Fill in the blank: Watching a group of gaming geeks go about the trials and tribulations of daily life sounds like _____________
A) A waste of time
C) A splendid way to spend your weekend
If you answered C, you’ll be stoked to know that long-time gaming comedy group LoadingReadyRun will let you do exactly that via their newest addition to their menagerie of web shows, a sitcom called commodoreHUSTLE.
commodoreHUSTLE centers around the lives of a group of eight eccentric friends – Graham Stark, Paul Saunders, Jeremy Petter, James Turner, Bill Watt, Matt Wiggins, Morgan vanHumbeck, and Kathleen De Vere – and the ways they deal with the mundane. Episode 1, for example, is titled “Laundry” – and, sure enough, initial plot conflict starts out with a simple load of laundry. By the end of the fifteen-minute episode, however, we’ve watched the members of LoadingReadyRun navigate through technology mishaps, crazy bar nights, and decide that they’re going to commit to this whole web comedy thing, which is something they’re actually doing as a comedy group.
It’s kind of like a meta-sitcom, with liberal amounts of gaming humor sprinkled on top. Later episodes feature ninjas, the Xbox Red Ring Of Death, and viral videos. Currently, new episodes of the show are being released on the first Monday of each month at commodoreHUSTLE.com.
However, since a mere writeup wouldn’t really do the show justice, we decided to have Matt Wiggins from Victoria, BC-baed LoadingReadyRun drop us a line.
Tubefilter: You guys already produce a lot of comedy gold – why decide to add a web sitcom to your list of projects?
Matt Wiggins: As far as launching a web sitcom, we decided it might be a good way to bring more people into what we do. We’ve been making web video since 2003, (we actually predate YouTube) but aside from the odd viral hit, (most of which came as a result of a viewer downloading one of our videos and firing it up on YouTube or Break) we’ve really struggled to grow our regular audience beyond a few thousand. We think this is largely due to the diversity of our work. We might hit big with a PS3 video one week, and then have a sketch about a guy who thinks he’s a dinosaur the next. We think both are funny, but the viewers attracted to one may not be interested in the other. HUSTLE is about creating a series that people will identify with and hopefully, come back for. So far it seems to be working.
Tubefilter: What does the creative process behind an episode of commodoreHUSTLE look like? How long does it take?
MW: The creative process is quite similar to that of our other videos, though a bit longer. With LoadingReadyRun, we operate on a one-week turn-around. We stockpile scripts and video ideas, and since thee cast all sees one another pretty regularly, we have a pretty good sense of what we’re filming at least a week in advance. A typical video is written during the week, and posted to a message board we use for the cast to look over.
On Saturdays, we meet for a breakfast meeting, film a video, and record our podcast. We average about 1 hour per minute of footage, so for a standard video it’s usually doable. commodoreHUSTLE is different mostly only because of it’s length – Graham usually writes an episode over the course of the month prior to release, and we begin recording two weeks in advance. As a result, the last two weeks of any given month are pretty crazy for us, because we have to get the regular video done, and get started on the next episode of HUSTLE. With the exception of Graham and Paul, the rest of the cast hold full-time jobs, so we really only have evenings and weekends to work in.
The ideas behind episodes are pretty much taken straight from life. We play ourselves in these videos, (though exaggerated, naturally) so it’s not hard to draw from what we’re going through to come up with a plot-line. The episodes all centre around the “cast” of LoadingReadyRun as they deal with the challenges of trying to create a successful web-video site, and juggle filming, and jobs, and plagiarism, things we’ve actually had to deal with. We’re geeks, gamers, film-makers, and friends, so it’s just a matter of taking who we are and what we do and making it bigger than life.
Tubefilter: Are you planning on continuing the series indefinitely? Is there any kind of long-term direction for the show?
MW: As of right this moment, I think the plan is to continue with commodoreHUSTLE as a monthly series as long as we continue doing LoadingReadyRun. We certainly haven’t decided to do it for X number of seasons and then call it a day. We’re still feeling out the waters a bit at the moment, and so we’re only just working out how much planning is necessary to keep something like cHUSTLE going for several seasons, but I know we’re all excited to see where this series takes us. It’s one of our favorite projects to date.
Tubefilter: How do you fund your production? Are you looking for direct sponsorship?
MW: Our productions, both LoadingReadyRun, and commodoreHUSTLE are funded entirely out of pocket. LoadingReadyRun produces just enough revenue on it’s own to keep itself afloat (and cHUSTLE along with it), but all of the cast are either in school or holding down other jobs to pay the bills. Graham and Paul do the video series Unskippable for The Escapist, and like the other members of the crew, I have a job unrelated to web video. We’re currently looking at ways to generate enough revenue to actually employ our full cast doing just this, and a sponsorship would go a long way towards it.
Tubefilter: I don’t suppose Desert Bus is going to make it into any of the episodes?
MW: We didn’t have a place for Desert Bus in cHUSTLE this year mostly due to timing. We started the series in October, and were still in the middle of what I’d call our “pilot” arc (episodes. 1-4) when Desert Buss happened. We did make reference to it in episode four though, and included a scene we filmed with Wil Wheaton (reprising a role from our LRR video “Locked Out”) at the Child’s Play charity dinner in December. Given how much of the series is taken from our lives, I’d be very surprised if Desert Bus didn’t feature heavily into at least one episode in Season 2.
(In 2007, LRR organized the First Annual “Desert Bus for Hope” charitable fundraiser, in support of Child’s Play. The event, which saw members of the crew play the worst video game ever made for 4 days solid, raised over $22,000 for the children’s charity)