Tuesday, October 27, 2009

the videomakers: silver spring's ready for its close-up

Part TWO of our exclusive interview with Walter Gottlieb, creator of The Videomakers, a new web series set in Silver Spring. (see part ONE | part TWO | part THREE | part FOUR) Above: the second episode.

Filmmaker Walter Gottlieb says his new web series, The Videomakers, reflects what people expected to happen after Discovery Communications and the American Film Institute moved to Silver Spring ten years ago. "A lot of nonfiction TV production companies came in to take advantage of it because National Geographic, PBS were already in the area," he says. "It has somewhat dissipated in a way because Discovery . . . they don't use a lot of production companies from Silver Spring."

"It seemed natural to set it in Silver Spring," says Gottlieb, whose family moved to the D.C. area from Hartford when he was a baby. He's lived in Silver Spring since age thirteen and currently lives with his family in the Indian Spring neighborhood. "When I thought about what I knew, what I could write about, the locations I had access to, it all made sense. I wanted to write about my experiences and put a creative spin on it."

"I just think Silver Spring is a fascinating place," he says. "I wouldn't set this anywhere else."

The Videomakers chronicles the day-to-day activities of Lowball Productions, a Silver Spring-based company founded by business partners/former lovers Amanda (Ann Marie Barbour) and Kevin (Lee Ordeman) that makes reality TV shows for networks like the Exculpatory Channel. When the series begins, they're struggling to sell the rights to Top Shots, a reality TV show where bikini-clad women shoot each other with Airsoft guns. Losers are declared "dead" and placed in coffins.

While he meant them to sound funny, Gottlieb says that some of Lowball Productions' shows - like Pets of the Third Reich and Chefs Behind Bars - could probably be made in real life. "I get an education in reality TV by watching with my daughters," he says, citing shows like America's Next Top Model and Flavor of Love. "It is obviously such a ripe format to parody. They all have the same cheesy appeal."

He seeks to skewer the culture surrounding these shows. In a scene from the third episode, the crew tries to see who's on the most prescription drugs, dumping their pill bottles out in an attempt to one-up each other. "There's more than a modicum of truth to that," says Gottlieb. "We're trying to satirize the whole gamut. This web series was conceived as observational humor . . . it made sense to start with the most outrageous thing possible."

To that end, there's no shortage of profanity or bare skin on the show, making this series definitely NSFW. "If you're doing a show in the business I'm in, if you don't have swearing or sexual intrigue, you're not being faithful," says Gottlieb.

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