Not long ago I reviewed the superb ‘Mock Justice’. Part John Grisham, part Saved By The Bell, it was a web series that was hugely funny and astonishingly well made considering it’s budget of only $3,000. Since launching this award winning series on us last year, Mock Justice creators Kristofer Wellman and James Madejski have gone on create the equally hilarious ‘Apt. 8 News’; another show that makes a whole lot of laughs out of very little resources.
Kris and James took some time out from putting together the next episode of Apt. 8 News to talk to me about how the creative process behind these hot slices of parody goodness, and they manage to make such excellent shows for such little money.
MIKE: Hello! Thanks for agreeing to chat with Comedy TV is Dead. First off, how did the idea for Mock Justice come about?
JAMES: I was a proud member of my high school’s Mock Trial team, which despite being aimed at students with an interest in law or the justice system, was mostly populated by the drama club (obviously). It was ridiculously fun, especially since you had to learn both sides of the case and be ready to “argue” either of them.
KRIS: After we came up with the name, James wrote it on his dry erase board and it stuck there for half a year. We moved to Los Angeles after graduating, then made the incredibly stupid decision to leave sunny SoCal and go back to my hometown of Livonia, Michigan to shoot for an entire month in the dead of winter.
MIKE: How did you meet? What made you want to work together?
JAMES: Kris and I met at SUNY Purchase in the Dramatic Writing program, and haven’t been too far away from one another since. I think we’re drawn to similar stories and worlds. Although our approaches often differ on how to make them funny, we’ve developed a shorthand of communication that lets us be honest with one another and work towards making the funniest product possible.
KRIS: I had a moment during the “Mock Justice” premiere in LA when I got choked up onstage before the screening. James and I had just pulled an all nighter mixing sound and were completely disillusioned by all our jokes we thought were hilarious way back in January. Both of us went to the front of the house to give our “thanks for coming” speech, and an involuntary catharsis reflex deep within me kicked in. Sharing that moment with James cut through all the fatigue and frustration, and I felt the exact same way I did when we first came up with the idea in our living room.
Producing this stuff is very taxing emotionally, and I can’t imagine doing any of it without James. We’ve known each other for 6 years and have never stopped writing and directing together, which has come with a lot of struggles, but has also given us (in my opinion) some of our best material.
JAMES: My opinion too!
MIKE: You raised $1,851.00 through Kickstarter and put in $1,500.00 of your own money. Wasn’t there a temptation to ask for more? Why did you decide to go 50/50?
KRIS: We’re tremendously appreciative of all the donors who contributed, but it confuses me when I see people raising $10,000 for a webseries they’re shooting in their apartment with their friends. If your script is compelling and bulletproof, you don’t need to shoot it on a RED with a hundred crane shots — people will notice. If you know your work is good and you can’t get a grant, spend your own money. Just be smart about it, and don’t max out a dozen credit cards or anything.
MIKE: What did you feel was the most important element to spend the hard earned money on? Is that where they money actually went, or was it all spread around as much as possible?
JAMES: I think the most important element was the equipment. We purchased a really good sound recorder, and that alone makes “Mock Justice” at least sound better than most no-budget stuff. We got so much stuff for free, so we were able to spend money on fun props and craft service.
KRIS: Pizza and Vitamin Water all the way. Keep your cast and crew fed and happy.