The Thing is: Mimes Are Trending

Publicity 2Episode 3 made Mhairi and I both laugh out loud even at the first thought of it. (Yes that’s what we were cracking up about during our writing session in Malibu, in case you were wondering Jamie Foxx. 🙂 )

Whether people realize it or not, we are fully aware of the ridiculousness of Tallulah constantly banging on about the fact that she is a “classically trained mime” even though she literally never stops talking.

Tallulah is quite possibly the chattiest Mime that ever existed. In fact, if there was a society for Mimes, I am pretty sure Tallulah would have been kicked out by now for talking too much. But she would never admit it. No darling, she would say she left because they were droll, banal and terrible conversationalists.

So as we were coming up with all these ways to keep messing with Tallulah over the course of Season 2, we knew we had to throw a mime into the mix.

We found the perfect one in Mhairi’s dear friend Jabez Zuniga. I had never worked with him before but had a feeling that he was going to be great and he did not disappoint. The dichotomy of him back there, finding all these great moments, and Mhairi, straight faced, not having a clue what he was up to was, for me, hilarious.

When she finally did discover him and then accuses me of not even finding a real Mime. “He’s probably from Burbank or something” I almost had to break character and laugh. I don’t know where she comes up with this stuff, but she genuinely cracks me up, despite the fact that she’s my friend. Which brings me to…

Industry Tip #17

If you are making comedy, you better make yourself laugh. If you’re not even making yourself laugh, then you should keep honing it and developing it until you do.

And now for the ultimate test, does it make you, the audience, laugh? That’s what really counts. Without further ado, here is Episode 3 of Season 2 “There’s a Mime in the Kitchen!!!”

Marge Takes Over the Twittersphere

Screen Shot 2015-10-10 at 10.16.56 AMWell that was the plan anyway. Mhairi and I had decided that Season 2 was going to be all about the very real pressure that web creators are under to have their videos go viral, to gain the coveted status of “trending.”

We figured if Tallulah has her own web cooking show, then her lack of trending status would surely be her biggest obstacle to gaining all the success, acclaim and hats she desires and it was Holster’s job as Producer to remedy this. The trouble was, Holster and Tallulah had very different ideas about what type of content would cause that success. Holster felt Tallulah needed a popular co-host to help her stir up ratings, and lets just say Tallulah disagreed.

We thought, “wouldn’t it be funny if Tallulah chose to have Marge on the show, because in her eyes Marge proves how important she is, after all she’s saved a life?” Tallulah figures this will get things moving, and give her the proper acclaim she deserves but in the end it backfires because Marge starts trending instead?” We knew this would bring out Tallulah’s green-eyed monster and add to all sorts of fun.

To go a step further, we thought “wouldn’t it be doubly funny if we could actually get Marge to trend on twitter? Like in real life”

Screen Shot 2015-10-10 at 10.14.33 AMSo that became the plan. We took to the twittersphere and created twitter accounts for Tallulah, Holster and Marge and then as the episodes started being released we started tweeting.

We had an awesome time tweeting back and forth in real time, in character, shared a lot of laughs, and even had quite a few fans join in on the fun, but in the end, as it turns out, you kind of need to already have a decent sized and engaged audience, for this kind of storytelling to really work.

While we may not have succeeded in making Marge trend, we did discover how much fun Improving with our fans on twitter can be, so you can expect much more of this behavior in the future. In fact if you enjoy a little Improv banter yourself you can always feel free to chat with Tallulah and the gang by following and tweeting to these accounts Tallulah, Holster & Marge now. Which leads me to….

Industry Tip #16
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. (cliche for a reason) Can’t tell you how many times this has proven to be true in this business. Persistence is everything.

And without further ado, here is Episode 2 of Season 2, featuring the triumphant return of the newly trending Marge #SaveMarge (and yet another slam dunk performance from Tami Hillberry & Mhairi Morrison who have proven themselves to be one take wonders, with Improv no less.) I love how Marge is suddenly dressed more like Tallulah, copying her every move. Little moments of genius, all found in the moment.

The Day Tallulah Was Forced to Share Her Kitchen with Circus Types

Meme_S2E7_2I’ll never forget the day we shot Season 2. Tallulah may not have appreciated having to share her kitchen with “circus types,” but Mhairi was thrilled. In fact, she was so excited that she greeted each and every new cast & crew member that arrived with giant hugs and little gift bags filled with candy, and of course, feathers.

It felt like a party.

I was thrilled too but if I’m honest, was still quite a bit nervous with anticipation about whether we were going to be able to pull this off or not. Our plan was to shoot the entire 8 episodes in one day, and given the unscripted nature of our show, this was no small feat. It was going to take a tremendous amount of focus, energy and determination.

I love Improv for the same reasons that I hate it: it’s scary, unpredictable and you never know what you’re gonna get, but when you hit it right, its like capturing magic in a bottle, and I was determined to capture that magic.

Mhairi and I had plotted and planned deeply for this day, we knew exactly the beats we needed to hit for each episode and I had no doubt that on her own, Mhairi would hit them all, as I had seen her do it a thousand times, but today we would be intentionally throwing ourselves a curve ball. We were throwing new characters into the mix, via new Improv actors, each with their own motivations and beats to hit and there was no way to know for sure how this dynamic would play out.

I was most nervous about introducing the Marge character, the woman Tallulah had saved from the brink in Season 1 and the sole reason for Tallulah’s messiah complex. She was an important character to be sure, but mainly I was nervous because I didn’t have a vision for her. Marge had been Mhairi’s idea, a character she described to me as a lump, depressed, and not doing much of anything, and although I trusted Mhairi completely, I had trouble seeing how that was going to be funny. (Silly me)

In an attempt to mitigate my fears, I had asked my friend and fellow Second City grad, Tami Hillberry if she would be Marge, as I figured if anyone could pull it off, it would be her.

And here we were, everyone in their places, lights ready, camera speeding, nervous excitement in the air, seconds away from filming the very first episode of Season 2, I call action, and in she walks, Marge, living and breathing. The dynamic between her and “Tallulah” was immediately perfect, Tami’s layered choices as “Marge” so obviously brilliant. I was riveted, as she was adding things I didn’t even know could be there, the perfect foil to Tallulah, making Mhairi’s already funny choices even funnier.

By the time I yelled cut I was already breathing a huge sigh of relief, followed quickly by deep and sincere gratitude. I knew I had just been blessed with the opportunity to capture magic in a bottle, the birth of yet another legendary character, which leads me to…

Industry Tip #15

Hire Tami Hillberry. I’m kidding. I know she’s not right for every role (or is she?) But seriously, your tip for the day is “cast well, and then let your actors do what they do. If you let them, they will bring you more to your characters than you even realized was there.”

And without further ado here is Episode 1 Season 2 of Feathers and Toast. We did about 3 takes of this scene but ended up using that very first one. It was perfect right from the start. (And honestly and truly Tami, I can never thank you enough for being our Marge)

Season 2 Was Born in Malibu with Jamie Foxx By Our Side

Shot07-200ALiterally. Mhairi and I came up with the entire outline for Season 2 of Feathers and Toast while hanging out in what has become our favorite place in the world for getting away and creating, Malibu. And just a few feet to the left of us, the entire time, was Jamie Foxx.

Yes, okay, he wasn’t actually aware he was participating with us, for all he knows he was just there hanging out with his family, silly him, but for two girls who had made it their mission that day to not come home until they had created comedic gold, the realization that there was an Academy Award winner sitting within ear shot of us really got the ole creative juices pumping. So thanks Jamie Foxx for being our silent partner, and no, you can not have any royalties. 🙂

Creating Season 2 was way easier than creating Season 1 because we now had a years worth of character development, and experience collaborating, on our side.

Thanks to our fans, we knew that their favorite part of our show was the Behind The Scenes bits, and thanks to our industry peeps we knew that collaboration with the right talent was one of the golden tickets to trending in the digital space, so we put that knowledge in our creative stew and started stirring.

Then we added a heaping helping of story plot lines that we knew we wanted to push forward, and a dash of our own personal angst as artists and voila! We had an 8 episode arc that centered around the age old battle between art and commerce with lots of special guest opportunities (which I believe the trailer below illustrates pretty well so I won’t overstate it here). And of course this leads me to….

Industry Tip #14
When scheduling important writing sessions, try to make sure your favorite Academy Award winners can be seated right next to you. I’m kidding. The real tip is to allow yourself to go off-road a bit, meaning if a place like Malibu inspires you, go there. That’s the beauty of being a writer, you can go places, explore things, even in the middle of a Tuesday when everyone else is at work. Allow your mind to soar, to flounder for awhile inside of the question, let it get uncomfortable even, refuse to settle on an idea just to settle, and then just before the brain starts to hurt too much and your faith in yourself as a writer is lost, boom, out pops your golden ticket.

And now without further ado, the trailer for Season 2. (Which btw we did not edit until we had edited all the episodes of the season first. See. We took our own advice) Have you watched Season 2 yet? If not I hope you will consider watching it along with us over the coming weeks.

And Then One Day Things Took A Turn For The Weird

Tallulah BankheadSo here’s a little behind the scenes story that is just plain ole odd but has never been publicly talked about.

As many of you who have been following the story know, Mhairi and I were at the point where we had been working together on Feathers and Toast for about a year.

We had produced and released Season 1 and then spent even more time producing and developing the Tallulah character through our Tallulah Talks Back and Holiday Tidbit series and our social media efforts were slowly starting to pay off as evidenced by the uptick of people suddenly using the word Darling, but we were hardly trending.

I was at a point where I was thrilled with what we were doing, loved every minute of it, but was still very unsure of where this project was going to lead. Were we ever going to get a wider audience? Was this project something I was ever going to be able to make a living off of? Was it in my financial best interests to keep going?

This was all the stuff rolling around in my head as I took a much needed break over the Christmas holidays and then something happened that I will never forget.

It was my birthday and I was roaming around this really cool bookstore with a friend of mine, just jabbering away, and then as I turned a corner I stopped dead in my tracks.

There on the book shelf, facing out and just staring at me was a book with a woman on the cover that looked strikingly similar to Mhairi and the title of the book read “Tallulah, Darling of the Gods.” What????

Naturally I immediately grabbed it off the shelf and opened it up and the first words I read were something along the lines of “there I was sitting on the side of tub as Tallulah had her bath, drinking champagne.” The hairs stood up on the back of my neck. I was motionless, mouth open.

Seeing the confusion on my face, my friend, who is a bit older than me says, “that’s Tallulah Bankhead, you’ve never heard of her?” To which I reply “Noooo.” And she says “She was an amazing theater actress back in the 20’s, I just assumed that’s who you based your Tallulah character after.” Still completely freaked out I just said “Uh, nooooo.”

The truth is I didn’t even know who she was and I was pretty positive Mhairi didn’t either. She had mentioned who her inspirations were to me many times before (mostly Lucille Ball) and never once did Tallulah Bankhead ever get brought up.

Obviously I had to buy the book and the second I got home I dove into it. The more I read the weirder it got. How could we have created a character so similar to someone we didn’t even know exists?

And the similarities weren’t just between Tallulah and our Tallulah, there were striking similarities between her and Mhairi. Odd similarities like the fact that they both have quick metabolisms and need to have food by their bed at night, and that they both love the newspaper The Guardian so much that they had/have people ship it in.

The second I got back to LA I decided to give Mhairi the book as a present, but I warned her before she opened it. As I handed her the package, I said “now listen, if you know who this person is, then this will just be a nice gift, but if you don’t, it might freak you out a little.” And as it turns out my suspicions were right, she had no idea who Tallulah Bankhead was, her mouth dropped and she was, in fact, completely freaked out.

Now to this day, I still have no idea what it all means or how Tallulah Bankhead plays into our story. Or why I just happened to find this book sitting, cover out, presentational style, at a random used book shop in Daytona Beach, Fl (a shop I didn’t even know existed until my friend suggested we go to it that morning). Or why I found that book at the exact time that I was questioning where this show would go, but what I do know is that it all felt way too coincidental for me and “coincidences” are something I have learned to never over look.

Throughout my life, whenever “coincidences” start showing up with any sort of frequency, it has always ended up being because I was on the right track, so right there and then I recommitted to the show. I knew there would be a Season 2 and likely many more, which brings me to…

Industry Tip #14
Creative projects are a bit like relationships, deep down, whether we want to admit it or not, we know when something is working and when it is not. If at every turn the doors keep opening, and synchronicity’s keep happening, then those are the ones you should stick with, no matter how long or windy the road. Go with your gut.

I leave you with a video I later found on Youtube that is of Tallulah Bankhead guest starring on *gasp* The Lucille Ball show. Seeing her in person made the similarities even more striking. Would love to hear your thoughts on all this? Coincidence? Or something more?

If Digital is The Wild West, Why Not Be a Pioneer?

Meme_S1E6_9Today, literally right now, might just be one of the greatest times in history to be a visual storyteller.

In the past, if you wanted to see your story ever make it to an audience (whether on the big screen or television) you had no choice but to get it past the gatekeepers. Production was so cost prohibitive, and distribution outlets so unaccessible, that green lighting yourself in any professional manner was near impossible.

Your only hope of finding an audience was if the gatekeepers decided you were worthy enough for them to merit giving it to you. And even if you were the chosen one and your story was produced and distributed, there was no 2nd and 3rd screen, no bonus content, no audience interaction. Your story lived in one form and one form only.

But now, sweet beautiful now, all that has changed. Technology has advanced so much that even your phone is a high quality camera and sound department. You can have advanced editing software on your laptop to the tune of $20 a month. And Distribution? There are 15 year olds out there right now who have used Youtube to garner literally millions of loyal fans. They didn’t have to ask for permission, they just did it, often times with a team of one. The restrictions are gone.

And to top it all off, we are no longer confined to telling a story simply for the big or little screen, no, there are storytellers out there, as we speak, who are telling stories across 5 platforms at once (for e.g Emma Approved which recently won an Interactive Emmy.)

For all intensive purposes Emma Approved is a web show, a clever re-telling of the classic Jane Austen novel Emma, where Emma Woodhouse, this time a lifestyle coach, has decided to film her successes (Vlog style over 72 episodes) for a future documentary of her life. But the storytelling doesn’t end there. Just like any real lifestyle coach would, Emma has her own blog, twitter account (as do all the characters on the show), photo gallery of fashion tips, and even Music Club Videos created by her assistant Harriet.

The team at Emma Approved even went a step further, truly breaking the 4th wall, when they allowed people to bid for real on the fictitious bachelor auction “Emma” was sponsoring to raise money for charity. (they raised $4k and the money did actually go to a charity so its all good)

My point in sharing all this is simply to inspire you with the possibilities which leads me to….

Industry Tip #13
We are living in exciting times where our imagination truly is the limit. There is still so much room to be a Pioneer, to go where no one in storytelling has gone before, and I really hope you will seize it. Carpe diem.

As many of you know, Mhairi and I have been enjoying the new possibilities as well. We have Feathers and Toast (the web cooking show starring Tallulah), Tallulah’s Vlog Tallulah Talks Back, twitter accounts for Tallulah, Holster & Marge, Behind The Scenes Blogs and Vlogs, the Memes series, a Boutique (which we intend to expand to sell Tallulah’s favorite things) and the soon to be 1/2 hour comedy Tallulah, Darling.

Plus you can actually see “Tallulah” live and in person every month, as she attempts to hijack, I mean host, the French Cabaret show known as FEMMES by Cabaret Versatile at the Sofitel in Beverly Hills.

Have I inspired you yet? I hope so because we need the stories that only you can tell. So get cracking and let your imagination fly. Virtual Reality is the next untapped frontier.

Without further ado, your videos for the day are of the first time Tallulah hosted the Cabaret show (both before and during her show). It also marked the first time we brought the Holster character into the storyline.