Jeff Heuchert firstname.lastname@example.org
They may not be the kings of comedy just yet, but give them a little more time and they just might prove worthy of the title.
Longtime Stratford friends Nathan Innes, Tim Scott and Blaze Lewis are the creative forces behind Self Help, a series of online videos that follow the exploits of a self help guru in need of his own life coach.
The concept is in the running for a $500,000 production budget and a half-hour prime time special on the CBC, whose first-ever ComedyCoup contest attracted 280 teams from across Canada.
Over a 10-week period that began in October, teams have been creating and posting videos, images and artwork to further develop and package their projects, while also promoting and building fan support through social media in the hopes of securing those all-important votes.
And so far, so good. Self Help is among the final 55 projects being considered.
"We've been getting a really positive response," says Innes, the project's show runner. "The support in the community from people who know us has been overwhelming."
Voting on the ComedyCoup website to narrow the field down to 15 is open until the end of tomorrow (Sunday, Nov. 7), and it's a spot that the Self Help team really hopes to find itself in come Monday. Teams that reach that stage get to negotiate an option agreement, at least five of which ComedyCoup will option for development. Teams then selected by fans for the final five get to travel to a live event in Toronto to pitch their projects before a panel of industry professionals for the chance at the top prize.
While none of them are trained comedy writers or performers, Innes brings valuable experience to the project. He has been working in the film industry for close to seven years and is currently in post production on his first documentary, which tells the story of his journey to Africa in search of answers about his relationship with his father.
In fact, it was while preparing to leave for Zurich for the international premiere of a documentary that he had worked on about the rise of bitcoin when he was contacted by his friend Lewis about the CBC contest.
Self Help is a major detour from the more serious subject matter Innes is used to working on. But that suits him just fine.
"After doing documentaries for a couple of years ... I was definitely missing comedy," he says.
The inspiration for the show can be traced back to when Innes and Scott were kids and would stay up late at night to watch infomercials for self help professionals like Tony Robbins.
"We thought it would be interesting to have a show of someone who's in that position, helping people with their lives. But in our case, the main character is someone who's lost touch with helping people, and is the one who needs help himself," explains Innes.
Scott, who writes for the show and handles marketing duties, agrees that it was time for him and Innes to try flexing their - what until now have been mostly hidden - comedic muscles. The two have long had ambitions of making it big in this field, he notes.
The contest, he adds, “has given us an opportunity to show our brand of comedy,” which he describes as being not all that different from mainstream shows like The Office and Parks and Recreation, but also unique and “having its own charm.”
Much of that charm, says Innes, can be attributed to Lewis - the show’s unequivocal star in the role of self help guru Chet Reegan – who lives in London and in recent years has posted many funny videos of himself playing different characters to YouTube.
"I really believe Blaze is a top tier actor. He's just an unknown talent," Innes adds.
The gang is optimistic about its chances of making the top 15 – “We think we have a really fresh idea,” says Scott - but doesn’t want to take any chances. To help drum up more support, a special event is planned for this Sunday evening at 7 p.m. at the Queen’s Inn. Lewis will be attending in character to put on a fake seminar. Voting will close later that night.
And if the voting doesn’t go their way?
“We’re not going to be discouraged,” says Innes, who adds the three are committed to trying to develop the show one way or another.
“I’ve recently made many connections in the industry, so we definitely have different avenues that we can explore,” Innes adds. “We’ll keep moving forward.”