Published on March 5th, 2015 | by Biz Books
The Biz Interview: S. Siobhan McCarthy of “Parked”
The 2015 Vancouver Web Fest launches on Friday, March 6th, 2015 and among the many projects on the slate is Parked, a comedy series which was co-created by S. Siobhan McCarthy. In advance of its feature slot at the 2015 Vancouver Web Fest, we spoke to S. Siobhan McCarthy to find out more about her and this exciting project.
Tell us about Parked and what audiences can look forward to.
Parked is an irreverent edgy comedy created by Adam O. Thomas and S. Siobhan McCarthy about stay at home dads and bread-winning moms. red trike media inc. (S. Siobhan McCarthy and Tracey Mack) have produced and released 30 pieces of content (episodes, interviews, trailers) via our website parkedtheshow.com which has been powered by dotstudioPRO.
What are the most unique selling points of the series?
We are honest about the realities of parenting. We don’t sugar coat it. We celebrate and play on the challenges in a comedic, fun-loving and often absurd way.
How did you become involved in this project and what was your creative process like throughout the production?
I’m an actor. A writer. A director. And therefore, as a result, by default, a producer. On Parked I am the co-creator, Executive Producer, Producer, Writer and Actor.
In 2008, I became a parent. As a self-employed artist, there was no official “maternity leave” at the time so I worked contracts teaching, working as a digital media strategist and social media community manager for network television shows, which afforded me the time to conceive my own productions and be an involved, hands-on parent. To be brutally honest, I made the conscious decision, as a parent, to breastfeed my son, which does not bode well for trying to be a working actor on set. I view parenting as the “production of a lifetime” and frankly, although difficult, I chose attachment parenting over my acting career.
In the beginning, as affordable childcare was not readily available, my son’s father shared in the parenting duties. He also worked contracts and would parent our child whilst I was at work and visa versa. My son’s father often found solo parenting challenging due to the fact that all community programs were geared to new moms. When I would come home from teaching a three-hour class, I would hear stories about his day with our son and how lonely parenting was for him as a new dad. He fell into a depression, and in an effort to help, I began to seek out parenting resources for new fathers- activities and community groups to try and help connect him, but I found nothing.
In 2009, my co-creator, Adam O. Thomas also became a parent. We had collaborated many years before on a short film that I wrote, directed and produced called, Happy Meal. At a friend’s party, Adam’s wife told me that he was working on an idea for a comedy show about dads. As we were both inspired by the raw comedy that comes from the ridiculous moments you experience as you parent I offered to option, develop, and produce the property.
I went to Banff in 2010 and began pitching the show Dads to Commissioning Broadcast Network Executives. In the fall of 2010 I had the pleasure of being directed by Peter DeLuise on The Haunting Hour. I was amazed at Peter’s gift for directing children and adults alike, and pitched him the show. Peter agreed. Adam (with the help of a friend, a stellar story editor and myself) wrote a pilot script and a few more drafts and in the spring of 2011, I produced a workshop reading with a professional cast of amazing actors for industry stakeholders. At Banff 2011, I pitched Dads with a pilot script, Peter and most of our amazing cast attached. I received lots of interest, but still no deal. In November 2011, I applied to bc film + media, now Creative BC ‘s interactive fund. Our application was successful and enabled us to hire Switch United and Fan Trust to work with us on branding our show. We did market research, developed our digital strategy and identified our cross platform opportunities. In the spring of 2012, Tracey Mack came on board and we shot a digital pilot/ sizzle reel/ sales tool under the UBCP Ultra Low 20/20 agreement. I pitched the property again at Banff, and Merging Media. At Merging Media we were invited to apply to be a part of the CFC media lab’s ideaBOOST program. In a social media campaign to build audience and garner entrance into the ideaBOOST program, we launched our digital half pilot. Within 24 hours it went viral and made the title page of Reddit, receiving over 100,000 views on YouTube in less than 24 hours. We leveraged that success and had a successful IPF (Independent Fund) application.
We then had to re-brand due to the launch and fail of another comedy show under the same name with FOX. After weeks of deliberation, we decided on PARKED and cracked open the story world by developing the characters of the bread winning wives – Julia Benson, Sonja Bennett, Jennifer Copping and myself.
In November 2013 we began shooting Parked. In 3 weekends we shot 30 episodes, which we released every week on Dailymotion and YouTube from Feb 28 2014- July 13, 2014.
We have screened at the Forum des Image in Paris, The Toronto Webfest, Austin Webfest, Miami Webfest, Atlanta Webfest, and NY Webfest.
This weekend we screen at the Vancouver Webfest, where we are nominated for Best Canadian Series, Peter DeLuise is nominated for Best Director and David Lewis for Best Actor. In two weeks we screen at the Hollyweb Festival. As a result of my work on Parked and other properties, I was selected as a Bell Media National Fellow in 2014 and short-listed for their Producer Lab Accelerator. I won the Women In Film and Television Banff Scholarship in 2013 from Vancouver’s Chapter and in 2014 from Toronto’s Chapter. I joined the CMPA Berlinale EFM delegation in February to pitch my slate of 5 feature films to funders, productions companies and financers. Parked has been a wonderful calling card.
What has been the most rewarding part of the experience so far?
The most rewarding experience has been actually making the work with a team of wonderfully talented and kind people. For years I had been in development on various properties, and unfortunately, very few have been made. I always joke that Parked made me a filmmaker instead of a film f***er. As a producer, it is not easy. When you meet new people, especially non-industry people and they ask what you do. When you respond, “I’m a producer.” They will quickly respond with enthusiasm and curiosity, “Really? What have you made that I have seen?” After years of being stuck in development, I often felt like a fraud. An imposter of sorts. Now I can send them to our parkedtheshow.com website and they can access our series without much trouble. In 2013, I produced Parked and a feature film. It was a very busy year, but highly rewarding.
What has been the biggest challenge?
Besides the adage of not enough time and money? I think, getting over the negative assumptions affiliated with the term, “webseries.” For so long, a webseries had the stigma of being cheap, having bad production quality and bad acting. Fortunately, with the rise of platforms such as Netflix and shows like, House of Cards and Orange in the New Black that is changing.
We’ve wanted to be cutting edge and have a high production quality from the on-set and it was hard trying to overcome the stigma that webseries carried and producing broadcast quality work on a ground down webseries budget. We shot our series with two cameras, with a union crew and union cast. We ran our writing room as a broadcast television show would, minus the funding and lush production offices all whist we worked other full time jobs. Convincing broadcast executives to take a chance on our team and our content was next to impossible. As a result of Parked and its success, we now have broadcast executives asking us what else we are working on as we have proven that we are able to deliver on-time and on-budget.
The other challenge has been that our funding system is not presently set up to fund digital productions. It is still tethered to a broadcast trigger for the extension of the story world. Parked was supposed to be like an APP and have a broadcast show, so for me, its only partially finished. We still haven’t explored the world of one of our main characters, which we had to cut due to financial restraints.
There are no markets supports available to webseries creators/ producers once you have an invitation to a festival or a deal with a digital platform as there are with feature films. The Internet is full of so much content; it is flooded, so it is very hard to stand out without proper marketing budgets in place to be able to ensure that.
Finally, in our round of the IPF funding, we were the only west coast show funded. Canada is one big beautiful country where Toronto is the epicenter and to quote a distributor, “anything west of Ossington Ave might as well be China.” It has been very difficult to garner attention and support from the media, decision makers and audiences based in Toronto. Although for two years, I lived predominantly in Toronto, it has been a very tough yet essential nut to crack.
From your experience in putting Parked together, what are the keys to building an effective series for the web?
To build your audience strategically, and to not “pop” too quickly. We went viral in the spring of 2013, but didn’t have any content to back it up, sustain and build our audience systematically as we didn’t receive our funding until the summer of 2013. We closed our financing and began shooting in late November 2014 and then released Parked weekly from Feb 28th – July 13th, 2014. The funding model is not aligned with the festival model. Funders want you to have approximately 100,000 views per episode and lots of awards, but that takes time to accomplish, especially without media support and funding to do so.
I also think, you need to build into your contracts that actors and key personnel will support your show via social media. I had assumed cast and crew would want to post our show, or at least re-tweet or re-post the content we published. Unfortunately, that was not the case and if you want to garner the views funders need to believe the show is a success then that needs to happen.
Where can people learn more about Parked and support the production?
Via our website parkedtheshow.com
Twitter handle @parkedtheshow
Facebook page Facebook.com/parkedtheshow
Youtube channel youtube.com/parkedtheshow
Dailymotion channel dailymotion.com/parkedtheshow
What advice would you give to someone who is looking to create their own web series?
I would give this advise to anyone creating anything, not just a webseries. Surround yourself with a team of like-minded people you truly like and make sure you are all making the same property. When working with Switch United they gave us an amazing exercise, asking each person to independently give five words to describe the series we were creating.
Over the six plus years of making Parked we have had a few key people come and go. With some of those people the experience was easier than with others. I’ve come to learn to try and not take it personally, that it is the nature of the beast. People get busy, tired, they change or are offered other avenues they wish to explore. So be it. My mantra is, “It is the grace in which we deal with it.” We are in show business. So I believe that it is important to align yourself with people who have a moral compass that is tuned similar to your own. Try to find secure, loyal people to work with who are morally aligned with yourself. Don’t rush into anything. Allow yourself at least 24 hours to make important decisions. Listen to your body. If you find it hard to stomach eating with someone, why go into business with them? To quote Tracey, “Paper (contract) everything and have an exit, unwinding clause in every contract.” Pick your battles. To quote my wonderful mentor Alex Raffe, “Do you want to be right? Or do you want to win?”
What books have been influential to you throughout your creative journey?
My creative journey has been influenced by more books and scripts that it is possible to name. More importantly, the book Please Understand Me by David Keirsey that was first introduced to me in 2005, or so by my friend and fellow actor, Ben Cotton has had a profound impact. It is an amazing tool that helps you understand people and their personality types. I originally used this book as an actor/writer when researching various characters, but in recent years it has become the ultimate producing tool. As a producer, you assemble teams of people. People are amazingly wonderful complex beings and the more you can understand them, their personality types and how they work, the better you can assemble a harmonious team. When you work such long days, and for often little to no money, you want to surround yourself with fun-loving kind people that you WANT to be with and share time with accordingly. I pride myself on having a set filled with hardworking, kind and fun- loving people. Having a sense of humour and being able to laugh at yourself and each other in a positive way is integral to getting through the more challenging times.
What other projects are you currently involved with outside of Parked?
On the feature film side, I have 5 feature films in development.
I am in the process of gathering my team to support me in directing my first feature film called, Glendale. It was a play written by my colleague W. E. Kinley that I optioned and have been packaging ever since. Camille Sullivan is slated to play my lead Evelyn, with Katie Boland as her sidekick Luanne. We are currently seeking financing.
I am working with Angie Nolan to produce her first feature film, Bad Dolly using her recent Crazy 8’s film, The Twisted Slipper as her calling card.
I am writing a feature called Sonder and I’m working on a documentary called Behind the Red Nose about claurophobia.
I am working on a film that is to be an international co-production with England and Ireland with the working title Claudy with Oscar-Winning filmmaker John Zaritsky.
I have a slate of series that I’m developing with my amazing producing partner on Parked, Tracey Mack.
Whiskey Fabric is a comedy series about women in the whiskey world, with the ensemble cast Laura Adkin, Lisa Durupt, Angie Nolan, Justine Warrington and myself.
Bacon and Eggs is another comedy series we are working on with Rachelle Bencze and Enid-Raye Adams.
We have a few more we are developing, but I don’t want to spill the beans too soon.
I try to write daily, and look forward to having the time to finally adapt my award winning stage plays so that I may direct and produce them as feature films before I die.
I try to act and clown as much as I can and do my best to raise my son to be an amazing human and awesome husband to someone, one day.
For more information on the 2015 Vancouver Web Fest, please visit VancouverWebFest.com!