Kurtzman and Orci, Bays and Thomas, Schwartz and Savage. Most of what shines in Hollywood these days comes straight from the pages of a well-crafted writing duo. One partner brings the story concepts, the other the snappy dialogue, one brings the irreverence the other the bite, and so forth.
On the digital side of Hollywood, the scrappy lone wolf scribes are a plenty, but occasionally we’re seeing the rise of the web’s version of the power duo. Leyna Weber and Annie Lukowski and their new shingle Working Bug Media are emerging as a digital writer-producer duo to keep an eye on, building their chops with a strong toehold in the web world.
The duo is most notably known in web circles for the Jaleel White topped comedy series Road to the Altar with MWG Entertainment back in summer of 2009. The series landed some modest brand sponsor deals from the likes of Pier One, Panda Express and iRobot.
Weber and Lukowski were part of our Tubefilter pitch camp at Digital Hollywood LA this October, pitching execs on their latest series, Random Comedies, a collection of loosely stringed sketches made for the Funny or Die crowd. Their latest, “Open House” (below) just went live today.
Like most writing pairs it seems, the two met while shooting a project together. In this case it was Lukowski’s thesis film at USC film school where she cast Weber after seeing her perform at LA’s ACME Comedy Theater, a haven for up and coming improv talent. Their first web collab would be a 2008 short called “Speeding Ticket” that ended up featured on Funny or Die. It’s ample 17,000 views were enough to convince the young pair to try for something a little bigger than one-off sketches.
If you sit down with Weber and Lukowski—as we did in fact do—they’ll hesitate to call these sketches, however. “It’s more of a character comedy,” said Lukowski. “In ‘Speeding Ticket’ we went through the seven stages of grief—we chose to give her an interesting character arc.”
“We liken our work to digital shorts instead of sketches,” added Weber.
And then came the leap into a full on original web series. “Annie came to me with an idea about a wedding story told through the groom’s point of view,” recalled Weber. “It blossomed, and we wrote it together.” Eventually the pair would sell the script to MWG Entertainment, which Weber called “a fast love affair.” Jaleel White came on as Road to the Altar’s groom-to-be, bringing a known comedy asset and anchor for their first series.
With the brands on board, it also marked the pair’s first time working on a branded web series, though that didn’t seem to hinder their comedic exploits. “Every now and then we had to take out a hand job joke,” quipped Weber.
“MWG integrated a lot of the brands into the series like Pier One, Panda Express and iRobot, while we were incorporating them into the story,” said Lukowsi, noting how they would quickly script up a sponsor’s store, like Pier One, as a much-needed location in a pinch.
“All of these limitations became great incentives for us,” said Lukowski. “An unlimited budget would have been a problem.”
So far MWG hasn’t opted for a second season of Road to the Altar, though it does remain an option. In the meantime they are plowing forward with Random Comedies, releasing a new one every few weeks like “The Secret” (below) starring Ugly Betty’s Michael Urie and “Open House.” Add to that a pilot for a new series, The Series of Unfortunate People, which they just shot and are taking around town.
“We are positioning ourselves as content creators who create from the female perspective,” said Weber, admitting however that their work is for “both men and women, like ‘Speeding Ticket.'”
But is there a career in short-form web comedy? “It may seem like this little something you just throw up there, but it’s never just that,” said Weber. “They are all living and breathing on the web on their own.” The pair even received a cold call that would lead to a partnership from a branded entertainment agency after releasing “The Secret,” a testament to the unexpected consequences of online distribution.
“You can wait for Hollywood to Facebook you, or you can make it happen yourself,” added Weber.