Making of a BOYBAND
October 16, 2015 by Julian Axelrod
When producer/director Colleen Griffen invited me to the set of boyband, the web series she’s been working on for the past year, I expected something simple: I’d show up to the set and talk to Griffen and the cast about their experiences filming the series that summer.
A week later, I stood on a busy street in Evanston, Illinois talking to a fake boy band about eating pennies as parade floats passed by. The cast was set to perform in the town’s annual Fourth of July parade (which would also be filmed for the series), so by the time I arrived to their setup area the boys had already been in character for an hour. It wasn’t a typical interview, but boyband isn’t a typical series.
The actors’ impressive commitment to the project is emblematic of boyband’s journey over the past year. Griffen conceived the story of five boys with aspirations of pop stardom and filmed it as a short in July 2014. However, this was only the beginning for boyband: After the short premiered in March, Griffen started a Kickstarter to raise money to shoot 22 episodes of the web series this summer before the cast left for college.
From Short to Series
Griffen explains that the writing process changed from the short to the web series, drawing the story beats from improvisation with the cast before her nephew, writer Sam Griffen, wrote scripts based on their treatment. My chat with Shaun (Peter Semla), Yancy (Noah Eisfelder), Lance (Jacob Bond), Chad (David Colton) and Preston (Matthew Chappelle) reflects this process, with the actors riffing throughout the interview while fully inhabiting the characters. The band explained that they were at the parade to shoot a video for the new single “Red White and You,” a song about “America and love and loving America” that features “vivid imagery of embracing the Statue of Liberty, spiritually and physically.” The conversation veers from Yancy’s milk addiction to a potential One Direction collaboration to the idea of befriending their fans: “We want our fanbase to be our friends,” says Preston, before Lance interjects, “… because we don’t have any friends outside of this.”
boyband’s evolution from short to series has led to a new set of challenges and opportunities for Griffen, who notes, “It’s a little bit more of a bigger ship to turn, but the quality is much better, and we’re having so much fun.” While most of the original short was shot in and around Evanston, this summer’s shoot has taken the crew to larger locations such as the Fourth of July parade and Pilsen concert venue Thalia Hall. However, the town made this possible as well: Griffen explains that local businesses let them to shoot for free, which afforded the producers the financial flexibility to shoot at venues such as Thalia Hall.
boyband is one of Griffen’s first directorial efforts after over 30 years as a producer, and this spirit of experimentation and opportunity extends to the rest of the production: “We’re trying to fill in that niche between ultra low-budget filmmaking and the big stuff,” explains Griffen. “Some of our crew people are normally camera PAs, and now they’re cinematographers.” Furthermore, several PAs I meet are college students getting their first on-set experiences on boyband. While the series plays its characters’ inexperience for laughs, the producers see the shoot as an opportunity to give their crewmembers chances in positions they usually don’t get to fill.
What's Next for boyband
Shooting wrapped this summer, and Griffen will head to the American Film Market with the series next month. When asked about the future of boyband, Griffen defers to the cast’s availability, saying, “There’s plenty more story to tell, but they have to go to school and have real lives.” But as I walk through Evanston with the boyband float, watching the crew run cameras around the boys singing along to “Red White and You” as Griffen leads the charge, it’s hard to imagine a more rewarding, communal environment than the one formed on this set. Griffen mentions during our interview, “This is made by all of us,” and after spending the day on set, it’s easy to see how much real teamwork goes into making a fake pop group.