Home, as they say, is where the heart is. Yet, for many young adults who have struggled to succeed in their jobs and their personal lives, home ends up being the only place they can go. In recent years, more and more adults in their ‘30s end up moving back home with their parents, not just out of necessity due to their own problems, but also due to the issues their parents face on a daily basis.
However, as the new comedy series WELCOME HOME proves, going home again can also provide plenty of opportunities for wacky and unexpected moments. The series, now streaming its first season of 7 episodes on its official web site and Stream Now TV (see additional links below), portrays the lives of a group of 3 adults whose career difficulties have led them back to the one place they never thought they’d return to – the place they previously called home.
Produced and written by Amanda Stankavich, and series co-stars Justin Alvis, Bobby Chase, and Daniel B. Martin, WELCOME HOME’s ensemble cast features Alvis as Justin, whose job as a copywriter in Brooklyn ends up being a bust. As a result, he returns home to live with his now-widowed mother, Janet (played by Amy Freinberg), but things get even more bizarre when he finds out that the man who once dated his former babysitter, the perpetually shirtless Jared (Greg Aidala), is now the primary love interest in her life.
The series also stars Martin as ex-high school football star Ron, who has pretty much done nothing significant with his life since his playing days, except for heavy drinking, partying and womanizing.
Ron now lives in the garage of a house occupied by his far more successful younger brother Bobby (played by Chase) and his wife Andrea (Rebecca Vavala); a house given to Bobby by his and Ron’s now deceased parents. Much to their annoyance, Ron desperately wants to continue his walk on the wild side, with his escapades taking place under their roof.
Rounding out the cast is Mindy Miner as Jen, who’s stuck living with her domineering parents, Gloria (Angela Potrikus) and Andrew (Grant Miller), as well as her Grandma (Sheila O’Shea), who endures the daily struggles of Alzheimer’s disease. With her heart set on marrying the man of her dreams, Jen’s romantic life suddenly takes a major hit after he ends up leaving her high and dry at the altar on her wedding day. Now, she’ll do anything to find the right man, and to escape her parents’ tight grip on her.
Having joined forces in the fall of 2014 to create, write and produce WELCOME HOME, Alvis, Chase, Martin and Stankavich utilized not just their extensive experience in various forms of media, but also their adeptness and talent on both sides of the camera, as they worked together to make the series possible.
“I was in the process of writing a feature comedy script with Daniel B. Martin, and we thought we should make some YouTube videos in order to build an audience before shopping it around,” Chase remembers. “He then introduced me to Justin (Alvis) and Amanda (Stankavich), and we all met over dinner to talk about developing something.”
Of course, it also helped that they, as adults, could relate to the often humbling experience of having to move back in with family due to financial or personal struggles. Having realized the potential for comedy with a series based around that concept, the show’s producers settled on what would become WELCOME HOME.
“We threw a few ideas around, until we landed on people in their 30’s moving back home with their parents,” adds Chase. “All of us have been through that situation, so the premise really seemed to strike a cord.”
For the show’s team of four producers, coming up with the characters and stories that would unfold over the course of WELCOME HOME’s first season was a rewarding experience, and especially so for Alvis, who would learn first hand the benefits that came with working as part of a team whose skills as writers were just as formidable.
“Writing the show was a blast. The four creators sat down and came up with ideas for story lines for each show, and for the season as a whole,” he recalls. “Then, we went off and wrote scenes, or episodes, on our own. I’ve never collaborated as a writer before, so this was a lot of fun and presented challenges that pushed me as a writer.”
While much of today’s typical web series output is built to fit short time constraints, as well as the busy lives of viewers who wouldn’t otherwise have time to sit down and watch a traditional length sitcom, WELCOME HOME is one of a small, but growing amount of web series comedies that takes advantage of longer episodes to develop its story, characters and comedy.
As Alvis explains, the expanded length, combined with its distinctively witty writing, highly relatable situations and tremendously developed characters, makes WELCOME HOME unique among much of today’s comedic streaming content. “The depth of the story (is what sets WELCOME HOME apart),” he says. “A lot of web series are a few minutes long, and are really a series of scenes, or skits, strung together. WELCOME HOME is (a) fully fleshed out story, with multi faceted characters.”
A key measure of the success or failure of any film, TV or web series can be found in its casting, which, as any filmmaker knows, is one of the most crucial aspects of any such project. Thankfully for the WELCOME HOME team, what would have been an otherwise difficult task was made much easier thanks to the fact that its producers were also part of the show’s cast. As Chase explains, though, finding the actors who would take up the rest of its key roles was slightly more difficult, but ultimately, successful.
“We had written about 4 episodes before putting an ad out for a casting call. We knew that Justin, Dan, and myself would play characters, but we had many more spots to fill for the three families,” remembers Chase.
“We held a few auditions and found some great talent to play pretty much everyone besides our main character, Jen. She was the toughest to audition. Then, thankfully, Mindy (Miner) came into read and we knew we had our third main character.”
With all 7 episodes of WELCOME HOME produced and shot on a very limited budget (under $1,000, according to Chase), the show’s talented ensemble cast also performed a multitude of behind-the-scenes roles, in addition to their on-camera work. Although such a scenario instantly presents a world of challenges, Chase, Alvis and their charges would gradually meet them head-on – all thanks to the dedication and patience of their ensemble cast.
“Justin and myself would direct, and whoever wasn’t in the frame would either work the camera or boom,” remembers Chase. “We often had other actors working sound when we were short handed. A large cast, with limited free time and tight deadlines, made for constant rewrites, often right before calling action. If it weren’t for the professionalism and extreme talent from our cast, it would have been a very excruciating task.”
Based on his and Alvis’ experience bringing WELCOME HOME to the screen, Chase urges those who wish to achieve the same results for their series to realize how important it is to keep the needs and wants of cast and crew alike in mind, to delegate duties and make difficult choices when necessary, and especially, to keep their egos in check.
“My advice would be to do as much as you can on your own, and (to) make a lot of friends, because you will need many favors. Also, learn diplomacy,” Chase says. “Writers, directors, and actors tend to have bigger than average egos. Learning when to compromise and when to put your foot down is a very important skill, and it can cripple a project if done wrong. In a nutshell, surrender your ego for the good of the project.”
Given the small budget they worked with on WELCOME HOME, Alvis also encourages aspiring and current web series creators to honestly assess all that they have access to, and how they can work with the talent, budget and resources at their disposal. “I think you want to know what resources you have available, and what resources you need for production, and if the two don’t match, (then) you need to re-work your concept,” he says.
Described by Chase as “a cross between MODERN FAMILY and IT’S ALWAYS SUNNY IN PHILADELPHIA”, and by Alvis as “a little like CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM and THE OFFICE meets THIRTYSOMETHING, with a Bill Cosby sense of morality,” WELCOME HOME hilariously demonstrates, through its wacky characters and storylines, that no matter how annoying or overbearing parents and family members can get, life at home can be just as funny as it is hectic.
(Note: Regarding closed-captioning/subtitling of WELCOME HOME, Chase says: “Currently there is no closed-captioning, or subtitles (on the series). However, we are looking into closed captioning.”)
ON THE WEB: www.welcomehomecomedy.com
To watch WELCOME HOME on Stream Now TV, visit: