A half hour web show. It’s a simple premise. It makes sense. You don’t want to sit down after a long day at work and watch four minutes of something. You want to relax and engage in a passive entertainment experience that at most requires your active participation in scrolling to the next episode and hitting play once every 22 minutes.
And the reason I say a 30-minute web show makes sense isn’t simply intuition supported by hypothetical, anecdotal evidence. Hard facts show online video consumers seem to be ready for a half hour web show, too.
Lunch time used to be web TV primetime, but in the past two years peak online video viewing hours have shifted from Noon – 3PM to 8PM – 11PM. Viral videos and uber-short-form web series haven’t gone out of vogue, it’s more that a combination of technology, content quality, and exposure to the medium has made consumers more comfortable watching web TV at home than during their lunch breaks or when they should be working on TPS reports.
But even if the market’s ready for it, executing a half hour web show is the tough part. You need a premise with long enough legs that it can sustain a full season of 30-minute episodes, a killer cast, a web savvy production company, and a talented crew that can create something that looks at least as good as what you can find on Hulu, but for a fraction of the cost.
LoveMakers just might be able to pull it off.
The series is written and created by Yuri and Vlad Baranovsky (Break a Leg, 7-Eleven Road Trip Rally, Slurpee Unity Tour), produced by Happy Little Guillotine Films and Mark Gantt (The Bannen Way), stars Gantt and a handful of Break a Leg regulars, incorporates a number of smart social media elements, and is about a premiere matchmaking service whose principals and employees are having issues figuring out how to manage their own physical and romantic relationships. It also has a super sexy trailer.
I caught up with Yuri Baranovsky to find out more about LoveMakers, why he’s a champion of original, long-form web productions, what role Ally McBeal plays in all this, and his ties to an actual, real world matchmaking service.
Tubefilter: Tell me about LoveMakers.
Yuri Baranovsky: LoveMakers is about four people running a boutique matchmaking company that offers their clientele a very personal touch. They’ll not only find you your match, but they’ll style your clothes, give you social advice – they’ll even teach you how to text a girl/guy.
The idea is that these four, while very good at their jobs, are kind of bad at their own love lives.
Matt (Mark Gantt) is hopelessly in love with his partner and co-founder of LoveMakers, Kara (Alexis Boozer, from Break a Leg). Kara is in a long-term relationship she isn’t sure she wants to stay in (with Drew Lanning, of Break a Leg and host of 7-11 Road Trip). Alex (Yuri Baranovsky, Break a Leg, me, basically), the social coach, is 30 but already divorced and broken emotionally and Isa (Daniela DiIorio, Break a Leg), the stylist, can’t pick if she wants to date girls, guys, or couples.
The style is very Ally McBeal, with little fantasy sequences and all. It also explores sex and love very bluntly, think Californication or, I hate to say it, Sex and the City.
Tubefilter: How’d you and Vlad come up with the idea?
YB: I’m not 100% sure, honestly. Where does inspiration come from? Is it from our own troubled subconscious minds, begging to tell a story? Or perhaps it is the stars themselves…
…no honestly, I don’t really remember. Vlad and I had this idea probably a couple of years ago. It was during the whole pick-up artist fad, and we liked the idea of a company that really took love to an almost mathematical level (something that the main character, Matt, does). There are all these matchmaking sites out there, but what about a place that offers a real personal touch? That was the beginning of LoveMakers.
Also, who doesn’t love a good love story?
Tubefilter: I know you feel really passionately about making a half hour series for the web. Are you married to the 30-minute episode format?
YB: We are still pitching it as a 30-minute show, yes. Will it end up being a 30-minute show? I don’t know.
But, surprisingly, no one has yelled at us or told us we’re crazy, so that means my instincts are right – people are ready for a 30 minute show online. It just has to be good, you know? It has to rival TV. We want to tell a story and we want people to invest their time in our world.
So, we’re hoping people keep liking the 30 minute thing – we’re malleable though, and I think the story is strong enough to be told in any number of ways, honestly.
Tubefilter: How’d Mark Gantt get involved?
YB: I’m not sure HOW Mark got involved; we’re still trying to figure that out. He just showed up one day when we were shooting the promo and wouldn’t leave…it’s been really awkward.
I had just seen parts of Bannen and wrote a blog about it and how it was really one of first series that raised the bar of the web show the way I always talked about it. Mark responded, and we started chatting and I realized that he had the perfect look for LoveMakers and definitely the talent to play the role.
He read the script, called me and said something like, “I imagine this character a bit like Matthew Perry from Studio 60…” – and then we fell in love. I think that’s literally how Vlad and I would talk about the Matt character, and Mark nailed it from the get-go.
So, anyway, he said yes, we flew him up to SF, we shot the promo in two insane, 16 hour days (which were followed with a few more shooting days for pickups) and here we are.
Tubefilter: How many hours did you have to spend with Mark in order to get him to act exactly like you?
YB: Oh, man, countless. I sent him daily videos of me so he could really learn how to stutter and mumble in the right places. It’s an art, I tell you.
Honestly, much like Break a Leg, Vlad and I wrote these lines, and I think we try to have a rhythm to what we write. I think people catch on to it pretty quickly. Mark is a great actor and he’s got a great sense of humor, so I think he really got what we were going for from the beginning.
But yes, like every person we work with, his first assignment is to watch every episode of Break a Leg and act more Jewish.
Tubefilter: How much of LoveMakers is shot?
YB: Everything you’re seeing in the promo. That’s literally it. We have a Pilot script, a season breakdown, etc. – but as far as footage, we shot the promo as if we have an entire season made. But we don’t. We’re very tricky, you see.
Tubefilter: Where have you been shopping the series? What’s the response been like from potential sponsors and distributors?
YB: Everywhere. We’re looking for a good home for it and it’s been going very well. People seem really interested and the promo really gets everyone excited, so, we’re talking and seeing what happens.
Could I be more vague? Maybe.
Tubefilter: The LoveMakers site highlights a lot of great ideas for social media add-ons to the series. Tell me about the Facebook game.
YB: The Facebook game is our idea and we’re very loosely talking to a company called Interactive SG to make it.
They’re a company from Singapore, and they’re really smart guys (they made a very popular Facebook game for The Biggest Loser) and love the show.
I won’t give away all of our secrets as to how it would work, but the basic idea is that you get to play matchmaker with your friends over Facebook. It would tie into the show with advice from the characters and the opportunity to win various LoveMakers gear and deleted scenes.
If I was to make LoveMakers the way I imagine it – it would be a big part of the show, all the interactivity would be. The series is the bastard child of TV and web series – if people trust us, if they’re willing to take the risk with us, I think we can create something pretty damn amazing.
Tubefilter: Isn’t there a legit matchmaking company involved with the show?
YB: Yes, the company is called Kelleher and Associates – right now, they’re purely consultants. But we have a close relationship with them and once we get closer to creating the show, I think they’ll have a bigger role in the series.
Tubefilter: Will LoveMakers have any kind of dating service component?
YB: We do plan on having an actual dating service as part of the LoveMakers site, yes. It might be fairly barebones (unless one of our sponsors is a matchmaking company, in which case, we’d have a full running one!) but we’ll see.
As I said, if we made the series the way we imagine it, it wouldn’t be LoveMakers the show, it’d be LoveMakers the experience, and while I sound vaguely like a used car salesman, I really believe that.
Check out the brand new LoveMakers site and trailer at LoveMakers.tv.