It’s never easy to leave behind the familiar and welcoming atmosphere of a decidedly quaint hometown for the intimidating setting of a large metropolis. In reality, many people feel overwhelmed by the complications of such a drastic change in location. In the extraordinary world of a would-be caped crusader/Midwest transplant, planting roots in the big city is just as challenging as becoming an established superhero.
Nonetheless, both goals are targeted by Kevin Wheeler, a friendly yet highly ambitious young Indianan whose relatively normal outward appearance masks a powerful identity: that of a fire-yielding superhero named Hot Head. His story is the focus of the new series THE ADVENTURES OF HOT HEAD, produced by Justin Harris and co-star Brianna Eckhardt of Timid Jester Productions, and now streaming its first season of four episodes on its main web site and YouTube channel (see links below).
THE ADVENTURES OF HOT HEAD, or TAOHH, follows its titular lead character (played by Matthew Woods) in his quest to protect the citizens of his new city from evil. First, though, he must learn how to become the hero he’s long aspired to be, while learning how to adjust to life in a place he’s totally unfamiliar with.
After unexpectedly witnessing the badass exploits of one of the city’s established crime fighters, tough yet discontented veteran superhero Jennifer Johns (Sarah Mackenzie Baron), Kevin – a.k.a. Hot Head – persuades a reluctant Jennifer to show him what it really takes to succeed in the hugely competitive profession he seeks to break into.
Already at the top of their games in that business are the people of the Heroes Alliance Guild, an illustrious group of powerful figures that includes Jennifer, plus the married duo of The Influence (Simone Stadler) and Thunder Throat (Costa Nicholas).
In charge of that league is Ava Paulson (played by Eckhardt), who makes sure her employees will be good servants to the city, while hoping that they’ll fly in big bucks through lucrative branding opportunities. In addition, John Haslett Murphy co-stars as Kevin’s once-filthy rich roommate Victor Boseland, whose unhealthy fascination with superheroes threatens to take a deadly turn.
With past projects ranging from brief comedic skits (a.k.a. “Jester Bits”) to the tentpole movie review series THE FARS and its genre-specific spoof SCREEN CRASHERS (which can be seen on Channel Awesome), the New York-based Timid Jester Productions embraces hilarity with high flying, high quality superhero fun in its visual adventures. Originally produced as a short film, and later distributed as a 4 part web series, THE ADVENTURES OF HOT HEAD took Harris’ collective to new heights.
“As a team, we’ve been making a web series out of our apartment for the last couple years, as well as short comedy sketches,” the show’s producers say. “Last year, we wanted to take our production to the next level and make a short film. When brainstorming ideas for subject matter, we kept coming back to superheroes. We specialize in nerd comedy, so superheroes are right up our alley, and they are fun!”
Although the character of Hot Head made its official on-screen debut in THE ADVENTURES OF HOT HEAD, the aspiring superhero has been in existence for far longer. In fact, as the show’s co-producer Eckhardt explains, his earliest adventures had already hit the funny pages during Harris’ childhood.
“When Justin was in fifth grade, he drew a comic character named Hot Head, and sold issues to his classmates for 50 cents,” she recalls. “When Hot Head was brought up, we immediately thought, ‘what if this cute little guy tried to be a hero in the Marvel/DC worlds of serious superheroes?”
Like Kevin/Hot Head, all of us have fantasized about saying goodbye to the limited opportunities of small town life, and saying hello to the giant playgrounds of places like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and other famed American cities.
While the show’s primary lead works hard to make a name for himself, he finds that adjusting to life in a totally unfamiliar surrounding proves to be just as daunting as catching the bad guys.
“In TAOHH, Kevin moves to the city with the dream of making it big as a hero. He quickly learns that his small-town popularity and talents don’t mean anything in New York,” says Harris and Eckhardt. “He can never have full control of his powers, nor assume the necessary image of being ‘dark, sexy, and powerful’ until he embraces his aggression and other unpleasant feelings.”
For the people who comprise Timid Jester Productions’ on and off camera talent, the challenge of chasing dreams in a strange place is nothing new. “As actors/aspiring filmmakers, every member of our team has experienced this to some degree,” Harris and Eckhardt respond. “There are few career paths that require one to delve deep and confront their inner demons, but every artist knows this struggle.”
Although the casting process for THE ADVENTURES OF HOT HEAD was complimented by having several of Timid Jester’s existing performers join the series, an even bigger set of struggles confronted the show’s cast and crew as its extensive period of filming launched.
“Our entire production process was informed by the challenges we faced. The biggest challenge of all was that we had $0.00 in funding, and all the money we spent was scraped together from the change in our pockets,” the show’s producers remember. “Having no money meant that we needed to limit the script to a strict number of pages, (that we could) only write in locations that we could film in for free, and (that) we could only cast people that were non-union and willing to work for food and copy.”
Time was another obstacle for Harris and his charges. “Our shooting schedule was based around difficult availabilities, since we couldn’t pay anyone to rearrange their schedule or take days off from work,” Harris and Eckhardt add. “We had many extras and small supporting people drop out the day before they were scheduled to film, which forced us to scramble several times to find replacements. In order to condense our filming into as few days as possible, almost every day on set was about 15 hours.”
Limited time, and the temperamental ways of Mother Nature, added to THE ADVENTURES OF HOT HEAD’s production woes. “Additionally, we came up against rain every day that we filmed outside,” the show’s producers say. “One of the most difficult days on set was filming our bodega scene (in the show’s premiere episode). We couldn’t pay to shut the place down for a few hours, so we filmed at 2 A.M., and needed to cut any time customers walked in.”
Once shooting finally wrapped, the task of making THE ADVENTURES OF HOT HEAD look and sound super began. “Post-production was all done by two people, so we didn’t have to spend money to outsource anything. This made the process longer than expected,” respond Harris and Eckhardt. Ultimately, the show’s production turned out to be a huge success. “Despite the long days and stressful situations, everyone involved had a blast. It was truly a labor of love, and we developed some lifelong friendships.”
Fans of the superhero action/adventure genre are sure to find many similarities between the new stars of THE ADVENTURES OF HOT HEAD and the famed luminaries of the DC and Marvel Comics franchises. One obvious similarity is found in the character of Jennifer Johns, presented as an obvious takeoff on Marvel’s Jessica Jones. Yet, those commonalities aren’t the only things that viewers of Harris’ show will notice.
“These shows (the Marvel and DC series) also film on the streets of New York City, which is what we did,” HOT HEAD’s producers remark. “TAOHH is set in a parody Marvel world, and contains references to the MCU (Marvel Character Universe), particularly the AVENGERS movies. Part of our plot deals with all the heroes belonging to an agency, like the conflict in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, except we take it to a comedic place.”
Serving as a humorous contrast to otherwise heavy-handed superhero sagas, and with an equally unique style of character presentation, THE ADVENTURES OF HOT HEAD is just as notable for what makes it different. “TAOHH stands apart from other superhero movies because it isn’t a typical origin story,” Harris and Eckhardt reply. “Kevin already has his powers at the beginning, so it is more of a coming-of-age story with him finding his grit. Also, TAOHH is a comedy/parody, while most superhero movies/shows are dramatic.”
Like every tale of mild-mannered individuals who suddenly become imbued with out-of-this-world superpowers, THE ADVENTURES OF HOT HEAD has enough high-flying thrills and wacky moments to satisfy laughers and dreamers of all shapes and sizes. Yet, it’s also a story of how human perseverance can be just as powerful as superhuman strength.
“We’ve all been Kevin at some point in our lives: naive, hopeful, and then knocked down by reality,” explains HOT HEAD’s producers. “For reaching those who have been ignored/ridiculed, TAOHH celebrates the ‘little guy’ who strives to achieve a big dream. Many people who have seen it say that it speaks to their struggle to feel ‘good enough’ in whatever field they’re pursuing.”
THE ADVENTURES OF HOT HEAD’s characters embody that struggle, while inspiring viewers to stay positive amid life’s many challenges. “Most of us come up against disappointments in our lives, and we let it harden us and make us bitter and cynical to some degree,” says Harris and Eckhardt. “We want to send the message that it’s heroic to maintain your spirit and push yourself in the face of adversity. Even if you don’t ‘make it’ the way you originally thought, it’s an accomplishment to keep going, growing and changing.”
Note: Regarding closed-captioning/subtitling of THE ADVENTURES OF HOT HEAD, the show’s producers say: “Currently, it (the series) is not closed-captioned or subtitled. We’re working on that right now.”
ON THE WEB: www.hotheadseries.com