The Benefits of Gusbandry's initial six minute installment premiered on YouTube nine-ish months ago without much fanfare. However nuanced the perspective or electric the repartee, sitcoms usually sell themselves through fresh premise or a steady hand upon the wheel. Gusbandry showrunner, photographer/videographer/booker Alicia J. Rose, was new to episodic storytelling. The overall concept, a creepy/cute symbiosis between loopily-straight single lady battling age and gay cocksman denying maturity, was considerably more recognizable than either of the leads: MadTV vet Brooke Totman as Jackie and Kurt Conroyd of Wild and Lean on Pete as her gay best friend, "Gusband," in the show's lingo, River.
Spraying giddily amoral sensibilities across consistent quality of craft kept winning new acolytes throughout that six-episode-77-minute debut run. By summer, the creators had amassed rave reviews from mainstream press organs across the country (Paste, Out, The New York Times, Entertainment Weekly's "Must List"), and their autumn trek through the South's major festivals (Austin, New Orleans, Nashville, Miami) kept attention trending endlessly upward. After earning their $25k request during a November crowdfunding campaign coordinated with the Seed & Spark platform, Rose soon start pre-production on season 2 of Gusbandry and spoke with Willamette Week about scouting Portland locations, shopping online platforms, and crowdfunding comedy in the age of Trump.
WW: Any big changes for season two? Guest stars?
AJR: I have some ideas, but too early to tell. We're not casting yet. We're writing. So, I have dreams. There's a part we're writing for Margaret Cho. Whether or not she winds up in the show, whether it's her or an incredible local actor, you never know. So, we're using Margaret Cho as our muse.
There's definitely going to be a lot of recurring cast members. People you saw in Season one are going to come back in Season two. There's a big host of them, so we can't really help it. Rodney, the guy who's obsessed with Jackie, her ex-boyfriend Lance, Caroline…There's a bunch more. None of them know this yet.
We're still in the zone for finishing up the episodes. Then, we'll go into rehearsals and workshopping in January, prep in February, and hopefully wind up shooting in March. I think that's the plan.
WW: When will they be available?
AJR: Similar to when we debuted our finale last season, so, probably, late April or early May 2017.
WW: And our heroes?
AJR: I don't wanna give away too many details, but, the new episodes should resolve the [first] season finale and get the relationship between Jackie and River back on track. Or so we hope. The first episode, "CLIT BLOCKERS," Jackie realizes that River accidentally blocks any dating opportunities or potential action that she ever gets. The second, "ANGRY ORGASMS", we're exploring the idea of angry sex. Then, "STD DAY" finds them at a Planned Parenthood, needing the services and having to deal with the reality of the situation. It's a trio of episodes that are a little more saucy, a little more weird and a little more political.
The funny thing is that I had always intended to get them to Planned Parenthood. That was always meant to be the emphasis of this arc. Then, everything that happened…happened. Suddenly, all of those rights, and Planned Parenthood really are at risk. So, it's an interesting time to have to require the services of Planned Parenthood. I wanted to kinda explore characters getting into that whole situation
WW: To film inside Planned Parenthood?
AJR: That's the plan, yeah. But it's too soon to tell now.
WW: Will Gusbandry always film in Portland?
AJR: Absolutely. Even when we've been pitching, the whole idea has always been Portland. And, ideally, a very local crew and local cast.
it was fun to shoot at the [Panacea] Dispensary. Paxton Gate was awesome. Shooting at Fantasy Video, you can't beat that. They were so great. We got full access to the basement, which is closed off. That was pretty crazy. All these private rooms, all the glory holes, it was intense. They were so nice, though!
I mean, that's the thing. We shot at Salt & Straw, a very high-profile situation, but they were just wonderful. Everybody was so nice. That's the thing about Portland, especially if you're a local production and you mean well and you do your best to take care of all your peeps and locations.
I like to represent places as what they are, not fake versions of themselves. So I always aim for going further, and I love shooting in Portland. There's so much built-in production value!
WW: How much of a bump did you get from the New York Times and Entertainment Weekly stories.
AJR: Yeah, that was interesting, right? Definitely a bump for sure around the season finale, but it didn't go viral like a kitten video. The thing to realize about episodic web series especially on YouTube, there's just so much competition and nobody's really focused. In fact, I think it's much much easier for people to binge-watch on Amazon.
WW: How long will the episodes be?
AJR: Anywhere from eight to twelve minutes each. It's a web series. I wish they were each a half hour. At some point, I hope they will be longer and get spun off into a larger format.
WW: Like the first, will the lengths keep escalating throughout the season?
AJR: Well, that's my fault. I think I just started realizing it didn't really matter how long or short they were because, at the end of the day, I didn't want to be on YouTube forever. So, we just stopped slashing but still kept the writing as economical as we could. Episode three and the season finale ended up being really long, but, we liked them so much, we went for it a little more. I don't think it really hurt.
With these three episodes [from the new season], we're trying to see if they can fit into 30 minutes, more of a pilot-sized episode. However it turns out, they'll be three separate episodes but a continuous storyline.
WW: To serve as a network pilot?
AJR: I would love to get a deal with Amazon or HBO or a network or a production company associated with a network. I mean, I love TBS, I think TBS is doing some real interesting stuff right now. So, that's in process, too. We're working on a promo pitch that's just for higher level TV right now. That'll be shot in early January, with a slightly different focus. I mean, it's the same show, but it's a different vibe, and we're shooting some new footage that has nothing to do with the next season. So, we're trying to develop the show, to pursue something bigger, and I'd like to do that sooner rather than later. Instead of just trying to work my contacts and friends and all our people for crowdfunding, It'd be nice to have a budget and real support, instead of working friends and contacts for crowdfunding. For now, we'll do whatever we have to do.
My ultimate goal isn't to be viral on YouTube, it's to create an episodic television show, a world that people can get inside and love. I think, ultimately, Amazon and Seed & Spark are better homes for us. We did give the show away for a year, and that was really really fun to get to do. We were very lucky. If people have Prime, it doesn't cost them anything, really, and Seed & Spark money goes to a great place. And VHX. And Vimeo On Demand. I don't think people really understand the math of the whole situation. Television costs a lot to make, and we gave it away for free. A lot of people watched it and streamed it in any way, shape, or form. I mean, it's been a huge labor of love, but making it sustainable would mean a lot.
WW: So, you're splitting the season in half? Another three in the fall?
AJR: Ideally, there'll be another three episodes, which we'll need to fund later in the year. We're taking our time because we're sorta funding it as we go. It really takes a lot to make these, and, y'know, it takes a lot of money. People get paid—not me, but everybody else—and three episodes is quite a lot. We don't have a larger partner. We have to take things as we can, and we raised enough to make these, promote these and get started with development for another three, which is great.
WW: All three at once?
AJR: Yeah, we'll release them through Seed & Spark Cinema and Amazon. And VHX. And Vimeo. And anything else we're working with then.
WW: Not YouTube?
AJR: I thought this would be a good time to switch, and I'm happy it's on Prime. Seed & Spark is a great new developing platform. It's a business run almost entirely by women, and it's crowdfunding only for film. We're a flagship project through them, and they have a new streaming platform, which is supercool. It's $10 a month, but 50% of that goes to a filmmaker. We're one of three projects nominated for the Greenlight Fund this January.
The main thing, now, we just want people to watch it. I still feel like our audience has a long way to go, and I really want to grow it and get people excited. The problem with YouTube is that it takes so much, you're amongst such a broad array of things at the same time, and it's just such a total shit show that I felt like ultimately Amazon and Seed & Spark Cinema were way better places for independent people uploading directly. You just have to really have your shit together, but, y'know, we were able to do it right.
WW: So, the show's fully funded …
AJR: Oh my God, crowdfunding is hell. Especially when you start a week after the election, which is something I wouldn't wish on anybody. At first it felt like a struggle, but the last couple of days were pretty exciting. So much happened. Probably 60 or 70 people gave $5, they gave $50, they gave $500. When you think about what's going on and all the places where people want to give money, especially like the ACLU or Planned Parenthood, it was pretty cool that people wanted to help us make more art, you know?
It was amazing. All my friends put up with me in such beautiful ways. The cool thing was that my peers contributed. A lot of local musicians who are my friends were part of it. Then, I think Bob Mould won the [early crowdfunder prize] gift basket delivered by Brooke, he was at a higher donor level. We'll probably just take a video of her bringing it to the post office in her pajamas to send to San Francisco.
A lot of people didn't request any incentives, which was really amazing. I'd say probably 75% didn't want anything, and some of the incentives (hotel rooms, etc.) are left over from the campaign. We'll probably do a benefit or fundraiser toward the end of January to get folks together and divvie up the rest of the perks and try to raise a little more cash.
I'm encouraging people still interested in donating to Paypal firstname.lastname@example.org, if they want to, because we're still trying to raise money for this season. We're not done. We're looking for anything we can get because that will go toward developing the next half as well. Of the money we raised, only part of that was cash and the rest was in-kind donations.
WW: Do you qualify for tax credits through the state's incentive program?
AJR: There's no way we're going to be able to crowdfund $75k right now. That's really unrealistic. We're so, so microbudget that we wouldn't qualify. There needs to be bigger money or different money coming in on a higher level. I definitely see the next level of the show being in line for that, but we're just trying to keep this level as simple and lean as humanly possible right now.
We're trying to prove ourselves. We're locally-made. So many women are involved in the production. Super diverse cast and crew. We're just trying to do something special in a city that is known for things like that. We just want to make something fucking hilarious and awesome and refreshing that doesn't dumb down the quotient of our entertainment. And, we're doing it all on a shoestring with the incredible generous support of basically all of our friends and a few fans of the show. We're the little show that could!
Donate to season 2 with Paypal at email@example.com.