Living in a big city can be tough, and each day presents its own share of problems, challenges and frustrations that can make life rough. Despite all those difficulties, one thing’s for certain. For better or worse, it’s home. Nowhere is that more evident than in the City of Angels – Los Angeles, California. Lead character Rory Uphold faces those difficulties head on in the hilarious new comedy web series HELL-A, premiering today, Tuesday, January 14th on its official web site and Youtube pages. The series stars Uphold, who also created, wrote and directed it, but not without the help of a talented, dedicated team who brought it to life on screen (more on that later).
Based on the actress’ real life experiences in Los Angeles, each episode features Uphold (as a version of herself) as she attempts to navigate the often hectic, unpredictable and wacky nature of a city that’s played host to countless dreamers who seek fame, fortune and success in La La Land. Along the way, she witnesses its many idiosyncrasies and frustrating aspects. From the city’s notorious smog and traffic gridlock to the many stereotypes associated with some of its residents, Rory does her best to make the most of daily life in L.A.
Life in one of America’s busiest, largest and most high profile cities provided the impetus for Uphold to create HELL-A. As Uphold explains, the quick, efficient style of web series was the perfect format for her to bring viewers hilarious slice of life moments that many Los Angelenos experience daily.
“I’ve always joked about LA being Hell-A, and the theme really lends itself to short form storytelling. I came up with the logo first (more on that ahead) and then really wanted to use it, so I decided to make a web series because I think that the overall idea of HELL-A is best told through small, specific moments, vignettes if you will, much like life in L.A. actually is.”
With a ton of real life inspiration comes tons of ideas for stories. For Uphold, trying to choose the best of them was incredibly difficult. “I compiled pages and pages of ideas and then had the terrible task of narrowing the series down to a manageable number of episodes. Then I assembled our cast and crew, and we shot it in a couple of days,” she says. That talented crew includes series producers Jessica Blackwell and Joey Ally, plus director of photography Jason Goddell, sound man J.P. Robelot, editor Matt MacDonald and graphic designer Ryan Wehner (responsible for the main title graphics).
While Uphold appears in every episode, the series’ cast includes Uphold’s real life friends portraying characters who exemplify some of the worst stereotypes that can be found in the city’s residents. Just as Uphold didn’t need to look far to find the inspiration for the development of HELL-A, she also had little difficulty finding her talented supporting cast.
“Casting was by far the easiest part because the cast is exclusively composed of friends of mine. Being born and raised in L.A., I know an insane amount of talented people and I basically just called people and figured out when they could shoot,” she says. Ultimately, though, Uphold ends up being the butt of their jokes in each episode. “Generally speaking, the joke is on me. I’m the one enduring the hell in HELL-A,” Uphold says.
With each episode running anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes, the process of filming them was both quick and efficient. “We shot the series in less than a week. We had an incredible, and small, crew which allowed us to knock out multiple episodes in one day,” Of course, with any film, TV or web series project, bringing it to life never comes without help and cooperation from various sources.
In the case of HELL-A, several local businesses stepped up to provide ideal shooting locations for several episodes. “…We were lucky enough to have locations that went out of their way to help us during our shoot. The owners of Two Guns Espresso, Grow Grocery, Buona Vita Trattoria (a local Italian restaurant) and Kathleen Lowry (a local acupuncturist) were so generous with their time and their establishments, we really could not have shot this series without their support,” she adds.
Along with its quick running time, HELL-A’s humorous portrayal of the embarrassing, awkward and just plain annoying moments in L.A. is one of many factors that set it apart from many comedies produced for the web. “I’m biased, but I think our name/logo is clever and unique. Yes, we are a series about L.A., but I think our series is a little more specific than other L.A. based shows, and it’s certainly shorter. I think our scope is narrower, HELL-A is about following one girl as she lives through very specific HELL-A moments. And we do it in 30 to 120 seconds. Plus, we have our own merchandise!” (A link to HELL-A’s online store is available below.)
A multi-talented actress, writer, producer, director and filmmaker, Uphold not only seeks to build viewership through HELL-A but also to continue to use her talents through such projects. Overall, the biggest goal she hopes to achieve is to make people laugh through the hilarious moments and people that populate a place that’s one hell of a city.
“I poke fun at a lot of L.A. stereotypes and we could get into a conversation about the subversive nature of comedy and the deeper meanings behind each joke, but I don’t know if anyone but me would really care. Hah. And at the end of the day, I want people to flick through a couple of videos, laugh, and feel better about their days. L.A. is this crazy, weird, unpredictable place, and this series is about all of FML moments Angelenos live through on a daily basis. But don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.”
(Note: The series is not currently closed captioned, but Uphold says she’s hoping to get that feature enabled soon.)
ON THE WEB: www.OnlyinHelLA.com
For official HELL-A merchandise, visit: