Spidvid.com - We are back with one of our best Spidcast (full transcript at Spidcast.com) episodes to date this month (listen in below and subscribe on iTunes) with a focus on web series, acting, getting lucky, and other interesting stuff. December's Spidcast features the incredible creator of the vampires vs zombies web series Suck and Moan, Joel Bryant, and the producer of hit web and TV show Goodnight Burbank, Hayden Black. They are our amazing guests for Spidcast 13, December 2011 which you can listen to below.
Hailing from Manchester, England, Hayden moved to the US in '97 because he wanted to better understand the culture that produced five different home shopping networks. Hayden once sang with early '90's new wave band The The The -- but they only lasted long enough to put out one single, the ill-fated "I'd Love It If You Loved Me". Shoving all those dreams into a bottle and burying it somewhere in the garden, Hayden eventually carved out a career in radio shipping news and has used that talent to catapult him to success here in Burbank at Channel 6. He loves Burbank and all nine of its restaurants. Gordon's divorced, enjoys golf, and quiet weekends avoiding LA traffic. Hayden is also the co-host of the hit web and TV show Goodnight Burbank.
Born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Joel Bryant graduated from Pepperdine University with a BA in Theatre and has lived in LA ever since. He's been lucky to work in many mediums including film ("The Heartbreak Kid," "Valkyrie," "Loaded," "Gone But Not Forgotten," among many others), TV (guest stars on "Monk," "Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior," "The Defenders," "Las Vegas," etc., a number of pilots such as "Hillers" with Henry Winkler and Tom Arnold and "Angry Guys") and New Media (Streamy-nominated for "After Judgment," "Life From the Inside," "The Temp Life," "Elevator" and is co-producer/"Mac" in the award-winning "Suck and Moan"). Among his numerous theatre highlights, he's been tapped by Neil LaBute to be in "Fat Pig" at the Belasco Theatre on Broadway in 2012. As well, he's garnered glowing reviews all over L.A. (Knightsbridge Theatre, Hudson Theatre, and Civic Light Opera of South Bay Cities) and performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, the Texas Shakespeare Festival and a variety of regional theatres throughout the Southwest, including the world premiere of "Terminal Cafe" with Neil Patrick Harris. Some of his favorite pieces include: "ART," "Moonlight & Magnolias," "A Midsummer Night's Dream," "The Woolgatherer," "Oleanna"). Trained in improv at The Groundlings, Joel is a co-founder and member of the award-winning comedy duo "Deven & Joel" with comedy partner/wife Deven Green, with whom he has entertained the troops overseas, performed at a series of maximum security prisons, played at colleges and clubs all over the U.S., and have headlined at many places including The Comedy Store, The Icehouse, the Venetian, the Riviera and Bally's in Las Vegas, Flappers in Burbank, all over L.A. and San Diego, a week of sold out shows at the San Francisco Fringe Festival and won the Best of the Fest at the International Hollywood Comedy Festival. Since starting stand-up comedy at the age of 16, he has performed in such places as The Comedy Store, The Icehouse, The Comedy Union, Laff's, The Queen Mary, and many clubs in between. Joel is also an accomplished dancer, writer and spoken word artist...and sometimes he even sleeps.
Full Transcript Below
Michael: Hi, I’m Michael London and welcome to Spidcast, the future collaborative video production brought to you by Spidvid.com. On this episode, we’re visiting with Joel Bryant, actor and producer of the web series “Suck and Moan”. He’s also an accomplished standup comic as part of the comedy duo of “Deven & Joel.” We’ll also visit with Hayden Black. He is the writer, producer and co-star of “Goodnight Burbank.” Now, Hayden’s story has a wonderful twist to it that you will not want to miss.
First up is Joel Bryant. Now, tell us a bit about your story?
Joel: Absolutely. I was originally born and raised in Albuquerque in New Mexico. Lived there until I was 18 and came out here for college; actually, started acting in Albuquerque when I was 11 years old. No need to get into the arts because it was because I saw a buddy’s picture on a billboard for a local bank and he did a local commercial and everybody was talking about it and I really thought he was really cool for doing that so I thought this acting thing sounds like a blast.
So, I started looking into acting. I went into some acting classes and as soon as I started getting acting classes, I just got hooked on it. The bug kicked in so I was roped into acting classes and then after that, I started standup when I was 16 years old. I told my mom to take me to a club and to try an open mic, did it and it was great to be the young kid in the club.
I started improv when I was 17 and all that culminated in winning Outstanding Acting Award of the New Mexico Theatre Festival, which kind of cemented the fact that maybe I’m doing the right thing. I went out to Pepperdine University in Malibu on a theatre scholarship and since then, have been living in Los Angeles doing what I do.
Michael: So, my question is then what is the 16-year-old comic’s point of view in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Joel: When he was a 16-year-old at a comedy club, it’s amazing because your voice is so unique. There’s obviously not a lot of 16-year-olds there, so you’re talking about how interesting like girls are and I wonder what sex is, I wonder what drinking is and you’re so innocent and you’re naïve and the people are really on board with you because they’ve all been through that and no one can really represent that voice except coming from a real naïve 16-year-old point of view.
And it was interesting because after college just like a few years off of standup, I got back into it in my late 20’s and I tried to revisit some of those jokes, it didn’t quite fly because when you’re in your late 20’s, you’ve had the drinks, you’ve had the girl, you’ve had all these life experiences. So, it was an interesting obstacle, an interesting mountain to re-climb getting back on stage again and finding out, okay, what is my voice now? Obviously, I can’t be the naïve 16-year-old. I have a driver’s license now and not in school anymore. I have bills to pay. So, that was an interesting thing but I love being the 16-year-old. It was fun to be the kid.
Michael: So, you leave Albuquerque for LA and take us through that journey.
Joel: The reason I came out here for college, I only looked at Los Angeles schools because I always wanted to come to Los Angeles. As soon as I was a kid, I wanted to be an actor. I was in love with the idea of what Los Angeles was and so we came out for a vacation and went to Hollywood and finally realized, it’s not really glamorous there but I was still in love with the idea of it.
And so I just looked at schools out here in Los Angeles. I looked at Pepperdine and a couple of other schools and I just kind of went to the school that would give me the theatre scholarship and the best deal and Pepperdine came through. The reason why I wanted is kind of dipped my toe into Los Angeles and kind of feel it out a little bit while I’m still getting some money from the government, from mom to kind of ease into it as opposed to packing everything in a car and just moving out here not knowing anything.
So, it was a nice introduction to be in college and kind of feel the city out and feel the industry out but then when I actually graduated, they didn’t teach you a lot of the business aspect. They taught you how to act in college and how to do Bertolt Brecht and the existential movement and all that sort of stuff and then when you leave, you have no idea what a headshot is or a resume is or how to network or anything.
So, it took me a number of years in trying to maintain jobs, trying to pay for college, trying to find out what theatre were or what it wasn’t, what was worth taking. So, it took me awhile to navigate the pitfalls of Los Angeles. I think a lot of other people, they got a strong programs or they have a good mentors when they get out and I was kind of on my own a little bit and trying to figure it all out.
So, I use my same black and white headshots from my first theatre gig in college and a resume I half wrote up on paper and pencil. So, it took me a few years to figure it out.
Michael: And Joel, what was your breakthrough moment?
Joel: Oh, the breakthrough. You know that’s an interesting question. It hasn’t really been necessarily a huge breakthrough. It’s been kind of a slow steady build, it’s like I’ve always been a very proactive person, someone who really hustles and finally, in like my late 20’s, all that work start to kind of culminating into consistent work.
One of my first breakthrough, I did a film called, “Life, Death in Mini-Golf” which I was guaranteed, I thought this is going to be a hit. This is going to be huge because the role is written for me. There was a budget. There were some actors who would actually have credits. Actually, Kristen Wiig from Saturday Night Live was actually in it way before Saturday Night Live and everything. So there were all these talented people and now, with the film, I was sure it’s going to be a huge hit so that made me quit my waiting table job. So, I was like, “I’m just going to quit waiting tables. I’m taking the leap of faith now.”
Obviously, that didn’t work out as a hit movie but it did give me the impetus to, “Okay, now, I don’t have a job. Now, I really have to start acting.” Between that and meeting my wife who just has a great business mind. She has the business acumen. She’s the one who taught me that acting isn’t all living in your cars and doing black box theatre and doing three lines and a TV show or doing some small stuff. It’s a business and meeting her and knowing that business is 90% of it and then there’s 10% fun and talent, all the other good stuff that you love about it but really to focus into the business sense. She was the one that really guided me along.
Michael: Well, that’s wonderful that you have a partner that understands and keeps the business in rolling.
Joel Bryant: Absolutely, it’s the best partnership because we get to not only do we have our own individual careers. She has a huge online career. I have an online career as well as traditional media but we also tour around as a comedy duo together so we get to literally tour the world. We went to the troops overseas and performed for them, at Canada, all over the place and it’s so much fun when you get to tour with your spouse/comedy partner as opposed to calling her from the road and saying, “Hey, Italy is great.” You’re experiencing this together, the good and the bad. We did a series of prison shows. I want to do this with my wife, you know what I mean? This is how to actually experience this.
That became the goal for me later on. It was always to win an Oscar by the time I was 24 years old. That was the goal coming out of the gates but the goal slowly merged into, I want to enjoy what I’m doing and have fun doing it and that’s once I started reaching that level, I could finally step back, look around and say, you know what? I kind of make my own schedule. I’m doing things I want to do. I’m doing it with people I want to do it with and I think that became the goal. That’s the place I’m at right now.
Michael: So, then tell us a bit about your web presence. Tell us about “Suck and Moan”.
Joel: “Suck and Moan” is a web series that in the later stages of release, we have two more episodes to release. It’s played a number of festivals and it’s done really well. Got a lot of good awards which really makes me proud and it got some nice notices and reviews across the board.
It was the brainchild of a friend of mine, Brendon Fong who came to me with the idea and he had shot and everything and I’d been in the new media market for a couple of years working at other projects. He said, “I had this project ‘Suck and Moan’.” And so what it is? “Well, it’s zombie or vampires trying to survive during a zombie apocalypse.” I said that’s kind of clever. It takes two big pop cultural horror icons and smashes them together in a very satirical way so it’s kind of “Shawn of the Dead” meets vampire clerks if you will because the vampires are mad because the zombies are eating all the humans and they’re also really loud at night and all this. They’re kind of ruining the peace that these vampires have established for themselves.
It’s very tongue and cheek and it’s very fun but I’ve been in thedia, I got nominated for a Streamy Award for “After Judgment.” I’ve done some other guest spots and that kind of got me in that world and I realized how much of a fun, proactive community it is and how amazing it is that you can just create a project with a friend of yours, have other friends come on board, talented people and kind of shoot all that and meld it all together and make your own project.
So, “Suck and Moan” suckandmoan.com and we just had our big screening of our big rap party/screening of the last two episodes to a packed house up in Burbanks. So, it’s kind of, we’ve put the nail in the coffin, not to use a really bad pun right now, put the nail in the coffin on season 1 and then we’ll see where it goes.
Michael: And Joel, what advice do you have for someone coming from Boise or Springfield of Albuquerque to LA?
Joel: Coming from Albuquerque, there’s been a lot of us actually. Neil Patrick Harris from Albuquerque, Freddie Prinze Jr. Albuquerque, all went to my same high school. The advice coming from a smaller town going to a bigger town is to do everything you can within your small town before you jump into the bigger market. It’s a lot easier to gain credits and experience, be a bigger fish in a small pond before you have to jump into being a smaller fish in the big ponds.
Make your mistakes when the stakes are low. Screw up on stage in a small theatre in Albuquerque before you get cast in a huge equity show in LA and screw up there. I think that’s really the main key and then only come out when you’re ready to come out. I think people are going to want to rush coming out. Take your time. Ease into it. Find a good support system when you get out there when you got to LA or New York or Chicago. Don’t lose your head. I think the main thing is when you start actually working, don’t burn bridges and don’t be an A-hole. Show up early. Be fun to work with, do a good job and then leave a good impression behind.
Michael: Superb advice. So, what is next for Joel Bryant?
Joel: Next for Joel—looking for funding for season 2 of “Suck and Moan” and selling that. My wife and I are going to be hitting the road during December to do some holiday shows, comedy shows, private corporate stuff, which is always a nice Christmas bonus.
I also got just a couple of firm projects in the (hop) I’m making the film festival route right now doing two plays here in Los Angeles, one in February and one in March, balancing that out and actually, recently I cast in a broadway show so I’m going to be going out there hopefully, in April, I think. I got to look at the calendar. I like to keep busy, I told you.
Michael: Wonderful to hear. So, where can we keep up to date on your busy schedule?
Joel: You can always go to joelbryant.net. It’s also devengreen.com, same website, devenandjoel.com. It’s all the same website. We have all of our stuff up there. Her videos, my videos, our calendar, some fun stuffs there and Facebook, email, Twitter, all that stuffs on there and we love interacting with people so give a shout.
Michael: And how about a parting shout, Joel, a great nugget to take away?
Joel: The nugget to take away from this, from Joel Bryant, your free nugget of the day, if you will, I think, I actually closed—I was lucky enough to go teach in my alma mater at Pepperdine last year which was kind of a big honor to go talk to the kids and it sounds weird to say kids and the nugget I told them was, constantly redefine your success. I think you always have to do that. There is obviously some major goal that you want but you have to—I think your success should be very fluid. So, when I graduated college, I wanted that Oscar at 24, the Oscar didn’t come so I want to just work by 25. Work didn’t come at 25 so I just wanted to quit my day job by 27.
So, I think, keep realistic goals in mind but realize it’s very fluid and a lot is up to luck. So, you know what? Just have fun on the journey.
Michael: Thank you, Joel Bryant, for joining us today on Spidcast.
Joel: Thanks for having me.
Michael: Next up is writer, producer, actor, Hayden Black. Hayden, for the benefit of those listening who haven’t heard your name yet but they will, fill us in. Tell us a bit about your story.
Hayden: A little bit about me, Hayden Black. Well, I’m from England. I come from Manchester, I moved to Florida which is not fun but been in LA for a while and I do a few shows on the web one of which is going to television which is “Goodnight Burbank.” So, I guess, the first thing about me is I identify as a writer, first and foremost.
Michael: So, tell us a bit about the process you take as a writer and also how that role expanded and evolved.
Hayden: Well, the writing is something that I’ve always done since I was in high school and then it was 2006, I was taking a class, an improv class at Upright Citizens Brigade, UCB and somebody there mentioned that they had access to a green screen studio and we should shoot stuff for the web and for mobile and this is 2006.
So, all of us, myself included were basically like, “What’s that all about?” So, I did some research and saw what was coming and I went, wow. This looks amazing. Plus, it’s a great way of letting people producers and whatnot see your stuff. So, I wrote this pilot episode. We shot it a few days later and we kind of hit the ground running but it became so successful, we started to do more and that’s when I found myself not just as a writer any longer but as a producer.
And I hadn’t acted before and I was acting in it so there were just many new hats that I suddenly found myself wearing and because there was no pressure to do the most amazing work that a billion people are going to watch immediately. It allowed me the time to learn the craft better and to do more and that’s what we have over the years.
Michael: Now, you mentioned being involved in online content as far back as 2006 which makes you a bit of a pioneer but your web series has done something quite unique. Share that with us.
Hayden: Well, we started about just over a year ago 2010, I guess it was, took a meeting with Hulu and they suggested doing a half-hour version of “Goodnight Burbank.” Up until that point, we’ve done about 30 odd episodes and just again, learning, learning, learning. And then I went back to England, I haven’t back in years and met with a couple of networks over there and pitched them some ideas one of which was a British half hour version of Burbank and they were very interested in that but they asked the question which kind of threw me. “So, what does a half-hour version look like?”
And I realized, I don’t really know. I’d original had an idea for a half-hour show. I whittled it down to five minutes so it became “Goodnight Burbank” but that was so different to this original half-hour that I’d initially created back in 2005 that it was like starting all over again. So, I then spent two months just working on developing what a half-hour version of Burbank would look like.
And then I started casting it with a new cast. We got the amazing Laura Silverman. We got Dominic Monaghan. People like John Barrowman came on board, Miracle Laurie, Camden Toy, people from the world of Dollhouse and Buffy. It was just phenomenal how just things started filling up. I wrote all six scripts which became the first season and we shot them slowly because our resources were fairly limited because now, I was in a whole new world at this point. Now, I’m producing half-hour, at that time, we couldn’t technically say half hour television but I was producing a half hour show that I’d written.
And so again, big learning curve and when we finished, two things happened. One was a company called Zodiac, the third largest production company/distribution company in the world, they saw a rough cut of the first few episodes and snapped up the global TV distribution rights and then we premiered on Hulu, it was April 25th or this year 2011 and Mark Cuban was watching and he snapped up the show for US cable the next day.
Michael: Wow. That is an amazing story. Now, everybody who gets in this business wants fame or fortune or however they measured their own success and you have achieved that. I’d like for you to tell us how that feels.
Hayden: Like it’s surreal. It’s the first feeling. I mean, it’s funny you should ask this because when we’re doing it, when you’re in the middle of it, you believe in it and you’re constantly striving to make it better and better and better in case you get the chance to go to that next platform. And you pour your heart and soul into it and as does the rest of the cast and crew by the way, this is not a one-man operation.
And so you got all this energy and you’re pouring into it and you’re all hoping and then it happened and I think when it happens, it really made me realize—I do come up with sayings but I came up with an expression that day explaining to my mom what had just happened. I said there are a million reasons to say no to something and only one reason to say yes and that is that you can’t think of a million reasons to say no.
There’s so many—just because Mark was watching the show didn’t mean that he was going to then want to pick it up for his network. So, so many—it’s just unbelievably surreal that he did and making it even more astonishing was that he wanted it immediately.
Michael: So, what were your first thought when he said, “I want to sign this.”
Hayden: Well, I was doing at the time, because I produced this whole show while doing a full time freelance day job. So, it was two careers kind of going on at the same time and I was still at the day job when we premiered and I got the email the following morning and I was then at an open-plan cubicle office over at NBC and I had to contain myself. I don’t know how I did it but I’m sure people probably still heard me jumping up and down.
Michael: That is a wonderful story. Now, knowing what you know today about the whole process, what would you do differently?
Hayden: Well, I think that the only thing that—I’m really, really glad that I put in the time to develop a show, write the scripts, keep rewriting the scripts and then rewrite the scripts more and then to keep rewriting the scripts. That was so important to the process. It was amazing, some of the things I learned as I went like watching how the crew—excuse me, the cast, kind of started jelling and finding their own chemistry. If you watched the six episodes, you can see certainly by episode 3 the cast really starting to find their feet and really starting to come together.
I think some of the pitfalls that we wound up and it’s because we have such low resources, it wasn’t until after we’d shot some of the shows that we found some issues with either sound or we’d shot on P2 cards and I think there were two scenes overall that did not transfer. One we managed to re-shoot because it was very simple and the other, sadly, we couldn’t remount so we had to take the scene as is and edit it completely way down because I think we had one angle and because the other angle was lost and these are things, if I had known, I would have ensured somebody was watching every single P2 card as it was being downloaded on to a computer, stuff like that but just keeping a big eye over things production wise.
Michael: I would guess that each of us has at some point loss some P2 footage, I know I have, right. Now, tell us about how collaboration via places like Spidvid has helped it.
Hayden: Oh, boy, when we started the original, I spoke to a guy over a company called Live Video and they were very, very happy to give us use of their green screen office. Literally, it wasn’t even a green screen studio. That was a space outside their office that was painted green and they allowed us to use that in exchange for I was allowing them to put “Goodnight Burbank” on their platform which I did not have a problem with and I think the collaborative thing is taken every step further when you start producing. You’ve got actors who are bringing their game to the table and their choices of how they deliver the lines and what they can even possibly add.
You’ve also got the crew. You couldn’t do it without a fantastic crew pitching in and taking care of things and keeping an eye out for things that only they can see and certainly stuff I’m not going to see. So, it’s an entirely collaborative medium, entirely collaborative. You couldn’t do it by yourself. Like I said, I was working two jobs. I would come back from the one job, if I’d had a bad day, I had to literally leave that at the door because it’s all trickled down if I was in a bad mood, everybody else is going to be in a crappy mood too. And that would have been the height of unprofessionalism.
So I just really had to go that extra mile sometimes, not all the times, thank god, but sometimes you just don’t have a great day.
Michael: This is great advice for the young filmmakers. Thank you so much. I’d like to know now how you found an audience for “Goodnight Burbank.”
Hayden: Well, the original show in 2006, what happened was we got a couple of reviews and one of the websites apparently was being monitored by the guys over at iTunes who were looking for stuff themselves. They saw the review of “Goodnight, Burbank” again, this is back in 2006 and then put us, they went and watched the show and then put it on the front page.
So, we got very lucky. We were one of the first ones out then we were also one of the firsts to do really well. So, we could take advantage of that. This time around for the half hour version, we have an arrangement with Hulu wherein they give us some promotion and marketing and I think, it’s just so competitive these days with so many people uploading their stuff on a daily basis, it’s not hourly. Any bit of promotion and marketing can really help.
Michael: Well, it certainly can’t hurt. Hayden, where can people see your stuff?
Hayden: They could see “Goodnight Burbank” either at goodnightburbank.com or hulu.com/goodnight-burbank and they can follow the Twitter because I update the Twitter account with jokes taken from the news every single day and that’s @goodniteburbank, with the night spelled, N-I-T-E, in the Twitter account. N-I-G-H-T everywhere else and you can also follow me on Twitter @Haydenblack where I’m writing crazy crap all the time.
Michael: Yes, as you are but it is very entertaining crap. All right, Hayden, our time is short. You’ve had a degree of success. I was wondering if you could pay it forward just a bit. How about some free advice for someone just getting ready to dip their toe into producing web content?
Hayden: I would say, when you’re doing this, this is a fantastic form that’s open to us all. We can all now use the web as a means of distribution but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should. It’s a great, to me, like when we started “Goodnight Burbank,” it wasn’t done in a sense of, “Oh, my god, let’s conquer the web. Let’s show the world how brilliant we are.” It was really done more out of a sense of let’s see what we can do and let’s see how we can learn and I see this, it’s a fantastic learning opportunity but I see a lot of people are so terribly impatient and they want everybody to look at what they’ve just done and oftentimes, it’s not there yet. They haven’t spent the time working out the scripts or casting it well or whatever.
And I think that we all have to do those things to learn from them but we shouldn’t be imploring everybody else to watch our mistakes. We should just be learning from them and that’s how we started “Goodnight Burbank.” We didn’t start out perfect. We’re still not perfect but just being patient and really realizing what this medium can truly bring to you. It’s a fantastic lesson, every time you do something and upload it, you’re learning and that’s how—Spielberg still I’m sure learns from every project he’s done and continues making even making better content.
Michael: Hayden, I got to tell you, stories like yours and series like yours is what keeps new filmmakers jumping in and making new and exciting content. We thank you for that. I’m so tickled for your success.
Hayden: Oh, thank you so much. I am too, still feel very surreal.
Michael: As well you should be. Thank you, Hayden Black, for joining us today on Spidcast.
Hayden: It’s my pleasure, Michael.
Michael: Thanks for listening to our Spidcast show. We appreciate your time and attention. You can now join the conversation at spidvid.com or at our Spidvid blog and you can join our collaborative filmmaking community at spidvid.com. Tune in next month for another entertaining and informative episode of Spidcast.
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