Looking for immediate satisfaction? Don’t fucking make comedy.
Sorry. That was a lot.
What I really mean to say is: with very few exceptions, special comedy takes a long time to develop. Whether we’re talking about cultivating a writing style, honing a stand up routine or, in the case of BedHead, readying a really funny series for digital air, the stuff we comedy fans love the most is the stuff into which blood, sweat, and tears have been dumped by the bucket load. Those creators looking for an easy road to success or even a smooth ride to project realization need to re-evaluate why they’re embarking on a quest that promises to be totally maddening—creatively, logistically, financially, and emotionally. They need to realize that comedy worth making is often the kind that almost doesn’t get made at all.
And now we present to you a web series two long years in the making, the immensely impressive BedHead.
How did you get your start in comedy?
Claire Phillips: I did BedHead with four other guys: Benjamin Mathews, Jon Dalgaard, Tom Keele, and Reece Jones. We had all gone to film school together and studied screenwriting at the Australian Film Television and Radio School in Sydney and afterwards, they said we all could have $1000 each and that we could combine the money, and we really liked the idea of doing a web series, doing comedy. A lot of us were really into comedy so we all just sat in a room together discussing what we thought was funny and we all thought the idea of what people thought when they were having sex was really funny and that’s how it originated. We just swapped very dirty stories for a bit. There was a really quick turnover with this, we wrote the script in about a month and then we shot it and then got stuck in post for ages. We were very lucky because there was an initiative in Australia called Fresh Blood and they select 24 different web series to be shown on ABC iView, which is a digital platform here in Australia. They gave us all $10,000 to shoot and produce a web series. We already had this all shot so we used that money for post-production. Then we launched on iView. It’s been a pretty long process, we shot this in 2012 and it’s just now coming out in 2014. The other thing we really liked about BedHead was getting to collaborate with Paul Ayre who’s a standup in Sydney and Sarah Bishop who is from Skitbox.
So you shot with $5,000 using all your own locations, I assume? Someone lived in that apartment.
Claire Phillips: Exactly.
Were all the episodes really drawn from different life experiences? Even down to the guy walking in on sex in his bed?
Claire Phillips: Yes they were.
Oh man, that’s terrible!
Claire Phillips: Well, no, the walking in wasn’t true but all of what happened before that was true. It was most important to us that we have truth in this series, that we were being truthful when talking about sex and relationships. The core relationship between Sarah and Paul, that was something that we’ve all been in, having a friend that you have feelings for or being a friend and finding out your friend has feelings for you. And then you hook up and things lead to sex and now you just have to figure out how to deal with it. The individual vignettes all came from real life experiences. We were also looking forward to taking the series to a season 2 or a TV show so we’re starting to talk even more about all of our experiences so we have more stories going forward.
What does your writing process look like?
Claire Phillips: It actually went really well, but it could’ve been a big mess. We basically got into a room and broke the arc of the entire season together and then we all got an episode. So John wrote episodes 1 and 2, I wrote episode 3, episode 4 was written by Tom, and episode 5 was written by Reese, Ben, and myself. You kinda got your episode, went off and wrote it, sent it to the group and then we all got together and went over it. We were all very open to feedback so it was a lot about seeing what was funny and what didn’t really fit in. One of the big challenges for us was walking the line between what was funny and what we could actually show because the show was about sex. In other words, “What could we use, but not put on screen so that we could actually submit this to YouTube and have people watch it.”
It was a very real, very dry, authentically Australian or British even, which is a sensibility that I think a lot of Americans envy.
Claire Phillips: But we envy you!
What was the biggest challenge in doing all of this and what was your biggest regret?
Claire Phillips: The biggest challenges for us were all production-based. We didn’t have the money to finish it initially. I regret taking so long for all of this to pull through. And all of the favors you have to ask people in order to get it done. That’s not really a regret though, just kind of a wish that we had pushed it through faster. I think we got really lucky in being able to work with each other and any kind of problems that have come up in the group we’ve been able to deal with head on.
Were there any impasses during this project where part of the group felt something should have been done one way and another thought it should have been done another way?
Claire Phillips: We’ve been pretty good about not letting that happen. I think the way we got past that was Ben Matthews, who directed all of them, [was a real leader]. It’s not a dictatorship, he will listen if the majority of the group is saying they just can’t see how something is going to work and then he’ll be the final say. He’s the director, so if he can’t see it, then it’s not going to work. I think we all got pretty good at listening to and taking into account each other’s feedback. If you are upset with something, just take a walk and cool down and then chat about it.
What other projects are you working on independently or as a group, aside from season 2 of BedHead?
Claire Phillips: We’ve got some other projects we’ve been thinking of, like doing a Tinder-based web series, but I feel like I’ve seen a lot of that online recently so maybe not. We would really love the idea of doing a really hard genre piece. Like doing a CSI style piece where the lead detective is a Pterodactyl. Individually we’ve all got projects we’re working on. I’ve got a few drama projects and I know the guys have a couple other projects on the side. Apart from Ben, we’re all writers so we’re trying to get a break into writing. Ben is a director and a writer so he’s pitching on our behalf and looking into feature projects and stuff like that.
What else are you watching online right now, web series wise?
Claire Phillips: We really love High Maintenance. Love the Skit Box stuff, really big fans of those girls and their work. Also here in Australia we have a big web series called Bondi Hipsters, they’re really funny guys who just got a TV show in Australia. They’re good friends of ours and are just super prolific. They set out to make a video once a week for a year and held themselves to that. There’s also a great web series called Fragments of Friday which I don’t think is available anymore because it’s being made into a TV show. Another Australian web series being made into a TV series. In Australia, web content is getting picked up by TV networks in a big way, which is really great.
I think the US is way behind in terms of web series to TV pick-ups. Broad City is the big one and besides that, there aren’t a lot.
Claire Phillips: I’m not entirely sure why that is over here. I don’t know if TV networks have just run out of ideas or if it’s just because in Australia we have a lot of government funding, like ABC is government funded and because of that can incubate new comedy talent. This Fresh Blood program that we were a part of was part of ABC. At the end of that program, we had people from ABC and YouTube come in and tell us about how excited they were to incubate talent and take web talent and push it through their channels. I think another reason for web content moving to TV more is Australia is a much smaller market so everyone kind of knows what everyone is doing and it’s much easier to make that jump as opposed to the US where everything is so much bigger.
What advice do you have for people looking to break into digital comedy?
Claire Phillips: I think it’s really important to choose people you really like to work with. Choose people who inspire you and people who you think are funny because these are people who you’re going to be staying with until the early hours of the day. Episode 5 was written at midnight after shooting two nights in a row. That ability to fly by the seat of your pants with people you trust is really important. We’ve started talking more about our process now that we’re trying to make a TV show and the two things we’ve decided as being the most important to us are being truthful and being funny.
Here are your three reasons to watch.
BedHead makes blue humor seem smart because series creators have written such real characters with such authentic emotions. There’s vulnerability here, so even the really raw sexual moments don’t seem anything other than high brow.
Sex is almost never sexy (when you think it is, you’re probably drunk). It is fraught with stops and starts and – for many – an almost constant curiosity about whether the other person is enjoying it.
We’ve profiled a lot of web series here and never, NEVER, have we come across an orgasm scene as jarringly accurate as this. So, you know, that alone is something.
Luke is a writer for CollegeHumor and a watcher of many web videos. Send him yours @LKellyClyne.