Creator-controlled webseries are a powerful force in entertainment. Comedian Henry Phillips‘ Henry’s Kitchen has developed a loyal cult following, Broad City started life as a webseries before being picked up by Comedy Central, as did Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee. Issa Rae turned her voice and writing into a breakout HBO comedy.
While they don’t have big budgets, they allow optimum creative freedom. Comedian/writer Mike Camerlengo‘s 12 Beers is the perfect example of what can be accomplished with a minimal budget and talented group of friends. His romantic comedy series follows couple Danny (played by Camerlengo) and Sarah (played by Emily Kron). One day every year the two drink six beers each and decide whether or not they should break up. Each short episode corresponds to the beer they’re on.
The Daily Dot emailed with Camerlengo and here’s what he had to say about alcohol, comedy, and love.
We spend the entire series wondering if Danny and Sarah will decide to break up or stay together. Did you know before you started writing what would happen in the end? If not, at what point did you decide?
I knew the ending before I started writing. I figured out the theme of each episode and how they could fit together. Then once I felt comfortable with that I went through and wrote each script.
Do you think the 12 Beer plan might actually be a good way for real-life couples to work through their issues?
I think it definitely could be! It could also result in disaster depending on the issues two people are trying to work through. Things like “you don’t put the toilet seat down” are a bit easier to get past than “you sent shirtless pics to my sister last Christmas.”
But that’s the fun of it!
What made you decide to put this out as six short episodes as opposed to one long piece?
My original idea was to make an 8-10 minute short film. I ultimately decided that these would work just as well if not better in different episodes. In April, I shot episode 1 and used that as a “proof of concept” of sorts. I sent it around to some production companies hoping to get some backing to expand the series. I got lots of great feedback, with most people saying they’d like to see more. So I decided I could keep pitching that one episode and hope someone would buy it off of that or I could make five more on my own and really take ownership of the idea. Now I look at it as a complete six-part series but also an expanded concept to use as a pitch.
What are some of the advantages/disadvantages of producing your own work as opposed to working with a production company?
The main advantage of producing your own work is that you can do whatever you want. Sometimes that’s good, sometimes it’s not. It means that nobody is giving you notes but it also means that nobody is giving you money and your craft services table is a weird mix of rice cakes and egg sandwiches.
But I had a great, small crew that was very collaborative so if something in the script didn’t seem like it was flowing, we all worked in real time to figure out the best shot/line/reaction. And Emily Kron (who plays Sarah) is amazing to work with. She’s great and people should hire her. Emily did not tell me to say this. Hi Emily!
I think the hardest part of doing this independently is after you’re finished and you’re trying to get people to see it. That’s a little tougher to do by yourself.
Now that the series is finished do you feel compelled to write something else with these same characters, or do you feel like you’re done with them?
My goal is to try and get some money to expand on these characters (either for TV or a longer web-based production). I purposely kept it short and the storylines barely broke through the surface on a lot of things. I would love to do an extended full season with Danny and Sarah and really dig in with more jokes, more fun flashbacks, more moments that explain why they feel the need to do what they’re doing.
I have a full pilot script I wrote that takes the ideas in this short series and expands them in a way that could flow for a whole season of TV.
Past that, I think the concept of 12 Beers would work beyond Danny and Sarah. A new season could bring a new couple with totally new ideas, stories, backgrounds, set of experiences, etc. I see lots of possibilities.
Are any of the events depicted in the series based on your own experiences?
That scene in episode 1 where Danny is in a sleepy haze and thinks he sees a guy holding a cat is pretty accurate. I have a solid case of night terrors from time to time and I’ve done the weirdest shit ever including but not limited to tackling a fan, trying to pull down a chandelier, thinking Shaquille O’Neal was outside my window and waiting for me to get dressed, and more.
It’s been a pretty fun life and not at all stressful!
Are you similar to Danny, the character you play in the series?
Pretty similar. I wrote Danny in my voice so lots of the things I have him say feel like things I could say but it’s definitely an exaggerated version in parts. I think if I get the chance to expand this you’ll definitely see more of a difference. But I did love the movie Angus for anyone who watches the last episode.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned in your own relationships?
You just gotta find someone who likes to yell at the same HGTV show as you. I mean I couldn’t imagine being with someone who preferred Love It Or List It over Tiny House Hunters.
Are you in a relationship now? If so what did your partner think of the series?
She really likes it. Or at least that’s what she says. But she didn’t look up at the ceiling when she told me like some of my other projects so I think she means it.
Obviously, alcohol plays a huge part in the series. Do you think drinking, overall, has had a positive, or negative, impact on your life?
Drinking can be really fun or it can lead to horrible decisions. I definitely like it socially but I’ve also tried to get a McDonald’s punch card after a night of drinking so it’s a fine line. I’m not trying to glorify it but it’s pretty well known that people say things when they’ve been drinking that they normally wouldn’t say which is why it works for this series.
What’s worse: Breaking up with someone, or having them break up with you?
Either one can feel pretty shitty. Or feel pretty good if the relationship is toxic. Whoever does the Jonah Hill fist pimp from Moneyball after it ends is the true winner.
Anything new you’re working on that you want people to know about?
I have a couple other things I’m pitching around right now but I’m really looking to act in a short that allows me to grow that creepy mustache you see on the refrigerator in episode 1. That is the dream. That is the only dream.