Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: The pilot episode of your television series, Super Drycleaners, will soon air on Telus Optik in Canada. For our readers who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about the premise of the show?
Barb Briggs: The series centers around Sky and Kyle Walters, twin siblings that work in their grandmother’s drycleaner store, which happens to be the drycleaner to superheroes. Like kids in a candy store, they can’t resist taking the costumes out at night, practicing to become heroes. Along the way the run into villains, both on the streets and at school. Throughout, they have to decide just who they are and who they want to be.
BD: What can you tell us about your experience in submitting the show to Telus Optik for consideration, given that it was such a unique opportunity?
BB: Submitting and working with Telus was pretty amazing. The submission process was straightforward. Brandon and I had completed the scripts and commissioned some drawings of the costumes. I prepared a budget and a proposal and sent it in. It took a few months to find out that we had received the grant, and then the work began. Telus was very supportive along the way and provided opportunities to learn and make the show better. We were paired with mentors through the National Screen Institute (NSI), including a writing mentor named Roger Fredericks that helped us tease out the storylines, and a producer Alex Raffe, that guided us through the multitude of questions that arise throughout a production. We were also given the opportunity to participate in the Digital First Lab at the Whistler Film Festival, where we received a mentorship in marketing and promotion. I learned so much from the experience that will help not only make this project better and better, but also help as I move forward with my career.
Brandon Rhiness: It was funny how it all came about. Barb had hired me to write a horror movie and during that process, during one of our Skype meetings she mentioned having an idea about two teens who work at a drycleaning store that caters to superheroes. The teens would sneak out dressed as superheroes and get into adventures. Due to my experience writing comic books, I thought it was a great, fun idea.
I wrote the first six episodes on spec. I don’t think Barb or I expected anything to come of it. I basically just wrote them for fun. Then, the Telus Optik contest came up. They were offering to fund Canadian-made TV series made by people who were just starting out in the industry. Barb submitted Super Drycleaners. I never really thought we’d win, and I kind of forgot about the whole thing until Barb contacted me one day saying we were one of the winners!
So, Telus gave us money to produce the first three episodes! The Super Drycleaners project went from something I just wrote for fun to an actual TV series that is now available to watch!
BD: The series is very interesting in that it is part high school drama and part superhero show. What inspired the genesis of the production into a visual medium?
BB: The inspiration for the series came from a few places. First, in the Warren Zevon song, “Werewolves of London,” there’s a line that says, “I’d love to meet his tailor.” It got me thinking about costumes and wardrobe for comic book characters. How do they always seem to be clean or pulled together after huge battles? Unless you’re Batman who has unlimited wealth and Alfred the butler tending to your every need, you would probably have to get your costumes cleaned somewhere.
The second inspiration came from watching my two boys try to figure out who they want to be in this world. I’ve watched my boys ‘try on’ words for size – sometimes good, sometimes not so good. They try on different emotions. They push boundaries and test reactions. They take on personas and styles – athlete, musician, comedian, scholar - all on their journey to self-discovery and identification.
I wanted to be able to create a story that addressed the question of identity and finding ourselves in a fun way, and what better time and place than high school. That period of life is filled with both drama (real and perceived) and idealism. Superheroes offer an idealized version of society and humanity. It seemed like a good idea to bring the two together.
BR: I think Barb originally got the idea from a line in a song. That kind of started the whole thing, then my love of comic books and superheroes breathed life into it I guess you could say.
Most of the comics and movies I write are aimed at an older audience, so writing for 9 – 12-year olds was a new experience. But after attending the premiere last week, I think I was successful. The kids seem to love it!
I like that the series if half superhero fun, half high school drama. It allows me to explore both sides to the characters’ lives. And it allows to show how their superhero life affects their school life and vice-versa.
BD: How would you describe your creative process in working with the cast and crew of Super Drycleaners?
BB: I spent a lot of time working with my First Assistant Director and Cinematographer to map out the shots for each scene. We did basic storyboards showing the camera and light set-ups so that we were prepared going in. That being said, a lot flies out the window when you actually get on set. Weather, light, space, etc all impact on-location shoots. There were times we just had to pivot and try something new. The crew was great in handling these kinds of situations.
With the main actors, we did read-throughs and we had conversations about the underlying meaning, emotion and intention of each scene. I was lucky to have a wonderful acting coach, Dawn Van de Schoot, on set for the more challenging scenes. I would convey to her and the actors what I wanted, and she would help them find that. We had Skylar and Adam (the lead actors) do breakdowns of the scripts, writing out what the underlying meaning of each line was.
When it came to the fight scenes, both Adam and Skylar were fairly new. Our fight choreographer spent time coming up with moves that they could achieve. We didn’t have a whole lot of time for rehearsals before shooting given that Skylar and Afton (the choreographer) are in Edmonton and we’re in Calgary, but we did get in a few. The two tried the moves and modified them as needed.
Overall, I think my creative process is fluid. I have an idea or look in mind that I would share with the team and then we would make it happen or come up with something better. A few of the best scenes were completely unscripted. Skylar and Adam needed to get to a certain level of emotion and came up with starting lines to progress them to the actual lines. We ended up including some of those in the final edit.
BR: My creative process was a little different because I wasn’t actively involved in the shoot. I actually never met any of the cast until I went to the premiere! I live in Edmonton, while most of the cast and crew are from Calgary, where the show was filmed.
Barb pitched me the concept for the show, then we worked on outlining the episodes together. Then it was up to me to work my magic. I wrote the episodes, then Barb gave me notes and feedback and we worked on the scripts until we were happy with them.
This was just the beginning for me as writer, though, because after winning Telus Optik, we had other producers come on board and they had ideas and input on the script. I even made some script changes while they were shooting when some things weren’t working or needed to be changed!
BD: How many total episodes are currently planned for the series?
BB: We have another 3 episodes already written, with another 6 in the works.
BR: I wrote six episodes so far. The first three have been produced. We’re currently trying to get funding for those. In a perfect world, this show could go on forever. There are limitless possibilities and storylines to explore in this world. I hope I get to write a lot more of it!
BD: Are there any other projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
BB: I’m working on a few short films and a feature film that Brandon also wrote for me, called “The Side of the Road.” It’s a paranormal thriller that I am just trying to raise funding for.
I’m also working on a short documentary series called “Live for the Music,” that follows a 12-year-old aspiring singer/songwriter as she attempts to write, record and perform an original song, while learning from members of the Calgary music industry, as well as a feature documentary about traumatic brain injury.
BR: My writing career has kind of exploded recently. I’ve sold and optioned several scripts that are in various stages of pre-production. The first feature-length movie I had produced, John, 316, finished shooting last month and will be released in the new year.
I’m also planning to direct my first feature film, a horror I wrote called The Gray House. I’m hoping to shoot next summer.
A few of my comics have been picked up by publishers. Misfits and Ghoul Squad were picked up by Insane Comics and Chainsaw Reindeer was picked up by Rats & Crows Publishing.
Also, my first “children’s” book, You’re the Reason Mommy Drinks, was picked up by a book publisher in the U.K. and should be in book stores in the new year.
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about Super Drycleaners?
BB: Watch the show! They can watch it on our website, www.superdrycleaners.ca, and check out photos and behind-the-scenes extras, as well as on Telus Optik Local On-Demand. For the most up-to-date information, they should follow Super Drycleaners on Facebook and Instagram. We’ve got some fun social media stuff planned for the next months as well as taking part in some events, so keep an eye out for us!
BR: It’s a perfect show for kids. (Adults might even like it, too!) If you’re not in Western Canada where the Telus channel is available, you can watch the episodes online. Just visit the Super Drycleaners Facebook page for details. And be sure to give us a like!