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Creator's Corner » Tights and Fights - Scott Albert
Tell us about your sci-fi web series.
Tights and Fights is basically a comedy about super heroes. We did our first series, Tights and Fights: Captain Euchre, on YouTube in 2007 and 2008 and people really seemed to like it, so we decided to do a second series, Tights and Fights: Ashes, that picks up where the Captain Euchre series left off, but with different characters.
Captain Euchre has gone missing - kidnapped by person or persons unknown. His disappearance disrupts the lives of other super heroes and villains in one way or another - Major Faultline gets sent to jail, kicked off his super hero team, Ronin Force and his wife, Leopard Woman, wants a divorce. The Plumber, who was held hostage by Captain Euchre, needs to find him to give him the sizable plumbing bill and get his job and life back. Fantabulous Gal has decided this is the perfect opportunity to rise from being a side kick/personal assistant to being a real super hero. And Evil Trojan Borscht... well, he does look an awful like the missing Captain.
The search for Captain Euchre is told in an epic storyline over 180 video diary episodes and countless Twitter posts, Facebook updates, blogs and live social networking performances. But it really about what it must be like to be a super hero, day-to-day. I mean, we don't always get along with our office mates, do we? And neither do super heroes. After all, just because they're the good guys doesn't make them good people.
Oh, I'm Scott Albert, one third of a company we like to call GopherX.net. My partners are Courtney Wolfson and Christopher Guest. Yes, I know, he's not the Christopher Guest. But he's our Christopher Guest.
Where did the idea/concept for your web series come from?
Well, to be honest, the original idea for Captain Euchre came because we wanted to do something fun for a YouTube show that was a fictional story, cost nothing, and wasn't two guys sitting on a couch. So we thought, why not make it a super hero confessional? And Captain Euchre was born.
When we had told that story, we decided to take many of the characters mentioned but never seen in the Captain Euchre story and tell their stories. We thought we'd just do a little bit of writing and start shooting. Nope. It took us about 3 years to get the second series on the web. It was too long but it was worth it.
The tone, the jokes, the stuff that these heroes and villains have to deal with come from us growing up reading comic books. It is all the stuff that a super hero would go through in the comic books, but these guys get to tell us the stuff that they're really thinking and feeling.
And when we started working with more actors/writers for the other roles, they brought in their understanding of comic super heroes. So the lives of our characters cover a lot of ground - in fact we pretty much deliberately parody the epic storylines of the 80's and 90's.
Name some of your sci-fi influences. Any favorite movies, TV shows, novels?
Wow, there's really too many to mention them all. You know, at a certain level this series is influenced by clichés, so that really widens the field. And comic books, comic books, comic books. You can also add in lots of comic books written in the 80's and 90's, with writers like John Ostrander (especially Suicide Squad) and James Robinson on Starman. Oh, and Roger Avery's Starman, too. But not John Carpenter's Starman. I guess you can count the super cheesy Saturday morning cartoons like The Super Friends. It is those types of clichés that we make fun of.
Both Christopher and I love Red Dwarf. One of the nicest comments we have gotten was someone saying our show reminded them of Red Dwarf. Of course, Ricky Gervais and The Office made mockumentary type stuff cool. LonelyGirl15 was a direct influence, of course, in the webcam fiction style.
As to the jokes, gags and references, Doctor Who continues to get lots of call outs in the show, especially right now because Major Faultline is tumbling around in time. And there's a whole bunch of Star Trek jokes. There's also jokes about obscure TV Ontario kids shows from the early 80's like Jeremy the Bear and Cucumber Club. The phrase that is used to activate Evil Trojan Borscht's mind control is lifted completely from an Inspector Gadget episode.
A giant influence on the show, and someone that most people won't know by name, is Jill Golick and her work with transmedia and new styles of story telling before anyone had thought to call it anything. She did boymeetsgirl on Facebook, and I was one of the writers on a project called Crushing It that directly influenced our 'live twitter performance' storytelling. She is clearly a visionary, a genius and a great storyteller.
I could go on about the jumble of influences that bubble to the surface in the show. But I suppose I've covered all the big stuff.
Tell us about the technical production of your show. What camera & equipment did you use? Editing software & hardware? For visual effects, etc?
I'm not really the technical one on the team, but I'll do my best.
We knew going in that we needed to shoot it in HD. That meant we needed a better camera than we used for Captain Euchre. Oh, and we did something to that camera when we shoot one of the Captain's outdoors episodes. It got cold and never really worked again.
Our Associate Producer had a Canon something or other, which we shot a few things on and was a nice camera. But then we got lucky, a friend of ours had to move to Europe rather quickly, and sold us his gear package for a sweet deal - including a Sony EX-1. For us, one of the big benefits was that it used memory cards rather than tape, so ingesting the footage for editing was so much easier and quicker. And it shoots a beautiful HD image. The Canon became our primary EPK and behind the scenes camera.
Most of our other gear was pretty straight forward. We recently did some green screen work (for Episode 80) and it was our first time playing around with that. For an episode where The Plumber is riding a bike and on the run from the cops, we bought a Hero cam - a tiny little waterproof camera that shoots in HD made for the extreme sports market. It's a lot of fun, and for such a small camera it takes a really nice HD picture. It ended up serving as double duty. Because it captures a 180 degree field of view, we mounted it high over our set and let it roll during our taping. We'll be using that footage in our behind the scenes episodes.
For editing, Christopher likes to use Sony Vegas. We're quite used to people who, when they hear us say that, get angry about it. I guess it has a bad reputation... or maybe it is just not Mac. But it does pretty much all of what we need to do in post in one program, it runs fast on the PC we use to edit, and it has built in setting to output the best possible video for YouTube. We've experimented with a bunch of different ways to get video on YouTube, and Sony Vegas was the best that we found. We do use Final Cut on a slower Mac machine in order to digitize and edit our EPK footage.
For uploading to YouTube (you think that would be the easy part) we found that we wanted to upload it around 3 AM our time. At first it looked like someone was actually going to have to stay up until the wee hours of the morning to do it, but then we found this great little piece of software called TubeShack. It automates the upload for you. It isn't 100% reliable, but then what is if you're going to set it and walk away?
We use Google Docs for everything. We have a large team, especially in the Transmedia writing side, so being able to quickly throw up a document that everyone can see and contribute to in real time is a life saver. I honestly don't think we could be doing much of what we do for our Transmedia stories without it. And we have a grandfathered, old TubeMogul account, so we use that to keep track of our stats.
Gee, are you sorry you asked yet? (Yep! Just kidding. -Editor)
Can you tell us any interesting facts or trivia about your show? Any funny stories? (For example: Captain Zerks' eyeballs are made from whiffle balls).
Whiffle balls are awesome!
Trivia-wise, well, as you can probably tell from the section on influences, the show is jam packed with obscure references that could pass for trivia. Here's something - we screwed up the Plumber's name. In Captain Euchre, you can clearly hear him call The Plumber Vern Stroveco. In Ashes, The Plumber (same character) is named Robert Strovesco. Sure, we could come up with all sorts of retrocon explanations, but the truth is we screwed up and didn't catch it until it was way too late.
Here's a funny story. Chelsea Larkin (who plays Leopard Woman) is the only writer in the early days who we hadn't worked with in the past. She came and auditioned and blew us away because not only was she funny, she improvised almost all of her lines. She kept apologizing because she figured we'd be mad that she's not saying the dialogue as it was written, and we kept saying, "No, no! We want you to improvise! We want you to say whatever you want, cause that's really how it'll be when we shoot it." And whatever Chelsea says is just funny. So we cast her.
Anyway, that's not the story. The very first day of writing, Chelsea arrived late. She was clearly embarrassed about something, but just as clearly she was having a hard time not telling the story of why. In bits and pieces she told us that she was late because she was having a hard time parallel parking. She kept trying to fit into this one spot over and over. But she couldn't do it. And there was this older guy watching her. Finally she rolled down the window and told him, "I'm having a hard time parking because I'm blind in one eye." Totally a lie. "Could you help me out?" So he, thinking he was doing a good turn to the handicapped, eagerly climbed in and parked Chelsea's car for her.
Chelsea's good at getting people to do things for her. She's so loveable you just can't help yourself. In real life, she's not really like Leopard Woman at all.
Tights and Fights - SciFinal Page
More behind the scenes from Tights and Fights below:
Tights and Fights Writer's Room
Bottom, Left to Right: Scott Albert, Adam Swimmer, Billi Dee Knight, Mark Brown;
Top, Left to Right: James Nadiger, Crystal Wood, Alan Flanagan, Scott Watkins, Devin Smith,
Mike Drach; Behind the camera: Christopher Guest.