|Posted by timeaftertime on March 22, 2010 at 8:00 AM|
One of the best web series to date and a personal favorite is Buppies. I have said in many weekly reviews that Buppies has set a standard when it comes to telling ongoing stories in the 3-5 minute range and regularly use the series as a measurement for other web series which are in a similar vein. Buppies was created, written,and directed by the talented Julian Breece with whom I had a chance to discuss this eye catching and oh-so-addictive web series that from my own words "keeps it poppin and moven'." So join me as we get the skinny on Buppies and the man behind it.
Time After Time/SoapWorld: How did you come up with the idea for the series Buppies?
Julian Breece: The idea for Buppies, popped in my head during film school. Most of my college friends had gone directly into the work world and I was intrigued by the identity crises many of them faced. It's a very post-Cosby dilemma. When you're black and college educated it's easy to feel pressured into a very narrow view of success. You have to get the big job, to get the big house and the nice cars. But once my friends got those things, a lot of them still felt empty. They had no idea who they really were or what they really wanted. I think Buppies explores that particular identity crisis in a fun but sincere way.
TATSW: Knowing that the series was originally from concept something you had planned for a television series, how did you retool it for the web?
JB: Buppies was conceived as a full-on comedy initially, but for the web series version I really wanted to do something that allowed for more relationship depth and character drama. We've all seen plenty of series where black people make us laugh, but I felt like the times called for something different. I was definitely inspired by what I saw Mara Brock Akil masterfully do with The Game. I think she really elevated the traditional 4-camera format and pushed it to its dramatic limits. With Buppies I wanted to take that even further an presenta black single-camera show that could make you laugh and feel something sans laugh-track.
TATSW: BET which many critics have suggested that the majority its programming promotes negative stereotypical images of African Americans picked up the series. This was a shock to us all. How did that come about?
JB: I have to give it up to BET because they've really supported the show and seem to be moving in a new direction. The network actually acquired theseries before they'd even seen all of the footage. I created a trailer that we released to blogs back in 2008 and BET came to me with an offer before the show had even been cut together. My hope was to do the show independently and when BET first approached I admit to being skeptical because of the network's reputation. But what I learned is that there's a new crop of new, forward-thinking executives at the company that are working hard to change the tide there. They said, "We believe in youas a filmmaker, we believe in this show and we fully support your vision forit." As a new filmmaker there isn't a lot more than you could hope for, especially from a network so it was a no brainer.
TATSW: Whether you know it or not Buppies just might be the most positive series to come about on BET even if is on the web. And its success I'd should be signal for a new direction for the entire network. How do you feel about being charged with so much?
JB: Wow, well thank you that's a tremendous compliment. I think BET's support of Buppies is symptomatic of a shift the network had already been looking to make and Buppies was a ready-made vehicle for that. The timing was just dead-on. With the success of BUPPIES and the network's acquisition of The Game I hope we'll see BET take broader strides into scripted entertainment.
TATSW: Let's get into the cast. What was the process you went through for casting the series?
JB: Casting is so, so key. Aaliyah Williams who produced my first film and also produced Buppies, brought casting director Tamika Jones onto the project before I'd even completed the script. Tamika is amazing and has great relationships with black talent in Hollywood. She loved the project andas soon as I had a script we started bringing people in to read. Coincidentally, Robin Thede (Priscilla) and Ernest Waddell (Shaka) were actors who I'd already had in mind for their roles so when they were available to do the show I was very excited. I'd worked with Ernest on astage show in New York and I'd seen Robin in sketch a comedy show three years earlier. Robin is one of those tremendous talents that are very rare in this town. The kind you see and don't forget. Watching her perform inspired my idea forthe character Priscilla and that character really inspired me to conceive the entire show.
TATSW: How did you land the fabulous Tatyana Ali (ex-Ashley, FreshPrince of Bel Air, Roxanne, The Young and The Restless)?
JB: Tatyana was my partner Aaliyah's roommate at Harvard so she reached out to her with the web series idea and she immediately got it and was excited about playing the lead. Her only condition was that she wanted to be an executive producer on the series which we fully welcomed.
TATSW: So I and several other critics have raved about Buppies as the standard when creating and executing on serial. As with each episode that runs around 3-5 minutes you are able to draw a viewer in and given them just enough of the story that at the end we want to come back for more. One can say you have made the best use of the cliffhanger model made famous in daytime. And since I’ve heard you are a fan of The Young and The Restless, did daytime have any influence on your execution of Buppies?
JB: I was a huge fan of The Young & the Restless back in its 90's glory days. I'd watch it with my grandmother during the summer and sneak into the teacher's lounge to catch up on school days. I love comedy but dramatic storytelling is my passion and for a long time Y&R was probably the only ongoing TV drama series that had deep, fully realized black characters and narrative arcs. That show and shows like Generations, Falcon Crest and Sex and the City really informed my re-tooling of Buppies for the web.
TATSW: One thing I have personally praised you for is that from the very beginning you introduced viewers to all the key players and established their personalities in under 3 minutes. Was that though to execute given the time constraints? And if so how did you manage to overcome it?
JB: Thanks, Adam, and I appreciate that. In fact, here's something I haven't told anyone yet. We actually shot Buppies as four 10-minute webisodes,but after we'd already signed on with BET they wanted us to make that ten instead. Oddly enough it wasn't difficult to do. Studying screenwriting Ilearned that every "Scene" you write should be a mini "Act" with a high point and a low point. So when I looked back at the footage with my editor we didn't find ourselves creating cliffhangers out of thin air. They were there. That's why what's on the page is so important. For a long time black Hollywood focused exclusively on attaching celebrity's to film and TV projects without realizing the importance of writers and writing craft. Fortunately, I think that tide is changing and it's changing even faster in the web series world.
TATSW: I’ve watched a lot of web series and rarely do they fully succeed with having more than one plotline running concurrently. In the case of Buppies I’ve counted 3 main plots that have sprung out (Qunici’s meets her ex, Eilot's on the downlow, and the secret life of Shaka). You’ve manage to do this seamlessly with ease. How were you able to pack so much punch into such a short amount of time?
JB: I admire writers that can convey big action and big emotion with extreme word economy. When you're shooting on an ultra-low budget like we were on Buppies that sort of thing is especially important. With Buppies I'd write out a scene without restrictions and then go back and pare things down to the essential style, narrative and emotional elements. When you're writing it's easy to fall in love with a fun piece of dialogue you wrote or a cool interaction, but if it doesn't serve the story you have to cut it out.
TATSW: For most of the series the drama all takes place at Qunici's birthday party. That is minimalism at its best. Was that all done by design to make the best use of your budget?
JB: Absolutely. I got my MFA from USC Film in Motion Picture Producing so that's helped me as a writer when I'm producing on a super low budget. You have to get creative. Moving between various locations can bevery expensive and kill a budget. It was more important that we put the little money we did have into production design and paying our cast andcrew.
TATSW: Switching gears for a moment when did you first become a fan of Y&R?
JB: I first became a fan of Y&R on vacation with my family. It was the summer when Phyllis came to town. We were in the Bahamas but were literally glued to the TV every afternoon to see what craziness she was up to. I was like thirteen or fourteen at the time and got hooked.
TATSW: if you had the chance would you write for the daytime drama series if the opportunity came about?
JB: I'd love to write for a daytime series, but I don't t know if I have the stamina. Daytime writers are creating constantly and I really admire that. I'm focused on feature writing now but I've been taking a lot of TV meetings lately as well so I'm really open to anything.
TATSW: Major fan complaints have been abound about the current direction of the series as it turned dark and downright depressing. Also the once critically acclaimed series was known for its diversity seems to have been taking a back seat these days even though African Americans make up its majority audience. With that being said, what would be your prescription for returning Y&R to former glory?
JB: I'm really sad to hear that because Y&R has such a tremendous legacy. I haven't watched it in years, so it's probably unfair to critique the show. Honestly if they brought Victoria Rowell back on the show as Dru I'd tune in just to see what drama she was cooking up.
TATSW: Getting back to Buppies, how has the overall response been to the series?
JB: The response to Buppies has been truly overwhelming. In the first month we got over 5 million page views which is unheard for a web series. The show got more overall video views than MTV's web series which was a big coup for BET and proved that there's a real hunger for quality black scripted content. And fans of Buppies aren't just black which has been really incredible to see. The daytime community at-large has really embraced the show and it's meant so much to its success.
TATSW: Are there plans for a second season? If so when can we expect to see it?
JB: Right now BET and I are looking at a few options for the series and we're cooking up a few other things as well so stay tuned.
TATSW: Any plans in the future to return to original idea for Buppies to become a television series?
JB: That is indeed a possibility. There are a lot of factors that come into play when placing a concept into series development. Buppies would be an expensive television show to produce and I think we're looking at the best way to make it work without compromising quality.
TATSW: Finally, anything you would like to say to the fans?
JB: Well, first, thank you guys for being so loyal and so vocal about your love for the show. It's truly made all the difference. Audience reaction matters and the positive feedback that Buppies fans put out there is opening doors for more shows just like it. Other than that, I hope people will support all of the other great web series out there. Anacostia and Anyone But Me are two that I love, but there are so many others. There's really something out there for everyone.
To view series click image below