(Pictured Above: Jeff Irlbeck, star of ‘RideShare’)
Last month, The Savvy Screener covered the second season of RideShare, a comedy web series about the continuing adventures of a driver for an Uber-like ridesharing app and the quirky passengers he encounters.
Tomorrow, June 6, RideShare‘s fourth episode, “The One Who Made It,” will conclude the season at spacecampproductions.com; however, you can watch the season finale, below, on The Savvy Screener as part of an exclusive interview with co-creator Katie Hunter.
Hunter (pictured here) discusses the origins of RideShare, as well as the challenges of creating and distributing a web series. (Note: Responses have been edited for length and clarity.)
TSS: Where did you get the idea for RideShare?
Hunter: One night co-creator Jeff Irlbeck and I were talking about Uber (Jeff is a real-life Uber/Lyft driver!) and I mentioned how I really hate talking to drivers. Jeff said that if I were a passenger, he would convince me to talk to him. We fought about it for a few minutes, and then Jeff got up and arranged some chairs into a car formation and we literally acted out what it would be like if Jeff picked me up as an Uber driver. That moment, and that experience, basically became the concept for RideShare.
Watch RideShare’s season finale here, with Lauren Baker and Jeff Irlbeck:
TSS: What is your professional background?
Hunter: Primarily in theatre. My play, which was called “www.SelfStory.com,” won the 2009 Young Playwrights Inc National Playwrighting Competition and was subsequently performed as a staged reading Off-Broadway at the Cherry Lane Theatre in New York City and published in Dramatics magazine. For an American Theatre Company program, I wrote plays based on the lives of Chicago high school students. I also worked from improv to script with The New Colony in Chicago.
The beauty of Rideshare originally was just to prove we could do it…. (W)e’d love to work with a distributor to get more funding and create episodes more frequently at a high production value.
TSS: What are your expectations/hopes for RideShare?
Hunter: The beauty of Rideshare originally was just to prove we could do it. So many projects get bogged down by a lack of funding or time (or both), and we had the idea and executed it within a week or so of coming up with the concept. Now that we see the show really taking shape, we’d love to work with a distributor to get more funding and create episodes more frequently at a high production value.
It’s deceptively easy with YouTube, Vimeo, and Facebook to release content, but the web series market in particular is so oversaturated that it can be hard to get noticed.
TSS: How long does it take to produce an episode, from idea to post-production?
Hunter: It’s a very quick pre-production process. We choose actors first and then write characters that suit each actor’s strength. We also think about the stories we want to tell that we feel resonate in the current social climate. My co-writer, Ian Michael Smith, and I write the character bios for each episode, which takes maybe an hour per episode. We usually film a season in a half-day, since each episode is just one 20-minute take of long-form improv. Post-production takes the longest, because that’s where the hard work really comes in. I’m basically writing an episode when editing it, because I take 20 minutes of dialogue and compress it down to 6-8 minutes that tell a complete story. Editing each season usually takes about a month.
TSS: What are the greatest challenges in producing an independent web series?
Hunter: Honestly, just getting folks to watch it. It’s deceptively easy with YouTube, Vimeo, and Facebook to release content, but the web series market in particular is so oversaturated that it can be hard to get noticed.
TSS: How does Rideshare’s creative process work?
Hunter: We provide each actor with a character bio that outlines who they are (age, occupation, some background details). We also give them an objective (something like “you’re convincing yourself to propose to your girlfriend”) and a route (“your house to your place of work”). I think of the character bios as setting up dominos, and then the improv is where we see which ones fall and in what ways. When we have two-passenger episodes, there’s usually “secret information” that the actors don’t know about each other’s characters, and hopefully that information comes out and we see a genuine reaction when it happens. The great thing about improv is how real it is — there’s no barrier between the actor and impulses. The moments of surprise are amazing when the actor hasn’t read a script that reveals where the story is going. And no one knows how it will end!
TSS: How did you meet your collaborators?
Hunter: Jeff and I met doing the play Moon Over Buffalo, and Ian and I met working together at The New Colony. We are shockingly amazing at working together — it’s truly rare and wonderful.
TSS: What are some of your streaming favorites?
Hunter: There’s a show made by Thundershorts called Gabe and Max Need Help that is amazing. Kumail Nanjiani from Silicon Valley is in it. There are only four episodes, but it’s a riot. We were also really inspired by High Maintenance, originally a web series and now on HBO.
The great thing about improv is how real it is — there’s no barrier between the actor and impulses. The moments of surprise are amazing when the actor hasn’t read a script that reveals where the story is going. And no one knows how it will end!
TSS: What’s next?
Hunter: We have a five-episode, season three of Rideshare in the can, and when I get to editing it there will absolutely be a new season! I’m working as an actor at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre this summer, so we probably won’t release much new content until the fall.
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