There’s no more annoying experience in daily life than being stuck in traffic. Regardless of the time of day, the struggle of getting from one place to another can drive many people to extreme frustration, and in many cases, extremes, period.
Of all the busy commuter roads in America, perhaps none is busier or more infamous for its long lines than Los Angeles’ 405 freeway. Inside each of those automobiles are people from all walks of life who aspire to achieve the same goal – that of getting to their destination without losing their cool in the process.
Having launched its 7 episodes on May 3rd via its official web site, Vimeo page, and on streaming video platform Stream Now TV (see links below), the new comedy web series GRIDLOCKED tells the stories of a group of such people who could not be more different from each other. Yet, while they’re all in 7 different cars, they all share one thing in common – they’ve been hopelessly immobilized in a seemingly endless traffic jam.
Created by Zack Gold, who plays a variety of characters throughout the series, GRIDLOCKED also stars Andrew Keegan (10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU), Brittani Noel (STOCKHOLM, WE ARE ANGELS), Elizabeth Ferraris (HIPSTERHOOD), Jon Lindstrom (GENERAL HOSPITAL, TRUE DETECTIVE), Richard Riehle (GROUNDED FOR LIFE, OFFICE SPACE, BRIDESMAIDS), Steven Porter (HART OF DIXIE) and Youtube star Michelle Glavan (AWKWARD KIDS, LADIES OF RAP).
Together, they portray the group of passengers whose patience is tested throughout an endless traffic jam. The series is directed by IAWTV award-winning Scott M. Brown (DESTROY THE ALPHA GAMMAS, LARRY KING NOW, STOCKHOLM, ASYLUM).
Inspired by both the colorful people and personalities that abound in Southern California, the unbearable nature of traffic gridlock along L.A.’s 405, and his often turbulent love affair with La La Land, Gold created GRIDLOCKED as a way to develop both memorable characters and wacky storylines within the context of a decidedly non-comedic setting.
“The concept is a product of my evolving love/hate relationship with the city of Los Angeles,” he says. I feel as if we spend so many countless hours in our cars in this city and it’s such a crazy thing to conceptualize that there is this infinite network of people surrounding us by just a few feet and panes of glass away.”
As Gold adds, that connection, no matter how direct or indirect, is an experience we’ve all shared at one point or another while being stuck in traffic. “And if you were to play the real life version of 6-degrees of Kevin Bacon, there’s a really good chance that the guy sitting in traffic in the white Prius behind you is somehow connected to your life much more significantly than you’d ever know just by glancing at him in the rearview mirror.”
The potential for comedic hijinks and uproarious characters would soon become evident as Gold began developing the concept for GRIDLOCKED. “My love for comedy writing and desire to play bizarre characters made me think, ‘okay, what are the seven weird scenarios of cars on the road I could come up with?’”
Throughout the writing process, Gold got a much needed assist from his better half as he refined the show’s structure and characters.
“My wife was paramount in brainstorming and conceptualizing this with me during the writing phase,” he remembers. “She was a big fan of ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT and the ‘interconnectedness’ that runs throughout that series, and she really helped me to connect the dots in an intelligent way.”
While most sketch-based comedies rely on contained storylines and characters that depend heavily on the situations presented, GRIDLOCKED is one of the few that seamlessly melds both traditional sitcom storytelling elements with the compact, one-off style nature of sketch comedy. That aspect alone, Gold says, makes his series quite possibly one that’s unlike any ever produced.
“I’ve never seen a series that appears to be sketch comedy (on the surface), yet has an inter-connected through-line that makes it a true series,” he says. “I think a lot of web series are just repeated sketches a lot of time, which is fine, but at the end of the day it’s more fun to witness a story.
Key to the success and the effectiveness of GRIDLOCKED’s concept is how it takes something that’s usually considered to be one of life’s most stressful moments – being stuck in traffic – and plays the unbearable tension of that event for laughs in each episode.
“GRIDLOCKED has the distinct aesthetic of WAKING LIFE meets WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT, where we have real people that are living against such a dramatic backdrop, in such a harsh and severe world that it can only be portrayed as cartoonish,” Gold says. “I’m really really proud of the originality of this concept on so many levels and have many people to thank for that.”
For Gold, one of the more easier aspects of producing GRIDLOCKED came during the all important casting process. “I was super lucky to get some really well known veteran actors like Richard Riehle, Steven Porter, Andrew Keegan and Jon Lindstrom (who plays the role of Sal in the series’ fifth episode) to work on this small series with me, based on what I am hoping was their connection to the comedy in the script.”
While on a very tight budget, Gold and series director Scott Brown set about filming each episode of GRIDLOCKED within an extremely short time span. “The production process was more or less 2 full days in different cars parked in front of a green screen on a sound stage,” recalls Gold. “We were on tight schedules, working with a few pennies and dimes.”
Although the relatively simple style of production – filming scenes in cars on a soundstage utilizing green screen technology – made the filming process for each episode of GRIDLOCKED highly efficient, the task of getting each episode cleaned up and ready to air was a more complex task for Gold, Brown and his post-production team.
“Working with green screen and animation in post production to perfect this surrealist aesthetic took countless weeks. A huge shout out of gratitude to my editor Ryan Neill, special effects designer Josh Spooner and colorist Kyle Fallon (who was also our DP) who guided the project during a tedious technical post production time,” Gold says.
Brown’s experience and expertise in web series production also played a major role in the show’s successful post-production process. “Our esteemed director Scott Brown was paramount in guiding the ship forward, and not allowing us to second guess ourselves when technical elements became burdensome,” adds Gold.
Although Gold cites such comedic luminaries as SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE creator Lorne Michaels, plus the legendary sketch comedy troupe Kids In The Hall, and the hit IFC series PORTLANDIA as among his creative inspirations, he says that the biggest inspiration he has as a filmmaker came from a more familial source.
“…My 91 year old grandma once said, ‘life can be tough enough as it is, so at the end of the day it’s nice to just be able to laugh’. So, I am inspired as an entertainment creator to make intelligent comedy that has purpose, but also takes us away from our lives for a minute and fills us with a bit of laughter,” Gold says.
Through every episode of GRIDLOCKED, Gold believes that no matter how frustrating things like getting stuck in traffic are, there’s bound to be plenty of opportunities to laugh at such absurd situations no matter where you live. “Embrace the serendipity of life and try to see the potential humor in the most mundane elements of life. Celebrate your city and its people.”
Note: Regarding closed-captioning of GRIDLOCKED, Gold says: “We are currently talking with online platform partners to officially host the entire seven episode season and would hope that those types of outlets would have CC ability.”
ON THE WEB: http://www.watchgridlocked.com
STREAM NOW TV: http://streamnowtv.com/browse/comedy/gridlocked/