In an age where reality TV has been one of the most dominant forms of entertainment, it’s rare when a web series – or for that matter, any episodic comedy or drama can look like a reality show, yet still retain the qualities of a scripted show. The new comedy PIZZER MAKERS, written, produced and directed by Chris Palermo may well be the only example of that premise. The show takes place in a local pizzeria in Boston owned by brothers Frankie (Frankie Imbergamo), and Louie (Robert DiCicco). Like the classic sitcom CHEERS, the show boasts its own set of hilarious characters, including Laura Pizzuti as Danni, a tough and resilient woman who also happens to be the shop’s best customer, and Palermo as Tony, the CEO and proprietor of the shop (that also happens to be a front for the local mob). PIZZER MAKERS debuted in May 2011 on its official Youtube page (see link below). Six episodes have already aired, and a seventh is currently in pre-production.
Inspired by his own real life experiences with his family’s pizzeria, Palermo first carved up the idea of PIZZER MAKERS when he attended a SAG union meeting. “I had many scenarios brewing for a long time and finally saw leading actors Frankie and Bob together at a Screen Actors Guild meeting. It was like a light bulb had gone off! I told them I’m putting them in a web series based on real experiences and there will be pizza, meatballs, and endless fame and fortune!” From there, the casting process began, and Palermo set out to not only find talented actors, but also actors who would enjoy the series as a whole. “I did hold auditions (mainly short phone calls) but I do like our cast to be fans of the show first. I’m also proud to announce that we shoot under the SAG New Media Contract which allows me to cast very talented union performers, (which is) truly the only way to compete with the big boys and play in the big leagues,” Palermo says.
Filming each episode was an exercise in efficiency, with the production often approaching that of a sketch comedy. Recalls Palermo: “Pre-production is crucial! Every good project starts with clear and sharp writing WITH room for improv and ad-lib. We shoot our episodes at a rapid pace! Sometimes in just about 2 hours! The energy on the set has a “SNL” skit feel to it. We like to approach the shoot with a massive amount of energy. Our crew has this down by now and we really are able to produce a quality shoot in a very small amount of time. Imagine what we could do with a big budget!”
Even though PIZZER MAKERS is a scripted comedy, the show stands apart from many other web series comedies because of its production style, one that takes many viewers by surprise, Palermo says. “Well, our show is SCRIPTED but people think it’s reality which is a great compliment! This means our performers come off as incredibly believable! I think we stand out because the show is built like a sitcom that could run on network TV, and we are able to cut and produce it without all of that budget and crew. I keep the action moving, and you can almost hear a live audience laughing in the background like you would on a Hollywood lot!”
While he hopes that PIZZER MAKERS may one day end up on a major network, Palermo says he’ll manage to keep the show going even if it doesn’t make it to the big time, although he may offer the show for download a la Itunes. “Financially, there will come a time when episodes may be available for download at a very reasonable price. Check us out now while we’re still free!” PIZZER MAKERS is a show that isn’t just about pizza, but also about family, and two brothers who get into some wacky adventures – together. “No matter what situation Frankie and Lou get into, they are still brothers and in this thing together. What this “thing” is nobody exactly knows just yet!”