I recently had the opportunity to interview Adam Hall, who’s the talented director behind the star studded web series, Research. The series thesis: “Hired by a certifiable “genius,” Dave must navigate a maze of eccentric colleagues to run a successful (or even functional) research and testing facility.” You can watch episode 1 below, and read what Adam had to say in our interesting Q and A.
1. What’s the story behind you wanting to develop “Research.” into a web series?
We made a short musical comedy called “Sudden Death!” a couple of years ago and toured the festival circuit for quite a while, playing nearly 100 festivals and winning 50+ awards. It was my USC thesis film, and the goal was to use it as a calling card film, get representation and attention, etc. so we could get things going on some feature projects we were, and are working on. That actually worked out pretty well, and while we’ve been working on developing our features and trying to get things going, we decided to work on a sort of side project. Initially, Research. was just going to be this fun little web series we did basically just to knock the rust off as I hadn’t directed anything for a year or so and didn’t want to just sit around and wait. But as we wrote it, we started to think it could actually be pretty good. Then we started attaching talent and Barry Bostwick came on. We then realized we couldn’t (or didn’t want to) do this only halfway. On top of that, as we started to really look at the web and web series, it started to become clear that a lot of people were getting work and attention from Hollywood from their web series. It just seemed like a smart route to go. As we’ve really researched and developed this, the web world has just become more and more fascinating and exciting, it’s kind of this unexplored frontier, although a lot less so now than a few years ago, where a lot of exciting things are happening. So, at some point, this little “let’s go shoot something quick with our friends” project became this whole thing that we’re really proud of, and hopefully a lot of people will see.
Episode 1 of Research.
2. Who is involved with the project?
This is essentially the same creative team that made “Sudden Death!” That’s our production company, Mildly Fearsome Films – producer (and my wife) Melanie Hall, producer Nick Jones, co-creator/writer Kahle McCann, editor Graham Fisher, composer Kenny Wood and many, many others.
The main cast is: Barry Bostwick (Spin City, Rocky Horror Picture Show), Doug Jones (Hellboy 1 and 2, Pan’s Labyrinth), Gabriel Diani (The Selling), Autumn Hurlbert (Sudden Death!, Legally Blonde: The Search for Elle Woods), Kahle McCann (Sudden Death!, 90210), Sean Naughton (The Action Hero’s Guide to Saving Lives), and Kelly Huddleston (Dexter, Mad Men).
3. You have some big name actors in your series, how did you attract them to star in your show?
We’ve been really, really fortunate with our casts. In this, “name”-wise, we have Barry Bostwick and Doug Jones, in our short, “Sudden Death!”, we had Doug, John Larroquette (Night Court, Boston Legal) and Mark Christopher Lawrence (Big Mike on NBC’s “Chuck”). We’ve been very lucky to be able to make connections with those people, and then, becoming good friends with them, and we’re twice as lucky that the actors actually liked the material enough to agree to be in it.
We met Doug, originally, through a friend, and we hit it off right from the start. He’s quite literally the nicest person I’ve ever met and super, super talented. Doug read “Sudden Death!” and loved it so much he told us he’d “be a piece of gravel on the road” in it, if we wanted him to. After that, we’ve cast him in everything we’ve done, and I intend to keep doing so as long as he’ll work with us. He’s also become a great friend since then, becoming “Grandpa Dougie” to our 6 month old son, even.
Barry, we met through our lead actor, Gabriel Diani. Gabe wrote and starred in a very funny film called The Selling that we saw on the film festival circuit. We loved it and him, so we introduced ourselves, we became friends, and several months later we approached him about being in Research. He liked the scripts and agreed to do it. Anyway, we were casting Dr. Rust and were looking for a bigger name for that role. Gabe at one point mentioned that he knew Barry (he was also in The Selling), and asked if we’d like to approach him as he wasn’t sure Barry would be interested, but it was worth a try. Obviously we jumped at the chance, we loved Barry from Spin City, Rocky Horror, and all sorts of stuff, so we sent him the scripts and he liked them enough that he emailed me that night and I met him for coffee the next morning to discuss. We hit it off as well and a 20 minute coffee became 3 hours. Long story short, he came on, is absolutely hilarious in the show, and turned out to be a really great person as well. Same as Doug, we intend to keep working with him as long as he’ll work with us. Barry’s already pushing for a season 2, by the way, so watch the show so we can afford to do one!
4. What are your core goals for the series?
Well, as I said, initially, it was just going to be something to keep us fresh and would be fun to do. It did that and was super fun, but now we really want to keep doing this – we’d love to do a season 2. Whether that’s with a partner/channel or if it’s just getting enough people to like it so we can raise the money through another and bigger kickstarter campaign, that’s what we want to do. Of course, we have other goals such as gaining exposure for our work in Hollywood and getting our features made, but the immediate goal is to build an audience that enjoys what we’re doing, that we can interact with, and hopefully that will lead to us being able to do another season. And we have a few other series ideas we’d like to get going as well.
5. What have been your biggest project challenges and struggles to date?
More than anything, just figuring out the whole online world. I think we’ve got a pretty good plan and all that, and we’re very proud of the show, but there’s always the challenge of getting people to watch it. We’ve had a couple thousand views on the pilot in about 3 days, which seems to be decent, but it’s hard to really know. We just want to really get it out there, and figuring out the best way of getting people to be aware of the show, that’s really tough.
The production was a challenge, just getting it all scheduled and everything: we shot like 48 pages (and 8 episodes) in 6 days, which is kind of insane. And we did the whole thing (8 episodes and 6 mini episodes) for like $9,000, which is also insane. So that was a challenge, but to be honest, it was such a blast to make, it seems wrong to complain about it.
6. How do you manage the project work flow?
I’m not sure how we’d do it if we got a second season, but we actually finished the entire season before we started airing the episodes. It was in post for a year because, well, we all have other full time jobs, and add to the fact that my wife and I had a baby in December, it makes it pretty tough to move at a quick pace and still maintain the high standards we’re shooting for. We go through a bunch of cuts and we tested the first several episodes extensively.
7. Since releasing the series, what has been the biggest surprise?
Well, it launched only a few days ago, so there hasn’t been a lot of time for surprises yet. The response has been great so far, I just hope people continue to watch and be into it. For the record, I think the show really starts to hit its stride in episode 3, which is now online to watch.
8. Do you have any tips for creating a web series?
Research the heck out of series you like, or even just series that you think are doing things well, even if you’re not into them. We definitely lifted the best practices of some other shows. In terms of marketing, I mean. The actual creative part of it, we’re trying hard not to be like anyone else. But in terms of promos, branding, etc. really try and see what’s working well for others. I don’t know them personally, but in terms of marketing, I think the guys at Squaresville are doing a really great job. We definitely got a lot of ideas from just watching how they’ve been doing it. And talk to your creator friends, if you have them. We got a lot of advice from our friends on a series called Generic Girl that has been very helpful as well.
In terms of the content, just do what you love to do and don’t be afraid to push the boundaries. On the web, there really aren’t any rules, which is awesome.
Kickstarter is your friend, and was ours too. And when you’re casting and crewing up, it’s great to pay people, you definitely should if you can, and we did for the most part, but it’s even better to have a bunch of people who are passionate about what you’re doing, and get paid on top of it. I would much rather have someone who loves the project who maybe isn’t quite as talented, than someone who’s only there for the paycheck. Makes for a great set, and I believe it shows on camera.
9. Do you have any tips for marketing a web series?
Basically what I just said, but if anyone has any tips for us, we’d love to hear them! Otherwise, work really hard on your social media accounts which you absolutely have to have, and your website is another necessity. We did a ton of research on this and worked really hard, but honestly we’re just kind of figuring it out as we go along.
10. Where can we watch your web series, and what can we expect from your series in the future?
The feedback has been incredible already. Episode 5 is a musical episode, and it’s my favorite. Barry Bostwick (you know, the Tony award winner) sings a song with puppets and it’s awesome.
We thank Adam for his interesting answers for web series creators to learn from! And wish him and his amazing team all the best with Research. going forward.
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