• Larry Dean Harris, interviewer: I’m speaking with the creators and stars of the new web series Where the Bears Are — Rick Copp, Joe Dietl, and Ben Zook. Guys, tell me how this whole project came into being.
• Joe Dietl: Well, Ben and I have been life partners for 18 years. We’re both actors, writers and directors. And we’ve been friends with Rick for 13 of those years.
• Ben Zook: And I’m a graduate of Chicago’s Second City and a founding member of the Annoyance Theatre [in Chicago>. Joe is a graduate of Circle in the Square Theatre School [in New York”>. And Rick is a veteran writer of … TV shows and feature films like The Brady Bunch Movie.
• Rick Copp: And the three of us had always wanted to team up and do something together. I actually had two feature scripts that I wrote that Joe wanted to direct, but we had trouble getting financing due to the financial crisis in ’08. So we decided to do something extremely low-budget that we knew we could get made, and the idea was hatched while we were all sitting in my Jacuzzi in Palm Springs, drinking.
• Zook: Yeah, Rick is an amazing writer, and he had the concept for Where the Bears Are for quite a while, and we all realized that we could do it on a low budget and get it made and on the web quickly,and basically nobody could say no to us.
• Copp: Very much like a Mickey and Judy “let’s put on a show!” sort of thing. And I actually wrote for The Golden Girls when I was 24 years old, and this is basically The Golden Girls meets Murder, She Wrote, about three bears living together in Silver Lake in Los Angeles who attempt to solve the murder of a party guest that turned up dead in their bathroom.
• Dietl: And I just wanted to focus on directing the series, so at first we thought we would cast actors, but then we realized, we’re all actors and we already have a chemistry between the three of us, so let’s just cast ourselves.
• Zook: Basically, I’m the “Dorothy,” Joe is the “Rose,” and Rick is the “Blanche.” It’s The Golden Girls meets Murder, She Wrote with big, hairy gay bears!
• Copp: The series is made up of 26 four-minute episodes, and it’s going to feature guest stars like Margaret Cho, Tuc Watkins from Desperate Housewives, comedians Jackie Beat, Bruce Daniels, and Shawn Pelofsky. So it’s really fun. You’re in, you’re out. It’s quick, with a lot of laughs and a mystery thrown in, as well. It’s also totally free. We just want everyone to watch.
• Dietl: There’s also a lot of hot eye candy in the show, as well as romance thrown in, too. And the whole thing has been just a really positive experience because everyone donated their time and talent for free because we had so little money. But we had an amazing crew and a really funny, sexy, terrific cast, and I think people will be shocked at the quality of the series, considering it’s low-budget.
• Zook: Joe and I actually purchased our own high-def camera and equipment so we wouldn’t have to rent it. And everything happened really quickly. Rick wrote the script in a matter of a couple of months. He turned it in on a Wednesday. We gave him notes on Friday. We had a casting session on Sunday. And began shooting on that Monday. It was crazy, but really fun.
• Harris: You all have a quite an improv background. Did you use improvisation during the shoot?
• Dietl: Actually, Rick has written several mystery novels, so the script was pretty tight. And it was already very funny. But yes, because of our background, we threw in a lot of improvised moments when we shot the show.
• Copp: We also really wanted to make the neighborhood of Silver Lake in Los Angeles be a character as well. So most of the series takes place at different locations in the neighborhood… “The Eagle L.A.” “Akbar” “Sunset Junction,” etc. Everyone in the community was totally supportive of the project and let us film for no money. They’ve all been amazingly generous.
• Zook: I also want to mention that the show has an awesome theme song by the group the Temperamentals. It’s really catchy and fun, and everyone in the bear community is going to love it.
• Copp: Obviously, the gay bear community is our target audience. But the show really appeals to all gay people and even straight audiences, too. Like I said, it’s The Golden Girls meets Murder, She Wrote. What group of people wouldn’t love that?
• Dietl: The show premieres online Aug. 1, 2012, at wherethebearsare.tv. You can also like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter to follow the progress and get extra behind-the-scenes updates on what’s happening with the show.
• Harris: Thanks, guys. I look forward to checking it out.
“Where the Bears Are” comedy, mystery web series will premiere online August 1st, 2012 at wherethebearsare.tv