Web Series

It's 2018

Project roles: Writer, Actor, Producer
Location: Chicago

This Fall has been extremely busy and as a result I’ve fallen way behind in my updates. Time to play catch up real quick!

In late August Brian and I made plans for our next Friend Dog Studios release. We had a concept in mind that would be easy to produce; a list-comedy style video in which serious looking millennials held up ridiculous signs in a parody of a long-overdone style of advocacy piece.

The more we talked about it though, the more we wondered if that concept alone was enough to be worth a damn in the current climate, and whether we felt good about who or what exactly was the object of the joke. We talked about social frustrations, idealism, political exhaustion, and everything in-between.

On my drive to the KC Improv festival, a concept clicked together in my head, so I recorded my thoughts in a voice memo, sent it to Brian, and we got to work.

I’ll let the end product speak for itself.

As with most of our releases, the youtube response was mild, but the facebook upload received hundreds of shares before all was said and done. Hats off to Brian for spending something like three days tirelessly sorting through all our available footage and piecing this comedy puzzle together with care.

We shot the whole thing at our apartment on a simple white backdrop with the help of a stellar crew and cast, which came in and out for short segments throughout the day. I’m really happy with the result!

Oh and also

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, VOTE

“It’s 2018”
Written by Ben Auxier & Brian Huther
Directed by Brian Huther
Director of photography Doyla LaCrua
Assistant AD Derek Nickisch

Edited by Brian Huther

Cast in order of appearance: Aaron Branch, Evilyn Riojas, Diana Lee, Brian Huther, Ben Auxier, Carlos Rivera, Olivia Corkery Perry, Shon Ruffin, Vi Tran, Sami Ismat, Michelle Leatherby.

ALEX JONES' NEW SHOW!

Project Roles: Writer / Producer / Editor
Location: Written and edited in Chicago, shot in Kansas City

Ok, story time.

As I've mentioned in this blog before, Brian and I have resumed our work creating video releases for our comedy channel Friend Dog Studios. We've renewed ourselves for a season and committed to releasing something every two weeks at least through August, probably September.

There are a number of reasons why we've decided to do this, but I won't go into that now.

There's a big, production-heavy concept we really want to do here in Chicago. Unfortunately, we keep having to push that back because of the challenges involved in getting the necessary cast and crew.

A little over a week ago, it became clear to us that this bigger idea wasn't going to happen in time to keep with our release schedule. So we pushed it back. Now we needed something new to take its place. Something that could be shot by Thursday at the latest. And hopefully something, yanno, funny.

I had personally become fascinated with the current news stories involving "TV personality" and foaming-at-the-mouth lunatic Alex Jones. His legal cases, his de-platforming by just about every major company, all of that. And I remembered that our good friend Michael Foster had - maybe a year ago - mentioned that he thought it would be funny if he played Jones for us at some point.

I talked it through with Brian for a while. We formulated a concept. One big hurdle was that Foster was in KC, and we had to stay in Chicago. I'd have to produce this thing remotely and assemble a crew in a totally different state.

I am blown away to tell you that not only did that happen, but I actually ended up with more volunteers than we even needed. On Sunday and Monday I waded through a flurry of emails to get all the arrangements made.

 On set-shot.

On set-shot.

On Tuesday I wrote the first draft of the script. Brian made revisions.

On Wednesday I finished the script, created a shot list, and had a phone call with the director.

On Thursday, our incredible production team shot the whole thing in KC, then sent me the footage via Google Drive.

Friday and Saturday, I edited. For like, 20 hours.

And now, this thing exists.

The point of this story is that my mouth is kind of on the floor. I'm proud of myself for all the work I put in, but more importantly, I'm  b l o w n  a w a y  by the amazing artists who stepped up and made this happen in such a high-quality way, so quickly, knowing all along that we could afford to pay them little to nothing for their time.

Having friends like this is amazing.
Knowing artists like this is spectacular.
I am a lucky, lucky man.

Hope you enjoy the vid.

"ALEX JONES' NEW SHOW"
Michael Foster............Alex Jones

Directed by Jamie Campbell
Director of Photography Cory Vetter
Hair & Wardrobe by Nancy Robinson
Lead Production Assistant Dalyn Le Grand
Production Assistants / Audio Engineers Corbin Eaton & Drew McCall

Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart.  

Stay Chill

Project role: Writer, Actor, Producer, Director, Editor
Location: Chicago

My comedy channel Friend Dog Studios continued our new season with the release of a new sketch we called Stay Chill. We had an entirely different video planned, but were having difficulties getting the necessary crew together to get it shot in time for our release schedule, so we continued to work on that larger concept while swapping in this project for a more immediate drop.

The sketch was originally done back in October of 2017 in our live revue The Rough & The Precious, which played at the Blackout Cabaret at Second City. That show was developed and performed by Brian and I as well as our friends Michelle Leatherby and Molly Kessler, the latter of whom sat in on this shoot.

We changed up the script a bit from its original form. Swapped in our own names (originally this was performed by Michelle and I), made a few tweaks, and changed up the ending to something we thought would play better on screen.

Maybe the coolest milestone of this particular release was connecting for the first time with Chicago film dudes Doyle LaCrua, who served as Director of Photography, and Derek Nickisch, who served as assistant DP and operated a behind the scenes camera. Both were incredible and I can't wait to work with them again!

The next day, I put in maybe 10 hours of editing and it was ready for patreon early release by Saturday, as planned. Speaking of which, the support we've been getting on patreon lately has been astounding. When we returned to online content creation after a long hiatus, our numbers on the funding platform had understandably atrophied, but in the span of just a few weeks we've gained back something like $150 in pledges, and that's awesome. Thank you to all our patrons for their support and generosity. If you'd like to join them and get bonus perks, check out the info here!

Your Drunk Neighbor: Donald Trump - Space Force

Project Role: Writer/Actor/Editor
Location: Chicago

The comedy channel I co-run known as Friend Dog Studios has been largely on hiatus for a while, but we've returned for a new season of content, kicking off with a probably overdue installment of our "Drunk Trump" series.

The video is the seventh (or eighth, depending on what you count) episode of what started as a one-off joke that gained a decent amount of viral popularity. The premise is simple; take Trump audio clips and lip-sync them in character as some loud-mouthed, drunken, neighborhood menace. The effect works shockingly well, as we've found over and over again in the series, which you can peruse in its entirety via this playlist.

The decision to release a new episode of this series after nearly two-years came from a couple of factors. First, Trump keeps talking. And despite our best efforts, it's absolutely impossible to ignore the severity of the shitfaced babbling he blesses us with on a daily basis. Originally we set about to do what we'd done traditionally, which is listen through several of his speeches and select various clips. What we discovered, however, is that the now infamous "Space Force" speech gave us so much fodder that we could easily create an entire arc using little more. In addition to pulling almost entirely from one speech, the video is also unique in that it's the first installment in which anyone other than Trump speaks. We wrote dialogue for a neighbor character, which I played, who comes along to ask "Trump" to keep it down, and provides a sort of dialogue glue to connect his rantings about delusions of grandeur and space exploration.

A second reason for the release is that it serves to kick-off what we're calling a new "season" of content. The plan is to release something new every couple of weeks for a few months. Once that season is over, we'll take a little break and decide when and how to renew ourselves, basically. If you'd like to learn more and help us do what we do, please check out patreon.com/frienddog

Signing with Shirley Hamilton

I'm very happy to announce that I'm now represented as an actor by Shirley Hamilton Inc in Chicago!

This wonderful agency has been thriving for over 50 years, and currently operates with a busy and buzzingly friendly staff of seven (plus interns, I think) at their offices in Streeterville. I've only spent a very limited time with them so far but I'm already thoroughly won over by what a welcoming, genuine, and enthusiastic atmosphere they create.

download.jpeg

They were already representing my friends Shea Pender and Molly Denninghoff, whom I'd like to thank for putting in a good word and lending advice during my submission process. Same goes for Emily Hatley (Peterson). Both these ladies walk on water as far I'm concerned and if you don't know 'em you oughta fix that.

Currently we're doing our parts on both ends to get everything updated and connected, so it may be a few days yet before I'm listed on their site, but starting now all inquiries can be directed here.

Here's to next steps and a fun future!

A Brief History of April Fools' Day

Project roles: Actor, Writer, Graphic Designer
Location: Chicago, w/input from Kansas City

Friend Dog Studios emerged for a moment from our video-producing hiatus to present A History of April Fool's Day, a totes wrong mini-documentary that of course went live on April 1st, 2018.

Originally the concept was to present it as some sort of Ken Burns historical doc - maybe even faintly believable at first - to lull unsuspecting facebook scrollers into a false sense of education before releasing it was another dumb joke. But as it developed, we started favoring a more absurdist, rapid-fire approach, as we usually do.

Brian, Seth, and I sussed out the script over the course of a few writing sessions, with Seth phoning in from KC. Our biggest problem was narrowing down the ideas; this being a list-comedy video, the concepts kept coming, and we had to kill a few darlings to keep it under 3:00 like we prefer.

Once we had the script, Brian and I recorded VO (directing each other in turn), then I gathered up/created graphic resources and handed them over to Brian for editing while I skipped town to head to Colorado Springs.

This video is real dumb. But I like it a lot. I hopes you does too.

Making a Masterpiece - Part 3: The Product

Project roles: Improviser / Editor
Location: Shot in Kansas City, edited in Chicago

The long awaited (??) finale to the Friend Dog Studios series Making a Masterpiece was finally posted on Oct 3rd, 2017 to our YouTube and Facebook channels.

This series is bonkers, and this installment is a special kind of stupid that a joy to put together. If you're confused, of course you are. If you'd like some clarify, you can see the series from the beginning here.

The Onion: Steve Jobs Cosplay

Project role: Actor
Location: Chicago

Had a lot of fun on my first ever shoot with The Onion here in Chicago!

I've been a fan of The Onion and Clickhole for a long time, so getting the chance to visit the offices and get in on the action a little was a real treat. Hope there's more to come!

The video was posted to their facebook and twitter accounts on 9/22/17.

Making a Masterpiece: Part 2

Project roles: Improviser / Editor
Location: Show in Kansas City, edited in Chicago

Friend Dog Studios released our second installment in the Making a Masterpiece mini-series. The series was improvised on set and I've been having an interesting time creating a story line out of the odd pieces in editing. See my previous blog post for part 1 and more information!

Making a Masterpiece: Part 1

Project roles: Improviser / Editor
Location: Show in Kansas City, edited in Chicago

After a hiatus of about three months to focus on stage work, my comedy channel Friend Dog Studios has returned to creating patreon funded online content! Making a Masterpiece premiered on our facebook and youtube pages this morning, and I tell ya what, it feels good to be back.

We took a premise based, no-script approach to the production of this one. While still in Kansas City shortly after the closing of our musical, we co-opted The Living Room stage and essentially improvised for about two hours while Director of Photography Joe Carey rolled camera. The result was a hilarious mess that I've been picking through from my editing bay for the last few days, ultimately forming the experience into a multi-episode story arc about three colorful playwrights.

I think there will probably be three episodes in all. Look for the next one to premiere in a couple of weeks.

The Joy of Memeing with Bob Ross

Project Roles: Writer / Video Editor
Location: written & edited in Chicago

"Bob Ross really memes what he says." - George Takei on facebook

We tried something a bit different in the latest Friend Dog Studios release; an anachronistic little parody/tribute to Bob Ross and the world of dank memes, both of which have a special place in my heart.

The sketch was posted to our youtube and facebook accounts on 3/13/17, and as of this post three days later, it's accumulated over half a million views altogether, thanks in large part to crossposting by Did You Know and our BFF George Takei. The reception has been almost universally positive and it's been a lot of fun to see the joy this silly piece is bringing to many.

I did most of the writing on this one - and I gotta say it's one of the easiest things I've ever done. It's a comfort to know that hours and hours of watching an instructional show on something I'm never going to try finally paid off somehow. I also handled the post-production with input from Brian and Seth. That step provided some interesting challenges, such as creating a convincing false screen, giving the footage an outdated feel, and not being lulled into a pleasant slumber every five minutes by the soothing voice.

KC actor John Rensenhouse graciously loaned us his dulcet tones in the role of Ross. The video was shot in Kansas City by Vetter Brothers Filmworks, directed by Seth Macchi. Wig and beard were played by a wig and a beard, expertly applied by our good friend Heidi Bowles.

Fake News Now

Project Roles: Co-Writer / Actor / Co-Director / Co-Video Editor
Location: Chicago, additional footage shot in Kansas City

"How do you spot fake news?
By watching this. This is literally Fake News."

Friend Dog Studios embarked on a new project with the release of Fake News Now; a parody news and variety show released March 1st, 2017 on their youtube and facebook pages.

As with many Friend Dog Studios productions, I wore a lot of hats on this one; actor, co-writer, co-director, and co-editor. The hope is that more installments of the show might be created in partnership with an interested producer.

The video was shot entirely on green screen in two different cities; Sam Ott of Peace Frame Productions was director of photography in Chicago, and Brandon Durkes of Rellitray Studios DP'd in Kansas City. Special thanks to voice over artist Sam Williamson, and to Ashley Osborn, Bobby Miller Jr, Brandon Durkes, Coleman Crenshaw, Jenny Holden, Michelle Leatherby, and Tosin Morohunfola for their cameo appearances!
 

Couples Charades

Project Roles: Director / Actor / Video Editor
Location: Kansas City, MO

"At some point in your life you've probably been the third wheel, so we can all relate to this video to some degree. Friend Dog Studios displays this awkward feeling in a more than true way..." - Right This Minute

The 2017 Valentine's release from Friend Dog Studios is all about what it's like to be surrounded by all these damn couples.

I directed, edited, and co-stars in this sketch which was penned by our brilliant guest writer Jonathon Chase. Seth Macchi takes the featured role alongside guest stars Ellen Kirk, Brianna Woods, and Donovan Woods.

The video, posted on February 11th 2017, was shot by Vetter Brothers Filmworks with audio engineering by Adam Doria. Hair & makeup by Heidi Bowles, assistant director Sam Findlay.

TV program Right This Minute did a feature on the sketch which you can see here!

Did You Know?

Project Roles: Co-Writer / Actor / Video Editor
Location: Kansas City & Chicago

"What 'right thing' will you do today?" - George Takei on facebook

My writing partner Brian Huther and I have been writing and starring in a series of fun fact videos for online informational channel Did You Know.

Did You Know, the content company behind these ultra-shareable little tidbits, has contracted us to produce comedic video renditions of some of their most popular fact sets. Actress and frequent collaborator Ellen Kirk also stars in several installments. As of the writing of this update (2/22/17), over twenty of these videos have been posted, with topics ranging from money to Star Wars to orgasms.

The videos are featured on the Did You Know and Did You Know - Video facebook pages, which have a combined reach of 5.8 million followers and growing. You can also check out all the videos in playlist form via their youtube channel.