(The title of this blog pretty much serves as the introduction to this video and this blog. Regardless, the intro to the blog is below.)
I think I’m a good writer. I also think I’m a bad writer. It comes with the territory.
Regardless, I have worked on some things that have been presented to audiences of millions in the form of TV shows and journalistic articles. The coolness of that will never be lost on me. With that said, that means diddlysquat to me.
The same can be said for my buddy and producing partner Trevor Wayne who worked for TMZ for three years. Producing for other people is fun, and we are grateful for those opportunities, however, that is for OTHER PEOPLE. Over the past four years we have been on a mission to pitch, sell, and produce OUR OWN TV show.
Our goal is the first thought in our mind when we wake and it’s the last thought before our brain flips the off switch. We have developed concepts, written treatments, shot sizzle reels, taken pitch meetings at production companies, and met with executives at networks and agencies. We are the definition of determination. The only thing we haven’t done is shoot our own pilot. So, in early August that’s exactly what we did.
Over the past few years we avoided shooting a pilot for three reasons: high cost, no free time, and a lack of a crew to call upon. Finally this year we came into some money, created a flexible schedule, and nurtured friendships with people who believe in us and want to help.
When Trevor left his job at TMZ earlier this year we examined our ideas to see which one would be most feasible to shoot. Our passion project is Shooting Stars, a reality show based on Trevor and his crew of twenty-something year old friends trying to make it in Hollywood.
The sizzle reel we shot for that garnered enough interest from the likes of Mark Cuban and Brian Grazer who requested to see more from us. The reason we didn’t shoot a pilot for that, however, was because the expected cost of production was beyond our means.
One of our ideas, however, fell right in line with our capabilities. Exclusive Eats is a cooking show with Trevor as the host, where celebrities will invite him into their homes to cook their favorite meals while Trevor interviews them on their turf rather than in the streets like he has in the past.
Given that Trevor and I eat most of our meals at restaurants I couldn’t ignore the irony that our first pilot shoot was going to be a cooking show in his kitchen.
We had the necessary equipment, and a well-established crew of professionals ready to make the show happen. All we needed was a celebrity. We grew with frustration after a few weeks of celebrities agreeing to shoot and then having to cancel or giving us a date too far in the future. I’m impatient to begin with, but when things don’t go my way I am downright brutal to be around. It’s unbearable to know that you’re only missing one component of a puzzle piece.
We ran dry with our celebrity contacts, but fortunately Trevor’s brother Tanner has a wealth of well-known friends because of his roots in the music industry. Tanner is an epic drummer who has worked with numerous artists, including currently with Sky Blu of LMFAO. Tanner reached out to his friend Bert McCracken, the lead singer of The Used, and he agreed to shoot with us.
On Saturday August 11 Bert said he was free on Sunday August 12, but didn’t give us a set time. He also said he didn’t want to shoot in his home. I didn’t blame him, because the atmosphere of a set can be messy, chaotic, and not something you generally want to bring into the tranquility of your home. That’s something Bert likely knew from having appeared on The Osbournes while dating Kelly Osbourne. Bert also asked if we could pick him up and bring him to Trevor’s where we decided we would shoot. Neither of those were unreasonable requests given the enormous favor he was granting us.
Essentially we had to be on call whenever he was ready. That was not the most comforting situation to be placed in because I’m used to call times with a shoot schedule. I thrive with organization.
It’s not like we could tell Bert to give us an exact time, because after all he was doing us a huge favor. In addition, I spent the week’s prior telling Trevor that all I needed was a celebrity and I could produce magic. Tanner provided the celebrity, so I needed to hold up my end and produce the necessary footage regardless of the circumstances I was given.
Among other discomforting things thrown at us was our mad scramble to find a cameraman. The main problem with putting Trevor in front of the camera as often as we do is that he can’t also hold the camera. Fortunately we have a legit camera guy who has filmed movies like Fast & Furious and Mission Impossible III. Unfortunately for us, he was busy that day. Our buddy Brandon said he would do it, and he was a more than a suitable choice on 24 hours notice.
I arrived at Trevor’s house at 10am with Bert’s arrival still in question. The first and last time we heard from him was the night before the shoot when he texted Tanner the ingredients he needed to make cioppino. We held off on buying the product just in case an unforeseen circumstance arose and Bert wasn’t able to shoot.
I almost wanted Bert to hit us up and cancel the shoot, because I didn’t feel we were ready. It was what I like to call the “Impostor Syndrome” kicking in. Before I do anything hugely important that I am supposed to be good at, like writing, producing, or sex, I get nervous that I won’t be able to deliver the goods. After a moment of self-doubt I remember that I am good at those things and then rise to the occasion. It’s got to the point where if I don’t get that feeling from the “Impostor Syndrome” then I begin to worry, because it means I am about to do something that I don’t really care about.
At around 2pm we got a text from Tanner that Bert was ready, so Trevor went to Pasadena to get him and I went to Ralphs. With that text my nervous feelings disappeared. Before Trevor left, however, I noticed that he too felt we weren’t ready, because he started to have an anxiety attack in the form of shooting off a million questions in panic at me. Before I could answer his first concern he had three more to follow. I simply told him, “Go pick up Bert and we will find a way to make this happen.” That probably wasn’t the most comforting thing to hear when he wanted a definitive solution to ease his uncertainty, but the lack of time only allowed that response.
I despise grocery shopping. I don’t like anywhere with lines and my lack of patience makes searching for specific items a less than enjoyable experience. If I happen to get the wrong product or brand name I feel bad for the person making the meal, because they had a specific item in mind, and I forced them to adjust. I also felt a bit more pressure since Bert is a celebrity and this was a project that could elevate the status of my career. I also don’t cook, unless you count microwaving leftover pizza, so when Bert requested fennel, leeks, and saffron I questioned if those were food items or the name of a law firm.
Ultimately, I didn’t mess up the grocery list too much, other than getting rotten fish, salted butter, and unfresh garlic cloves. Those mishaps ended up providing great footage when Bert cracked on the nastiness of the fish. Fortunately there was a silver lining, because had everything gone to plan, the video probably wouldn’t have been as entertaining. Nice justification on my part, right?
I was happy with the resulting footage because Bert has a great personality, is great at improvising, and really knows his way around the kitchen. I didn’t have to do much other than give Trevor a few questions for conversation purposes and occasionally get the guys back on track when they lost focus.
In post we ended up scrapping the idea of Trevor as the host, because Bert’s personality outshone everyone, which was to be expected since he is the front man of a very popular band. So, when pitching the show we are making Bert the host and he will cook with his celebrity friends in different episodes.
Generally speaking, I am not a fan of soup, because it rarely provides a filling meal. Bert’s cioppino, however, was remarkable. I was full after two bowls, and still wanted more. It was that ridiculously delicious. I also have a love for anything spicy, and the two habaneros he let sit in the pot gave it the ultimate flavoring.
We didn’t want the show to be a typical cooking show and I think we accomplished that. The food is secondary in Exclusive Eats. We want the show to have an edge, like something you might see on MTV, Spike or Fuse, which is why it felt like a party atmosphere with multiple people making appearances in the background including me, Tanner, Brandon, Chicken Rich the cat, a cute neighbor girl, and Airin Older, formerly of the band Sugarcult.
The discomfort I experienced in pre-production of not having a set shoot time, and the discomfort I experienced during production of having to do grocery shopping with no food knowledge didn’t compare to the discomfort Trevor and I both experienced in post-production.
My schedule wouldn’t permit me to sit with Trevor while he edited, so I time coded footage and gave him pieces I thought were relevant and usable. He bought a new Macbook and taught himself Final Cut so that we wouldn’t have to call on more favors and wait on other people. So, I can only imagine the discomfort he experienced alone in his workstation.
We realized we needed to introduce the video to serve the purpose of a visual pitch so we ventured to Guitar Center on Sunset Boulevard and shot the piece you saw previously. I was totally expecting to be kicked out of the store, but no one said anything to us, probably because they’re used to the shenanigans that result from being located on Sunset.
Ultimately, we have a lot of people to thank for giving us something to showcase our creativity and commitment to our careers. Tanner stepped up big time by bridging the gap to his friend Bert. Brandon filmed some solid footage for us to use. Our friend Jeremy created the brilliant Exclusive Eats graphic. And obviously we have Bert to thank because without him none of us could showcase our skills.
We all want to reach higher levels in our careers and we know that it requires a support team around you in order to reach the mountaintop. Plus, it’s probably pretty lonely up there if you don’t have people around you that you like.
To view Bert’s upcoming tour dates visit The Used’s website here.
To get a quote on designs from Jeremy Podger, like the Exclusive Eats design he created, visit his website here.