“Breaking & Entering” is a new web series about the lives of three sorely under-appreciated Hollywood assistants who are tired of spending more time running petty errands than getting their own careers off the ground. Dubbed the anti-Entourage, B&E is built upon a foundation of true stories shared by actual production and personal assistants with series creator Justin Carter.
I chatted with Carter about his inspiration for the show, his influences and reason for creating a web series; and asked him about B&E’s production process as well as the forward-thinking interactive elements the series has come to rely on.
Breaking & Entering might cover familiar ground with its voyeuristic angle up Hollywood’s skirt, but the series’ more rooted (and as a result, more jaded) look at life as thankless assistant in LA is no mistake – when speaking about his inspiration for the series, Carter stated -
“I was inspired to create “Breaking and Entering” by all of the personal assistants I’ve known and worked with over the years. Hollywood assistants really live a remarkable existence. Some of them get these assistant gigs fresh out of college trying to get their foot in the door any way they can. They’re looking to pay their dues and move up the ladder but sometimes they just end up getting stuck. It’s very sadomasochistic really. Can you imagine being an aspiring actor or director working for one of your heroes and having to miss auditions and other opportunities so you can go pick up your boss’s Viagra? It’s kind of sad but at the same time, there’s something really funny about being so tantalizingly close to everything you’ve ever wanted yet at the same time being so far away. We embrace this tension and straddle the line between comedy and misery.”
Straddling the line between comedy and misery might sound severe, but B&E handles this broad tonality with a lighthearted tact. I asked Carter what series directly inspired the show.
What was your inspiration for the show, and what other series’ (either online or on TV) helped influence it?
“As far as influences go, “Breaking and Entering” was heavily inspired by comedy greats like Larry David and Tina Fey. “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “30 Rock” did an incredible job of tackling the absurdity of life in the entertainment industry and emphasizing the ridiculousness of it all. We were also inspired by HBO’s “Entourage”. We used to have a lot of pitch meetings trying to get “Breaking and Entering” sold to studios before deciding to do it ourselves. In those meetings the term “Anti-Entourage” would always come up because of the stark contrast between the glamour of “Entourage” and the more mundane, thankless world that our Hollywood assistants inhabit in “Breaking and Entering”. So I would put “Entourage” right up there too. In terms of what’s out there on the web, Issa Rae and Felicia Day are huge rock stars now. The way the industry has embraced these women and their remarkable work has been a huge inspiration to “Breaking and Entering”. It speaks to the idea that you don’t have to compromise your creativity to succeed in this business.”
These inspirations clearly went a long way in shaping Carter’s decision to go with the web series format, but Issa Rae and Felicia Day can’t take all the credit – Carter shares that the driving factor behind the decision was credibility and an unwillingness to compromise on his standards and reinforce negative stereotypes.
What made you decide to create a web series in the first place?
“We decided to make “Breaking and Entering” into a web series after having a billion pitch meetings that resulted in eye gouging experiences. We found that there was always this push to make “Breaking and Entering” into a rom com, or to make a caricature out of the assistants. We had absolutely no interest in doing that. We felt very strongly about the fact that Hollywood assistants are often an afterthought or the butt end of a joke and we didn’t want to perpetuate that stereotype. In our view the work Hollywood assistants do is already unheralded. At the same time assistants are often frustrated artists stuck in offices taking abuse and we didn’t want to pile on top of them. Also, looking at the television landscape, there have been so many more comedy misses than hits, we were terrified we would go to series, the show would get gutted, bomb miserably and then we’d lose our opportunity to tell these incredible stories.
Take Louis C.K. for example. HBO had a long running relationship with him because of the work he did on the Chris Rock Show. A few years ago he brings this brilliant, completely fresh and innovative comedy to them called “Lucky Louie”, which HBO cancels after its first season. Within two years Louis C.K. becomes the hottest comedian going and signs a deal with FX for complete creative control on “Louie”. He probably insisted on having this control based on his bad experience with the executives who didn’t believe in his material when he did “Lucky Louie”. Now HBO is running “Lucky Louie” marathons every other night. I don’t say this to disparage HBO, but just to give you an idea about how funny these things work out sometimes. It’s not as if Louis C.K. got funnier all of a sudden. He was the same brilliant guy when they canceled “Lucky Louie” that he is now that they’re running marathons of it.”
Unwilling to compromise on creativity, Carter set out to produce the show himself, and found this decision gave him the space to innovate and tread new ground with B&E. His first goal was to involve the audience and fans in interesting ways.
The series is itself draws on the tightly knit community of assistants, apprentices and secretaries that help grease the cogs that run the movie and television industry. All of the show’s key “moments” are pulled from reality, but it doesn’t end there. Via social media, Carter along with the series’ characters encourages other assistants or those with stories to get in touch and share them for future episodes. Carter explains
The series is said to be based on real experience. How much is truth and how much is fiction?
“Breaking and Entering” relies on real Hollywood assistants sharing their true Hollywood stories. Everything you see on our show actually happened to the assistants who shared their secrets with us. So if you see one of our characters getting propositioned it’s because that really happened to one of the assistants who submitted their story to us. What we’ve done is changed settings and names for legal purposes and in order to protect them. It would be unfortunate if one of the Hollywood assistants we work with got fired for sharing a story about walking in on Chris Brown wearing women’s lingerie. I’m not saying we’ve ever received a story about an assistant seeing Chris Brown wearing women’s lingerie, but I’m also not saying we didn’t…did I mention Chris Brown wearing women’s lingerie enough?
Carter goes on -
We felt that “Breaking and Entering” has to be an interactive experience for our audience. What’s the point of using the web as a distribution platform if you’re not going to capitalize on the strengths of the medium? Our show is about Hollywood assistants who spend a great deal of time with their faces staring into a screen in some shape or form. So if we’re going to reach them, we know it has to be through social media.
Once we do reach them, it’s our responsibility to make our content interactive and communicate with them in a fun and interesting way. I know I would have wet my pants if I could’ve had a chat with Bart Simpson on Facebook, or sent twitpics to characters from “Lost”…though that would’ve been really difficult because they’re all stuck on a mystical island but you get the idea. If the audience is going to be willing to invest in our characters then it’s our job to find a way to creatively reward them with additional interactive content.
On page 2 I ask Justin all about production, and his experience with casting director Amy De Souza. On page 3 Justin talks about how the team approached funding, opting not to go with a crowdfunding platform like Kickstarter or Indiegogo. Lastly on page 4 Carter goes into greater depth on the show’s interactive elements and how they threaded these elements into the shows budget.