fall preview 2016

With a Move to HBO, High Maintenance Tests the More-Money-More-Problems Maxim

High Maintenance’s Ben Sinclair and Katja Blichfeld. Photo: Courtesy of HBO

On September 16, after four years as a web series, High Maintenance — about a nameless NYC pot-delivery guy and his motley crew of customers — debuts in its new incarnation on HBO. The show’s Brooklyn-based married creators Ben Sinclair (who plays the Guy) and Katja Blichfeld talk about the jump from short segments filmed on a dime to slightly more flush 30-minute episodes.

Ben Sinclair: HBO. Those three letters really inspire performance anxiety. But the mantra we held onto was: “Keep the show the same as much as possible while recognizing things change.” It’s supposed to feel like a homemade, intimate project. We didn’t want to lose that.

Katja Blichfeld: It became, “Let’s get bigger without getting too big, and let’s look better without looking like a different show.” Like, now we were able to pay people real location fees. In the past, it was “Can we shoot in your apartment and get you a cleaning lady tomorrow?”

Sinclair: This time around, it was all about “Union minimum! Union minimum!” Also, with the original web series, we were mostly casting and working with our friends, but we ran out of friends who were actors. On our very first episode four years ago, there were maybe six people working. This time, there were probably 50 people on the set and an office full of people. I think if we started with our dinky web series and then went straight to HBO, we would’ve snapped.

Blichfeld: But the core creative decisions rested on us. That’s one of the ways we were able to keep the show tonally the same — I think. Actually, here’s something I learned [as a casting director] on 30 Rock: It’s good to keep things at the top pretty small, you know? Ben, do you have an observation?

Sinclair: My observation is that your experience with 30 Rock really showed us the way.

Blichfeld: Yes.

Sinclair: And we would often compare what we were doing to that show. By the end, we were like, “Wow, I get why [30 Rock co–executive producers] Tina [Fey] and Robert [Carlock] were so busy!”

Blichfeld: We are definitely all business once we get to set. We only smoke while we’re writing.

Sinclair: We’re a medium-budget show — actually more like low-medium — so we definitely do not have the money to pay people for overtime!

*This article appears in the August 22, 2016 issue of New York Magazine.

‘High Maintenance’ Duo on the Move to HBO