Online, Independent TV the Jesse and Jesse way

The producers of independent TV series Jesse and Jesse realised something a couple of things at an early stage of producing their show. Firstly, the internet has changed the Film industry, and secondly with products like Canon’s DSLR range that shoots beautiful HD footage, creating with that crisp deep cinematic look is now at the reach of the independent film and TV maker.

Creators of the Jesse and Jesse (also one of our first followers on Facebook), Michael Mizov and Shawn Erickson answered a few questions for the Film Production Forum on the creative process, their experience in producing the show and their visions of the future for the show.

Jomar at Film Production Forum: How did the concept for Jesse and Jesse come about? Who are the key people behind it?

Michael: Well, around 2 years ago we were discussing with one of the future co-creators and main characters, Jesse Griffith, about a doing an online-based show with some people we knew. He wanted to do a Kenny vs. Spenny type show, wherein him and another person challenged each other to do stupid things. Shawn and I toyed around with the idea of turning it into a traditional late 80’s/early 90’s style sitcom, such as Perfect Strangers, where two people named Jesse meet randomly and end up being friends and working together. We kept fleshing things out, building stories, introducing characters until it evolved into the show it is now.

Shawn: Yeah, the major concept of the show evolved into this idea of one Jesse being a hardworking, diligent, super intelligent type of guy who’s stuck in a crap job, which I’m sure a lot of people can relate to in this economy, but sees no way out. Whereas the other Jesse is totally laid back, slacker, musician type of guy; the complete antithesis of the first Jesse. So, we have these complete opposite characters who end up not only living together, but also working together at this tabloid-esque newspaper that is constantly making up the news or reporting on mundane activities. So it has a buddy-comedy element to it, but at the same time they become involved with outlandish and bizarre situations that punctuate the seeming banality of the office and their daily lives.

Michael: Yeah, we wanted to have both Jesses be involved with all these weird people and situations, while always seemingly missing the real point of the story as they’re too busy arguing or distracted by other stuff going on. They’re so concerned with their own issues that they don’t see what’s going on around them.

Shawn: Well the key people are the head writers Mike and myself, and include Jesse with us as the creators of the show, plus the rest of the cast.

Michael: That would be Jesse Griffith who plays “Jesse,” William Benjamin Jackson the 3rd, who also plays “Jesse,” Olivia Sedak, who plays “Olivia” the secretary, and Sean Flanagan who plays “Dan” the landlord. Those are the major characters, and we have plenty more ancillary and side characters on the way.

Jomar at Film Production Forum: How did the concept for Jesse and Jesse come about? Who are the key people behind it? What experience has the crew previously had?

Michael: We’ve done some short films in the past, just stuff with friends that we didn’t do much with afterwards. This is our first “serious” project. We’ve been writing screenplays for quite a few years now but only moved into actually filming things recently. Everyone else on the crew is a newbie except for our cinematographer Jason Comparetto. He has quite a few years of experience making just about everything from films to advertisements.

Shawn: I’ve pretty much acted in and helped write almost every project we’ve done, so my experience, at least with Mike goes back to the beginning. We’ve been writing movie/film ideas for as long as I can remember, but it’s only recently that we’ve had the funds and time to actually put these to work. So everyone else is a friend, family, or coworker of some sort who was kind enough to lend their time and talent to helping make this project a reality.

Jomar at Film Production Forum: With over 25,000 views in some of your episodes, how the YouTube audience reacted? Has it opened more doors for any of you?

Michael: Truth be told, we haven’t quite gotten the reaction that the amount of views would suggest. I found out that Episode 2, specifically the Chinese Football scene was linked on some Russian website and got a lot of views – and since only that little clip was linked, no one came back to watch the rest of the episode, haha. People I talk to seem to enjoy it but I think the long format of the show doesn’t lend itself well to YouTube. Looking at the analytics, we lose some of our audience before the show ends, which is a bummer, but, the people that stick it out like it. We recently uploaded the show to Vimeo in hopes of reaching a different type of audience

Shawn: I wouldn’t say it’s opened any doors specifically. It’s certainly given us a wider audience. On the other hand, as with any web-based program, we’ve had our share of detractors and various trolls. It goes hand in hand with anything of this nature, so we expected it from the beginning. I mean, a few of our story concepts have been generated directly from internet based ideas or the experiences we’ve had with putting the show online, so while we’ve had a good amount of views, it hasn’t directly translated into any sort of useable feedback aside from the raw numbers.

Jomar at Film Production Forum: What production equipment are you using?

Michael: We used a Canon 5D and all of the equipment that Jason Comparetto has. He has his own rental company so he made us feel like we were in a real deal production, haha.

Jomar at Film Production Forum: Where do you see the potential for Jesse and Jesse beyond YouTube, or could YouTube provide a sustainable model at some point in the future?

Shawn: Well we’ve recently started a kickstarter to fund the remainder of the first season, and hopefully this can transition into season 2, but in the meantime we’ve moved over to Vimeo as it provides a better avenue for long-format web-based film and television. At least to me, youtube is great for short-format projects. It’s fantastic for things that don’t require a whole lot of user-generated attention or commitment. You can watch a couple minutes of something then instantly transition to another video. A little ADD, but it works. Ideally, once the website is up and running, we’d like to make the Jesse and Jesse homepage the main location for watching the show and interacting with the cast. I mean, the real question here is do we want to move to actual television or keep the show a web-based series. In my opinion, I’m ok with either. I think a web-based series would afford us more room in regard to creative control and avoiding any form of major censorship, but tv would also bring a different market altogether, so it’s hard to say definitively.

Michael: Yeah, most of the potential I see for the show is beyond YouTube. As I said earlier, we have an audience dropoff due to the length of the show. People don’t really go to YouTube to watch a sitcom. We try to appeal to the target 15-35 demographic. We have some goofy stuff, we have some intelligent stuff, we’re dry, we’re slapstick – we try to hit a lot of different forms of comedy. We wanted to make a smart show that still felt like a classic sitcom. So while we search out the perfect way to reach our audience, we’re slowly building fans and getting ourselves out there.

The Kickstarter to fund the rest of the season can be found:

Jesse and Jesse Episode 1


About jomarreyes

With over 20 years of experience with business development and marketing with global brands and business, Jomar is also an entrepreneurial thought leader in the areas of digital media, content, media production and distribution. He has worked for both IBM and ACNielsen, combining a strong technological and marketing background. He has professionally consulted directly for leading global brands such as Apple, Adobe, Avid, Autodesk, Dell, Sony, HP, Lenovo, Panasonic and Canon to the professional markets with integrated marketing campaigns. He has continuously worked at the forefront of digital, online and social media through his career. Also experienced media and TV producer he is an advocate of the new developments with online video and television.
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