With every incredible success story in Hollywood, there’s often an equally amazing story of failure. For filmmaker Graham Tyler (played by Shawn M. Smith), the subject of the new comedy web series KING OF FITNESS, his downfall occurs in spectacular fashion when he not only loses his lucrative job as a marketer but also his girlfriend, actress Emma (played by Dawn Collet), and worse yet – his own dignity.

All this takes place while Graham manages to keep the egos of the cast of his latest project, an action film titled KING OF FITNESS which just happens to serve as a distinctly parallel narrative throughout the series itself (more on that later). Created and produced by Smith and series director Andrew Thomas Pitkin, KING OF FITNESS debuted in October of 2013 with nine episodes available on its official web site and Youtube page (see links below).

The series also stars Kiera Capitanio as Graham’s graphic designer roommate Maddy, who tries to get him to cope with losing Emma and to overcome some of his own personal and professional issues. Rounding out the cast is Matthew Bayer as ex-soap star Heath, who finds himself struggling to rebuild his career after his character was killed off of a popular telenovela (a Spanish language soap opera), and who sees KING OF FITNESS as his last chance for a comeback. Heath plays the role of Dolph in KING OF FITNESS, and Emma portrays the film’s leading lady, Natasha.

Smith and Pitkin created KING OF FITNESS based on some of their own real life struggles in the ultra competitive world of moviemaking; an atmosphere humorously portrayed in the series itself. “After writing together and doing improv for years, Andrew and I wanted to write a show dealing with the catastrophes of filmmaking: financial and communicative alike, It has been an amazing experience where we’ve both grown tremendously as writers, collaborators and friends,” Smith says.

Along with their close friendship and experience in improv comedy and filmmaking, the difficulties they faced with the latter were another factor that inspired the show’s creation. “The movie, KING OF FITNESS, having a number of issues (including equipment getting stolen) is a direct reference to a past project I worked on,” Pitkin adds.

However, it was another memorable experience that affected them first hand, and ultimately brought KING OF FITNESS to life: “Originally, we asked to write an episode of another prominent web series and they said ‘yes.’ They liked what we wrote, so Andrew and I proceeded to write more and more based on what we had already created. We ended up writing a season’s worth of material for this show, but it wasn’t used. We stepped all over the creator of that series’ toes; she had allowed us to do an episode, we did more as if it were okay of us to do so and that really wasn’t cool of us to ‘play in her sandbox’ and not expect a reaction. We’re completely apologetic about it now,” Smith says.

From there, he and Pitkin went to work on developing KING OF FITNESS. “We continued using that creative energy, and the night we were told that we had ruined their vision, we decided to start something of our own. It took a lot of nights of drinking coffee in diners and hanging out at my old apartment in Queens (long before my move to Miami) but it was an awesome experience,” Smith adds.

No matter if it’s a movie, a TV series or a web series, filmmaking is always a team effort. In the case of KING OF FITNESS, its talented cast and crew contributed equally to the production process in their own unique ways. “We had both worked with Kiera Capitanio and Jon Saltzman on other projects. Capitanio helped with design consultation and make-up supervision while Saltzman, besides assisting with pre-production responsibilities, assisted me with direction and became an invaluable script supervisor,” Pitkin says.

Yet, he adds, the series’ overall production quality and its resulting effectiveness was made possible thanks to a key hire. “The best decision was to bring on Jon Santos of Rock Life Studios (site link below) for the overall look and feel of KING OF FITNESS. Santos’ eye for detail and artistic vision increased the production value ten fold. Then we brought on our production assistants, David Scott and Jessica Higgs whose professionalism and candor allowed for a creatively inspiring atmosphere.”

As the series’ director of photography, Santos’ contribution to KING OF FITNESS paid dividends when it came to the gritty, suspenseful atmosphere of its parallel storyline – that of Graham’s action blockbuster of the same name. “Early on when we were shooting the action movie sequences, we realized Santos’ abilities to make these scenes really pop. Shawn and I had originally written these scenes to be a little campy. After watching the dailies, we spoke about some of the possibilities with Jon Santos. We immediately went back and rewrote/fine-tuned those scenes and these changes really ended up making the audience root for this epic action movie getting done. If we hadn’t made those changes, we would have ended up with such a cheesy movie,” Pitkin says.

As a result of the tireless work of his cast and crew on both sides of the camera, Pitkin was free to turn his attention to directing his ensemble. “In the past due to smaller budgets, I’ve had to wear many hats. This time with their help, my mind was at peace and I could focus on the “character moments” and storytelling exclusively. What helped make it a wonderful experience was the cast: we hired such good people. Everyone worked as a team, believed in the script, and supported each other. As a director, I couldn’t have asked for a better situation. Besides that, I learned so much about the importance of a camera angle/shot list and sound recording. Looking back, there were some preventions we could have made to alleviate some sound issues,” he recalls.

Adds Smith: “Speaking for myself, there were a great number of different hats being worn. As the executive producer, there was a great deal of stress with making sure the numbers added up. We trusted our team and that fostered a strong environment of concern and openness, allowing our actors and crew to create really strong material and performances where they could.”

The behind the scenes drama that comes with making a (hopefully) successful motion picture serves as a major part of KING OF FITNESS, and it’s a storyline that adds a completely new dimension to the series itself. Both Pitkin and Smith feel that it sets their series apart from many others. “Using that film-within-a-film as a way for us to share a new side of the life of Graham Tyler and his constant frustrations with his situation, (and) that’s a smart idea, I think. It doesn’t hurt that Dolph (Bayer) and Natasha (Collet) are so believable in their positions and that they are great at being action stars as well as playing the straight parts that each of those actors needed to play in order to convey the intricacies of each scene,” Smith says.

In addition to the behind the scenes filmmaking aspect of the series, its humor is another element that makes KING OF FITNESS really work. “Jokes weren’t pushed. We really wanted to find the heart of the story and keep a realistic element to our humor. Smith, Bayer, Collet, Capitanio and Mark Parker (“Carter”) were all willing to go above and beyond and try new techniques. With Bayer and Collet playing “Dolph” and “Natasha” in the action movie part of the story, they had more physicality to their roles. They rose to the occasion. Going back and forth between a drama and an action movie made this a unique genre-bend project,” Pitkin says.

KING OF FITNESS also stands out because of its distinctive musical soundtrack. “The music was something that I worked particularly long and hard on. Months before shooting began, myself, Jon Saltzman and Andrew began creating target lists of bands that we wanted to see on the soundtrack. We hit up major sites and bands to see who we could get to offer music on the show.  Sure enough, we were able to get some really fantastic stuff for the series. I can’t begin to name them all, but artists like Lili Kendall, Ari Hest, Moddi, The Here and Now, Lewis Mokler, Holly Drummond and Wild Adriatic really helped us create a unique sound for the show. It was a great time meeting and interacting with each artist and their songs and being able to have and utilize them on the show. It was definitely worth the effort that it took,” Smith recalls.

Just as Smith and Pitkin found fertile inspiration in the creation of KING OF FITNESS, they also have incredible support for their filmmaking efforts from those closest to them. “Like everyone, my family inspires me. Also, my wife and her family. Many of my fellow Brooklyn filmmakers, Edward Heegan, Jason Cusato, Daniel Cooper and Sean Sawyer inspire me to keep creating,” Pitkin says.

“Honestly, I watch a lot of films and TV, like so many other writers and producers and I get inspired to create something of my own based on flights of fancy that I might have. Just moments where I drift off and have an idea and run with it later. All of the people that Andrew mentioned are great filmmakers and nice guys. Really good people. I also want to mention that there are a lot of great sites and reviewers that were supporting us behind the scenes and we’re really appreciative of that,” Smith adds.

KING OF FITNESS is a comedy that brings viewers not just intelligent humor but also stories and situations that any filmmaker can appreciate. As Pitkin and Smith say, it’s a series that fans of both comedy, drama and of great filmmaking will enjoy equally.

“Anyone can really get into this show.  Seriously, it’s written for drama and comedy fans.  You don’t have to be a Will Ferrell-style comedy fan to get it, and it’s not just British style humor. It’s just KING OF FITNESS. You really should check it out and see that we are very subtle in the early episodes as we establish the story that will carry us later on.  The humor is there, but the story grows warmer and lighter as the series builds. I think that anyone that wants to spend 61 minutes on a good show should check us out.”

Furthermore, it proves that sometimes we as people can be the biggest impediment to our own progress. Through the journey of its protagonist, Graham, we learn that the only thing that stands between our personal growth and our stagnation is us. “We are all always our biggest obstacle. If we want things to get better in our life, we need to get better first,” Pitkin says. Adds Smith, jokingly: “That was heavier than I thought. That’s the theme?” “I’d like to think so,” responds Pitkin.

Note: The series is not currently closed captioned or subtitled, but both Pitkin and Smith hope that it will be in the near future. As they explain, this is primarily due to Youtube’s inefficient automatic system. However, Smith says there’s a much more personal reason that drives him and Pitkin to make KING OF FITNESS more accessible to both the hard of hearing and non-English speaking audiences.

“The captioning on YouTube does work; however, it’s pretty unreliable. I would say that it’s something that Andrew has mentioned in the past as an option we’ve been interested in because it’s something near and dear to his heart.” Adds Pitkin: “Yes, my wife is from Mexico and fluent in English so she has enjoyed the entire series. However, we would love to share the series with our extended family. Subtitles would certainly help.”

ON THE WEB: www.kingoffitnesstv.com

YOUTUBE: https://www.youtube.com/user/KingofFitnessTheShow

FACEBOOK: http://facebook.com/KingofFitness

TWITTER: http://twitter.com/kingoffitnesstv

Visit cinematographer Jon Santos’ Rock Life Studios at: