Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Chad, Matt & Rob Interview: Part III - Producing web shorts

Part I
Part II

We conclude our talk with comedy team Chad, Matt & Rob.

TBSR: Let’s talk a little bit about the nuts and bolts of production – and I know this is going to vary across your whole line there, but about how much do you guys spend on these?

Matt: Well “Alien” cost us two Little Caesar’s Pizzas.

TBSR: How much did, say, “The Time Machine” cost?

Rob: $400? $500?

Chad: It was like $800.

Matt: Yeah, I think it was closer to $700…

Chad: Just because we had all the food for everybody. Food is our #1 cost on every production.

Rob: If we bring 20 people to help us out on the shoot that’s 20 mouths to feed. Usually it’s about 75% of the budget.

TBSR: And you work for free, your camera guy works for free, you own the camera and the editing equipment – and as far as locations, I assume most of the time you figure “Hey we have this set” or “Hey, we can get into this office.”

Matt: We used to literally write around locations.

Chad: Prison Break” came out of “We have this awesome space. What can we use it for…? We can make it a jail!”

Rob: And in “The Time Machine” we had the office, we had the Bronson Cave. On “The Birthday Party…”

Chad: “Birthday Party” we spent money for a location for a half-day, to get the hospital.

TBSR: Which one would you say was your most expensive one prior to “The Treasure Hunt?”

Rob: “The Birthday Party.”

Chad: That was like, $4000.

Rob: A lot of that was the permit---

Matt: ALL of it!

Rob: The LA Film Office was like $3200. Plus the hospital was another $700.

[Post-interview, the guys confirmed that in addition to the LA Film Office costs, the hospital budget was $650, the permit cost $710, and production insurance cost $450.]

Matt: Chad and I went to the Film LA Office – this is probably really boring – and we’re shooting for, what, five hours in this [hospital] location?

Rob: Very controlled. Well, it IS haunted.

Matt: We’re not even on a public road! So we go into Film LA and they’re like, it’s gonna be $700, $800 just to get a permit to shoot in L.A. And while we’re having this conversation, another woman comes out and talks to these three kids and is like, “Okay, so you have the student discount – that’s gonna be $10.” And we’re sitting there like “WHAT?!”…. if someone with a few thousand dollar budget on a film can’t get a break on a permit it just doesn’t make any sense.

Rob: Especially in a town that’s built around the industry. There should be a break.

Matt: They tell you it’s for all of these things like a fire marshal’s gonna come by, and none of that ever happens. No one came. We shot it at Friday morning at 8. No one was there!

Tyler: Even the location owner was apologetic. He said, “I’m sorry guys. I have to do this because of fire code.” And you could tell he was mad at Film L.A. for making him do that.

Chad: You could tell he’d lost business too because they needed to have that. If you had someone filming there without the permit [and they get injured] then he would be in trouble and would not be allowed to use the space anymore. That’s why he was apologetic to us because he knew our shoot wasn’t as intensive as the thing that shot there last, which was Circle of Eight.

Rob: And then [we had to pay] $500 for production insurance.

Chad: That was the first one we shot with production insurance.

TBSR: But when you’re shooting in locations you guys control and public places, it’s very cheap to get these shot, I assume?

Rob: You just need a camera.

Tyler: And we could do it cheaper [still.] Shooting on HD, you have to produce things a little bit more, they have to be lit more specifically. But those are the costs that come with making anything polished which is what we pride ourselves on – giving people a movie experience on YouTube, which doesn’t happen very often.

Matt: We also write budget conscious… For "Treasure Hunt," we had to light two scenes – the first scene and the last scene. Everything else was outside, and we were like “That’ll save us so much time!” Oh, no… we lit the cave too. So three scenes. And the cave was actually lighting a real cave so that was… that was an event.

(all chuckle.)

Tyler: I also think we challenge ourselves with every project. “The Treasure Hunt,” in particular. After “The Birthday Party” such a great experience for all of us [cameraman/visual effects technician] Justin [Martinez], myself, Chad, Matt and Rob working together the first time. It was such a positive collaboration that we knew we wanted the next project to be the next step of what we already had an that was just to get bigger, better and more ambitious.

Rob: And I think we did that.

Matt: And it took us about the same amount of time to shoot.

TBSR: This is about the same time you brought in Justin Martinez to do the visual effects. Did that open your stories up to new things?

Tyler: I actually remember the first conversation I had with you guys. I was on a break from work and was bored and just sent Matt an email saying, “Hey, I love your guys’ stuff. Would love to get together and help you guys out if you have a production in place.”

Matt: We used to work together.

Tyler: And “The Birthday Party” was something they already had a loose story bible for. So I think we met once and it was “This sounds great. I’ve got a visual effects guy” – Justin, who I went to college with and we shot a ton of projects together back in school. Justin is self-taught. He’s spent his own time figuring out these programs and finding creative ways to make great things really fast.

TBSR: He must put in a lot of hours, with the number of effects you guys have.

Matt: Totally. I know for “The Teleporter” we all basically lived in [the office] for 30 days [getting it done.]

Tyler: And I think there are 115 effects shots in that.

Rob: In four weeks.

TBSR: And you said it’s 20 minutes long?

Matt: 25? 23?

TBSR: Wrapping up – what sort of advice would you give someone looking to make a viral video? If someone out there wants to be you guys, what should they know to be you?

Rob: Don’t think about it, just do it!

Tyler: The first thing you make isn’t gonna be that—

Matt: Well it might be if it’s something like run over a car with a truck—

Tyler: It might be, but I think people get hung up, they get afraid of it NOT being that, so they don’t make anything at all.

Matt: Just go make a bunch of stuff. It’s gonna suck, just like all of our stuff sucked. And then it gets better and better and better, and you get more comfortable with it. Every single time we learn so much about whatever it is we want to do.

Rob: All this stuff happens when you’re not thinking about it. We didn’t think for a second the Alien video was gonna be viral. In fact we didn’t think anything was gonna be viral. We just kept making stuff that we liked.

Matt: We never think “Let’s make a viral video.” It’s just “Let’s make a video that’s gonna entertain people.” And it either does or doesn’t. My personal favorite thing from what we do is all the emails we get from teenagers, maybe younger, who are like “I love your stuff. It inspired me and my friends to make our own version. Here’s this” and then they send us these links. Because I remember when I wanted to do this, or do music, I had all of my influences, so that’s really special.

Chad: That and the 7th grade middle school project in Rocco Russo, Ohio. The whole middle school made interactive adventures for their last day of school, and the last day of school they did a special screening of all of them.

TBSR: And you guys gave them some guidance on this?

Matt: Yeah, we Skyped in with the class.

Tyler: So awesome! I love that. It’s always been a dream of mine to be in a textbook or influence the education process, and it’s awesome to think there was a whole school of 7th graders making interactive videos.

TBSR: And I’ll put a link to that up on the blog too so those guys get some eyeballs on all that hard work.

[Here they are: The Chemical Spill, The Alien Invasion, & The Class Field Trip.]

Final question: you guys have done choose-your-own-adventures, you’ve done aliens, you’ve time-traveled, you’ve done some amazing visual effects… so when are we going to get a Chad, Matt & Rob musical? I know that Matt used to be in a band, Link 80. Is a musical the next step?

Tyler: We’ve talked about it! I’ve always wanted to shoot/direct a musical.

Rob: I know our next steps are movie and TV show, and once we get those going, maybe we’ll do a musical for the interwebs. Our goal for 2011 is to focus on what we truly want to do, and that’s film and TV. Like we’ve been saying, if you don’t take a shot, how are you ever gonna score? So we’re gonna take a shot.

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