We want to put the crypt in scripted TV!
At the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office, "the crypt" is where they keep all the bodies. With an average of 225 bodies a week, the crypt is very crowded...and really smelly.
We want to shoot a "Proof of Concept" scene with 100% practical effects that will help sell a dark comedy series, STIFFS because...
Blood Sweat &...Tissue, Brains and Organs...and fluids and gunk and bugs and..."
From 2003-2006 I directed 37 episodes of "North Mission Road," a reality/recreation show about the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office (the #1 rated show for what was then, Court TV).
"This ain't no TV bull $#*!. Welcome to the real thing!"
On my first day working at the LACC, while wide-eyed watching bodies, scalpels, blood, saws, brains and lots and lots of goo, I was COMPLETELY SHOCKED...that NOT ONE TV show or movie (including "torture porn") has ever truly captured the real thing. Not even close!!!
Maybe for good reason, because a real autopsy is horrific! But, after the initial jolt, it's sort of funny. Wickedly twisted, f'd up funny, but funny none the less.
But the scene we want to shoot and the series we hope to produce isn't just about gore and guts, it's about the truly remarkable live people that work with the dead people in ways you have never seen before.
100% Practical Effects
Back to gore for a moment...our FX guy is Tim Leach. Tim has worked on darned near everything (currently with ADI) including The X-Files, Spiderman, Starship Troopers, AVP: Alien vs Predator and It.
Award winning artist, David Negron Jr. is our storyboard artist. David has worked on every movie ever made! Geostorm, Ghost in the Shell, San Andreas, Battleship, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol - this list goes on for another 15 minutes!
Using 100% practical effects, the people, the scene and the show will be shocking, funny and always have a lot of heart (physical and emotional).
The Hollywood Coroner's Office is STIFFS take on the L.A. County Coroner's Office. Each has a gift shop and offers tours, (Mon-Fri, 7am - 2pm). The first step in the building hits everyone like a brick and the constant sensory overload is what sticks.
It's not possible to spend a few hours at the LACC and truly appreciate what goes on or even vaguely understand who the people that work there are. After spending 3 1/2 years there and with the relationships that were developed, I am very confident that we can bring you a show that you haven't seen with characters you will love because the people that work at the L.A. County Coroner's Office and the characters in STIFFS are uniquely, fantastically, sensationally and beautifully crazy. How can they not be? The most glorious aspect is, they don't know they're nuts. What "normal society" would find hideously revolting is just their Tuesday.
In fact, years ago as research for a role as a police detective, an A-list actor wanted to see a "real" autopsy. Twenty seconds in, he puked, passed out and never returned.
That's what we want to bring to you.
Let's say HACKSAW RIDGE and IT'S ALWAYS SUNNY... were a couple, and on a random Tuesday in March they hook up with MASH and CHEERS in the Motel 6 in Vegas (not the nice one on Tropicana Blvd., the roachy one off I-15). Now, if protection isn't used, the offspring would be STIFFS.
STIFFS is that goofy looking, loud (on the spectrum?) weird kid, that lacks the censor chip. And STIFFS humor is shockingly hilarious but also way too honest for the room.
A quick break in our regularly scheduled story...
I'm doing one last edit before submitting this project for approval and it was suggested to me that I not include this next bit because it could be perceived as negative. I respect that person's opinion, but I feel strongly that you should know what happened because it's not only true, it really is the crux of why we are at Kickstarter and why we need your support.
We all know that Kickstarter is the David vs. Goliath story. We are all David and every donated dollar is a stone.
Years ago, we pitched STIFFS to a big, giant producer and he loved it. He completely understood the big picture, the potential, all of it. We shook hands with smiles and hugs and he went off to his big, giant talent agency and ran it up the flag pole. The big, giant producer told us that the big, giant executives loved it too. But (here's the big butt)...neither I or my writing partner were "show runners" and none of the agency show runners wanted to run someone else's show. We had a great idea, but we were the wrong people, so it ended right there.
Now you can have a voice and help move the power structure. And I really think, hopefully the agency's thumbs down will work out for all of us because back then, the show I wanted to produce would have been decimated by network censorship.
But now, tadah! Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and all the original content streamers offer the opportunity to produce STIFFS the way it should be made and seen. The original content streamers have opened doors to talented people that previously never had a chance and that's why we need you. Also, really, I'm looking forward to having you in on the ground floor with us. This journey is going to have some glorious moments and a some heartbreaking moments too. Having you and the Kickstarter community along for the ride makes all of the moments infinitely more worthwhile. And in a way, the Kickstarter concept of inclusion directly relates to the characters in STIFFS.
Now back to the regularly scheduled part of the story:
You're dead to me.
The word Stiff doesn't just refer the dead. The people that work at the LACC and the characters in STIFFS are normal everyday folk just like you and me except they are completely isolated from society. Their job forces societal isolation because the dead body stink sticks to skin and clothes. "Hey, we're all headed to happy hour where no one will want to be near us because we smell like a rat's ass after it ate curb-found Indian food." And dating? Or marriage? "How was your day, honey?" All they can do is try...with embarrassing and comical results.
"It's getting crowded in there." Dr. Egon Spengler, Ghostbusters
In L.A., the weekly bus-load of dead folks that come in to visit the L.A.C.C. usually didn't buy that ticket from violent crime.
Only around 20% of deaths in L.A. are from violence. The remainder are accidents, old age, OD's (every celebrity that dies in L.A. County ends up there), but mostly the spectacularly random (often comical) manner in which the Grim Reaper seems to go way, way, way out of its way to knock someone off.
That's another reason why we want to bring you this show. Enjoy every moment of life because no one knows when they'll get pushed to the front of the line.
Have you ever laughed at a funeral? Out loud?
Look, sometimes people react to grief with a chuckle. Sometimes it's roll on the floor, gut busting laughter. To this day, I'm still dealing with the fact that two times while working at the LACC, just before lunch, a burn victim was brought in and burn victims smell EXACTLY like BBQ. And my stomach growled! That's just wrong. But I had to laugh...and become vegetarian.
"OMG! WTF! OMG!"
Finding humor in the face of and because of the faces of dead people is a tad twisted and maybe a little wrong, but, that's why we want to create this show. So you can decide for yourself if the guy that died because he sneezed in his car and his pipe slammed against the steering wheel, through the back of his throat and into his brain stem is tragedy or hilarious...or both.
A quick digression. One night, I was walking alone down a dark hallway in the LACC. At the end was a plastic-lined cardboard box on a gurney. I was thinking, "Don't look in the box. Don't look in the box!" Then I heard Brad Pitt's voice from the movie "7" yelling, "What's in the booox?!" I looked...and immediately wished I had listened to Morgan Freeman instead of Brad Pitt. Just so you know, the thing that was in the box was way more f'd up than Gwyneth Paltrow's noggin. It will also be the act 1 climax for episode 3 of "Stiffs."
Speaking of acting...
For this scene...our cast!!!!
French actress, Marine George is "Cindy Jackson," the coroner investigator. Marine is relatively new to Los Angeles and relatively new to acting, but Marine is a star in the making. I first saw Marine while I was visiting a friend at an acting event. It was one of those jaw-dropping moments where everyone was saying, "Who's that?" Marine was killing it. She possesses tremendous raw talent and we're fortunate to have her at this moment.
Chad Christopher is our LAPD Officer, "John Ducante" You've seen Chad most recently on "Grey's Anatomy" and "Third Watch." Talk about "sense memory," Chad was an actual police officer in Florida and worked cross-agency as a Federal Customs Agent to work anti-gang and undercover narcotics. I met Chad when we both worked for "North Mission Road." Chad was right there in the L.A. County Coroner's Office with all the blood and goo. Chad's got that natural "cool" that cameras love.
Daniel Alexander Rivera
Daniel is our second L.A.P.D. officer, "Danny Quintana." Daniel is immensely talented young actor. Daniel just landed a full ride at the elite University of Illinois acting program (they only accept 3 students each year!).
Back in 2006, producing a scripted show the way that I wanted about that place would not have been possible. Network censorship would have prevented the show I want to make and the show I believe people will want to watch. But now, with Amazon, Netflix, Hulu and all the other companies that offer original content for streaming, the show I want to create truly has a chance to be made and seen the way it should be made and seen.
But first, we need you.
To help sell a series, we need to shoot a "proof of concept" scene. Even though I've been working in L.A. for 20 years, actually selling a show based solely on a script (and what is known as a "production Bible) is very rare, unless a person has previously sold a show (which is one reason why network TV can be quite stale - the same few people selling most of the shows - and why streaming services have breathed new life for creators and viewers). Our one scene does many things...it proves to potential buyers (Netflix, etc.) that we know what we're doing, that we have the talent and ability to actual put together a show, and it gives a real look, feel and tone of the show.
I wrote the scene over ten years ago based on an a story from a retired LACC investigator. I've held it close because it's fantastic, horrific, shocking and really funny. Again, twisted funny. But I cannot reveal it because...well, a lot of reasons. I can tell you that it involves two police officers and our star, the Coroner's investigator, Cindy Jackson. We arrive at the scene after a 450 pound man (Gerald) has blown his head off with a shot gun in the front seat of his car. That's where the funny begins.
The scene will be shocking, twisted as all heck, messy and it will have some heartfelt moments. I hope you'll help us produce this scene.
Thank you very, very much for your support.
Risks and challenges
Stuff happens, always. Practical experience is the best hedge against the inevitable problems that will prop up. That's why the team, the crew is so important. We have a great, experienced crew that knows how to overcome problems.
Rick Walker is a phenomenal D.P. Rick has saved more producer behind than a budget program's auto-save. Every time I work with Rick, I'm completely blown away by his creativity and his ability to solve problems lightning quick.
Our FX Wizard, Tim Leach has worked on a billion projects, movies and TV shows including "The X-Files," "Alien vs Predator" and "It." He knows how to fix things that aren't working as planned.
David Negron Jr. is an award winning storyboard artist. David has worked on EVERY MOVIE EVER MADE! Well, not quite, but the list is outrageous including, "Geostorm," "Ghost in the Shell," "San Andreas," "Battleship" and a lot lot more. The exceptional work he has already preformed for "Stiffs" has made my job a whole lot easier.
With Editing and Post Production...we'll "just figuring out in post." Ha! Yeah, right. Really though, editor's schedules change as often as my grandpa's diapers - often! That's why I have three excellent editors in wait.
Similarly with the sound department. Those people work more than anyone else in the industry so we have five sound engineers lined up.
Problems no one saw coming:
I have literally hundreds of stories of on-set problems that no one could have predicted. No one knows all the things that can go wrong because there always seems to be something where even the most grizzled crew vet says, "Damn. I ain't never seen that before." Most of the time the problems can be overcome, but occasionally something happens where you're just screwed and have to come back another day.
I was the D.P. for a show where we had one remaining shot but we had to stop for dinner. The lead actress disappeared. After dinner, her body was shaking because she had used heroin in the bathroom during dinner. Nothing could be done.
#namedrop -- Years ago I was fortunate enough to have dinner with Roy Scheider, star of a million movies including "Jaws." He said the only thing he remembered about Steven Spielberg (the director of Jaws), was that he always had his face buried on his hands primarily because the shark was built in a fresh water tank, but once it was put in the ocean (salt water) the shark melted. Roy said when the shark opened it's mouth, the teeth would wiggle and tongue would just flop around. And that is why the editor, Verna Fields, decided not to show the shark until absolutely necessary (it's also one of the reasons she has a building named after her at Universal Studios).
I worked on a "road movie" (won't reveal the names) where the E.P. wouldn't give the big, giant, A-List star the keys to the car (which was needed for the shot) because the star got hammered during lunch.
I did some 2nd unit for the movie "From Dusk 'till Dawn." Robert Rodriguez directing, starring Quentin Tarantino and George Clooney. Everything should be in order, right? Well, watch the scene where Quentin and George leave the mini mart.
The script called for the two to walk away from the building across the street toward their car and the building explodes behind them. On that day, way out in the desert, the wind was blowing hard, really hard from behind the building directly at the two actors and all the cameras and crew on the other side of the street.
During the safety meeting, the pyro guys said there would be projectiles and lots of them. Some rubber, some not. We waited for the wind to die down as long as possible, but eventually we had to roll. Watch the scene and see how close projectiles land right where Quentin was walking.
https://youtu.be/DYJHHwD9Jis (at 3:43)
- (30 days)