With NBA champion LeBron James, Super Bowl victor/NFL most valuable player Patrick Mahomes and other athletic heavyweights commanding as much attention from trading card manufacturers Upper Deck and Topps as they do media behemoths ESPN and Sports Illustrated, the trading card industry brings out humongous profits for collectors. Yet before card collecting became a billion dollar chase for rare memorabilia, it was a pivotal part of the familial relationship between young boys and their mature brethren.

That connection was one of many reasons why filmmaker Gabe Veenendaal created the five episode comedy series Bounce Houses and Baseball Cards. Co-produced by Veenandaal and Donny Broussard, written and directed by Veenendaal and available on YouTube (link below), the show was inspired by the profound role that baseball cards played in bringing him and his extremely competitive sibling closer to themselves and their frequently traveling father during their pre-teen years.

In Bounce Houses and Baseball Cards, two brothers – serious-minded bank teller Frank (Connor Wilkins) and his directionless older counterpart/struggling professional clown Roscoe (Stephen Bond) – have their tenuous relationship tested further when they learn that their father has passed away.

Both siblings also find out that their baseball card-compiling dad left no considerable assets behind, except for a final gift that he hoped would motivate Roscoe to finally get serious about being a mature man: a 1980 Rickey Henderson rookie card. Determined to make himself both a responsible adult and a great businessman, Roscoe vows to honor his dad’s last request – and to make amends with his younger brother.

Connor Wilkins co-stars as Frank, the strait-laced younger brother of obnoxious clown-for-hire Roscoe (Stephen Bond) in the five episode web series BOUNCE HOUSES AND BASEBALL CARDS.

Connor Wilkins co-stars as Frank, the strait-laced younger brother of obnoxious clown-for-hire Roscoe (Stephen Bond) in the five episode web series BOUNCE HOUSES AND BASEBALL CARDS.

Now a father himself, Veenendaal found the disparate worlds of baseball card collecting and inflatable kids’ play structures connecting in a creative way during his preparation for writing Bounce Houses and Baseball Cards. That strange linkage aside, the most obvious influence on the series’ storyline was Veenendaal’s real life experiences with his brother.

With their dialogue unified today as much by movie one-liners as it is career stats for legendary athletes on collector cards, the relationship between the Veenendaal siblings has much in common with that of the fictional brothers seen in Bounce Houses and Baseball Cards. Veenendaal recently explained how the show recreates his real life brotherly bond through the fictional duo at its center in the filmmaker’s conversation with Snobby Robot.

Chris Hadley: What (and/or who) inspired you to create the show, and how did your childhood (specifically, the relationship you had with your brother and your dad, plus your shared love of baseball cards) influence the storyline and characters of this series?

Gabe Veenendaal (creator/writer/director, Bounce Houses and Baseball Cards): The first wave of inspiration came from reflecting on fond memories with my father; just the little subtle things that can oftentimes get overlooked. For me, one of those memories was baseball cards. When I was young, my dad would travel for work, oftentimes back East (in the United States). When he came home, he would bring home a box of baseball cards for me and my brother, and he would use them as ploys to get us to do chores around the house and other things by giving us a pack here and a pack there.

Over an extended period of time (months) we would get all the cards. Ironically, we liked baseball, but we didn’t even love it. We loved basketball; but for some reason we would be competitive with each other over who got more packs from dad. In its own way it became a competition for our dad’s affection, but I think even more, who could acquire the most packs!

Stephen Bond co-stars as the wacky professional clown Roscoe, older brother to focused bank teller Frank (Connor Wilkins) in BOUNCE HOUSES AND BASEBALL CARDS.

Stephen Bond co-stars as the wacky professional clown Roscoe, older brother to focused bank teller Frank (Connor Wilkins) in BOUNCE HOUSES AND BASEBALL CARDS.

CH: Having written and created the show based on those parts of your life, what parts of Bounce Houses’ story and characters were similar to your real life and which ones were exaggerated for comedic effect?

GV: The competitive chemistry between the brothers was very much part of my life growing up. I was the younger brother, so I was always trying to compete in sports and other activities with my older brother and his friends.

We also loved movies growing up, and it seemed like we couldn’t dialogue without reciting a movie line. Still to this day, our conversations consist of about 80% percent movie references. Some of this is evident in the writing throughout the series, and is shown in how the brothers talk to each other.

The biggest exaggerated element of the story is the older brother being a clown for a living and having the ultimate dream of owning a bounce house rental business. That idea was sparked from me being a dad, and for my daughter’s 8th birthday we rented a bounce house (an inflatable structure designed for kids to jump around in). I thought, “what an awkward business, and smart, preying on the emotions/insecurities of parents trying to give their children the best!”

CH: Bounce Houses and Baseball Cards was originally supposed to be a short film, but then you decided to restructure it as a web series. What motivated you to make that change, and in what ways does the show flow better as a result of it?

GV: During the writing (of the series) I was anticipating making (it)  a short film. Even while filming, I thought that was the case, but once I got into editing, I started seeing how it could be structured into bite size pieces of 5-6 minutes versus a 20+ minute short film (which no one will ever watch). I also had intent to show potential partners (and) future investors that the idea/project had legs for a possible 30-minute TV show on a bigger platform.

CH: How did you develop its overall concept and characters?

GV: I literally wrote the script in 3-4 hours. That’s never happened, and hasn’t happened since. I, of course, did some cleanup on it after letting some people read it. Another conceptual idea came from seeing a short film about two brothers at Sundance a few years back, and I liked the comedic chemistry (between the brothers). So I started there, and then reflected on the absurd (clowns, bounce houses) and drama (death, family, dreams) and it came together fast.

CH: Who do you think would like to watch Bounce Houses and Baseball Cards and what audiences are you hoping to reach with it?

GV: In terms of comedy, I think the story and relationship between the brothers as they deal with a family dilemma is relatable for everyone. Beyond that, I think baseball enthusiasts would also like the show based on its homages to the sport. Ultimately, people who like awkward/half-assed comedies with a heart (like) It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia or Arrested Development would be the wheelhouse I’m reaching for but with my own fingerprint and no budget as we made it for $800.

bhbcCH: What, in your opinion, makes the show unique from other comedies?

GV: I don’t even know that it’s unique, but I think that what it does well is (it blends) the absurdist with the practical moments of real-life, such as mortality. For example, I think it looks at (those moments) in a way that is sad and weighing, while also being funny and light-hearted.

CH: Overall, what do you hope people get out of watching this series?

GV: For those that watch the series, I hope they enjoy it, first off. I know that seems like a straightforward answer, but I think that any filmmaker wants people to feel something when they watch their work. I think making the viewer feel something (sad, happy, laughter) while also giving them a small mirror to look reflectively at their own life and their own relationships with the ones they care about (can help them) make amends to move forward with a glimpse of hope in their own lives, but mainly I just want them to laugh.

NOTE: Veenendaal says that Bounce Houses and Baseball Cards is not closed-captioned at this time, but that he hopes it will be in the future.

Watch all five episodes of the show on YouTube: