"Creative people live here. They work here on creative things. Group creative things. Occasionally group creative things for money."
That's the voice of H. Jon Benjamin (Bob's Burgers, Archer), heard in voiceover in the opening of All Over It, a new web series exploring Fishtown's creative class. The series—which premiered Monday—stars Chris O'Brien, Kate Dearing, Alex Malaos, Nadia Quinn, and Jim Santangeli, as a creative collective living and working together in a Fishtown loft, attempting to sell themselves an ad agency. (Benjamin and Ben Sinclair guest star).
The idea came from writer/directors and MTV alums Ted Pauly and Melissa Silverman, who were inspired by their own experiences and those of friends—"we had friends living in a repurposed disco or Knights of Columbus Hall, where you couldn't really lock your door, and everything was always dirty from the party last week," says Pauly. And while the Fishtown setting wasn't part of the original conception—"it was originally up in the air, but our producer, Laris Kreslins, pushed us to consider Philly," he continues—it's a natural fit, resulting in a portrayal that seems eerily similar to Fishtonians we know and love.
Pauly explains that his background in Philly drove him to set the series there. "I grew up in Wayne and lived in Philly for a while, and the more we visited and talked it over, the more it started to feel like a perfect match," says Pauly, who now resides in New York. "It feels to me like Philly accepts people in their raw state; New York largely wants you to come ready for primetime, wants you to polish the edges, with all the blandness that that entails."
The characters were cobbled together from Pauly and Silverman's own traits, plus those of friends and acquaintances: "Mike (Chris O'Brien) has a lot of me in him—his mix of helplessness and agency," says Pauly. "Hans (Alex Malaos) the Greek-Cypriot Englishman with a German name, loosely evokes a Swede who used to answer the door at my band's old practice space, then go back to bed, if that makes sense."
The series was originally filmed as one 22-minute pilot, and shopped around—and when Pauly and Silverman couldn't find an appropriate outlet, they decided to chop it up into short segments and release it as a web series.
Filming took place over 5 days in 2012 at Girard Hall on 6th and Girard, the re-purposed movie theater-turned-disco hall-turned DIY venue/living space/batting cages, and Kung Fu Necktie, on N. Front Street. Pauly describes the then-residents of Girard Hall as "cooler, younger…and more actualized versions of the show's concept."
Production was handled by local company Backseat Conceptions, who brought in a mostly local crew—and who were drawn to the script because they could relate to the story.
"It's funny," says Backseat producer and production coordinator Doug Sakmann—"We felt very connected to the script because the creation of our company was so similar to the premise of this show. [Backseat Conceptions] has been based in Philly 13 years now…but when we started out it was the same situation as the characters. We were literally a bunch of dudes sharing a work/living environment. We had this giant loft space and built a second floor with cubby-hole style bedrooms."
A production company whose credits include MTV, National Geographic channel, and myriad music videos, short films, and commercials, Backseat has since grown to a respected DIY stalwart—but Sakmann notes that had the show started production even a year earlier, they could have filmed at the company's HQ. "Our old office was on 5th and Cecil B. Moore, four blocks away from Girard Hall. We moved to a new office a year before, in 2011—after 13 years as a company, we finally moved past everyone living together." He laughs.
The company's background made production that much easier—"we came into a space that was very similar to where we had come from," says Sakmann. "We built sets, but we also used elements of what [the residents] already had."
The result was a project that was both inspirational and nostalgic. "It was fun sort of reminiscing on where we were as a company 8 or 9 years ago and recreating the situations," continues Sakmann. "There is a car wash featured in the show where we had our bus serviced many times. It was a nice way to bring everything full circle."
All Over It will air new web segments throughout the month of February; episodes will be available through the project's website, as well as YouTube and Vimeo.