Have you ever felt like your career was lacking creative fulfillment? Was your response to blow through hundreds of thousands in savings in order to create a five hour epic web mini series? If you answered yes to both questions then you are likely ‘Headshop’ creator Giri Swamy! After years working in the medical field as a doctor Giri was compelled by his love of stories to create his own. After seeing the effects of synthetic, legal (at the time) drugs such as spice and bath salts first hand in the ER Giri felt the subject was important enough to bring to light.
The story behind “Headshop” is interesting. Swamy has years of medical training, but only ‘viewing experience’ when it comes to television writing and directing. For “Headshop” he hired a talented crew to assure a high quality technical product. In terms of the writing, Swamy opted to shoot the series unscripted. The scenes are laid out, and all the beats present but he let the actors fill the moments instead.
I’ve seen other films do this before and it is certainly an up and down method. There are certain moments in “Headshop” that feel extremely natural, and others that feel a little off. When shooting scripted, and especially when working with young actors, you occasionally see moments where lines are delivered a little unnaturally, unscripted seems to clear that up, but with the downside of some meandering dialogue in some scenes.
From this viewers perspective a lot of it had to do with the actors. Some actors seemed incredibly natural and likely loved the freedom of the unscripted format. Allison Sommers Kelly, who plays Natalie, the not quite wife of the Headshop head, was a natural. Her delivery is just crazy good when I start to realize that she is just making it all up! Ha! Some of the others are less natural, some scenes kind of wander, and production was occasionally slowed while on location, working to get the scenes right.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of ‘Headshop’ being unscripted is that it took just two months to develop the story. For most writers I think a five hour series would take forever to write. I’m not sold on this being a good idea, but I certainly like the idea of being able to create a 5 hour show then turn around and make another one. I had wondered how this worked out editing wise, and while it was an almost a nightmare that took over a year in post production I figure they might have never finished if not for the fact that they used a two camera set up while filming – this way they always had matching angles.
For the purpose of #WebSeriesWednesday I only watched the first two episodes, so I still have three hours to go to see how things turn out. The show develops slowly in typical mini series fashion. We are shown a lot of characters, around ten different ones, and while some issues are presented it’s still a little difficult to figure out exactly where everything is heading. I’m not sure your typical online viewer will have the patience for such a show. It’s a big time investment for a no name, first time director and an all improvised script. That said if you are a viewer of web shows this is the type of project you should be checking out. This isn’t your typical single location, twenty minute comedy web series – this is arguably the most ambitious series I’ve seen to date.
Come years end ‘Headshop’ will be a heavy contender at the Snobby Robot Awards for production design (among others) which is really impressive for a five hour show. It’s one thing to dress a set for a scene that represents a large chunk of your series, it’s another to dress a set you are using one time, for just a few moments, and then have to go and do it all over again for five hours worth of content. Also, if I choose to invent it, ‘Headshop’ will run away with the award for best intro / title sequence. No joke, there is no way anyone else is topping it. The sequence is a long, slickly edited tracking shot through a puppetized version of the world the show portrays, featuring every character, and an appropriately moody musical track. I’d recommend checking out the show just to see it.
To sum it all up, ‘Headshop’ is a super ambitious crime drama featuring a half dozen or more meticulously crafted characters. While it’s easy to want to draw comparisons to HBO’s ‘The Wire’ ‘Headshop’ still needs to earn it’s stripes in the last three parts. The unscripted nature of the show has some merit, but likely keeps the series from reaching the highest levels it could. I can’t say whether or not it would have been better to spend an extra year in development getting a script just right, but I think the overall quality would only have improved. That said there is still plenty of time for all this character development to pay off in a big way, which I’m looking forward to in the last three parts.
You should all head on over to ‘Headshop’s Official Site’ ShockCollarStudio.com