AICN WIDE WORLD OF WEBSERIES Q&@: SJimbrowski talks with Sandeep Parikh and Tony Janning, the co-creators of THE LEGEND OF NEIL Webseries!!!
@’s by LEGEND OF NEIL Co-creators
Sandeep Parikh and Tony Janning!!!
SJIMBROWSKI: LEGEND OF NEIL. This is my question that I come with when I’m watching the series – kind of where did you come up with it, where did the idea come from?
SANDEEP PARIKH: Yeah, so I was drunk.
SJ: Strangely appropriate with the source matter.
SP: I was not currently was asphyxiating myself. That didn’t happen until much later. I was pretty tipsy and my roommate had just gotten a care package from his mother that included the original NES.
SP: And the beautiful golden cartridge that is Zelda and he claimed he could beat the game in under 45 minutes or under an hour, and I was like, that’s just total BS. That’s impossible, because I spent ages 6 to 11 trying to beat that game. And then he proceeded to, we’re already drunk at this point. It was already a night out and we had the package waiting for us, and we’re like what’s this and he plugs it in is tells me he can beat it in under an hour. And he starts playing it and we’re drinking more and I’m just kind of like watching the game – all the memories come flooding back. You’re just like how ridiculous is this world, that you know, that they’ve created and just everything from the naming conventions, who is this old man in the cave giving you a sword? What would it be like waking up in the middle of the forest with no sword and you have to go in a cave and there is an old dude there, and it’s made out of wood. Go kill creatures with this wooden piece of shit.
TONY JANNING: Which is more than he said.
SP: And you know I’m kind of filling in the conversation in my head and started writing that sketch right then. And in the morning, when I was hung over , typos and all it was still pretty funny. I thought this actually makes sense and this is kind of funny. The whole time I was thinking about Tony as, as this asshole link. He wasn’t Neil yet. In the script he wasn’t Neil yet.
TJ: Yeah the first draft was link.
SP: Just being an asshole, and I was like fuck this how the fuck am I doing this, I don’t even know this princess.
SJ: Well that certainly came through in the series.
SP: Yea and then as we were kind of like working on the script and I was like the week before we were shooting it dawned on me, I was like it should be someone getting sucked into this game. That’s kind of a cooler, someone getting sucked into a rabbit hole. I think that in my head Tony will be able to play that more easily as a regular dude. You know being like –
SJ: Tony does have that every man quality.
SP: He’s very much that every man, gruff asshole, douchbag piece of shit.
TJ: That’s what my wife says every day.
SP: Yeah, so Tony and I have done a lot of improv together. That’s like, we had already been working together, we did another Channel 101 short called “The Raptor” that he wrote with another friend of ours that I directed. So we’d already been sort of working together a lot. So it was an easy fit for me.
SJ: Okay. So you got the idea. You’ve written it down, you come back. You know, you’ve sobered yourself up, and think it’s still pretty funny. You’re thinking about Tony, how does that, how does it go from there?
TJ: I jumped on, like he said, he said it to me and I immediately loved it. We started playing with the script and then we just decided we were going to shoot it out of our own pockets. We had a really, really small crew of 2 or 3 other people and we went out gorilla style to Griffith Park for the exterior stuff and then a friend of his turned his whole dining room into that cave. We spent all day doing that and we shot all the old man stuff and the rest was –
SP: We turned it into a cave -- our production designer, producer every person she did everything for that show for two seasons. Yea I was really like --
TJ: -- Just kind of out of our own pockets basically. We made it for Channel 101. Originally. And through an act of weird fate we missed the cut off day for when shows were turned in by a day and so we put it on YouTube. We had also submitted it for that show they used to do for VH1, cable TV, and it took off on YouTube, enough that it garnered attention and then --
SP: Yea it got like 300,000 hits in the first week. It just blew up. I was really pretty cool at the time like experiencing something go viral.
SJ: Yeah so what were you thinking when that’s happening?
SP: Yeah you’re seeing this blow up. I always have big dreams for things. Whenever I shoot something I want it to be great and explode and have my parents be like, “This is – now we understand why you wanted to be a filmmaker and not a doctor.” So I always want things to succeed and I don’t think things just randomly go by. We put it on YouTube and immediately I went out, and I went to Joystick and Kotaku – all these blogs that I thought would be interested and I emailed tips at Joystick, tips at Kotaku and all these places. Here is my series, I think it’s funny, watch it. You know like Zelda you guys love this shit so, watch it and --
TJ: As soon as it did we wanted, even before the deal happened with Atom, and the process of trying to make a deal started we wanted to make more. It did so well and we had so much fun making it – we immediately wanted to make more anyway.
SJ: How did that work with Atom, was it the second season or did they take it up the first year?
SP: The first episode out, it was Destructoid.com that picked it up. They did a feature a story and then it blew up. And then Joystick and Kotaku jumped on and it went boom. That’s when we got the half a million views. And so then I went and pitched it to the folks over at Spike TV which I already had a contact there from a different series. This time I’m now armed with a show that is not only funny, I think, but also has an audience base, a following. I’m not just coming in blindly being “Hey, here’s my show. I hope you think it’s funny. If you don’t there are already a half a million people that do.” And so I walked into four meetings and walked out with four deals. It was a very different – we held the chips because the internet success the first episode already achieved.
Intermission while drinks are ordered.
SJ: So you think it was September of ’07 when that deal was finally official?
SP: Comedy Central just bought AtomFilms.com to turn it into Atom.com so they were just getting into the online space and they came along and they were like, we want to trump the rest of your deals basically. So they just offered the best deal and plus Comedy Central showed up giving us riders and we were like “hell yea.” Um, kind of a no-brainer. And then, they came along that they were like we want six more episodes. They gave us a good episodic, at the time -- this is -- it wasn’t negative $500. So it was really great. We were excited.
TJ: It was actual money.
SP: It was actual fat cash. So then, that was September of 2007. It wasn’t until the next year basically that we started shooting. We shot them all at once like movie block style. All of season one.
TJ: The second episode was already written.
SP: The second episode was actually already shot secretly while we were making a deal.
TJ: We were going to make it on our own. We were like let’s make another episode. Then we submitted our outline of the season. That script was already basically, we kind of rewrote it for exactly how it ended up being edited because it was already made – Episode 2 so we only shot 3, 4, 5, and 6.
SP: We were just hoping that they would approve it so we didn’t have to reshoot. Luckily they were like it’s great.
Intermission while drinks arrive.
SJ: So they give you the money to shoot the rest of the season one. How does that proceed to season 2 or 3. Are they the same type of deal or are they different?
SP: We had an option for season two. They exercised the option because the season did pretty damn well. You know they aired it on Comedy Central. It also did well there, and then aired on MTV2. And then they picked up season two. They didn’t have an option for season three so we, and so we were like we really want to blow this thing up, so we told them want the double the budget and they went for it. I always knew I wanted to end it at season three too. So did Tony. I always wanted to make it a trilogy. I love trilogies. I love the Star Wars and the Lord of the Rings and –
SJ: And the Star Treks that they keep making.
SP: Well that’s not a trilogy so –
SJ: Yeah, you’re right.
SP: I really love the trilogy format. I love the beginning, middle, and end format. At the end of season two you leave our hero in the desperate situation and he’s facing the –
TJ: You know the second act down, and then the third act –
SP: And for the third act he decides the become the hero that he never was and he’s all about now getting laid and --
TJ: Plus we didn’t know how long we could keep it fresh.
SP: It just gets old.
TJ: It would have gotten old after a while probably.
SJ: So it leads to the natural question. At the end of season three where somebody gets sucked down a toilet. Spoiler alert -- somebody gets sucked down a toilet. Which was kind of thread by the way in terms of leading it into, you know –
TJ: We realize it was the only bodily function we hadn’t seen them do yet and we were like this is a perfect segue. There’s no better way to do it.
SJ: So was that, you segued into that is that you know do you have a plan to maybe so a Mario?
TJ: Not right now.
SP: The future holds many strange and wondrous things, who knows?
TJ: I just keep saying, you never know. Right thousand there’s – we thought it was a fun ending and obviously if someone would want to make it and offer us exorbitant amount of cash to make it –
SP: Unreasonable money –
TJ: We would consider it.
SP: I mean maybe seven Shock Tops. If I got seven drinks.
TJ: Short of there -- just over there.
SP: I mean we’ve done the video game. We’ve done the video game parody. I just don’t want to live in that space forever.
SJ: Yeah, I can see that.
SP: So right now I want to try for new things.
SJ: I mean writing wise you’ve done it, but seems like the video game parody gives you a built-in audience.
SJ: I mean that is the advantage of it, people that go, I remember playing this game for 4000 hours-- the same thing for like a Super Mario.
SP: So it’s very important to us that the show be more than just a video game parody. That we really created our own world within that world, and created our own storylines that didn’t necessarily go exactly with the game, and that used the game as touchstone. And then we started doing a lot of parodies within the parodies. Which was just kind of a fun, because we’re children of the 80’s so we love Cheers and we love the movie Glory, and so any way we can fit, Rocky, just like any way we can we fit that into our world?
TJ: Yea I really like the Rocky montage - old man Rocky montage, that was choice.
SP: We saw lot of Tony’s penis as the thing behind the curtain, you know not fully exposed.
SJ: So seriously, whose idea was it that Tony runs around in his underwear all the time?
TJ: I don’t remember anymore.
SP: Season one, you didn’t want to do it.
SJ: He spent a lot of time in his underwear.
SP: Listen. There’s a market for that for some reason.
TJ: In season one we were coming up with the idea of his clothing taken and being like the ploy to get him in level one. We were both laughing our asses of at the idea of this guy running around and just, he still had boots but laughing our asses off and we just wrote it that day. The day I showed up to shoot that I was like fuck, that’s right, I play this guy. Then it just kind of became, all right he’s in his tidy-whities here. He’s here, and then you know we just did it.
SP: Once we do a joke you’ll notice throughout the series we like to call it back and kind of expand upon it. So you know like fog for instance, was just like having a fog machine was just a simple gag that’s we want it had old man to pull out a fog machine and make his giving the wooden sword a more dramatic effect. And then suddenly we’re like fog, let’s make fog an important part of this – so when Gannon was first introduced I was like, it would be funny if they were holding a fog machine. And for whatever reason they had the technology to create fog machines. They have no electricity but they have fog machines.
TJ: And Scot Chernoff, who played Gannon, improvised a ton with fog –
SP: More fog!
TJ: And it actually became a part of his character that he loved fog.
SP: Well we were like it’s fog that ultimately turned him evil.
TJ: It was like the dark side. Fog was the dark side.
SP: We wanted to do a flash back of like, very Lord of the Rings whatever the third – The Return of the King, when in the movie when they had the prelude when they had the hobbit, when they showed how he got the ring and everything, so we were like let’s show how Gannon turns evil. Of course, when he discovers fog and so my little niece Ungalie played a miniature Gannon, turning evil, discovering fog. We like to do that.
SJ: The sense of humor in the series is a little bit –
SJ: Yeah, it’s a little bit raunchy. And certainly, you know –
SP: Dick laden?
SJ: Yes. I found it very funny but do you think that it in any way kind of limited it the marketability of the series?
SP: Yes, yes and I don’t care. Yes, well I mean part of me cares of course you want more people to see it and appreciate it. But at the same time it’s like I don’t think, I think we’ll mature as writers but right now we just have a lot of dick jokes floating around in our heads, so we wrote them.
TJ: Yeah, my last script only had one dick joke in 110 pages so –
SP: That’s impressive.
TJ: I’ve matured.
SP: Maybe it’s me because my last script had a lot of—
TJ: I think what was in the actual episodes, the humor -- I think what hurt us more than anything with people was a lot of people could not get past the opening of the asphyxiation. For whatever reason –
SJ: I had a problem with it.
TJ: For whatever reason?
SJ: I mean a huge amount of people watched the entire series, I mean personally, totally it felt like it set the wrong tone.
SP: Yeah, it’s funny because of that.
TJ: For some people they were checking out right then. If you take out the opening sequence, and especially as the show progressed, season two and season three, it got less crude. The crude stuff kind of stayed within the characters who were crude or some of the situations he was put in.
Season one was hands down the crudest, hands down the most F-words and everything else. But as it progressed it got filtered out a little bit and we actually lost some fans that loved the crazier crude stuff. We tried to make it more about a story about his characters and we lost fans and we also gained new ones. Yeah, the autoerotic asphyxiation was like a joke that we laughed about we decided that was the reason he got in but, as a song, and it’s a joke, but it a crazy stupid joking way for him to get in.
SJ: Part 2 next week or after as SDCC 12 might interfere.
Find out more about LEGEND OF NEIL here. If you're headed to San Diego Comic-Con, you can find Sandeep and Tony and get an EXCLUSIVE free autographed poster print of the DVD cover (while supplies last). Just head to the Roddenberry Booth (#2543) Thursday, July 12th at 2:30pm.
Proofs, co-edits & common sense provided by Sleazy G
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July 9, 2012, 4:24 a.m. CST
July 9, 2012, 4:25 a.m. CST
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