The raison d’etre of a series pilot is simple — there’s no way to be sure a concept will work on the screen until you go ahead and shoot it. But sometimes the only way to know for sure that the premise of your clever urban comedy web series works is to go ahead and shoot more than the first episode.
Written by and starring Tim Curcio and Nick Ross, Old Friends is extremely simple in concept: Two guys run into each other on the streets of New York, except that while Nick remembers Tim as a good friend from high school, Tim knows Nick as the guy who took his wife’s virginity — and as such, hates his guts. That initial meeting is cleverly scripted — one of those encounters where the two people talking are having two different conversations — but as a standalone it’s awfully slight, and as the first episode of a series you’re not sure what will happen next.
Fortunately, Curcio and Ross, working in partnership with Crossroads Media, have kept on going. Four out of six total episodes of Old Friends have been released online, expanding upon Nick’s growing intrusion into Tim’s otherwise content life. It’s kind of like Single White Female, except Nick Ross has nicer cheekbones than Jennifer Jason Leigh and Tim’s the only one who thinks that Nick’s stalker-ish obsession with Tim and his wife is weird.
Ross came to our attention last year when his series Park Bench won our Pier Screenings Pilot contest, and teaming up with Curcio has lead to an even sharper dynamic. Shot guerrilla-style by Matt Cady, the series has a simple, clean look that keeps the comedy well-honed, and the package has done well so far. The first and second episodes placed 1st and 3rd, respectively, at the last two Channel 101 NY fest screenings, and the series may also screen at the New York TV Fest in September.
In the meantime, Crossroads Media is seeking partners to distribute the series and bring on brand sponsors, hoping to get financing to complete the 10-episode first season as well as a second. And the interest they’ve received so far is entirely a result of the completed episodes. “The fun of these later eps is that they really demonstrate how the series will grow and evolve past the basic premise,” said David Title, director of new media for Crossroads. “The trick is always making a story that will continue to engage after the initial setup wears off, and Tim and Nick have really convinced me they have the ideas to make this happen.”
It’s not an approach that would work for everyone, but if you’re the creator of a series with low overhead and plenty of potential, the six-episode pilot might be just the way to sell it.