If you thought Scooby-Doo was great, then you'll love Merritt Squad! This comedy web series is being filmed in Oakland and Berkeley and follows a lovable team of inept urban detectives as they try to find the protagonist's missing fiancé and uncover the mystery of the Lake Merritt Monster.
Written by Tracy Held Potter and Colin Johnson, this eight-episode series features Ally (Maura Halloran), an aggressive Berkeley activist, Boxer (Peter Townley), a slightly dopey yet lovable guy who loves buying stuff from big box stores, Shiloh (Carina Salazar), a foodie/techie who wouldn't be caught dead without her ClearGlass Goggles, and Vinny (Vince Faso), the team's trodden-upon manager/lackey.
If fully funded, we intend to roll out the web series early this Fall. We have already cast all of the core roles, and we have already started shooting scenes from the first four episodes.
Trailer for Our Pilot!
What's a Web Series?
A web series is basically a television show that people watch on the internet. Merritt Squad! will feature eight episodes ranging between 6 to 10 minutes each, and will follow our team through a complete story arc. Assuming we receive the funding we need, we will post the shows online this Fall.
What Do You Need This Money For?
Filming a web series requires a huge commitment of time and material resources. We have to buy equipment, props, scripts, costumes, and a variety of other items to keep the show going. We're also budgeting for modest stipends for our crew and lead actors as well as food to keep everyone's blood sugar up. Believe it or not, laughing on set burns up a lot of calories.
How Does Kickstarter Work?
Kickstarter is a crowd-sourcing fundraising tool that artists can use to raise money for their projects. Anyone who is interested in supporting the project simply pledges a contribution and chooses a reward as a thank you for their contribution (see the side bar on the right for our full list of rewards).
Backers can also opt to not receive rewards or to make contributions anonymously.
The big deal about Kickstarter is that it's an all-or-nothing campaign. In other words, if we don't raise at least $4,000 by our deadline, then Kickstarter will not let us keep any of the money pledged.
Help us produce our show by making a contribution!
How Do I Know You Guys Are Going to Finish This Show?
The only thing that's keeping us from completing our series is money. Once we have financial support from amazing people like you, there is nothing stopping us from completing our hilarious new web series. By backing this project, you are guaranteeing that we will have the resources needed to continue filming, editing, and posting this series for the whole world to enjoy. Yes: THE WHOLE WORLD!
This series is being produced by Battle Stache Studios, an experienced film production company that has been making short films since November 2011. Their successes include a recent screening ofThe Dark Shift at this year's Comic-Con International Film Festival.
The core producers for the series are Colin Johnson, Tracy Held Potter, Brian Quakenbush, Manuela Aronofsky, and Vince Faso. Together, we have the people-power needed to make this ambitious production a reality.
Colin is an experienced and skilled director/writer/producer with a strong storytelling aesthetic and a knack for finding amazing people to help him turn his visions into realities. Brian, a master of spreadsheets, has kept all of Battle Stache Studio's productions within budget and is working meticulously with the Merritt Squad! financials to cover essential costs without over-extending. Manuela is a master of gathering resources and keeping people on track, and Vince is the guy who will jump in and make sure those things we forgot to do earlier actually get done.
In addition to all of that, Tracy has successfully raised funds through Kickstarter campaigns that provided funding for three very successful theater productions. Backers for these campaigns received all of their promised rewards, and, as Tracy's cousin noted, of the three Kickstarter projects he backed, Tracy's was the only one that was completed on time and as promised.
What more do you need? Proof? Okay, then check out this Kickstarter for Tracy's production of The Fantasy Club by Rachel Bublitz. The video for this campaign was Colin and Tracy's first film collaboration, and the Kickstarter campaign itself was a success. Just make sure to come back here and make your contribution!
Who Are All These People?
Colin Johnson (director/writer/actor) has been writing and directing short films and theatrical productions since he was 15. His Bay Area credits include direction for Noises Off (Actors Ensemble of Berkeley), The Oresteia (Round Belly Theatre Company). He has written for Daomu, a comic book with Image Comics. He has also produced, written, directed, and performed in dozens of original shows with Battle Stache Studios (Co-Founder, Artistic Director) Bay One-Acts Festival, First Person Singular, PianoFight's Short Lived, Albany Film Fest, SF Olympians Festival, and SF Fringe. He was a member of the 2013-2014 PlayGround Writers Pool and he holds a degree in film and theatre production from Eastern Washington University.
Tracy Held Potter (writer/producer) is the Artistic Director of All Terrain Theater, the Executive Director of Play Cafe, and the Co-Founder of the 31 Plays in 31 Days project. Her full-length screenplay musical, Science Fair the Musical is currently a semi-finalist for the Sloan Foundation competition at Carnegie Mellon University. In the Bay Area, her work has been produced through All Terrain Theater, Bay One-Acts Festival, and SF Fringe. At Monday Night PlayGround, her short plays won two People's Choice Awards and was a 2013 Finalist for Best of PlayGround. Her work received Best of Fringe and Sold Out Awards at SF Fringe. She received her A.A. degree in Theater Arts from Laney College in Oakland and her B.S. degree in Conservation and Resource Studies from UC, Berkeley. She is an MFA candidate in Dramatic Writing at Carnegie Mellon University with Rob Handel and she's the mom of two amazing little boys.
Manuela Aronofsky (producer, actor) is a born and raised Montana gal, currently loving her sunny Oakland home and dreamy job as Events Coordinator at Pegasus Books in Berkeley. More often than not, she's cuddled up with a kitty, reading a novel. However, when not involved in literary escapades, you can find her stage managing, performing in, or otherwise assisting with the various creative endeavors of her multi-talented East Bay buddies. Previous Battle Stache shows Manuela stage managed include: Discovery, Mortality, Fringe Benefits, and Phenomena.
Vince Faso (actor/producer) is an actor, writer, teacher, and director with a degree in Performing Arts and Social Justice from the University of San Francisco. Favorite on-stage credits include Garry/Roger in Noises Off with Actors Ensemble of Berkeley, Hortensio in The Taming of the Shrew with SF Theater Pub, Putnum/Cheever in The Crucible with Custom Made Theatre, and was part of the world premier of The Two Chairs with Performers Under Stress. A middle school drama teacher by day, he is accustomed to flying by the seat of his pants and is a founding member of the SF-based comedy improv team, Chinese Ballroom. His on-screen credits have been limited to post-game interviews and blurry background characters in classified commercials for Silicon Valley tech companies. He is attempting to corner the stage and screen market of timid, glasses-wearing pushovers.
Maura Halloran (actor) is a Canadian actor and writer currently kickin’ it in the SF Bay. She holds a BFA in Acting from the University of British Columbia and performed on film, stage and radio in several cities across Western Canada as well as the Setkani Festival in Brno, CZ before moving to San Francisco in 2010. Here she’s performed with New Conservatory, No Nude Men, SF Shakes, Cutting Ball, CalShakes, SF Theater Pub, All Terrain Theater, Tides Theatre, Bay One Acts Festival, Solo Sundays, Salon San Carlos and many ridiculous cabarets. Maura’s solo show PUSSY debuted at SF DIVAfest and toured last year to Seattle and New York, winning “Best Actress” at The United Solo Theatre Festival, the world’s largest festival of solo performance. Maura is an Associate Artist with The Cutting Ball Theatre (SF) and a member of The United Solo Academy (NYC.) maurahalloran.com
Tonya Narvaez (actor) has appeared in productions by several Bay Area companies, including No Nude Men, San Francisco Theatre Pub, Hot Mess SF, Sleepwalkers Theatre, Custom Made Theatre, GuyWriters Theatre Company, and Stage One. As a writer, her experience includes journaling, poetry, short stories, outlining elaborate plays, and swiftly crumpling up said plays and tossing them in the garbage.
Tommy Nguyen (actor) isa member of the improv group Playback Theatre Ensemble directed by Armand Volkas and is skilled in acting, filmmaking, dance, and parkour. He toured the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland with Fusion Theater’s production of Polaroid Stories, and he performed in the original Community Voices Theater Project: The Miseducation of Oakland as well as the Community Voices Theater Project: Souly Oakland. In 2010, Tommy performed with Shotgun Theater’s production The Salt Plays Part I: In the Wound and All Terrain Theater’s Tuning Point: The Musical!
Laura Peterson (actor) has performed around the country with Players By The Sea in Jacksonville, FL, Oldcastle Theatre, Bennington, VT, Hubbard Hall, Cambridge, NY, and Actors Ensemble, Berkeley, CA.
Brian Quakenbush (actor/producer) hails from a frozen cornfield in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. He received his B.A. in Theatre and Philosophy from amongst the wind-scorn corn of Grand Valley State University where he was recipient of the Shakespeare Scholarship. After honing his skills in the mossy dampness of Seattle, he moved to the temperate Bay Area, where he has worked locally as an Actor, Writer, Director, Designer and Executive Producer for both of his Co-Founded companies Battle Stache Studiosand Round Belly Theatre Company, as well as with B.O.A., Piano Fight, Theater Pub, Actors Ensemble Berkeley, Quixotic Players, Footloose Dance Company, The Thick Rick Ones and Rebel Home Dance, and Awesome Theater. He also takes great delight in sunshine and avocados.
Katja Rivera (actor) is an actor/director who originally hails from Los Angeles, but now resides in Berkeley. She is an artistic associate with Shotgun Players, Custom Made Theatre and PlayGround-SF, and is a proud member of AEA. She once lived on Merritt Avenue in Oakland, and was there for the Loma Prieta earthquake. And she has two daughters, Hannah and Ingrid, of whom she is immensely proud.
Carina Lastimosa Salazar (actor) is a local Bay Area theatre actor who has found herself working with a group of awesome people on a web series. She's thankful for the laughs they've given her throughout this filming process. When she's not performing with Bindlestiff, Custom Made, or Central Works or working her 9-5 at Theatre Bay Area, you can find her getting ladies fit at the local Oakland dance studio, Hipline.
Rossana Schneider (actor) can be found doing any number of creative projects depending on which day of the week it is. This full time Bay Area artist, whether she's in the studio recording voice over for clients like the Oakland Museum, Salesforce or Microsoft, or filming TV shows for Investigation Discovery, the latest passion project with friends in her artistic community or fronting her 8 piece funk soul band Swoop Unit, Rossana can promise you one thing, in her life, there is never a dull moment. "Live today like it's all you've got!!!"
Jess Thomas (crew) is a Bay Area filmmaker and screenwriter.
Peter Townley (actor) lives in Oakland and works as an actor throughout the Bay Area. Recent television credits include jewel thief Brian Fuller in I Almost Got Away With It (Discovery Network), recent stage credits include Brick Pollit in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (Tides Theater) and John Proctor in The Crucible (Custom Made Theater Company). He is really happy to be a part of Merritt Squad!, but he really wishes they would let him have a dog.
We are also featuring guest spots by fun and fabulous actors and artists from around the Bay Area, including:
Nick Dickson, Don Hardwick, Chelsey Little, Allison Page, and more!
What's In It For the Backers?
We've assembled a fun collection of rewards for our backers, including digital downloads of the series, limited-edition T-shirts, invitations to our invitation-only screening party on Monday, August 18th, and a bunch of other cool stuff that you should read on the side-bar at the right.
Our $75+ backers will have their choice of one of these two sweet shirts: unisex heather lake blue with navy trim or women's heather grey (with the size of your choice).
We'd like to thank all of the people who are supporting this project with contributions, time, and other resources. In addition to the crew and cast, special thanks to Jeremy Cole, Pegasus Books, Kristoffer Barrera, Mario, Linsday, residents of The Muse, and our families for helping with babysitting so we could have fun creating art with incredible people.
Risks and challenges
The biggest risks and challenges with filming a series like this is maintaining alignment with location availability and actor and crew schedules amidst things that happen unexpectedly that have the potential to derail our carefully laid plans.
Fortunately, we have budgeted for an additional four weeks of time to reshoot shots that didn't quite work out for one reason or another or to capture audio for scenes that we couldn't mic (for instance, some of our outdoor shoots are filmed in places where the wind is going to be a huge obstacle for sound).
Our team is also very adaptable and can transform scenes and situations to turn unexpected changes into opportunities. Collectively, we have a strong record of troubleshooting on set and in editing, creating and operating within realistic budgets, and designing successful Kickstarter campaigns that ultimately lead to completion of the project and fulfillment of all rewards.
We are confident that with the requested financial support, we can begin posting this series within the next two or three months.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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