DID YOU READ

Catching up with 2012 Subway Fresh Artists finalist Sarah Streicher from “The Ultimates”

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Corporate sponsorship can be a tricky thing to take on for a struggling artist; there’s always a quandary whether the opportunities some one will have because of it are worth the credibility that it might cost him or her. But Sarah Streicher came up with a terrifically inventive way to, pun intended, incorporate that idea into a web series that was itself sponsored by a major company.

For her SUBWAY Fresh Artists™ Filmmaker Series entry, “The Ultimates,” Streicher created the story of a struggling ultimate frisbee team who lures a star player from one of their opponents with the promise of backing by none other than Subway Restaurants – which turns out to be a lie. But while it remains to be seen whether her comedy series prevails in the company’s annual competition, Streicher was kind enough to speak with IFC about the process of assembling the show, and then discuss how working on it has helped her achieve her own goals within the industry.

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Watch the rest of “The Ultimates” and learn more about the SUBWAY Fresh Artists™ Filmmaker Series by clicking here.


IFC: Just to get started, talks about how you heard about the competition and how you came up with the idea of “The Ultimates” for it?

STREICHER: Sure. Well, they had the informational meeting night at USC and I had also heard about the filmmakers who worked on their projects last year, so there was a lot of word of mouth at school. I was kind of so inundated with my own work, because being in the program, we’re just kind of always under it, but my roommate was the director on “The Ultimates” and she brought the project to me and she was like, “What are you up to? What are you doing? Do you want to kind of try to go out for this?” And so we did, and she was actually the one who brought the actual concept of [ultimate Frisbee] to me, because I guess they had stressed that they wanted to promote breakfast for Subway. Alexis has this idea to do something that was sort of fit and stressed activity and teamwork and that often took place in the morning, so she thought of some sort of a sport, but something sort of left of center, so she thought about ultimate because that’s sort of a weird sort of fringy sport that has practice in the morning. So that’s what we went with, and then we just kind of generated ideas for the actual stories together.

IFC: To you is there anything meaningful about the competition being between an East Coast school and a West Coast school, or if it had only been between USC and UCLA, the competition would have been the same?

STREICHER: There are I think significant differences in how the two teams sort of approached it, because first of all, I think they’re more autonomous — like they don’t report to faculty. They only report to the ad agency and to Subway, so they didn’t really have a middleman whereas we did. We did have to report to faculty, and so we kind of got the pros and cons of that. I had to take notes from the faculty, but also the faculty were on our side. We could go to them with any problems or concerns, whereas I’m under the understanding that NYU was sort of on their own. They were out there doing it sort of rogue a little bit, and so I think that those both have pros and cons, but also I think it was great that it gave different textures to the project. The New York ones are very New York — I mean, they took advantage of that sort of the East Coast skyline. And I really like the way it brought a few different textures to the table.

IFC: When you had this idea were you thinking about it individually as an idea for this competition, or was this at all something that you could or would want to sort of propel forward as a longer series?

STREICHER: Like I said, Alexis sort of originally tailored it to what they were looking for in a promotional series, but when we got down to crafting stories, we definitely wanted to just focus on character and to create characters that would be vivid enough to live on beyond Subway and so that was we definitely had that in mind. And then I carried the characters sort of in my heart a little bit, as goofy as they were, and I definitely like to put them in play again, whether it be in this series or another series.

IFC: What is your creative process like in coming up with these episodes?

STREICHER: I worked with Alexis and we talked a lot about like different teams that we’ve been on and all those sort of weirdoes or strange birds that we tried to nuance with real personalities. And then in terms of the three episode arc, I thought yes, we do need a journey, but beyond that I was like we’ll need the coming-together episode, and then we’ll need sort of the punctuating tournament episode. It was basically sort of a sports-story structure, but in that middle episode I got to play around a little bit because that was more of what they call in television a non-premise episode. It was just these characters kind of playing around so I thought about what they could be doing.

IFC: What are your ambitions going forward in terms of how the ideas in this or the process of doing this feeds into where you would like your professional career to go?

STREICHER: It came actually at a really good time because I sort of had one foot in features and the other foot in television, but I’m really just trying to get going. My interests were in features and television, but I’ve always sensed that I’m more of a short-form person — I really enjoy living with characters for a long time and learning new ways to take their stories. So because we were sort of rewarded with this opportunity, I got the experience to do it. I mean, I’m very settled on trying to make it in television, to get into a writer’s room on a sitcom. And having that vision clarified through this has been so wonderful and now I just feel like doubly motivated to go after it.

IFC: Because you’re given a budget that’s more than you’re probably accustomed to working with, how did that affect the process?

STREICHER: Actually, I was a little overwhelmed by the money. I didn’t work with the budget, because as the writer I didn’t see the numbers, but in the writing process I did feel that freedom like, oh my God — I can write in this. At one point I had written in a Segway because there is a cheating sequence in the second episode and I wanted them to ride on a Segway, and I went to the producers and I was like I really want this Segway — and it turned out the only reason we couldn’t get it was because the fields had restrictions at USC. They didn’t want us to run over the nice intramural field with a Segway, but otherwise we totally could have done it. And I’ve never really had that freedom because the only other things that I’ve had produced, I’ve basically done myself and when I do things myself I have to be ultra-conscious of budget; anything that I buy I usually have to carefully repackage and take back to Target and lie to them and tell them that I actually bought the wrong thing or something, so they’ll give me a refund. So it was exceptionally freeing, I think. Oh, and the dog; I totally wouldn’t have been able to write in the dog if we hadn’t had the extra funds, because the dog was the most expensive thing on the project.

IFC: What have you done since then, and have you been showing this to people as an example of the kind of work that you want to do now?

STREICHER: Yeah — actually on the heels of this I got a manager, so I’m really excited about that. I’m also I’m interning right now at “90210,” which is a teen soap, and I’ve been showing it to the people there and they’re really excited for me. It’s part of sort of the networking strategy that I have going, and being someone who wants to work in episodic television sitcoms in particular, it’s nice to have sort of done a mini version of that. I feel very fortunate.

IFC: What through this process do you feel like you really learned? Were there any unexpected surprises from the production that you feel like you will take with you?

STREICHER: I learned a lot about collaboration. That’s kind of like a stock response, but I mean I didn’t just learn teamwork and diplomacy. I also learned when to speak up, and to trust my own voice, because there were certain moments when I knew that something wasn’t going right, but there was sort of a diffusion of responsibility and no one was really stepping up to the plate. And because I was sort of listening to what I truly felt, I was able to raise my hand, and even though I sometimes have trouble expressing myself about creativity, I was able to say I really need to be assertive right now and request that we do this or that or make this decision. And usually when I did that, I was rewarded with a better result, and so I just I learned to trust myself. And also I learned to look more closely at opportunities for female narratives, because after watching these series — even mine — they’re all male-driven. And after watching them all, I just think next time around I hope that someone maybe tells a female story. We’re in the era of “Bridesmaids,” so why not? Not that I have any regrets about what I chose, but there are a lot of wonderful female stories to be told.

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Hard Out

Comedy From The Closet

Janice and Jeffrey Available Now On IFC's Comedy Crib

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She’s been referred to as “the love child of Amy Sedaris and Tracy Ullman,” and he’s a self-described “Italian who knows how to cook a great spaghetti alla carbonara.” They’re Mollie Merkel and Matteo Lane, prolific indie comedians who blended their robust creative juices to bring us the new Comedy Crib series Janice and Jeffrey. Mollie and Matteo took time to answer our probing questions about their series and themselves. Here’s a taste.

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IFC: How would you describe Janice and Jeffrey to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Mollie & Matteo: Janice and Jeffrey is about a married couple experiencing intimacy issues but who don’t have a clue it’s because they are gay. Their oblivion makes them even more endearing.  Their total lack of awareness provides for a buffet of comedy.

IFC: What’s your origin story? How did you two people meet and how long have you been working together?

Mollie: We met at a dive bar in Wrigley Field Chicago. It was a show called Entertaining Julie… It was a cool variety scene with lots of talented people. I was doing Janice one night and Matteo was doing an impression of Liza Minnelli. We sort of just fell in love with each other’s… ACT! Matteo made the first move and told me how much he loved Janice and I drove home feeling like I just met someone really special.

IFC: How would Janice describe Jeffrey?

Mollie: “He can paint, cook homemade Bolognese, and sing Opera. Not to mention he has a great body. He makes me feel empowered and free. He doesn’t suffocate me with attention so our love has room to breath.”

IFC: How would Jeffrey describe Janice?

Matteo: “Like a Ford. Built to last.”

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Mollie & Matteo: Our current political world is mirroring and reflecting this belief that homosexuality is wrong. So what better time for satire. Everyone is so pro gay and equal rights, which is of course what we want, too. But no one is looking at middle America and people actually in the closet. No one is saying, hey this is really painful and tragic, and sitting with that. Having compassion but providing the desperate relief of laughter…This seemed like the healthiest, best way to “fight” the gay rights “fight”.

IFC: Hummus is hilarious. Why is it so funny?

Mollie: It just seems like something people take really seriously, which is funny to me. I started to see it in a lot of lesbians’ refrigerators at a time. It’s like observing a lesbian in a comfortable shoe. It’s a language we speak. Pass the Hummus. Turn on the Indigo Girls would ya?

See the whole season of Janice and Jeffrey right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

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Die Hard Dads

Inspiration For Die Hard Dads

Die Hard is on IFC all Father's Day Long

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIPHY

Yippee ki-yay, everybody! It’s time to celebrate the those most literal of mother-effers: dads!

And just in case the title of this post left anything to the imagination, IFC is giving dads balls-to-the-wall ’80s treatment with a glorious marathon of action trailblazer Die Hard.

There are so many things we could say about Die Hard. We could talk about how it was comedian Bruce Willis’s first foray into action flicks, or Alan Rickman’s big screen debut. But dads don’t give a sh!t about that stuff.

No, dads just want to fantasize that they could be deathproof quip factory John McClane in their own mundane lives. So while you celebrate the fathers in your life, consider how John McClane would respond to these traditional “dad” moments…

Wedding Toasts

Dads always struggle to find the right words of welcome to extend to new family. John McClane, on the other hand, is the master of inclusivity.
Die Hard wedding

Using Public Restrooms

While nine out of ten dads would rather die than use a disgusting public bathroom, McClane isn’t bothered one bit. So long as he can fit a bloody foot in the sink, he’s G2G.
Die Hard restroom

Awkward Dancing

Because every dad needs a signature move.
Die Hard dance

Writing Thank You Notes

It can be hard for dads to express gratitude. Not only can McClane articulate his thanks, he makes it feel personal.
Die Hard thank you

Valentine’s Day

How would John McClane say “I heart you” in a way that ain’t cliche? The image speaks for itself.
Die Hard valentines

Shopping

The only thing most dads hate more than shopping is fielding eleventh-hour phone calls with additional items for the list. But does McClane throw a typical man-tantrum? Nope. He finds the words to express his feelings like a goddam adult.
Die Hard thank you

Last Minute Errands

John McClane knows when a fight isn’t worth fighting.
Die Hard errands

Sneaking Out Of The Office Early

What is this, high school? Make a real exit, dads.
Die Hard office

Think you or your dad could stand to be more like Bruce? Role model fodder abounds in the Die Hard marathon all Father’s Day long on IFC.

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Founding Farters

Know Your Nerd History

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection, GIFs via Giphy

That we live in the heyday of nerds is no hot secret. Scientists are celebrities, musicians are robots and late night hosts can recite every word of the Silmarillion. It’s too easy to think that it’s always been this way. But the truth is we owe much to our nerd forebearers who toiled through the jock-filled ’80s so that we might take over the world.

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Our humble beginnings are perhaps best captured in iconic ’80s romp Revenge of the Nerds. Like the founding fathers of our Country, the titular nerds rose above their circumstances to culturally pave the way for every Colbert and deGrasse Tyson that we know and love today.

To make sure you’re in the know about our very important cultural roots, here’s a quick download of the vengeful nerds without whom our shameful stereotypes might never have evolved.

Lewis Skolnick

The George Washington of nerds whose unflappable optimism – even in the face of humiliating self-awareness – basically gave birth to the Geek Pride movement.

Gilbert Lowe

OK, this guy is wet blanket, but an important wet blanket. Think Aaron Burr to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton. His glass-mostly-empty attitude is a galvanizing force for Lewis. Who knows if Lewis could have kept up his optimism without Lowe’s Debbie-Downer outlook?

Arnold Poindexter

A music nerd who, after a soft start (inside joke, you’ll get it later), came out of his shell and let his passion lead instead of his anxiety. If you played an instrument (specifically, electric violin), and you were a nerd, this was your patron saint.

Booger

A sex-loving, blunt-smoking, nose-picking guitar hero. If you don’t think he sounds like a classic nerd, you’re absolutely right. And that’s the whole point. Along with Lamar, he simultaneously expanded the definition of nerd and gave pre-existing nerds a twisted sort of cred by association.

Lamar Latrell

Black, gay, and a crazy good breakdancer. In other words, a total groundbreaker. He proved to the world that nerds don’t have a single mold, but are simply outcasts waiting for their moment.

Ogre

Exceedingly stupid, this dumbass was monumental because he (in a sequel) leaves the jocks to become a nerd. Totally unheard of back then. Now all jocks are basically nerds.

Well, there they are. Never forget that we stand on their shoulders.

Revenge of the Nerds is on IFC all month long.

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