Category Archives: Television

‘The Digits’ Enlists Help on IndieGoGo to Fund Greenlighted PBS Series

digitsNow in its third season of filming, Scotty Iseri’s The Digits will turn to crowdfunding on IndieGoGo for an exciting new chapter of the start-up’s adventures. Created in 2012 and funded independently since it began, The Digits has been granted 13 episodes on PBS stations.

To get the ball rolling, Iseri has come up with an idea to give the public a special way to be involved with this growing production by offering all backers a live reading on stage of the pilot script of The Digits TV show. Iseri’s crowdfunding campaign on IndieGoGo launched on April 23, with the goal to raise $12,000 to market and perform the live kickoff show, hosted here.

Portland-based Iseri is an award-winning media creator with 10 years experience in entertainment and audience development. Star and creator of the hit viral web series “Scotty Got an Office Job,” Iseri assembled a team to design The Digits to teach children typically not fun subjects like math and science in a fun way. Drawing from Portland’s vast wellspring of local creative talent, educators and performing artists, The Digits hopes to gain more national support and funding for the PBS project.

“For anyone passionate about elementary education and especially startups, this marks a rare opportunity to get in on the ground floor as we steer toward our dream of being on PBS,” said Iseri. “We are very lucky to have a commitment to air 13 episodes, and we want to make them the best they can be. This is a unique opportunity to get some sweet rewards and help put the ‘public’ back in public television.”

For more info about The Digits, visit www.watchthedigits.com. View the IndieGoGo video below:

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Live From Fremont, It is The [206]!

Media Inc. goes on set of the Seattle-satirizing sketch comedy

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Jim McKenna, producer of The [206], warms up the crowd before the live taping.

Photos by Regan MacStravic

Long-time Seattleites will fondly remember Almost Live!, a sketch comedy series that aired on KING-TV in the slot ahead of Saturday Night Live from the late ‘80s through the ‘90s. The show, led by writer-turned-actor John Keister and radio/TV personality Pat Cashman, ribbed Seattle-area sports teams and celebrities, riffed on local stereotypes, and even spawned spin-offs like Bill Nye the Science Guy. The show was canceled by KING in 1999, citing lack of profit.

Although Almost Live! has been off the air for well over a decade, fans of a good-natured Seattle-skewering can rejoice. Sketch comedy—led once again by Keister and Cashman, along with Cashman’s son, Chris—has returned to the Emerald City. Now in its second season, The [206] picks up where Almost Live! left off, joking about all things Seattle—from legalized marijuana and Bertha, the stalled tunnel boring machine, to sketches spoofing Downton Abbey and Duck Dynasty, entitled “Renton Abbey” and “Geoduck Dynasty,” respectively.RM-The206-0037

Jim McKenna, an associate producer on Almost Live!, serves as producer on The [206], along with Erren Gottlieb and Ryan Craig. His explanation for this new incarnation of Seattle sketch comedy is simple: “We missed doing a comedy show in front of a live audience, so we created The [206].”

The idea for the show was hatched in 2012, when Chris Cashman pitched it to his dad, Keister, McKenna, and Gottlieb. The team knew they couldn’t rely on KING or any other station to fund the show, so they decided to develop it themselves.

They first produced a few teaser clips and posted them to YouTube and Facebook to gauge audience interest. Response was immediate, with Almost Live! fans flooding the social media pages with “Likes” and comments. This piqued KING’s interest. And after a sold-out live show proved that an audience was indeed on board, the team made a deal with KING to air two pilot episodes in January of 2013.

The [206] was a hit from the beginning, with viewership already built in. The team seems a bit baffled by this phenomenon. Producer Craig explained, “We flipped the switch and the audience was there. It’s been the model of consistency.”

RM-The206-0007The success of those first two episodes launched a full season, and as the show and its audience continued to grow exponentially, the production moved to a much larger space—Fremont Studios—in the spring of 2013.

“I knew Jim from before and said, ‘Hey, why don’t you do it here?’” recalled Scott Jonas, owner of Fremont Studios. His studio specializes in audience-based productions, such as TV shows, concerts, and other live events. Although the facility is busy—“We’re booked out two years,” says Jonas—they made room on their schedule for The [206].

“Scott called after he saw the two pilot episodes in January 2013,” said McKenna. “We shot those in an abandoned firehouse in Bellevue. Scott invited us over, and the firehouse really wasn’t set up for an audience, so we moved for episode 5 and 6 of the first season.”

McKenna added, “Scott was an early mentor of mine when we did remote sports television. He is also an artist, thinks big and knows how to put on a show. He has made me look good on a number of productions, including The [206].”RM-The206-0009

Jonas gave Media Inc. a tour of the impressive 50,000-square-foot facility, including the two soundstages, edit suites, green room and mobile video unit. The show films on Soundstage A, which is the largest and only audience-rated, acoustically-designed, environmentally-controlled production studio north of Los Angeles in the United States. And not only does Fremont Studios provide the production with the use of both its soundstages—they film on Stage A and host a pre-party for their studio audience on Stage B—but they also provide equipment, operators, and even in-house catering.

“The look and presentation of the show has significantly improved because we now shoot on a real soundstage, as opposed to a firehouse,” said McKenna. “We went from an audience size of 55 to 60 people to now around 450 people per taping. Now, we have room to really swing a Jib, we have great sound, room for side sets. The goal is to make a network quality show disguised as a local show. The viewers seem to appreciate the effort.”

RM-The206-0044This certainly seems to be the case, as the show consistently brings in more than 100,000 viewers a week and the waiting list to watch live tapings continues to swell.

On this rainy Tuesday evening, the weather couldn’t deter an enthused audience from lining up at 6:15pm for the 8pm show. Jonas opened the doors early so the crowd could get out of the rain, and they were welcomed with free drinks and appetizers—and of course major laughs from, as Craig calls them, a “merry band of fools.”

 

RM-The206-0026Pat Cashman: Seattle’s Favorite Funnyman Chats with Media Inc.

How would you say The [206] compares to Almost Live!, in terms of style, production, content, etc.?
I think The [206] mostly compares to Almost Live! in the same way it compares to any other TV comedy show: sketches, live bits, guests, studio audience. Of course, it’s the local humor that seems to resonate best, and while we try not to lean on that exclusively (nor did Almost Live!), there’s no denying that it’s our “go-to pitch”—and the thing that our hometown audiences seem to savor most.

What do you enjoy most about working on the show?
Most people might assume it’s the chance to work with John again—and most especially, my son, Chris. But, in fact, it’s the beer and cold cuts.

What is your favorite sketch from the current season?
While we may not all cop to it, everybody’s favorite sketches are likely the ones they wrote or are featured in. Topics like legalized weed and gay marriage stand out personally, because they were unimaginable when Almost Live! was on the air. These changed times have added lots more to the palette.
As was the case with Almost Live!, my personal favorite moments on The [206] are always those performed live in front of the studio audience. Taped pieces are edited in advance—they are what they are—but live bits get one chance to work or fail. That challenge is a blast.

The sketches are so relatable – what’s the secret to capturing Seattle’s oh-so-polite wackiness?
The secret is to be an equal opportunity rib-poker. When we parody local TV, neighborhoods, politics, troubled tunnel projects, etc.—we’re not doing it from the viewpoint of an outsider. We live here. This is our home. And, on those occasions when we hopefully get it right, we serve up stuff other local people can identify with. When you approach something in that way, people don’t get their feelings hurt—they laugh, because they know it’s done with affection.

The [206] airs weekly after Saturday Night Live on KING-TV. When SNL is new, The [206] airs a new episode, and when SNL is a repeat, so is The [206].

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Media Inc. Announces Film Production Focus, Adds Editors

Longtime Pacific Northwest publication Media Inc. has announced it will re-focus its content and increase its editorial resources to provide exclusive coverage of the region’s film and video production industry. Media Inc. has been an industry leader for thirty years, covering the Pacific Northwest creative, film production, marketing and advertising industries.  The re-formatted magazine and digital edition will now provide dedicated coverage solely to the region’s film and video production industry.

As part of the magazine’s new focus, the editorial staff has grown, with the addition of Seattle-based Executive Editor George Riddell and Portland-based Associate Editor Susan Haley.

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Their combined film, video and television experience spans over three decades. They join the existing Media Inc. staff to develop stories and oversee coverage of the Pacific Northwest film and video production industry. “This region is home to a vibrant filmmaking scene comprised of thousands of film professionals and businesses,” Riddell said. “Media Inc. is now their magazine. We’re going to be developing content and resources that are important to what they do.”

Haley’s specific responsibility for covering the Oregon film industry is a significant change for Media Inc. “The film and production community in Oregon has been growing for several years,” she said. “With multiple TV series and feature films in production each year, it’s an exciting place to be.”

‘The Librarians’ Series in Production

*Note: This article has been updated from its original version.

Electric Entertainment and TNT have begun production on a 10-episode series, titled The Librarians, in Portland. Although the production was just a rumor for several months – fueled by Electric executive producer Dean Devlin posting photos on Twitter of sets being built in Oregon – TNT has officially confirmed that they have greenlit the series. The Librarian

The series will be an offshoot from TNT’s The Librarian original movie franchise, which starred Noah Wyle as Flynn Carsen, a librarian who protects a secret collection of artifacts. According to sources, the series would revolve around four young men and women who have been selected by Flynn to become his successors. Although Wyle currently works full time on another TNT series, Falling Skies, he will reprise his role as Carsen in at least a few episodes. Other castmembers include Rebecca Romijn, John Larroquette,  and Christian Kane (who also starred in Portland-shot TV series Leverage), as well as Bob Newhart and Jane Curtin, who will reprise their roles from the movie franchise.

The Librarians is being produced by Electric Entertainment, which also produced the three original movies—titled The Librarian: Quest for the Spear, The Librarian: Return to King Solomon’s Mines and The Librarian: Curse of the Judas Chalice—as well as Leverage.

The series is set to air in late 2014.

Media Inc. will continue to report on this story as it develops.

Portlandia Season 4, Feminist Bookstore/ Car Wash/ Subaru Integration

Welcome Back to ‘Portlandia’

Get an inside look at the new season of the hit IFC show

Portlandia Season 4, Feminist Bookstore/ Car Wash/ Subaru Integration

Photo by Augusta Quirk/IFC

On February 27, lovers of sketch comedy and all things Portland received a belated Valentine when Portlandia returned to IFC.

Starring the dynamic duo of Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen, fresh off his departure from Saturday Night Live, the fourth season features the return of beloved characters and familiar themes—but it also delves into uncharted territory for the series.

“We have a distinct style. People will say, ‘It was like a Portlandia sketch’ to describe certain situations. People know what that means and that’s really cool, but this season we tried some new things,” says co-creator and director Jonathan Krisel. “For example, a horror film opens the first episode of the season, and we have a big film noir sketch that takes its roots from a ‘traditional’ Portlandia topic dealing with the popularity of different vegetables, but it goes off the rails to become like a John Grisham novel.

“Thematically we’re always on the Portlandia topic. We’re very specific about what we’re making fun of, but we can attack it a few different ways.”

Portlandia director Jonathan Krisel (left) and DP Bryce Fortner. Photo by Scott Green/IFC

Portlandia director Jonathan Krisel (left) and DP Bryce Fortner. Photo by Scott Green/IFC

This includes different types of storytelling. For instance, Armisen and Brownstein have always appeared in sketches together, but this season, a few of the episodes feature separate storylines for the pair; Krisel has dubbed these storylines “the Fred Chronicles” and “the Carrie Chronicles.”

Another tactic the Portlandia team used to shake things up this season was to add new writers to the mix. “Usually we bring in one writer, but this year we brought in three,” says Krisel. “Having different voices in the process really helps a lot.”

Portland-based producer David Cress has been with the show since the beginning. Likening his role as a producer to that of a general contractor, Cress and his team handle the technical aspects of the production: “We hire the crew, budget for the show, schedule it, and put it into action, and hope it all comes out right.”

He credits the creative team with keeping Portlandia fresh.

“That trio of people—Jon, Carrie and Fred—they’re kind of brilliant,” says Cress. “They’re really the birthers of the show. I do as much as I can to support them, but they’re making the magic.”

He continues, “There’s always sort of a fear that there’s a limitation of material. But there is a lot of inspiration, lots of great ideas. I think they really found their voice. In a sense, I almost feel like it’s the same show but ‘more’ this year.”

“Since we’re a satire show, in the year in between seasons, there’s so much new material—social trends are an unending source of raw source material—to draw from,” explains Krisel. “This season we took on the ‘anxiety’ theme: people e-mailing you constantly, texting, always on the hook to be available, which is kind of a new thing.”

He adds, “The first storyline of the season is about people sharing their finances, a couple joining bank accounts. It’s so simple, but I’m curious to see if it strikes a chord with people. I think it’s really funny. Whenever you’re tapping into the way people live, and identifying that and then satirizing it, it’s really exciting. The topics sound mundane but these are things that haven’t been used as a source of comedy yet.”

Photo by Augusta Quirk/IFC

Photo by Augusta Quirk/IFC

Each season of the show thus far has boasted some great guest actors, and that is one thing that has remained the same for season four. This season features appearances from Kirsten Dunst, Maya Rudolph, Olivia Wilde, Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys), Joshua Homme (Queens of the Stone Age), Duff McKagan (Gun N’ Roses), and Paul Allen and the Portland Trail Blazers, in addition to returning guest stars Kyle MacLachlan, Jeff Goldblum, Ed Begley Jr., and Steve Buscemi.

“The word is out that the show is fun to work on,” says Cress. “Fred and Carrie allow them to come in and improvise, so that’s exciting for actors. It’s very loose and improvisational. Jon grew up with this style and taught us; I hadn’t seen that style before. It allows us to be inventive and work off each other. We used to have to rely on Fred’s and SNL’s connections and now people just know the show and like the show and want to be a part of it.”

One of Cress’ favorite guest stars this year is McLachlan, who has played Portland’s mayor since the first season. “He has a real love of improvised comedy,” says Cress. “You can tell he enjoys doing it and is really good at it. That’s one of my favorite characters.”

Krisel, meanwhile, is particularly impressed with the improvisational skills of singer/songwriter k.d. lang, a first-time guest star.

“We tried to get her last season but the scheduling didn’t work,” he says. “This year another role came up, so she agreed to come out and do it. She’s one of those artists that is so genuine, so when she came to set, it was like, ‘OK, what’s this going to be like?’ Her performance was so natural. She took it to a very funny place. I’m excited to see how it turns out. It’s easy to be over the top and crazy, but to act natural is hard.”

In addition to the actors and musicians who have guest roles this season, there are many local politicians who also make appearances.

“David tries to keep us in good favor with the community, especially with the film incentive,” says Krisel. “David worked closely with a lot of politicians, so their appearance on the show was a thank you. That tax incentive makes a huge difference, so it was a way for the crew, and for Fred, Carrie and me, to meet them and say thank you.”

Indeed, the tax credit has been a boon to not only Portlandia, but to several other Oregon-based productions, especially television shows.

Photo by Augusta Quirk/IFC

Photo by Augusta Quirk/IFC

“When Vince (Porter) first became film commissioner, he and I sat down and talked about the state of film in Oregon,” says Cress. “He thought one of our problems was that the modest incentive would draw one big film, which would drain it, and then there would be a slack period. TV fits us better because it goes on for a longer period. That really helped build our industry and infrastructure.”

Other shows that have taken advantage of the incentive include Grimm and Leverage.

Cress continues, “Even though they’re different genres and different formats, I think that the shows have all benefited from each other. The talent base has grown a lot in the last decade. I think it used to be hard for an actor to stay in Portland. There was a limited number of things to do. Now with TV, the possibilities have increased.”

These possibilities have likewise benefited Oregon’s crew base: Portlandia’s crew is made up of 99 percent locals. Add to that the supportive nature of the community—from bars and restaurants letting the show film in their establishments to the city and state helping in any way they can—and it’s no wonder Portlandia keeps coming back.

“We couldn’t do the show anywhere else,” says Krisel. “We couldn’t pay for it anywhere else, and the town has embraced us. It feels very grassroots in a way. We’re stretching the dollar as far as it can go, and what we’re able to achieve is awesome.”

The 10-episode fourth season of Portlandia premiered on February 27 on IFC. Visit www.ifc.com/shows/portlandia for more information.