Somewhere, at some highly inopportune time, in the middle of a very important activity…the phone rings. You pick it up, only to discover that your valuable time has been wasted by someone attempting to either sell you a product you don’t want, or to participate in a survey about some subject you know nothing about. Annoyed, you hang up and realize that you’ve been talking to an underpaid, overworked, and very pushy telemarketer.
While those who’ve been on the receiving end of such calls realize how incredibly random and inconvenient they can be, those who actually try to make some semblance of a living by being a telemarketer know that their job isn’t exactly glamorous. That side of the equation is hilariously examined in the new comedy THE CALL ROOM, now streaming its first season on its official web site, Vidme and Youtube pages (see links below).
Written, created by and co-starring Adam Carr (who, along with co-stars Jonathan Schwartz and Nathaniel Meek, based much of the series’ situations and characters on their own real life experiences as telemarketers, more on that ahead), THE CALL ROOM focuses on a group of young adults who find themselves stuck with the unenviable task of having to generate a high amount of sales for a fledgling performing arts theater.
That crew is led by Adam (portrayed by Carr), a passionate and dedicated telemarketer who does his best to boost the spirits of his co-workers as they prepare for another long day of dialing for dollars – no matter how much they all hate doing it.
Working alongside Adam is the wisecracking Jonathan (played by Schwartz), whose talent for generating a high level of leads is matched by his mad skills on the mandolin.
There’s also Alexa (played by Alexa Rose), a fun loving woman who deals with the daily monotony of telemarketing by partaking in a wide range of risqué behavior with Adam, Jonathan and the group’s resident man-child Craig (played by Meek). All this occurs as they begrudgingly face the challenge of bringing in the dough for their overbearing boss, Simon (Sean Harrison Jones).
With today’s millennials facing an uncertain future, as well as an equally uncertain job market due to the historic recession of several years back, it’s become more common than ever for college graduates having to work multiple jobs so that they – and in many cases, their families – can stay financially afloat. It’s a struggle that Carr knew well, and one that he seeks to shine a humorous spotlight on in THE CALL ROOM.
“I came up with the concept of this show mainly as a product of the collapse of the housing market and (the) down economy,” Carr says of the series. “I graduated from UCLA in 2008, and remember no one having any type of job security. We all have those jobs that we ‘hate’, but (we) frankly have nothing else to jump to. We can’t survive without this crappy job that drives us nuts.”
Working with a writing staff that included the rest of the show’s cast, director Craig Tovey and others, Carr, Schwartz and Meek easily spun comedy gold from the memorable callers, co-workers and office happenings they witnessed during their time working in telemarketing. Even though some elements of that humor were slightly exaggerated, Carr says that much of what viewers see in each episode is art imitating life.
“Pretty much every episode you see was inspired by real events. My boss used to throw pizza parties before firing someone,” he recalls. “I fell for a ‘temp’ co-worker that ended up being a sex addict and (was) dating another co-worker, plus acquaintances I knew. My friends and I would get rewarded with lottery scratch cards for making sales. A co-worker was a sex toy party distributor. Yes, a bit was embellished for comedic benefit, but it all came from an organic place of truth.”
The same was also true for each of THE CALL ROOM’s wacky characters. “Jonathan actually worked with me in the original telemarketing wing at the Geffen Playhouse (the Los Angeles-based theater where the show is based off of). Just like in the show, he always had the best numbers,” Carr adds. “Alexa is closely based on another real life caller, who was fun and sassy and incredibly sweet. Craig honestly is my alter ego. He says all the dirty terrible things i’d think but would never say. I’d love to play Craig, but I’m the ‘sweetboy’ (Carr’s real life call room nickname).”
Filmed at a rented office complex in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Woodland Hills, THE CALL ROOM made the most of its limited production budget (raised through a successful 2014 Kickstarter campaign that raised $26,060) to pack as much laughs in 10 minutes as could be found in a typical half hour TV sitcom. “We settled on 10 minute episodes based on our budget, and also how much thought and creativity went into each episode,” Carr explains. “If we could get micro episodes to have the same effect as a 22 minute episode, then why not?”
Along with its trademark style of comedy, THE CALL ROOM’s stark opening title sequence and scene wraparounds has also won acclaim from its fans. That aspect of the series served the dual purposes of providing a distinctive visual bridge throughout each episode, and of helping the production make creative usage of the limited budgetary resources at its disposal.
“We were wrapping up the shoot, and (were) out of funds entirely. We realized we didn’t have any transition shots, let alone an opening sequence,” Carr remembers. “Craig came up with the idea, drawing on inspiration from one of his favorite shows THE KIDS IN THE HALL (the classic sketch comedy series) for a desert black and white shoot, with everyone dressed up like we all just came from a wedding. I told Craig, ‘It’s perfect! It’s the metaphor of sales. You’re in the desert, in a car, going nowhere.”
This past April, THE CALL ROOM finally made its first public bow at a special screening for campaign contributors and fans of the series in Culver City, California. While Carr and his team were expecting a sizable, yet manageable crowd, they could not have anticipated just how big of a turnout there would be on the night of its big screen debut.
“We rented out a 98 seat theater on the Sony Pictures lot, and were shocked to have 170 people show up,” Carr says. “It was an incredible time, and people were so psyched to see just exactly where their money had gone to, and were still surprised that we pulled off a professional product worthy of television distribution for $34,000 altogether. All it makes us want to do is raise even more money for season 2, and to deliver more of THE CALL ROOM!”
Knowing from his own experience the misery of being stuck in a less than ideal job, and the importance of having people to lean on in that situation, Carr says that THE CALL ROOM is a comedy that will make viewers laugh at, as well as relate to, the characters and humor on full display in every episode.
Most importantly, Carr feels that the series will help people cope with the problems and challenges that come with any job – not just telemarketing.
“Work sucks, and life can suck, but you get through it with your friends and co-workers. That’s what I took away from the real call room experience,” he says. “You’re broke, you’re over educated, but you’ve got to get through the day. If you’re lucky, you find some friends along the way who drink your brand of crazy. The main message i’d love to send to our viewers is, ‘hey, life is crazy, and can suck, so join us once a week, or binge watch all at once and have a laugh on us. That’s what we’re here for.”
(Note: The series is not currently closed-captioned and/or subtitled, and Carr says he does not know if it will be in the future. If you have any questions/comments about THE CALL ROOM, you can contact the show via email at [email protected].)
ON THE WEB: http://callroomseries.com/