Normally This Weird - web series

The brainchild of award-winning Squishy Studios, produced with EvolutionArts Media, and created by a cast and crew of local independent filmmakers in Phoenix, Arizona, Normally This Weird is the story of newlyweds Vanessa (Lauren Henschen) and Simon (Michael Peterson) moving into their first home together. And while on the outside, their suburban neighborhood looks average…their neighbors are anything but. From eye-patched Swivey Dinkle, to the dark magic practicing Archevils, the couple discovers they are in a place that is…well, it’s just normally this weird.

I personally have a lot of personal affinity for this show because it instantly reminded me of the short-lived television series Eerie, Indiana, in which a teenage boy is forced to move with his family from the city to a suburban neighborhood and discovers the town is a hub for strangeness. It’s a plot ripe with opportunities for fun, something that is important to director/co-writer Nathan Blackwell, and it is refreshing to see it play out in web series form.

The unique take Squishy Studios took in creating the series stems all the way back to the casting process. Said Blackwell: “our producer, Bracken J. Batson, had a hilarious idea … he likes to throw the actors a subtle curveball right up front that weeds out some of the flakier people. So we held our auditions in the back office of a car dealership. And sure enough we had a lot of no-shows. Besides being great actors, because we couldn’t pay anyone, we really needed reliable people who were committed to endure an entire season of production.” Not something I’d recommend if you’re shooting your series on the SAG New Media contract, but it worked for this production.

The first episode of the series is available so far (split into two parts), and the one issue I ran across is that I felt I didn’t know enough about Simon and Vanessa and their relationship to truly care about what was happening to them. Luckily, it sounds like this will be addressed in future episodes. “Episode 2 should be interesting for us”, explained show producer Batson. “It will focus on the newlywed’s relationship … The specific plot involves Vanessa, who was a huge online co-op gamer, canceling her gaming account. Unintentionally, episode 2 will be flying very close to the already well-established territory of another web series: The Guild. The challenge for us will be not to tread on their ground, but to provide our own original approach to this familiar theme.”

“Expect things to get stranger, that’s definitely the direction NTW will be heading”, added Blackwell. “Broken time machines, ghosts, mind-controlling aliens … All the while we continue to tie these fun ideas into the humanity of the characters. What happens when your wife comes back from the dead with her personality changed? Does a super villain get along with his teenage son? If you were a girl who could you use magic, what would you do if you had a secret crush on a boy?”

Ten episodes of the series are planned along with several bonus videos termed the “Normally This Weird Squishy Network”. “Some of my favorite video games all have a mini-game where you take a break from the main action and tackle a completely different game strategy”, said Batson. “That’s how I am approaching this concept of the ‘Normally This Weird Squishy Network’, it will be a side-show within the main series. I am excited to see how it works for us.”

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