ED- The Eerie Digest is excited to introduce Edward Robert Bach and the new TV Pilot ‘Hard to be Me’ for all our readers. Edward tell us something about yourself and the production company.
(Edward Robert Bach: Series Creator; Producer; role of Kevin Hamilton) I’ve been an actor on the stage since seventh grade; I got into film and TV work in 2006 and really love this story-telling medium. Partly because I’m a bit of a perfectionist and with TV and film you can keep doing it until it’s exactly the way you want it. With stage, if you mess up, or miss your mark, you’re pretty much done for. Although, the theater certainly has it’s charms – the instant gratification, the continuous story (film is always shot out of order), and the audience’s energy and reactions. I live in Northern Virginia, and really have a love for Washington, DC, that’s why I wanted to set Hard to Be Me in DC. We tried to really showcase the softer, non-political side of DC and the people who live here.
The real need for Art in Real Life (The Production Company) came because we wanted Hard to Be Me to be produced, from beginning to end, with the highest possible quality and attention to detail. And we wanted to make sure we had all our creative, technical, and legal “i’s” dotted and “t’s” crossed so that this Pilot could simply be handed to any Network, that wanted to employ us to produce future episodes, and put on the air the next day!! I’m exaggerating a little, but that’s really what we set out to do, and that’s exactly what we’ve done. And the picture and sound quality both stand up next to, and in some cases surpass, what you’d see on regular Prime-time television (thanks largely to Gene Ertel, Director of Photography, and Will Fortune, Sound Designer). Now Virginia Ryker can give you the nuts and bolts of the Production Company.
(Virginia Ryler: Producer, Legal) The mid-Atlantic regionally based production company Art in Real Life, LLC (physically located in Annapolis, MD), is the brainchild of Edward Robert Bach and Virginia Ryker. Established in 2009, initially specifically for the production of Hard To Be Me – TV Pilot/series, the company is considering other projects to develop its portfolio. Its founding Members, Edward Robert Bach, Robert P. Bach, and Virginia Ryker have been able to tap into talent and resources unparalleled in the region, and intend to continue to do so with the aim of making the MD/DC/VA region the top producer of independent film/video content after LA and NY. While [Edward and I] work on other projects individually, it is [our] collaboration which is Art in Real Life.
(Edward) Plus there’s a good story, and in the end it all comes down to the story.
(Megan Hurst: role of Juliet Crawford) This TV pilot is excellent in living out the lives of college students who are going through the same issues and insecurities as other people their own age.
(Edward) Yea, I really wanted it to kind of show the balancing act that college students do. Between classes, family, friends, pressures, and all the stuff that comes along with that time in life. The story comes a little bit from my life. I’ve never really been camera-shy like the character I play, but I am an artist.
(Virginia) Kevin and his art school friends are assigned a weekly video log (vlog) by the intimidating Dr. Wilkes. The first episode follows Kevin as he reaches out and introduces viewers to his quirky friends and family, while searching for exactly the right topic.
(Erik Cieslewicz: Director) I’ll just talk themes. I feel the pilot is a multi-faceted show that touches on a wide variety of themes. That was definitely one of the things that made me excited about the project from the beginning. Even when Edward had just bounced the concept of the show off of me, I immediately gravitated to the web 2.0-savvy element of story-telling that it embraced. As a web-head who had a twitter account when most people thought chirping was something only birds did, I had become very excited by using social networking as a story telling medium. Hard to Be Me embraces that.
(Virginia) It’s seen from the point-of-view of Kevin, as well as watchers of the vlog (high school girls in a coffee shop, and an older couple tackling technology), H2BMe incorporates technology with the classics; and even rapping Shakespeare.
(Edward) That was incredible. I wrote in the “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow…” passage from Shakespeare and gave it to the three actors playing my character’s mom’s students and they got together and worked out this whole rap piece that just blew everybody away. And of course, the technology aspect comes in through Kevin’s vlog, which basically narrates the story and guides the audience through the process of putting the “assignment” together for Dr. Wilkes.
(Erik) Hard to Be Me is a show about story tellers, all four main characters have a vlog that they use to communicate with the audience, blurring that line between “real” and “fake” that the internet already as so muddled. Kevin, the main character, has a teacher, Dr. Wilkes [ played by Kelli Biggs], who realizes this and tries, in her intimidating way, to get all of her students to become the story-tellers she knows they are. I think it’s a perfect show for our time. But aside from that dissection of web 2.0, the show has a lot of great, familiar themes and narrative devices as nods to its traditional medium (television) and as a way for the audience to be comfortable in a bold new step in multi-medium story-telling.
(Megan) The intent is for people to relate to the characters with the hopes that they will see the humor and realize that life doesn’t have to be so serious all the time.
(Edward) Right, it was very important to me that the characters be a little larger than life, but still grounded in reality. I wanted to show how stereotyped people-groups aren’t always what they seem at face-value. And when you dig down deep and really start to invest in these characters you see their genuine souls – that’s inside every person. I’d like to say that anyone can find at least one character in this show that represents them, but that’s a pretty bold statement and probably not exactly true. But I think we come pretty close to achieving that goal.
(Erik) I was very drawn to the family unit in the show, as a fellow product of two loving parents. In the 1980s and prior, television may have been too sugar-coated and made people from non-traditional families feel alienated. While it is great that their stories are now being told, I feel the pendulum has swung too far the other way and now people, like me, from a loving family are starting to feel alienated.
(Edward) It will be evident, to anyone who watches this show, that family is among the most important things to me personally. And when you feel so strongly about something like that, you can’t help but show it through your writing. I wanted to bring back the great TV parents of the “old-days” like the Keatons, the Cosbys, the Seavers, and so on. I think Erik is dead-on when he says, “the pendulum has swung too far the other way.” Aside from ABC’s The Middle, I’m not sure that TV has any functional families anymore, and I think that’s really sad. Having functioning parents in a TV show, like we do, is almost like a brand-new novel concept!!
(Erik) Hard to Be Me brings back that traditional family unit, but leaves behind all the Leave it to Beaver hokeyness that plagues a lot of those shows. Visually, one of the first things I decided after reading the script, before even shot listing, was that Kevin, as an artist, needed a way for his story be told in a somewhat unique visual manner. By having him draw on the screen and highlight aspects of his life in a very hyper-real way, the audience gets a perspective of Kevin’s life through his eyes. The character doesn’t like using words to express himself and feels his visual skills are much better for that, thus it was a perfect fit.
(Edward) I’m also a huge fan of continuous camera shots. It’s really noticeable if you watch Gilmore Girls, I always found myself getting sucked in to that show so easily due, in large part, to the camera-work. Erik really took that style and ran with it even better than I could have imagined.
(Erik) I tried to incorporate a lot of beautiful and refined aesthetics for the camera than most comedies these days have, there are only three handheld shots in the whole forty-three minute run of the pilot, everything else is on sticks or on the dolly. Even though it is a multicamera/single camera hybrid, I wanted to maintain a more single camera feel and leave behind some of that sitcom feel as the show is trying to capture some of the charm and feel of 1980s shows, but without the cheesiness. The standard three camera set-up was completely off the table for me, instead we tried a lot of ambitious dolly shots, even if we knew that the set-up and reset times were going to be very challenging. It pays off in a huge way, and allowed me to use more stage-like blocking for the actors. These longer takes with fluid dolly movements allow the actors and script to carry a lot of the show and not rely on editing [tricks] or forced perspectives to try to mortgage false emotions from the audience.
(Edward) I think the acting is beyond superior from everyone involved, and that’s thanks to Erik’s direction and the actors’ talent. I was blown away by the caliber of actors that stumbled upon us and ran with these characters. Each actor turned their respective character into exactly what I had envisioned while writing the teleplay. And talent like that makes a story come to life in ways you have to see to believe.
(Erik) To complement the very earnest and open feel of the script. I tried to capture that same type aesthetic in performances from the actors, often letting them trust their instincts rather than forcing too much of a “show” out of them. By letting them put a lot of themselves into the characters, they were able to capture the organic nature of the honesty in the script. But I think I’m starting to get into other questions a bit, so I’ll leave it at that.
Tell us about the actors, the characters they play, and how they interact in the film.
(Edward) To expand on what I just said, the 16 main actors in this show came together like a dream-cast for me. I don’t think there were really any major blow-ups among the actors. I think everyone got along incredibly well. And everybody wants to keep working together; I’m certainly looking forward to the chance to continue with this series.
(Erik) The actors are some of the best I’ve ever worked with, many of them hungry artists who are performing their craft for love of the process and not for the fame or paycheck.
(Virginia) The cast really is a great bunch of “up and coming” stars.
(Erik) It’s refreshing to have that type of energy on set. We cast them out of hundreds that auditioned, and the big thing I looked for, as I said earlier, was great instincts and very real performances.
(Edward) What I was looking for during casting, was people who could make the script leap to life. Also actors who were in the moment and made the character seem natural, and gave the other actors something to feed off of – that’s really important. We cast in groups rather than one actor at a time, which gave us the opportunity to see how actor’s worked and looked together.
(Erik) I didn’t want to cast on “look” or what attaching their name to the project could do for us. Instead I wanted people that were very natural in their performance, but at the same time had a workman’s ethic when it came to being on set. As a guy from the midwest, I wanted to surround myself with actors willing to do it as many times as they needed to get it right, not until it got hard.
(Edward) And we did, sometimes we did it a lot of times, and sometimes we were waiting a good amount of time for the crew to get the shot just right, the dolly movement perfect, the rack-focus at exactly the right moment, and so on.
(Erik) That’s the type of work ethic I bring with me, and I knew that with the type of shots I had in mind for the show that I needed people willing to wait for set-ups and resets and be ready to go at the drop of a hat. I think we largely found that with the whole cast.
(Edward) And those shots are some of the most beautiful and rewarding shots in the entire pilot episode!! I’m so thankful that we had a cast and crew who all just wanted to spend time on details, rather than just rush through everything with an, “it’s good enough,” type of attitude. Throughout the entire process from writing to post-production, “good enough” was never enough for anyone involved.
(Virginia) Doug Henderson was our resident comedian, while Ali Walton was the resident sweet-heart. Megan was our Broadway star on set.
(Megan) I play the character of Juliet – Juliet Crawford is a theatre major and enjoys hanging out with her friends. She has a unique sense of style, is caring yet sassy, quirky, and confident. She knows who she is, she likes who she is, and she doesn’t care about what anyone else thinks of her. One of her favorite actresses is Meryl Streep, and although she is not a fan of the standard, overused quotes from “Willie Shakes, or William Shakespeare as he’s also known to the common folk,” she tends to use his lesser-known quotes often.
(Virginia) Edward was the multi-personality on set- flexibly flipping from producer to actor in the blink of the eye.
(Edward) I couldn’t have done that successfully without you and Aditi Desai (Producer) taking charge on-set and giving me the room to focus on my character. If I had to worry about production things while trying to act, it never would have happened. Luckily, I never did have to think about any of that because of the awesome Production Crew. Everyone of them knew what their job was and did it with excellence. They made it possible for the actors and characters to truly shine!! As for my character, Kevin Hamilton, he’s just a nice, sensitive guy-next-door type. He’s pretty easy to get along with, and has a lot of creativity inside him that begins to come out in a way he never expected through his vlog. One really incredible thing was that I had the opportunity to communicate with my real-life favorite artist, Drew Struzan. He is pretty well known as the most significant movie-poster artist of the last several decades. He created movie art for Star Wars, E.T., Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, etc. I could go on and on about him for pages and pages. But he liked the idea of the Pilot, and sent me some self-portraits of himself for us to use in the show. He’s been really supportive right from the start. And it’s been a huge honor to get to know one of my personal heroes a little bit. Anyway, back to Kevin, I’d say he’s a really loyal friend, and is a little picky with who his friends are. He’s not the big-man-on-campus, but his circle of friends is super-tight. And when it comes to his family, like me, nobody comes between Kevin and his family. I think that Kendra and Michael Garvey, who play Kevin’s parents, are incredible, and Katie Jones, who plays Kevin’s sister Shannon – well, we all had really good chemistry.
(Kendra North; role of Patricia Hamilton) I would describe my character as loving, playful, tries to be supportive (even if she fails). She is accepting of others, despite any differences. But she expects people to work hard and will speak her mind if need be. This is the way I see her at least.
(Virginia) Kendra was a great at balancing the snarkiness and love [that] Kevin’s mom has.
(Kendra) I don’t think I agree with Virginia that Patricia has a “snarkiness” about her. At least, I hope it didn’t come across as snarky because I think of snarky as someone who is testy and irritable – someone who is short with others. I think Patricia loves what she does (her role in the family and her new job) and that comes across in her interactions with the other characters in the film.
(Virginia) Kelli Biggs as Dr. Wilkes – well, as [the character of] Dan puts it – she was “Hot” and a little scary at the same time. And who can forget our cute coffee shop girls [Stephanie Rigizadeh, Patricia Barry, and Jennifer Selman), and Joan [Crooks] and Bob [Creager] as the older couple tackling technology. We also need to say a brief word about all of our extras – students, coffee shop patrons, party guests, and the poor nerdy gamer [played by David J. Gannon] who gets reamed by Shannon – they were all fantastic at adding the necessary ambiance to create the scenes.
Who is the Director for the Pilot, and can you tell us something about him?
(Megan) The director for the pilot is Erik Cieslewicz and his work is amazing.
(Virginia) He’s cool.
(Edward) I searched and searched for a Director for this project, the right Director for this project. I talked with more potential Directors than I can count and nobody struck me as the right person for the job. Nobody gave me the sense that they loved this script as much as I did. Nobody made me feel like they could take this thing and really make it come to life. And then I met Erik. Actually I didn’t meet him, I read his email in application for the position. First of all, it was like a five paragraph email, and he really shared about himself and took a leap on what his vision was based on a couple sentence long summary, about the show, that I posted somewhere. He was dead-on with his vision, and the fact that I hadn’t really shared my hopes and dreams about what the Pilot would look and feel like, and here’s this guy basically spitting my thoughts back at me – I was like, yea, I’ve pretty much got to meet with this one RIGHT NOW!!! And he was so energetic!! And it wasn’t long before I felt like Erik actually knew this story better than I did – which was a great feeling.
(Erik) I was born and raised in central Wisconsin in a town that couldn’t fill up Madison Square Garden if everyone came and brought ten of their friends. My father was a potato farmer and my mother was a music teacher. I grew up with nothing to entertain me but my siblings and a very overactive imagination. I knew I wanted to be a story-teller from a very young age, I used to tell my brother a bed time story every night that had years of continuity to it. I experimented with stage acting, starting a punk band and writing poetry, but once I saw David Fincher’s Fight Club, I finally understood that moving pictures were more than books that you passively watched instead of actively read – they were living narrative, visual music. I changed my focus to film and ended up attending the University of Wisconsin: Oshkosh where I studied in their Radio/TV/Film Program. I graduated with two festival screened films and was the first student in the history of the University to win the Dean’s Outstanding Undergraduate Research Award for a film project. After school I found work at a CBS affiliate, as a photojournalist, it really helped me refine my craft. I walked out of the station in about two years with over a dozen journalism awards including an Emmy Nominated and Edward R. Murrow Award winning Investigative Series, Secrets in Shawano. During that time I continued to explore narrative filmmaking, directing two more festival screened films, including the short Microcosm. I moved out to Washington, DC and ended up writing two comedies for Blue Claw Entertainment that were pitched some Hollywood studios. I’ve been making some activist documentaries for non-profits, and, of course, I had the amazing opportunity to direct Hard to Be Me, which remains my seminal work.
(Megan) Erik is very patient, fun and hard working. He is great with his direction with the cast and crew and his determination for this pilot to be top quality was superb.
Tell us about the awards that you received on this Pilot and what they can do to promote it.
(Virginia) The awards the production receives are very important for a number of reasons: first they validate the efforts that the cast and crew have put in – the awards let the cast and crew know that other people recognize and appreciate the tremendous work that has gone into the project; second they give credibility to Art in Real Life, LLC as a serious production company.
(Erik) I’m very proud of the recognition the pilot has already picked up with only about three months of actively being in the festival circuit. Best Editing from the Los Angeles Movie Awards…
(Kendra) Allen Korslund [Editor for Hard to Be Me], he totally deserves it.
(Erik) And the Bronze from Park City Film Music Festival [Paul Oehlers, Composer].
(Edward) And a handful of others. Plus we’ve been so honored to be named as an Official Selection of the New York international Independent Film and Video Festival (NYIIFVF)! This is one of the most prestigious film festivals in this country. We’ll be there towards the end of July, and later in the Fall we’ll also be screening at their Los Angeles event. Just being selected to play at this festival is a big deal. And the more of these that we play at, the more industry folks get a chance to notice us.
(Virginia) Clearly, Art in Real Life is doing things right when our projects are recognized by our peers and the public as prize worthy. [Awards] assist in the marketing of the project – networks and cable stations are more likely to take a chance on a project that has proven its quality across all dimensions of the project. After all, few things are better than an award winning production.
(Erik) I think post production is so important to a production and I know Edward worked really hard in post to make these types of awards possible, both in his hiring of Al Korslund (Film Editor), Will Fortune (Sound Editor) and Paul Oehers (Composer) and his ability to get the best possible work out of all three of them.
What is the status on the Pilot as a series, and who has looked at it so far?
(Erik) I’ll leave this one everyone else.
(Virginia) We have submitted the pilot to a number of different festivals and production houses with influence in the industry. It would be inappropriate for us to list who has actually looked a the project before any formal contracts are in place, but put it this way, there are some pretty influential people who are looking at this and we hope more will see it in the coming months.
(Kendra) I think Virginia answered that well.
(Edward) The Pilot is ready for the airwaves, now we just need the outlet and resources and Network support that will allow us to continue to produce future episodes!!
Tell us about its run in the Film Festival circuits.
(Erik) I think I’ve already touched on this [a few questions back].
(Edward) Me too!
(Virginia) We are submitting Hard To Be Me to various festivals across the country (and a few internationally) which are recognized for their promotion of TV/cable content. The aim, of course, is to find the right match for broadcast of our production/series, and to give the public a chance to get to know us and, build our popularity base thereby making the project more attractive to commercial sponsors in the long run.
Do you have a target Network in mind and what has been the response to the Pilot?
(Virginia) We are not limiting our options, but ideally we are looking for a network which respects real families and family viewing.
(Megan) This pilot is definitely family friendly.
(Edward) I think that Hard to Be Me would be a perfect fit on The CW as well as ABC Family. I’d love to be part of restoring NBC to its former glory when Cheers, Friends, Frasier, Cosby and all those great sit-coms were untouchable by any other Network. Of course, we’re not exactly a sit-com, more of a dramedy, but the point is still valid. I’d also love to be part of ABC’s line-up that includes The Middle or on FOX paired with Glee. I think the options are endless.
(Erik) I think this show would work great on ABC or ABC Family. Nickelodeon is also a possibility or The Disney Channel. As a dark horse, I would say CBS would be able to expand its brand out of crime dramas and reality shows with a show like this to grab a demographic that I feel gets the short of end of the stick in prime-time television.
(Edward) Good point! It would be something completely different for CBS.
(Erik) I love NBC’s line-up though, and would love to be a part of that family.
(Virginia) While our target audience is 12-25, we also believe this is the type of program a family could sit down and watch together, we want to promote healthily family values and communication, while emphasizing the uniqueness of individual’s talents and skills.
(ED) As we are both located in the Washington, DC area I have a personal interest in your pilot becoming a television series and wish you the best of luck. It is always great to hear things happening on the East Coast and I know that this is good news for Hollywood and the Film Industry in general. Thank you for your time and all the effort that has gone into your work.