Written by Josh Brewer, May 12, 2017, at 5:30 p.m. Tweet to: @theJWBrewer
I got to sit down with Spencer Glenn Miller and Blake Doris and talk about their web series, Tenants, which is currently about to air its final episode of Season 2. They’re a pretty cool set of guys and here is a non-redacted copy of the transcript.
Josh Brewer: How are you guys doing today?
Spencer Glenn Miller: Good.
Blake Dorris: Fantastic.
JB: So, I’m still Josh Brewer and you’re still the Tenants.
JB: How are you liking Season 2. Are you happy with it?
BD: We’re very happy with it.
SGM: Much happier with Season 2 than season one.
BD: It’s almost awkward to talk about it. Because we had the pilot from 2014 and then the rest of season one in 2015, so we have this big gap. And the pilot is great, but it’s way worse than season 1 and Season 1 is not as good as season two. It’s another question of degrees: Season 2 is just on another level. We’re proud of Season 1, but maybe start with Season 2.
SGM: Imagine, if you will, that it’s like Parks and Rec. You can skip the first season.
BD: Go back and watch it later.
SGM: But if you really want to appreciate it, watch Season 2 first.
JB: You’ve opened it up a lot. You’ve managed to expand what Season 1 did pretty aggressively. Was there something that you found especially difficult or was it more like an element of evolution?
SGM: I think the longer you spend time with really good actors, the more they give you on the character. They start to put their mark on it. So, it ends up being easier and harder in a different way, almost. As we shot Season 2, we were getting more takes and were more focused on continuity. We would regularly have, “This shot is great, the last shot is great; let’s have one more for safety.” Every single time. Because so many times in Season 1 we’d be in the editing bay and we’d lose the best parts of a scene because the worst shot was the most coherent.
BD: Or we’d try to splice two together and it just wouldn’t work the same way. Or you’d be talking over in one take but not another.
JB: Especially because you guys have this kind of specificity in dialogue, which is such a focal point as to how Tenants functions. It’s so specific, on top of each other, and working as a whole group, I’d imagine it’s almost impossible to consistently replicate it over and over again.
BD: It’s tough. And we all come from theater backgrounds where you start your line right as the person before you in finishing theirs. Which is something that we kind of had to unlearn to a certain extent. Which was one of the things that contributed to season 2 being better. When we came in, we knew that we’d done one of these and we’d figured out how to shoot one of these and make sure we could do it again and again.
JB: And You’ve probably gotten better in the editing room with splicing lines together that are right on top of each other.
SGM: I edited this entire season, so it’s a much different process. Learning the editing process and getting faster and better at it. Blake was just talking about this. About how in the first episode, I’d put together about five minutes of it and it had taken me about two days. And then the next time, I had like three episodes and it was like three days later.
BD: These were major technical changes between season one and two. We bought a camera to facilitate not just tenants but other film projects through Forever Summer. And so, we were in charge of the camerawork much more than in season one. Spencer had much more say in the cinematography and then Spencer was also taking over the editing. And as the creators, I think we have a pretty solid view of what we’d like it to look like more or less as an end product when we’re writing it. Now we’re able to translate that all the way through because we have the reigns over every step. And that could be bad sometimes, but I think it turned out pretty well for Tenants.
JB: I think there’s a learning curve and once you hit it, you’ve really mastered the process and can move on to different, better things. Or doing those things particularly well.
BD: Making new, fun mistakes.
JB: Always, just making new emergencies.
SGM: Yeah, that’s great.
JB: So, second time around, what did you find was the most different to your approach this time? Because you never do it the same way you did it the first time.
BD: I think for me it was really the writing process. I really enjoy that from beginning to end, kind of that level of finesse. Finding just the right words and putting them in just the right place and then cutting them together in just the right way. I really love that stuff. We approached the writing from a much more character focused place in Season 2. I think that was a huge transition from season 1 to 2. And I think that really set us up for success in a different way.
SGM: I really spent a lot of time watching pitfalls of other web series. And one of the things I think we fell into in the first season and hopefully less in the second season is putting the joke first and being precious with what I’ve written. As we started shooting, we’re changing things on the fly and working things on the fly and doing what we wrote in the jest most of the time, but if actors come to the table with something better than what we wrote, we’re going to do it. It’s kind of like a fearlessness to release. Blake had this thing, at the writer’s table, about “Which hill are you going to die on?”
BD: There might be something that you’re not going to give on. And I know, at least for me, that there were some things this season. For a scene not that we combat on, but I know that Spencer felt like he wasn’t sure about a scene and I was like, “No, I think it needs to be this way.” And I would like to say I’m right…
BD: People responded to it. But you have to pick your battles and every line can’t be your battle ‘cause then people don’t want to work with you.
BD: You’re also shutting down the creativity of the people in the room.
JB: And in film and theater, it’s very different worlds. In theater, the playwright’s word is God. You sit there and everything has to be the same.
SGM: But the thing is that in theater, when you’re going into it… This, what we’re doing and putting on screen is the final product.
SGM: And what you’re doing while you’re shooting on the fly is the workshop that theater has before it hits the stage. If you’re seeing a show on Broadway, that show didn’t get written right before they started rehearsal on Broadway.
JB: Except for Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark. I think that thing was done like the night before.
SGM: Yeah. But if you’re seeing a really good show, they’ve spent months and months. In the case of Spring Awakening it was what? Fucking four years?
JB: Something like that. It was insane.
SGM: When they hired Lea Michele to do that show, she was like, fifteen. And when it opened, she was like nineteen or twenty. That show had been in rehearsals for years.
JB: And that’s time you’re never going to get with a flick. I mean, how much rehearsal-
SGM: It was like the day of.
BD: We were running each shot ahead of time to make sure everyone was comfortable with the lines. That was another major change from Season one, people were more comfortable with the lines. And we still struggled with some of the really heavy back and forth scenes. But in Season 1, it was a lot of “Fuck it, let’s do it live,” and then…
SGM: Fuck it! I’m gonna do it live!
BD: Season 2 people were coming in with their lines 90 to 100% down. And so it’s trying it out and “do I do it like this” or “is this better.”
SGM: For sure.
JB: And so your finale for two launches next week, right? (Check it out here!)
SGM: Yeah. Be prepared.
SGM: Yes. We’ve started working on that. It’s been a bit more of a laborious process. It’s sort of hit us at a time where a lot of things are happening at the same time-
BD: In our lives.
SGM: I’m doing a relaunch of Dark Night Live, which is a podcast. And We’ve got a couple of shorts and Podcasts.
BD: Yeah, the first non-Tenants short came out right when season 2 started. About seven weeks ago. It’s about- It’s terrible when you say it out of context. It’s about addiction and a parody of Intervention.
JB: Yeah, you know. Like all good stories should be.
BD: It’s pretty funny thought-
SGM: It affects many Americans a year. Like two a year.
SGM: Capri-Sun addiction.
BD: It’s based on true events. We’re working on more content. I think Season 3 is on the horizon and it’s something that we want to create. I think it’s not as forthcoming because we have so many projects in our lives. Also kind of looking at what’s going to be the progression of Forever Summer after Tenants. So it’s sort of like our hands are in all of the other pots around Tenants.
BD: And I think Season 1, we wanted to write a sitcom so we had all of these sitcom ideas. Season two, we wanted to flesh out the characters in the sitcom, so we talked about who they were as people and how they were going to grow. And season 3 it’s kind of like what do we do now?
SGM: And how to say good bye.
JB: Are you happy with two?
SGM: Yeah. We are.
BD: Yeah, with season one, I’m proud of it. With Season two, it’s like, this is good.
JB: We’ll, thanks for sitting down with me, guys. Congrats for getting season two up. ‘Cause it’s hard and takes forever and how long did you spend editing?
SGM: A lot.
SGM: Yeah, thanks!