The set of a movie, TV show or web series can be the perfect atmosphere for collaboration. However, it can also be the place for bruised egos, creative conflicts, and intense infighting. The latter kind of work environment serves as the hilarious backdrop for the indie film-centered mockumentary series THE MAKING OF, created by Sam Mason Bell and Jackson Batchelor.
Streaming its first 2 seasons (out of a planned 4) exclusively on Stream Now TV (see additional links below), and produced by Bell and Batchelor’s production company Trash Arts, THE MAKING OF depicts the ongoing struggles of a group of upstart cineastes; people whose efforts to reach the pinnacle of filmmaking success are constantly torpedoed by their own professional inexperience.
Leading this determined yet dysfunctional team is the inept director Sam Dawson (played by Bell). While he expects the best from his cast and crew, Sam’s questionable abilities keep getting him into trouble on the set.
Despite how frustrating his efforts eventually turn out to be, Sam enjoys the support – and patience – of his mother, Suki (Suki Jones) and girlfriend Amy (Suzy Weatherall).
While Sam has his screw-ups behind the camera, he’s not the only one hampering what could otherwise be a successful production. On-camera, Ryan Wilson (Ryan Carter)’s acting won’t make anyone forget Brad Pitt or any other leading man, and his easy to arouse anger doesn’t make life any easier for Sam and his charges. Nor does the behavior of Ryan’s equally egotistical co-star, Ben Wood (Phil Lyndon).
Luckily for Sam, camera operator Rishi Cage (Rishi Ghosh) consistently brings his ‘A’ game to the set. He works hard, despite being all but unnoticed by his co-workers, and despite getting no support from his girlfriend Jane (Ashleigh Motely). On the other hand, Sam also has to deal with the incompetent yet well-meaning Ross Thompson (Ross Alan Doney), and the menacing auteur Paul Renior (Chris Mills), who gleefully dismisses the work of Sam and his company.
Part slice of life comedy, part examination of the realities of filmmaking, THE MAKING OF was first brought to audiences by Bell and Batchelor as a short film during the recent 60 Hour Film Challenge in Portsmouth, U.K. It was at that contest where Bell and Batchelor’s production would be rewarded with a top 10 finish, and that success would eventually spur the two to transform THE MAKING OF into a full-length sitcom.
“The show developed from the original short film. (We wanted) to show people desperately (trying) and failing to make a film in 60 hours,” Bell says. “The actors loved the characters and wanted to do more with it, so we saw the potential in extending the cast and characters, (while) playing off our own life experiences a la CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM.”
By learning up close how complicated and rewarding a successful film production can be, the creative team behind THE MAKING OF have clearly attended moviemaking’s school of hard knocks.
Bell and Batchelor’s memories of those times inspire the comedic happenings that viewers will see in their series, but their determination to make THE MAKING OF a reality was just as much of a motivating factor in its development.
“The show was not only inspired by our love for improvised comedy and mockumentary, but also (by) wanting (to take on) that challenge of being in control of your own show, (while) allowing other creative forces to be involved, and (while) making something fun and entertaining,” Bell explains.
While humorous in nature, THE MAKING OF also illustrates the real life ambitions and struggles of people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds. Says Bell: “THE MAKING OF gives an honest perspective on being working class and struggling to live the dream, and whether some people are just not destined to succeed – but with a light mockumentary style.”
Made entirely on a self-funded budget, THE MAKING OF demonstrates to filmmakers the value and importance of collaborating with local talent and resources on an indie project. Throughout its 5 month production schedule, Bell and Batchelor work closely with Portsmouth-based actors, crew and businesses to achieve an efficient shoot. Here, Bell describes how those partnerships benefit all aspects of the series’ production.
“The majority of cast we work with are good friends of ours who we’ve worked with for many years, finding their strengths and showcasing them. For season 2, we were surprised and delighted to see more local actors coming forward for it, hoping to get involved,” he says.
“The show being improvised gives (us) a lot of flexibility in shooting. In using locations that aren’t hired, we tended to try and shoot within venues (and) bars’ working hours. It makes for a more interesting challenge!”
When it came to distribution, Bell and Batchelor found the perfect collaborator in Ron Valderrama’s indie-focused video service Stream Now TV. Having aired THE MAKING OF from its very first episode, Stream Now TV has provided the series’ creators with equal levels of creative support and viewer exposure. With that partnership already thriving, Bell looks forward to seeing THE MAKING OF reach even greater heights on the production and business fronts.
“I hope to keep reaching out to a bigger audience for THE MAKING OF, showcasing it through Stream Now TV, (and) creating more attention to not only the show but (also) their site,” Bell says. “Success comes from collaboration. A scene is developed from a collection of artists, (and) not one voice. This is something I hope to achieve with THE MAKING OF, not just for Trash Arts, but for our actors and crew, (and for) Stream Now TV. Hopefully, (we can) shine a light on Portsmouth U.K. that isn’t too negative.”
If you’re into the cinema verite approach to comedy that’s prominent in sitcoms like THE OFFICE and CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM, and if you’re fascinated by the behind-the-scenes drama of filmmaking that’s rarely captured on DVD extras, THE MAKING OF will definitely satisfy your appetites for both.
It’s a fly on the wall look at how what can go wrong on a movie set usually does – despite the best efforts of those who want to make great cinema. “The show kind of asks you to not look for messages,” replies Bell. “It’s simply one filmmaker’s documentation of a collection of filmmakers’ ups and downs. (It’s) more of an observational piece.”
(Note: Bell says that THE MAKING OF is not yet closed-captioned, but that he does seek to add captioning to the series in the future.)
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