The first question any writer should ask before starting a script for a web project is: why do this for the web? The point is: with more and more content produced not only by independents online but also on many, many television networks, your series needs to have an edge to stand out.
How about a series about a group of guys who throw axes for sport?
Axe Lords is a comedy series from Toronto-based production company Ready, Set, Panic, whose name you might remember as one of 15 production companies splitting $1.4 million in awards from Canada’s Independent Production Fund. RSP’s project is called Bill & Sons Towing.
RSP has produced for various major brands but recently decided they had a quirkier story to tell. RSP’s Charles Ketchabaw was a member of an axe-throwing league in Toronto, and his colleague Mark De Angelis thought it might make a good web project. The series has been releasing episodes this summer.
“For us, that’s making content that’ll make people turn down the volume on their speakers while they’re watching at work,” De Angelis said.
Of course, a crazy idea is great, but storytelling is still important. “I think the web allows for more to room to push boundaries the stakes are lower and the audiences are more forgiving. That being said structure and clarity have to be quite solid,” Ketchabaw said.
Below, the first episode of Axe Lords and a fun interview with De Angelis and Ketchabaw. For more episodes, visit the show’s Blip site.
Where did you get the idea? Are you or do you know axe throwers?
MD: Charles Ketchabaw, the co-creator and producer, had been telling me about this real-life, weekly axe throwing league in Toronto for quite some time. When I finally went and checked it out, it blew my mind. A bunch of guys and girls throwing axes, in a backyard, while drinking, just steps from a busy downtown street. Charles and I quickly sat down to discuss a story idea, with the Axe League as our setting, that would make for a compelling web series. As far as the two of us being axe throwers, Charles shares credit with “inventing” the game during a booze and drug-filled weekend at his cottage. Personally, I suck shit.
CK: The inspiration comes from BATL, an actual axe throwing league in Toronto. I was an original league member and Mark used to come by during exhibition matches to hang out. I believe it was Mark’s impulse initially for us to look at it as a possible setting for a comedic series. We bandied about the idea for quite some time until we settled on the premise and motivation for the characters.
MD: We wanted to create a comedic web series that had a visual look unlike any other web series out there. Most comedic web series tend to be rather simple in their execution (put one or two characters in front of a camera and run some funny dialogue). That’s not a knock on those types of series, but we wanted to create something a bit more ambitious. To do that, we aimed for more of a televison-style web series: a unique setting/premise, a strong narrative arc, and interesting characters that ppl would get invested in. One comedic webseries that really opened my eyes to this possibility was The Bitter End (from a funny group of guys in Montreal). It was a six part web series that for me, really pushed the boundaries of what you could do on the web in terms of storytelling and character development. I hope Axe Lords is as half as good as that series (p.s. and fuck those Bitter End guys for hitting the nail on the head so god damn hard).
There’s a lot of edgy humor in the show, especially involving language and race. Does the web need to push boundaries to compete with other media?
CK: I think the web allows for more to room to push boundaries the stakes are lower and the audiences are more forgiving. That being said structure and clarity have to be quite solid.
MD: I think the web is already pushing boundaries, especially when it comes to humor. The main reason for that is there’s no network exec out here saying you can’t do this, or can’t say that, or you have to fit this demographic, or blah blah blah. So why not push the boundaries? Most of us aren’t getting paid to make this content, so why not do the stuff that you wanna do? For us, that’s making content that’ll make people turn down the volume on their speakers while they’re watching at work.
MD: We certainly hope so, but it’ll likely come down to finances. If someone jumps on board with some money (and possibly some hookers), we have a second season already mapped out. But yeah, definitely the hookers.
Tell me about your production company and any other projects you’re working on.
MD: For the past few years, our production company, Ready, Set, Panic, has been busy producing digital content for a variety of companies: Coors Light, MySpace, Heavy.com, National Lampoons, and the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation), to name a few. Currently, RSP is working on a new web series titled, Bill & Sons Towing (BillAndSonsTowing.com) starring multiple award winning sketch troupe, The Imponderables (Variety Magazine Top Ten Comics to Watch 2010). We’re happy to announce that we were just recently awarded financing from The Independent Production Fund (IPF.ca) for this web series, and we’ll be starting principal photography in December.