'The Receptionist' An Artist At Work – Literally

By 05/01/2009
'The Receptionist' An Artist At Work – Literally

The Receptionist - Travis BetzStuck in a dead-end job as a receptionist, a man decides to make movies at his desk.

This is the real-life story of a receptionist gone mad. After answering phones for several years at a Los Angeles talent management office, Travis Betz could take no more. Rather than taking his frustration out on his friends and family, he channeled his energy into shooting short films at his desk during business hours. The result is a weekly online series called, The Receptionist. Using only himself and a seemingly endless amount of construction paper, Betz creates a new story about seven days and launches it into cyber space. Fans of the series have referred to it as the love child of David Lynch and Mr. Rogers. As the series grew, so did the construction paper world around him.

Each episode is around the five minute mark or less and there are 52 of them in total, 42 on YouTube (10 were optioned by Comedy Central/Atom) including, “Dating Sucks,” “Paper YouTube,” “Fun with the King,” “Life in the Womb,” “Pioneer, Rock, Scissors,” and the latest, “Dolphin Bastards.” The newer episodes start off with an original theme-song, ala Stephen Sondheim meets Jonathan Larson at a rock concert.

The ReceptionistEvery time you tune in, you’re welcomed by an array of colorful characters including but not limited to: Abe Lincoln, a lion, a Venetian Princess, a baby in the womb, a blonde bombshell on a hot date, monsters, a monster masseur, and sinister dolphins that have apparently seen the movie Clue.

Out of all these personalities, human and otherwise, the only live character in the series is Betz. All the others are made out of construction paper.

The show officially launched on August 3, 2006 but Betz took a long break and only recently started back up. Budget: zero dollars. All of his vital materials come from the office. It takes him an average of three days to make an entire episode; one full day for prop and set making, another day for shooting (all done at work during business hours) and the third day is set aside for editing and foley work. The only obstacle he faces is the phone ringing, or perhaps having to use the facilities.

Receptionist Betz, like those who are lucky enough to still have a job, sits at his desk for nine hours a day, five days a week. He continues to create because he feels he has to. “That’s a whole lot of soul sucking taking up a good brunt of my waking hours. I use The Receptionist as a cathartic creative release. I’m able to tell the darkest of stories and at the same time have a slap-happy grin pasted onto my face that’s friendly enough for an eight year-old.”

He also did a web series for Comedy Central and Atom.com called Bartokular along with Lily’s Tomb, a vampire web series for 60Frames and Warner Brothers. In addition, our receptionist runs multiple YouTube Channels; DrexelBoxFilms for short films, TheBabyEaters, an experimental channel where Betz and two friends start with nothing and build very short comedic scenes through improv and intoxication, and TheDemonLo which follows his adventures through the world of what happens after you’ve made a movie and how to get it out into the world.

When asked about his experience in creating The Receptionist, “it’s fun as hell!” Betz replied. “I love working on my own because I have total creative control. Doing it in the office gives it an extra current of energy. There’s a wild feeling dressing up like a construction paper knight and jousting a construction paper spider while your co-workers linger nearby and the phones can ring at any moment.”