Exclusive Interview: Shelf Life Creators Tara Platt and Yuri Lowenthal
Have you ever wondered what Toy Story would have looked like as an R-rated live action series? Well now you can, thanks to the hilarious web series Shelf Life.
Tara Platt and Yuri Lowenthal the brains behind the series took some time to answer a few questions from Web Series Channel about their series and what we can expect in future seasons. And if you haven’t seen the series yet, you can watch it right here. But for now, enjoy the interview.
How would you describe Shelf Life to someone who had never seen it?
Tara Platt & Yuri Lowenthal: Shelf Life is an irreverent web comedy, where no topic is too big for our pint-sized heroes to tackle. The show follows the shenanigans of four action figures (Hero Man, Hero Lass, Bug Boy and Samurai Snake) on a young boy’s shelf as they skewer sex, drugs, politics, religion and almost nothing is taboo or off limits.
What was the inspiration behind the series?
Platt & Lowenthal: Despite Yuri being the resident geek in the household, it was Tara who had the idea one day while we were working at our production studio. We were actually in pre-production on a different series entirely, but the thought of these four action figures, stuck on a shelf, just struck us as funny. Not to mention we’re proud owners of a number of action figures—ahem—collectibles, and they always say to write what you know… And though we don’t really know what they do behind our backs, it’s easy to imagine them commenting on the lives they watch below them. Plus Toy Story just never had enough cursing and drug use in it for Yuri
Why did you decide to distribute the series on the web?
Platt & Lowenthal: It was always conceived with the web in mind as a platform. Each episode is such a bite-sized piece of comedy, almost sketch-like in its arc, that having these fast, funny, snippets available online for viewing when/wherever seemed the best way to distribute this particular content. I find that often people try to force their content into whatever distribution platform seems easy at the moment, but do a disservice to the story and the project if it wasn’t designed for that platform. Different mediums are better for certain types of content, and when you can marry the content to the platform, then you really get cooking. Ours is short, with good production value, and plenty of opportunity for interacting with the viewers, so hopefully it’ll thrive on the web.
Shelf Life is now in its third season, if you could go back and talked to yourselves at the beginning of the series what would you say?
Platt & Lowenthal: I don’t know that we would do much different. We had to learn our lessons about producing a show like this. What has come before has definitely influenced how we tell stories now. And we’ve really gotten to explore the characters so the world of the show is constantly growing. Although, to really answer your question, perhaps really getting online to promote before we started putting content up might have been good, and then getting on the comment section to engage people right off the bat is always smart, but once again, it’s part of the learning curve. We had never created/produced a web-series before so it’s an education. But I can honestly say, we are extremely proud of the show, and honored to be working with the talented people who make the show come to life, from our audio team, to the director and camera crew, not to mention the actors and every single member of our pre/prod/post team who are giving 110% because they are excited about the show, and for that we are extremely grateful.
What was the most surprising thing about creating Shelf Life?
Platt & Lowenthal: Honestly, getting the occasional unkind comment online, and seeing the fans of the show jump to our defense. That was a real eye-opener. I had heard “don’t feed the trolls,” and so I would notice a negative comment here and there, and try to ignore it, but then to see the people who really love the show stand up for it, that was really amazing. It’s sort of like when you create something, and it has a life of its own and then it moves away from you and that life continues, you realize you’ve made an impact on the world. And that is at once both surprising and exhilarating.
What has been the fan reaction so far for the series?
Platt & Lowenthal: Well there are the few inevitable haters (can you really consider yourself a success without haters?) who, honestly, we love, because when people feel that strongly about something you know you’re doing something right, but mostly we are getting a hugely positive response. And it’s really nice to see is that the fans who have been tuning in for the past few seasons are still with us as we pick up momentum and gain more.
Can we expect a fourth season?
Platt & Lowenthal: We sure hope so! It’s funny, as we move through each season we learn something new about the characters, the world, and producing the show and that makes us excited to level up the show with each new season. We’ve already had story and script meetings and planned a Season 4 arc that makes the show a little more serialized, with an ongoing story, while still keeping the short format. We have some pretty bold plans for the characters and the world they live in. First, we want to get the characters off the shelf a little more – I know, it’s called Shelf Life, but there is such a rich and diverse world for the characters to explore, that we want to be able to take the audience there – so that’s a big one for us. But also really delving more into each character’s own ongoing story. We think that’s what really makes a powerful show, be it comedy or drama, so doing this will hopefully reward the fans who have gotten to know the characters.
Of course because we have huge plans: getting off the shelf, bigger storylines, introducing more characters, getting new costumes; all these amazing things will take money. So we will be starting our IndieGoGo campaign in July (18th) with a fun live interactive webcast party called Shelf “LIVE” at 8p PST on TheStream.tv/LIVE where anyone can tune in and hang with the Shelf Life gang online as we answer questions, play games, have giveaways and have some very special guests and announcements. Shelf LIVE will help us launch our fundraiser and make sure we can move forward with all the amazing things we have planned for Season 4!
What advice would you give to someone who would like to make a web series?
Platt & Lowenthal: Do it! So often we hear people talk about the things they want to do or are “going” to do, but so often life gets in the way. They don’t take the action necessary to move forward and actually make it happen. But the only thing, honestly, getting in your way is yourself. Decide what you want to say and say it. What excites you, what stories do you want to tell? Figure out a plan and then don’t let anyone else’s negativity or limiting beliefs stop you. That’s so much more important than having money to spend. Anything is possible in this wonderful world we live in, so if you keep taking one step forward eventually you will scale that mountain! (And by “mountain” we mean “Internet”)