Discovery Street: Five Year Lookback
It was mid-2009 when my former film school instructor David Mills reached out and asked if I'd be interested in co-writing a web series set at the school I had attended.
The idea was to bring current and former students together; the current students tackling the crew/production side of things while the graduates would form the cast and creative roles. I'm not sure why he asked me to co-write, but more significantly, I'm not sure why he asked me to co-write with Christopher M Hernandez - we had never really met.
Chris had started at the school the week after I graduated. We shared mutual friends, but since he only just arrived in Victoria before starting classes and I left Victoria right after graduating, our paths didn't cross. Over the next year we'd be at the same event only a handful of times, but likely said less than 20 words to each other. Why we were asked to write together was beyond me.
David had constructed the series outline, and it was up to Chris and I to flesh out his ideas into eight 5-minute webisodes. The basics were all there; our former acting teacher Pat Phillips would be be the school's headmaster, Chris would play a dual role as an actor and portray one of the student along with George Waters & Marina Miller, and yet-to-be-cast were two other students, the school's custodian and receptionist.
Over the next few months Chris (who was living in Oregon) and I (who had returned to Victoria) would collaborate remotely, emailing drafts back and forth and video chatting to spit-ball ideas. We would take things that had happened to us during our respective film school experiences and exaggerate them. David had remarkably few notes - even when Chris and I deviated from his bible.
By December '09 we'd completed the eight scripts and Dylan Jackson, Jessica Henke, Bobbi Charlton and Pam Barkhouse had joined the cast as the two students, custodian, and receptionist respectively. Plans were made to start shooting in January for an April release.
When we gathered for the table read the week before production, I didn't really know what to expect. Up until that point, I had directed, produced and cast all the projects I had written, so to be removed from those decisions was a new experience for me. However, as always, hearing your words come to life is truly one of the greatest things in the world. Even better is hearing jokes work, and fixing them in the room when they don't.
When the episodes went live in April/May, they didn't exactly set the internet on fire but they were received warmly by those who saw them. Watching the episodes years later, it's hard not to see the little things we could have written better, but its also fantastic to still laugh at some of the jokes — the "Chris/Not Chris" signs always get me.
After the release, David asked Chris and I if we would convert the existing episodes into a pilot script. Nothing ever came from it, but it was fun to further explore these characters now that we had actually shot something with them. We knew the voices, we saw dynamics form between the actors and could play up what worked and change what didn't. It was my first experience in episodic writing, and I loved it.
For two guys who didn't know each other beforehand, Chris and I became great friends throughout the process of making Discovery Street. We've worked together many times since, always remotely because after 5 years, we've still never lived in the same city. It's safe to say Chris is the best friend I have whom I've only met in real life a dozen or so times.
I'm immensely proud of what everyone accomplished with this little web series. A huge shout out to all involved, you're all wonderful people and you did a great job. Plus an especially big thanks to David Mills for putting the whole thing on, and for taking two random bearded dudes and asking them to write together.
Relive the magic of Discovery Street right here: