Wilson Cleveland is an actor/producer/writer and director/founder of CJP Digital Media. He is the creator and star of Streamy-nominated The Temp Life, the web’s longest-running branded web series and producer of The Webventures of Justin & Alden (in which he also makes a cameo appearance). Follow Wilson on Twitter here.
In case you didn’t know, the season finale premiered last week with shocking and hilarious revelations, Felicia Day, Ninjas and live/dead presidents. Webventures has broken new ground in several ways, not least the sheer amount of webseries stars they managed to cram into the five episodes. I’m not sure there is a complete list of all the stars and cameos anywhere but if there were, it would be full of awesome. And be immensely long.
Here’s the teaser:
In Part One of this interview, Wilson talks about how Webventures started and what it was like working with so many stars. I crowdsourced questions and I’ve included some of them here (the clean and less weird ones). I’ll let you guess which ones (and thank you to all the contributors – names at the end).
PinkRayGun: Okay, the first question I have to ask you: Horde or Alliance?
Wilson Cleveland: Alliance. Definitely Alliance.
PRG: With that out of the way, we’ll get straight to Webventures! How did you first get involved in this webseries?
WC: Horizon Media actually brought in CJP to produce Webventures for their clients at Trident. We’d met the team from Horizon last summer at Tubefilter’s Onfronts Event for brands and content creators and we’d been discussing working together since then. Justin and Alden had made a hilarious video for Trident a few months back in which they played themselves as two actors who decide they can become famous by getting their favorite gum into the hands of celebrities. In December of last year we were asked to start proposing ideas around Justin and Alden’s original concept then in mid-March, Trident gave it the green light and 2 weeks later we were on set.
PRG: The product placement is built into the story for each episode in humorous and often ingenious, ways. At what point did Trident come in as sponsors, or was the show made for them from the start?
WC: Trident Layers was the sponsor from the very beginning, so we essentially created Webventures specifically for them. The genius of Sandeep and Tony’s script is, they’ve established this world that’s so ridiculous, so funny, that making the gum itself anything less than a main character throughout the series would be more obvious than if we were trying to keep the branding subtle. You can’t sneak a product placement in a scene where the first President of the United States is siphoning gas out of a beat-up Nissan like it’s no big deal.
PRG: Apart from the stars, Justin and Alden – who are, by the way, very arresting as the central “manlationship” of the show – you have some huge names as guests. What was it like working with so many different stars, and is Kevin Pollack correct in his assertion that asking someone to be in your webseries is the new jury duty?
WC: It was like being on the most epic Love Boat episode EVER! I’m either friends, or had worked with most of the Webventures cast as an actor, producer or marketer so Sandeep (who is also a Webventures producer) and I cast everyone directly. Taryn Southern, Sandeep, David Nett and Illeana are some of my favorite people and have all guest-starred on The Temp Life; I also work closely with Illeana on Easy to Assemble, which is how I know Doug Sarine. Milo’s a good friend and one of the funniest dudes on the planet next to Tony Janning. Diggnation and Lonelygirl15 are solely responsible for inspiring me to get into web TV 4 years ago so I had to have Alex Albrecht and Jessica Rose in the show. Robin Thorsen is beyond delightful. I got to shoot my Webventures cameo with Felicia and have since tried to figure out how to make sure that goes on my tombstone. You just cant not adore her, but more than that I respect the Hell out of what she’s accomplished with her career to get to where she is. She’s amazing. As for working with Shannen Doherty, that’s an item I can officially cross off my bucket list. You’d be hard-pressed to find a bigger Shannen Doherty fan than me. I’m talking YEARS, like Little House on the Prairie years. ‘Heathers’ is an all-time favorite and Brenda Walsh is my co-pilot.
PRG: How much of the original script (written by Sandeeep Parikh and Tony Janning) has been kept? Were there some things you just couldn’t shoot and were people allowed to make suggestions and ad libs?
WC: I would say 98% of what ended up on screen was written by Sandeep and Tony with input from Justin and Alden. The rest were, as you mentioned, suggestions that came out on set. The script went through a lot of revisions, mainly because those guys are so creative they had more ideas than we could include in a five-episode series. Justin and Alden are brilliant at improv as are Sandeep, Tony and Sean so the actors were encouraged to improv whatever felt right for the scene.
WC: Our first day of shooting was April 7th and the official wrap happened when Felicia said “I should have brought my broadsword” right after Justin and Alden got chased offstage during the actual Streamy Awards the night of the 11th. A lot of people who were there or who had seen the live stream didn’t know that whole bit had been planned and written as part of the Webventures storyline. All of the red carpet bits with Albrecht, Mark Gantt, David Wain, etc. were pre-planned and done in front of the actual red carpet. All the backstage scenes with Justin, Alden, Felicia and I as well as the Detainment Room scenes were shot at the actual Orpheum Theater two days before the Streamys.
Tomorrow, in Part Two, Wilson talks about the Streamys themselves and gives some advice for aspiring web creators.
[And thanks to Huck, Eva, Osiramon and Bryan for your questions.]
WorldofHiglet is the online persona of writer Mary R. Higgins, a born-again geek reclaiming her heritage bit by bit. A youth filled with sci-fi, horror and adventure in TV, films, computer games and books was crushed by years of office grind. Buffy brought her back into the fold after years of denial. Discovering Firefly sealed the deal. Now she geeks fulltime on her blog ‘the last geek bus home’ . Her first novel ‘Turning left at Albuquerque” is complete and she has just launched HigletFilms.com, a new webvideo entertainment site serving new, original videos every Monday.
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