Web Series Title:
“You Are Nothing”
Web Series Synopsis:
“You Are Nothing”‘ is a six-episode web series that is best described as a narrative comedy disguised as a self-help video (or a parody of one, depending on your viewpoint). It is the story of middle-class, middle manager Mitch Repter. After a pitch to an important client takes an ugly turn, Mitch’s moderately successful career nosedives and takes his reasonably happy marriage and fairly tolerable life with it.
Using Mitch’s unfortunate circumstances as a teaching tool, ”You Are Nothing” enlightens the viewer toa groundbreaking path to deeper meaning and happiness. The core message of which is that life’s truemeaning does not lie in moments or events. The true meaning of life can only be found by embracing nothing.
Key People (e.g. cast, crew, etc.):
Season 1 (six episodes) is narrated by Maria Bamford and features Henry Winkler, Joel Bryant and Tessa Munro. The show co-stars Nicole Dalton, Michael Sorvino, Jody Ebert and Philly’s own Stephen Pauley. The project was written, directed and edited by Mike Stivala and produced by Jody Woytas for Steel Tree Films. Other great people involved include executive producer Elyse Katz, producers Mark Travis and Laurence Kaldor, supervising producer Stacey Williams and original artwork by G. F. Newland.
Why did you decide to submit to FirstGlance?
We are extremely selective about where we submit and have only submitted to a few festivals. We chose FirstGlance because of its reputation as one of the country’s best festivals. Also since the project was shot almost entirely on location in Scranton, PA, we were hoping to screen in Pennsylvania. So, we’re pretty excited about our FirstGlance screening.
Will someone from your team be attending FirstGlance?
Writer / director Mike Stivala will be attending the screening.
What is something you feel is important for our readers to know about your web series?
You should know that “You Are Nothing” is a very low budget, true indie project shot almost entirely on location in Scranton, PA. The fact that it is screening at a festival as prestigious as FirstGlance is a testament to the hard work of a small group of very talented people.
Also, please remember that this is a six-episode series and we will only be screening the first episodeat the festival. It gets better and funnier – trust me – and I really want you to see the entire season.We are hoping to work something out with our distributor so that folks can see the show in its entirety. Please follow us on Facebook (@YouAreNothingShow) for updates as to when and where the other episodes will be available.
What should viewers expect from your web series?
Ok…seriously. “You Are Nothing” is a comedy so hopefully viewers will laugh. But I think the project also says something about the self-help industry and about our desire for easy answers to not-so-easy questions.
Do you have any production stories our readers might enjoy?
Well there’s always funny production stories but the most interesting story about “You Are Nothing” is how the project evolved and eventually came to be.
Originally, the project was shot in 2009 as a web series called “Hillers.” “Hillers” was a dark comedy about a man whose idyllic, middle-class life gets completely destroyed and how it affects him and the people around him. I had written the script and we had raised enough money to shoot about half of the first season. So we made a plan: shoot what we could, put together a few episodes and a great sizzle reel and sell the project to raise the money needed to shoot the rest of the first season.
It was good plan, but the problem was that back in 2009, the market for original web content was not nearly what it is today. When we shopped it around we found that everybody wanted it, but there was no money to be made to continue production.
While we weighed our options we were approached by a production company in Los Angeles who wanted to partner with us to re-develop the project and sell it to television. We thought that seemed like a good idea so we spent about a year re-developing the story and writing a brand new television pilot script for “Hillers.” In this version, rather than focusing on one man’s life that goes completely to hell, the story was more about a small town that has a sudden, catastrophic economic disaster that devastates its citizens. We spent another year or so pitching that pilot to HBO, Showtime, FX, USA and a bunch of other places. The project was, for a time, making its way up the development ladder at Showtime. However eventually they passed on it. Then life happened. We all moved on to other projects and I got really busy working as a producer, director and editor. Then in the summer
of 2014 I was moving and came across the drives with all of the “Hillers” footage on them. I spent an afternoon looking through the scenes and it struck me that the material I had was too good to just sit on a hard drive forever. So I cleared out some time, reorganized all the footage and set out to make “something” out of these funny scenes I had (some of which featured Henry friggin’ Winkler!).
But there was a problem. Since we only shot half of the original “Hillers” project, I not only had no ending, but I had story arcs from several of the characters that were incomplete. I needed to figure out a way to tie everything together, fill in all the gaps and hopefully in the process make the project more interesting and funnier. I played around with a bunch of ideas; perhaps a voice over from the main character- but that seemed too normal and a bit hack. Then I experimented with the idea of tying the scenes together through blog posts written by two of the characters. I actually ran with that idea for a while but again, it just didn’t seem right. Then for whatever reason, I stumbled across a video on YouTube of a self described “happiness guru” talking about how the true meaning of speech is not in the words, it’s in the silence between them. I thought that statement was both profound and ridiculous and it got me thinking about the whole self-help movement and about how that industry is (like the video) both profound and ridiculous. Then it struck me that Mitch (the main character) probably needed some kind of self-help more than anyone. It was then that the idea was born to use the structure of a self-help video to build the narrative of the show. As I played around with this idea I found that it offered a lot of benefits. It enabled me to really cut the scenes down to just their great moments. Also this structure enabled me to narratively “jump around” which helped tie together the story arcs. And it offered me a chance while writing the self-help voice over to add another layer of funny. And most importantly it was different, it was interesting and it was a little weird. Exactly what I was looking for.
I spent about a year writing, editing, re-writing and re-editing until I had a complete arc over six episodes. But there was another issue. I had written all of this new voice over that was funny and tied all of the scenes together really well. But – who would do it? Who would be the voice of the series? It needed to be someone who understood comedy, was funny but who could also could pull off the whole self-help vibe. There was only one person I could think of who would be perfect… Maria Bamford. Maria is an extremely funny and talented comedian and actress and a lot of her comedy is born from her experiences dealing with depression, anxiety and about her attempts seeking self-help fixes to these issues. So, even though Maria was in the middle of prepping her Netflix series “Lady Dynamite” (watch it – it’s awesome) we, this little company that no one had heard of, cold called her manager and pitched him on the show. He liked it enough to pass it to Maria who, thankfully liked it and agreed to do it. So we recorded Maria’s voice over in February 2016 and I edited it into the show shortly thereafter.
This early version of the show screened in Los Angeles in April of 2016 and based on the feedback I got – the project was again tweaked and re-edited. Finally, in the summer of 2016 the project was complete. It had a short, but successful run on YouTube (close to 40,000 channel views in under 3 months) and in September 2016 was then taken off YouTube when it was picked up for world-wide distribution by Rockzeline, a Paris-based company that specializes in scripted web content.
So, this current, final version of “You Are Nothing” has been a very long time in coming. And it will be screening at a festival for the first time ever at First Glance in November.
What are you looking forward to most at FirstGlance?
Meeting other filmmakers, seeing other projects and the roast pork sandwich at DiNic’s.
What day and time is your episode playing at FirstGlance?
Episode one of “You Are Nothing” is scheduled to screen on Saturday November 12th at 5:00PM at the Painted Bride Art Center.
Where can our readers find more information about your web series?
You can find out more information as well as check out our trailer, behind the scenes videos and other funny stuff by going to our website – http://youarenothingshow.com
“You Are Nothing” – SOCIAL MEDIA INFO
Facebook – @YouAreNothingShow https://www.facebook.com/YouAreNothingShow/
Twitter – @YouRNothingShow https://twitter.com/YouRNothingShow
Instagram – @YouAreNothingShow https://www.instagram.com/youarenothingshow/
Direct link to our trailer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nx5dUN6ZmQs
For more information on the FirstGlance Film Festival, or to buy tickets, visit their website.