Your upcoming series Proper Manors - in a few words, what is
Proper Manors is a soap opera about a group of recently
graduated teenagers in the small town of Proper, USA who have just
graduated from high school and begin to discover that all of them have
merely been pawns in the games the adults of Proper play. Proper is
ultimately a story about two best friends that struggle to maintain their
friendship against all the factors that are pulling them apart and
struggle to also find their own ways in life. It's an homage to 1980's
daytime and prime time soap operas with a modern day twist peppered with
just enough of a Twin Peaks influence to keep the whole community
I've read somewhere that Proper Manors
is, however loosely, based on the life and experiences of you and co-creator Jef
Phillips. Would you at all like to elaborate, and what can you tell us
about your collaborator Mr Phillips?
Jef Phillips and I
have been best friends for almost 28 years. We have lived together,
traveled together, buried people, loved people and survived many a
traumatic event, party, break up and crisis. Through every moment of our
friendship we have never wavered in our love and commitment to each other
as best friends, and we have experienced a lot that we never imagined.
Early on in our relationship Jef brought me out of a shell. I was always
seeking approval and acceptance. Proper Manors picks up at a point
in the fictionalized version of our relationship where Joey has finally
begun to find his own voice. Jef and I created the voices and lives of Proper
Manors together - working out every detail and often having to go back
to both scary and happy places in our past to develop the story. In our
minds, we are still teenagers simply getting together to talk about life
Other sources of inspiration for
creating and writing Proper Manors?
inspiration has been my love of the soap genre. I loved soaps growing up
and as an adult they took a special place in my heart and kept me grounded
and connected. Many soap families became my family. Their communities also
became my community. However, it all began with my own family and
community in Plant City, FL. I often created alternate truths and
realities to face my own challenges and demons and those alternate
realities I created over time became the basis of Proper Manors.
my information, you have spent literally years to develop the concept of Proper Manors
to get it right. What can you tell us about the years of creation, and
your love and dedication to the series?
I remember riding
home from school with my Mom way back in the 7th grade discussing what was
then Southern Manors. Many of the characters then were the
predecessors to the ones we have now created. I am 42 now so I was in the
7th grade 30 years ago. I played around with the idea through high school
and then in college became an Actor. Over the years I would go back to my
notes and keep expanding the community and the characters. In early 2009
the characters started demanding more time in my head and I spent almost
four solid months discussing characters and story lines with Jef nightly.
Then I moved to New England and was cast as a lead in a web series, Round
the Square, written and directed by Michael Robert Berry. I shared my
thoughts about Southern Manors and several writers/directors came
on board. We were targeted for release on shortstream.tv
in New England and then we were approached by MyTV about providing them
with some original programming. The shift to television, coupled with the
AFTRA-contracts made the production cost prohibitive so we had to abandon
the network which also wasn't willing to provide a licensing fee. We also
would have had to provide our own advertising and pay for air time. In the
end, after the dismal failure financially that was a short lived variety
talk travel show called The Leslie Taylor Show, which also has
aired on MyTV, we knew we had to go back to the drawing board. I returned
to Utah and connected with some talented filmmakers in Ogden, UT with a
group called New Ogden Cinema. The community support they provided, along
with the support of what seemed to be every other film related
organization and SAG Indie made Utah the place to bring what is now called
Proper Manors to life. The entire process, including the Florida
early development phase, the New England phase and now the Utah phase has
had well over 200 people involved in the process. We simply refused to
Somewhere I have
read that Proper Manors is something of a cross between The
Sopranos and Twin Peaks. Is that at all accurate, and would you
care to explain?
The patriarch of the Sorrento family, Alessandro Sorrento, being played
by Walter Platz, is certainly very mysterious and often traveling. He may
be connected in a Sopranos kind of way or not. We are allowing the
viewers to make their own decisions - at least initially. We do have a
very Italian flavor to the show but I wouldn't categorize the entire show
that way. Proper is a community. It's a community that represents many
types of perspectives, cultures and families.
Season One Directors Jaison H. Costley and Matt Johnson both embraced
my description of Proper Manors being a bit like Twin Peaks
in some ways. I know what every character is doing at all times - even if
they only appear to be an extra (or as I like to refer to them -
background talent). It's important to pay attention because the Directors
are allowing me the luxury of creating the town of Proper by filling in
every last person with a fully developed back story who has relationships
in town and ultimately could be the key/clue to any given storyline. It is
all connected in many ways so what seems one way may indeed be another. No
one is safe.
What can you tell us about your core
The star and matriarch of the show, Blanche Crawford Sorrento is being
played by Anne Sward. Anne was on my favorite soap opera, As the World
Turns, for most of the 80's and early 90's as Lyla Montgomery Peretti.
Hunter Gomez, who has a huge following among the younger demographic is
playing lead character Joey "Giuseppe" Sorrento. Beau Stine, the
other star of the show, is playing Joey's best friend and partner in
crime, Jef Knights.
Mia Tate, an established actress best known for Oh Brother Where Art
Thou, is Fancy Hicks. I also cast independent film actress Melinda
Chilton as Crazy Jane. Gabrielle Stone is slated for the role of Holly
Olden Holmes. Both Melinda and Gabrielle were part of the now defunct Watch
Island, which, to my understanding, never found funding so I wanted to
make sure they knew how valuable they are to this cast. We remain in talks
with soap vet Matthew Borlenghi. Former Family Matters/Punky Brewster
star, now an accomplished Author and Producer, Cherie Johnson has the
supporting role of Josephine Summerfield.
Former clients and now working actors from my talent management days
Guy Nardulli, Josh Rowe, Heather Hegeman and Kevin Deen will also be a
part of the tapestry of Proper Manors.
The cast is large and includes many newcomers. Amy Savannah, playing
Shila Hicks, is also slated for several feature films this year and Ashley
Eliza Parker is becoming the Parker Posey of web series in this region,
currently working on four different projects.
What about the crew? Do you have any resident
directors and the like?
Jaison H. Costley was my initial choice for season one director and he
brought on his creative partner Matt Johnson as Co-Director. I was the
lead Producer on Costley's The Sex Doll She Bitch (now available on
Amazon and Createspace) and also am producing his next short, Dickhead
Dave. Costley and Johnson have a unique approach to the work and will
be teaming with the preferred Director of Photography in this region, Ben
Sant. Proper Manors, by the time we shoot, will be the 3rd project
they have all worked on together. A season will be 13 episodes. Season Two
Director Ryan McDonald (also a cast member as District Attorney Bruce
Cooper) will serve as First Assistant Director this season and then take
over as Director for the next season.
It's actually quite an interesting situation. Lifelong friends Jef
Phillips and Pietro D'Alessio created the series, being Directed by
childhood friends and still best friends Jaison H. Costley and Matt
Johnson. Ryan McDonald's best friend, Jason White, also a talented
Director, is serving as our Head Writer so, in essence you have three sets
of best friends bringing this project about two best friends to life.
Of course, let's not be fooled. The people that run the show are all
women and all six of us men do what we are told. The producing team
includes Jessica Diekmann, Kimberly McDonald, Mary Alice Nelson, Becky
Haynie, Mande Opheikens and Emily Roth Hurst as well as Executive
Producers Ashley Eliza Parker, Tracy Townsend, Katerina Guinevere Du lac
PhD, Jennifer Groendal PhD and Robin Westover.
The entire team is supported by New Ogden Cinema, Inc.
As I understand, location is a
key-ingredient of Proper Manors - so where do you film it, and how
do the locations indeed influence the look and feel of the series?
nature of the beast of web programming is that it can be very sponsor and
advertising driven. The goal is to keep the core stories solid and involve
the sponsors/advertisers in a way that doesn't take away from the
integrity of the show. With that being our baseline and because we are on
a low budget, we will feature actual businesses in the real Ogden, Utah as
businesses in the fictional town of Proper, USA. Many local business have
made their locations available. We certainly have to tweak some of our
original vision to make it work but in the end working closely with the
community and sponsors/advertisers allows us to tell our story and also
support the entire cast/crew and to contribute to the local community as
well as the Utah Film Community, which is thriving!
made you choose the series-format to tell your story, especially since
(web-)series seem to pop up everywhere these days, and what sets Proper
Manors apart from the rest?
The main advantage we have
is we are a soap opera which means that we are an ongoing series without
an end date. Many online series come and go or they take extended breaks
between seasons. Once we premiere we will have a new episode every week.
Of course we will occasionally do a clip show or repeat a special episode
(over time) but the intention is to allow the viewers to find the show,
tune in and then go back and catch up at any time. We feel that if our
viewers are going to invest their time in supporting the show we should
make it a long term relationship.
The $64-question of
course: When and where will Proper Manors have its premiere?
show will premiere on Thursday, May 31st at
far as I know, Proper Manors has quite successfully created a
fanbase for itself even prior to its premiere. Would you like to elaborate
Soap fans are the most loyal fans. They are
passionate about supporting their shows, their favorite actors and
characters. We were fortunate to have a lot of media support in New
England which really set the standard for us early on when we had other
soap stars interested in the show. The interest of those stars certainly
helped bring awareness to the show and we couldn't be more grateful for
their support. We made it very clear that we support the genre and some
key journalists and soap advocates like Silas Kain, Flo Dibona and
Christine Piccolo recognized our commitment to the format. They have been
instrumental in pushing us to the forefront of the online soap opera
movement. We also have a cast and crew of over 100 people who come with
their own networks and a fiercely supportive film industry in Utah. The
over 225 members of New Ogden Cinema also campaign for the show
Any future projects beyond Proper Manors?
I am one of the lead Producers on Author Brian Beckstead's The Stallion
Warriors as well as the shorts A Soldier's Guardian Angel and
A Stand. I am also a lead Producer on Writer Jason White's Emptiness.
On the acting front I am in the web series A Life Regained and also
the short film CZ-918, among others.
series' website, Facebook, whatever else?
you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?
To have something that I have worked on most of my life come to
fruition has made the entire journey even more meaningful. This show is a
love note to my childhood and also has been very therapeutic. I certainly
wouldn't be where I am with some "life" investors that have
supported me along the way. Special thanks to Deb Johnson, Gwen Eastwood,
Jennifer Groendal PhD, Kevin Arnold, Paul G. Smith, Genevieve Smith
D'Alessio, Tammy Hunter, Lori Lefler and Norma Goff.
Also, thanks Michael and (re)Search my Trash for your unwavering
support. We appreciate it.
For everyone - please do support and share our indiegogo campaign for
the show - coming soon!
for the interview!