While satire is often the best way to understand our currently nerve-wracking political state of affairs, satire can also illustrate the need for changes in society and its institutions. For 2 seasons, the acclaimed comedy DARK JUSTICE has effectively done the latter through its funny yet thought-provoking look at the insidious problem of racism in law enforcement and criminal justice.
Created by Mike Gerbino, DARK JUSTICE’s Kickstarter campaign has successfully raised $12,000 for production of 8 episodes for the show’s third season, as well as additional short ‘minisodes’. (A link to the campaign page is below.) With that established, new episodes will debut sometime this Fall on its web site, YouTube and Facebook pages (see links below). In addition, Roku and Apple TV viewers will be able to access the show through the Stream Now PRO app.
DARK JUSTICE stars Che Holloway as police officer Amir Johnson, a dedicated lawman whose duties are constantly undermined by the discrimination he experiences as the only black cop in an all-white police department. Out on the beat, Amir finds himself inexplicably caught up in an uncomfortable series of misunderstandings and misjudgments from the community he’s pledged to serve.
The divisive behavior and comments of President Trump have angered his opponents as much as they’ve emboldened his supporters. Taking that fact into consideration, Gerbino and his team carefully geared the narrative of DARK JUSTICE’s third season to reflect how America has changed as a result of Trump’s election. In that process, though, it was important for DARK JUSTICE’s producers to clearly define the tone of the show’s social commentary.
“Needless to say, the last year of his presidency will have a pretty big impact on the scope and tone of the show, though we may or may not refer to him directly,” Gerbino says. “We want to avoid what happened with the NFL’s national anthem controversy, which began as a protest against police brutality and was co-opted by a larger population who just hate the president.”
Though the topics addressed by DARK JUSTICE will grow, its head-on perspective on discrimination in 2018 remains consistent. “The issues of racism in our justice system have existed long before 2016, and they will persist for years to come. This is not a show about politics, really,” explains Gerbino. “With that said, issues of immigration and vulnerable minority groups who are targeted by the government are very much in the world of DARK JUSTICE, so it is a safe bet we will get into that.”
While Gerbino says that season 3 of DARK JUSTICE is still in development, he mentions that another relevant social issue could possibly be examined in its new episodes: gender equality. “…I will say that we may be bringing a long overdue female voice to the police department,” explains Gerbino. “That would, of course, shift us from ‘the first black cop’ to ‘the first female cop’, and all of the terribly absurd and painfully hilarious things that come with that.”
Seasons 1 and 2 of DARK JUSTICE were filmed on substantially meager production budgets ($3,000 for its first season, $4,000 for its second). Now, Gerbino feels that its larger war chest will go towards improving what viewers see and hear in season 3. “The show will have a more cinematic feel, and we will have more interesting locations, for sure,” he says, detailing how DARK JUSTICE’s targeted season 3 budget of $12,000 will accomplish the job of taking viewers beyond the territorial limits that the show had to operate under in the past.
“There are lots of locations that we just couldn’t justify going to with the budget we had last year. Not because locations are expensive, but because traveling to those locations and setting up takes time, and if we only have two days to shoot four episodes, we can’t spend half a day traveling, setting up and tearing down at one place. Jails, shooting ranges, courthouses, etc. These are places ripe with storylines for us, and we hope the additional money will free up our schedule enough to allow for a more varied sense of place and story.”
Although Gerbino says that he’s often thought about doing more elaborately staged comedy through a larger budget, he feels that the $12,000 would be best served to give DARK JUSTICE’s cast increased leeway to develop their performances. In fact, Gerbino says that the new budget will allow the series to further develop its already high quality of comedy.
“… I think the most we can do with the money is just slow the process down in a way that benefits the performances just as much as it benefits the settings and aesthetic. Our actors knock every joke out of the park, but if we have more time to craft those jokes on the set, we can have the confidence to go even further and commit even harder.”
Both seasons of DARK JUSTICE netted almost half a million views, and its social media pages were followed by over 6,000 people; amazing stats when you consider that the series had virtually no marketing budget to speak of. To achieve even bigger audiences for the show, Gerbino will use part of DARK JUSTICE’s $12,000 budget to pay for a more financially secure approach to its viewer outreach work.
“The budget, first and foremost, will help us simply reach more viewers,” Gerbino responds. “Advertising and festival fees were probably the biggest unexpected financial burden of season 2, which are both vital pieces of the puzzle when trying to gain viewership. This budget will help (somewhat) relieve us of those burdens, though not completely. So far, we’ve found that there is a pretty large swath of people who enjoy the type of work we’re doing, so getting it in front of them is our number one goal.”
Through Kickstarter, DARK JUSTICE is working to accomplish that objective. “So far, we’ve found that the engagement with our fans on social media has been amazing. As much as this campaign is about raising money, it is also about reaching those people who have made the last season so worth it for us. We want to be closer to them, engage with them and get them to invest in us.”
In fact, DARK JUSTICE’s Kickstarter campaign is already bringing new fans of the show into the fold. “…We are getting donations every day from the Kickstarter community,” comments Gerbino. “Strangers who simply like what we’re doing are donating. That was an unforeseen side effect of the campaign, to be honest. We are gaining fans from this crowdfunding campaign, and that’s pretty cool!”
Audience response to the first two seasons of DARK JUSTICE was equally remarkable. “The amount of positive feedback we received was really something else,” says the show’s leading man, Che Holloway. “I was super stunned, as (was) the rest of the cast, that this small project would be making such waves around the world. It goes to show that with enough hard work, risk-taking, and dedication, anything is possible.”
DARK JUSTICE isn’t just a mere gig for Holloway. It’s a chance for him to use his talents to make a difference in a divided society. “To be an actor and to have the opportunity to be on DARK JUSTICE, a show that tackles serious issues in a lighthearted way is truly a blessing to me,” he says. “To be able to be on a conscious show where we now have a voice is awesome because it lets our followers and other people in the world know that we know what’s going on in the world, and (that) changes need to happen. Otherwise, we will put those issues that need to be fixed on blast, DARK JUSTICE style.”
As it did in season 2, DARK JUSTICE paired its full-length episodes with hilarious short-form content. Gerbino believes that a larger budget for the show’s third season will help to expand the creative possibilities for its non-episodic extras, and to help DARK JUSTICE get the most bang for its production buck.
“…We hope to have a considerable amount of phony PSAs, minisodes, faux viral videos, etc. Cops are always on the internet making fools of themselves in one way or another, and that is fertile ground for some of our more direct commentary,” says Gerbino. “That is also a great way to maximize content with a small budget, as those videos can be as funny as the show but with justified lower production value.”
In addition to elevating the show’s production aesthetics, the expanded budget sought by DARK JUSTICE’s producers has other significant purposes. “With more money comes a looser schedule, so we can take our time with the technical things that we’ve had to rush in the past,” adds Gerbino. “The money opens us up to putting these cops in more outrageous and varied situations, and therefore touching on issues we’ve had to work around in the past.”
Gerbino’s company of actors and filmmakers do DARK JUSTICE in an economically sound fashion by pooling from the existing resources of their local communities. “Our tricks for keeping costs low include working in our hometowns of Rochester and Buffalo, New York, where the budding film industry is eager to accommodate a production of our size,” DARK JUSTICE’s creator observes. “So many talented people have worked for free or at reduced rates for us.”
The $12,000 budget, as Gerbino describes it, is one more way that he hopes to give back to everyone who worked to make DARK JUSTICE possible. “While we hope the extra money will let us compensate them better this season, we are really able to squeeze so much out of the love and excitement we receive in Western New York. The biggest budget saver, however, is a crunched schedule, so having a flexible and efficient cast and crew really helps with that, especially when one of our primary goals of season 3 is loosening that schedule.”
Citing his experiences in making DARK JUSTICE’s first two seasons, Gerbino understands the value of working within a more freely structured time frame. “Every day of shooting has its own fixed cost, for the most part, so we often try to cram as much as we can into each day,” he says. “The big lesson I learned last season was that it is not worth sacrificing the quality of an episode just to maximize that shoot day. Sometimes it is better to lose an episode entirely if it will free up your schedule enough to make those other seven episodes a bit better.”
Holloway can’t wait to reunite with people who’ve become some of his greatest allies. “I look forward to working with the DARK JUSTICE crew again if anything. Through the years, they ended up feeling less like just some cast and crew, and more like an extended family.”
Like Gerbino, Holloway eagerly looks ahead to seeing how DARK JUSTICE boosts the quality factor for its third season. “I’m also excited to see what’s in store for some of the more lighthearted scenes and lines and excited to see where the story goes and how DARK JUSTICE will continue pushing boundaries,” he adds.
DARK JUSTICE fearlessly tackles the painful realities of racial and ethnic discrimination, and its third season will carry on in the tradition of the two that preceded it.
“I think, as far as police brutality goes, our show will maintain a high level of satire unseen in mainstream entertainment right now,” replies Gerbino. “A lot of projects are making quick cash grabs at the ‘woke’ audience by nodding to police brutality or creating allegories that indirectly reference it, but the more money we have to make and push our in-your-face approach to the subject, the more chance we have of impacting the landscape around the discussion. We are not shying away from these issues, we’re just re-phrasing them with a smile.”
Holloway agrees, and advises new filmmakers to build on the creative standards set by DARK JUSTICE in their own projects. “If anything, I hope people get inspired to film those projects that they are ‘just thinking about’,” he says. “I also hope that our show can continue to leave the door open for folks to have a healthy conversation about race relations and policing in the world. Lastly, I hope people take away the fact that teamwork can truly make a dream work.”
To contribute to DARK JUSTICE’s season 3 Kickstarter campaign, visit:
ON THE WEB: http://www.darkjusticeshow.com
STREAM NOW PRO: http://streamnowtv.com/browse/comedy/dark-justice/