deserve…and avoid having them as Odd Job Nation customers.