Monday, November 10, 2014

From Page to Stage to Screen

Contributed by Jason Cicci, Producing Artistic Director of Monday Morning Productions

Still from He's With Me

When I began producing Off-Off-Broadway theatre in the late 1990’s, I could never have guessed where my experiences creating theatre pieces would bring me…mostly because in those days, there was no such thing as original content being created for the internet. Fast forward many years (more than I’d like to admit!) and here I am, in the midst of producing the second season of my original web series, “He’s With Me”.

While writing and producing for the theatre was something that seemed to come almost second nature to me as I’d been involved in the theatre since I was a child, the prospect of telling a story through the camera’s eyes seemed daunting. It’s a completely different kind of storytelling. However, as I was always a huge fan of television, sitcoms in particular, I understood the basics of the situational comedy format so I thought I’d give writing a pilot a try. Once I had completed it, I enjoyed it so much that I wrote another episode…and another…until, eventually, I had three 22-minute episodes. My thought was that I should try to find a way to pitch the show through whatever contacts I had. When that proved to be more difficult than I could’ve imagined, simultaneously, the world of on-line storytelling was booming. This made me think: “I don’t need to wait for the powers-that-be to give my show the green light! I can be my own television studio! I can be the show runner of my own situational comedy or drama or soap opera or…anything!”

Since the theatre was my background and I was comfortable with its parameters, I decided that I would see if what I had written was compelling, accessible and funny by doing what traditional sitcoms did…I produced the scripts live in front of an audience. When this experience was successful, I dove in and began the process of producing the show for the internet.
The internet was sort of the “wild, wild, west” in regard to creating a show…there really were no rules. I began watching other shows to see what the typical length of each episode was, only to find there was really no “typical” anything. People were creating shows that were anywhere from 1 minute to 20. However, as 22- minute sitcoms are created in segments, there was a natural break in each of my scripts. This made it easy to cut them basically in half to create 10-12 minute episodes, which is still the format I write in today.

Among the shows I watched was the dramatic series “Hustling”, written by an acquaintance from years ago, Broadway performer Sebastian La Cause. I was so impressed with what Sebastian had done: writer, producer, director, cinematographer and editor. I contacted him and asked if he might be interested in directing something else. I sent him the scripts, which led to several meetings where we carved out the feel of the show and fine-tuned the arc of each of the characters over the 10-episode season we agreed on. This collaboration was a great lesson for me: seek out others you respect artistically who have experience. Even if you barely know them, even if you think they wouldn’t be interested, even if you think they’re too famous…you never know. True artists are interested in the story that is being told.

As I’m in the midst of pre-production on the second season of “He’s With Me”, I couldn’t be happier with what the show has become. With a loyal following of ever-growing fans, it’s thrilling to me that the story of Martin, Ted, Eddie, Valerie and Benny is accessible to anyone, anywhere. While I will always have a deep love for the theatre and how it has inspired me, the artistic control that is inherent in producing a series on the internet has been a very gratifying experience.

If you’d like to support the second season of “He’s With Me”, please go to:

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