For those of us who are already adults, or are rapidly approaching adulthood, the challenges and privileges that come with growing older become more and more obvious. However, not everyone is ready to take on the responsibilities of being a mature adult, and not everyone is fully equipped to understand just what it really means to be a grown-up.

That scenario plays out in the new comedy series #ThatThingFromBefore, created, written by and starring Kern McFadden, and now streaming its first season of 8 episodes on its official YouTube channel. The series, which premiered on July 27th, stars McFadden and Janie Brookshire as, who else, Kern and Janie (but not as themselves, more on that later). Season 2 of the series is now in pre-production.

Kern and Janie are longtime friends who are still trying to achieve success in their respective careers (he as a writer, she as an artist), while also seeking to understand themselves.

TTFB1Having first met in the Big Apple, Kern and Janie have been there for each other through life’s ups and downs. At the same time, Kern also harbors an attraction to both women and men, even though he steadfastly refuses to be described as a bisexual.

A veteran New York actor who knows all about the grind and glory of life in front of audiences, McFadden knew he wanted to improve as a filmmaker, while seeking to create opportunities for himself and his fellow performers. As he explains, his ambition to do just that was what led him to create #ThatThingFromBefore.

“For years, I have been a hired actor for various gigs in New York, and around the country. It has been my job to help tell other people’s stories, with my own take of course, but they were other people’s visions,” McFadden says. “This was my opportunity to create my own work and share a story that I connect to on a personal level.”

While McFadden cites his desire to write and produce content that will exhibit his true potential to the industry, as well as providing opportunities for his colleagues, and the chance for him to fully grow as a filmmaker, it’s the overall atmosphere of the City That Never Sleeps that truly inspired him to create #ThatThingFromBefore.

TTBF4“It’s those ‘New York Moments’ where you see something or someone and they alter your path or direction,” he says. “In some way, that thing from before has an affect on you, sometimes in the long run, sometimes in an afternoon.”

Even though #ThatThingFromBefore isn’t the first comedy to examine the lives and loves of young adults trying to make sense of growing older in New York City, McFadden says that it’s the primary reason he created his series.

“The idea of thirty-somethings in NYC still struggling, as you would see (with) characters in their twenties on more mainstream television, is what is key to me and why I wanted to write it.”

However, he adds, there’s a key difference between his series and shows like FRIENDS, HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER, and SEX AND THE CITY, just to name a few. It’s one found in each episode of #ThatThingFromBefore, and in the overall design of its storytelling style and characters.

“We also built our structure in such a way that the moments you see aren’t, for example, the big raucous party scene or an awkward dating interaction,” McFadden says. “Instead, more often than not, you see the moments after the party when characters are talking about…well, that thing from before.”

PastedGraphic-1McFadden’s entire approach toward each character is another major aspect of the series; one based on true to life experiences, while structured for comedic effect.

“All of the actors on our show share the same first names with their characters,” he says. “This was something I wanted to do from the start. While ALL events in the show are fictional, and no one is playing themselves, the circumstances and situations are familiar to all of us working on the series.”

Just as it is for the characters in #ThatThingFromBefore, sexuality is a major part of our everyday lives, and understanding the true nature of what really turns us on can be a difficult, yet enlightening experience. For McFadden, the show’s depiction of his character’s sexuality is one of several things that set #ThatThingFromBefore apart from other online comedies.

“Kern also happens to be attracted to men and women and hates the label ‘bi’ (bisexual),” says McFadden, who says that that aspect of his character will be examined even further in season 2. “This is an element that I feel hasn’t been explored in much depth, in any series, web or not, and I’m excited to see where we can take it.”

Having developed his concept for what would soon develop into a humorous tale of young thirty-somethings trying to make the most of life while understanding the full extent of adulthood, McFadden pitched it to a receptive Brookshire, who instantly came on board. For McFadden, the writing process for #ThatThingFromBefore was only the beginning of a personal and professional challenge.

TTBF2“I decided to write it because I had been writing several other series and screenplays, and I was making some great contacts and having people reading my stuff, but I hadn’t shot anything,’ McFadden recalls. “I knew that I needed to shoot something in order to better understand how to structure and fill a screenplay on the page.”

Instantly, McFadden began a highly structured writing regimen that would help him achieve his main objectives for each episode of #ThatThingFromBefore: to write within a specific time frame and page range (since 1 page equals 1 minute of screen time), and to create short episodes that could be produced efficiently. Describing these episodes as ‘an extended pilot’, McFadden sought to bring viewers an extensive, yet memorable story arc in season 1.

As he explains, there was a lot of trial and error, as well as growth, throughout the writing process. “I gave myself limits. I would write SEVEN four page episodes that would be easy to shoot. This, of course, expanded to EIGHT episodes and the teaser as the series started to define itself,” he says. “Most episodes maintained the four-page rule, a few failed – and the series is stronger because of it.”

Working closely with Brookshire, who also co-produced with McFadden, director Brendan Naylor and producer Christopher Reynolds, McFadden set about the task of fleshing out every one of the key characters in season 1 of #ThatThingFromBefore. Having joined forces to work on developing every part of the series, their partnership proved to be incredibly successful for all involved.

“The whole team came together out of just throwing the idea out there and seeing who was interested. I am so incredibly happy with the way we found each other and how easily this group works together,” McFadden adds. They have been great to work with and, in fact, several of us are currently working on new projects as well as planning a second season of #TTFB.”

10492512_874826909252328_4700775842585307185_nBeing an actor himself in one of America’s hotbeds for performing talent, McFadden knew that the task of finding those who would comprise the remainder of #ThatThingFromBefore’s ensemble would be relatively easy.

Thanks to past working relationships on several other projects, McFadden was able to easily assemble a quality group of actors who would contribute to each episode of the series. It also helped him during the writing process.

“I have had the great fortune to have worked with all of the actors in our series on other projects. Each role was written with specific actors in mind. In some cases, I knew I wanted an actor involved and then figured out a way to write them in the show,” McFadden remembers. “As an actor in New York City, casting is the least challenging piece of the puzzle because I have such a talented group of friends.”

Assisted by Naylor, McFadden worked side by side with his cast to fully develop every aspect of #ThatThingFromBefore’s characters. Thanks to McFadden’s experience as an actor, and his understanding of the cast’s individual needs and concerns, the task of making each character as identifiable and as realistic as possible was easily accomplished.

“As the writer, I was able to collaborate with each actor and write around traits they wanted to explore or were comfortable exploring. I had a basic script and what function each character played, with some specifics that seemed relevant to me,” McFadden says. “From there we layered collaboratively with Brendan, our director, and each actor. It was a fun process and I think helps everyone involved feel a sense of ownership of the piece.”

11227525_867627139972305_8552143706308758595_nHowever, the most challenging element of any production occurs when the cameras are about to roll.

Having worked on writing and developing the core concept, characters and storyline of #ThatThingFromBefore, McFadden and his cast and crew knew that they had quite a tough task ahead of them as filming began.

Making things harder was the undeniable fact that each episode was produced on a seemingly next to nothing budget, and that working around the constantly changing schedules of its actors was another challenge McFadden and his team would have to meet. In fact, McFadden himself would also be forced to take temporary absence from the series during its production.

“When you are asking people to work for free, things take time. This is the mantra I had to keep reminding myself of, when I was wearing my producer hat,” says McFadden. “Many times I felt anxious. ‘Will we ever get this finished?’, I asked myself countless times. On top of everyone else’s schedules, I was cast in a show out of town and left NYC for two months.”

As it turned out, the extended down time gave McFadden an opportunity to further refine the scripts for each episode, thus strengthening the series in the process. “I think there is something special about the length of time our story takes; it adds something. I quickly realized the potential for this longer arc and I embraced the idea, rewriting the script,” he says.

11209700_880210228713996_4555140168347319352_nReaders of Snobby Robot are well aware of the difficulties web series producers encounter as they attempt to create quality online content.

While the phrase “learning experience” has been used in many articles to describe the production process for these shows, those two words definitely apply to McFadden’s time spent developing and producing #ThatThingFromBefore – in more ways than one.

“I’m still learning so much about “filmmaking”. This process has been a master class for me in many ways. Much like the writing, I’m learning by doing,” says McFadden, who adds that his fellow filmmakers are among those who drive him to excel. “I’m inspired by so many people who have also decided to be creators and storytellers and I hope we continue to inspire each other.”

Although comparisons to shows like FRIENDS, HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER or other young adult comedies are obvious, McFadden feels that #ThatThingFromBefore is a series that’s unique in its own ways, while being highly relatable to all those who still haven’t quite ‘figured out’ what it means to be an adult in an already complicated world.

“I think anyone who’s ever felt lost, felt like life should be easier by now, felt like they were missing some piece of the puzzle that so many others seem to have…they’ll want to watch,” he says. “The show could be compared to THE OUTS without Brooklyn, FRIENDS without the sugar coating, or STAR WARS…yeah, I think it’s most like STAR WARS.”

Already, McFadden and his cast and crew can take pride in the work they’ve done to bring #ThatThingFromBefore to the Web. Thanks to its humorous, and highly relatable characters and situations, the series proves that no matter where you may be in life, there’s plenty of chances to enjoy it while enduring all the growing pains along the way.

TTFB“I am excited to share this story and these characters with the viewers. I hope that people find characters or situations in which they can relate or empathize with and that they enjoy having a slice of life from New York City,” he adds. “We have some reveals in store for season two and I am very excited, artistically, to see how audiences react and relate.”

Even though McFadden hopes that he can build a sustainable career through his acting and filmmaking projects, his biggest hope for #ThatThingFromBefore’s success is for it to entertain viewers, while giving them a chance to understand and appreciate the true meaning of life, love and responsibilities that come with being a grown-up.

“I think I want people to have fun, first and foremost. But, I think our show is a proponent of living an examined life, even if the characters aren’t quite sure how to do that clearly,” McFadden says. “There is something about that thing from before that keeps us moving forward and yet holds us back. That’s what I’m trying to chip away at understanding.”

(Note: Regarding closed captioning, McFadden says: “We are currently on Youtube, which has automatically generated closed captioning. Our plan is to optimize this in the future to make sure everyone can enjoy the show.”)