by Lorie Lewis Ham
We recently interviewed a favorite of the Rogue Festival attendees in Fresno, Kurt Fitzpatrick, about a TV pilot he was a part of that filmed in Fresno and involved other Rogue Festival performers.
KRL: I understand that you were making a pilot in Fresno during Rogue Festival this year-what is the pilot for?
Kurt: Yes, it’s an independent TV pilot called “Campus Martius.” Normally a TV or cable network orders a “pilot,” which is the first episode of a possible series, and then they decide whether or not they want to continue producing the show as a series. We haven’t reached that point. What we are doing is producing a twenty-two minute pilot episode with our own resources and we’ll use that episode to pitch the show to networks, cable, streaming services, or whoever lets us in the door. We spent three days in Fresno during Rogue filming it, and we’ll be filming the remaining scenes in Detroit and New Jersey.
KRL: Please share with us about the setting and basic idea of the pilot.
Kurt: The show takes place in Detroit. Tommy “Rev. Nuge” Nugent and I play struggling motivational speakers who are overshadowed by a much more successful motivational speaker named Martin Dockery, who is played by…. Martin Dockery! I have a girlfriend (Xan Scott) in the show who keeps getting in cults and Tommy’s house has just been taken over by a bank, so his family now lives on a lawn. In the pilot, I’m trying to convince Tommy to stick with this motivational speaking thing, even though we’re struggling. There are also mechanical cats and snapping Venus fly traps involved.
KRL: How did this come about?
Kurt: Tommy and I toured a live show called “Bromance” in which we played ourselves as struggling touring performers sharing our adventures on stage. We debuted it at the Rogue Festival in 2014 and toured it to several festivals after that. We had the idea of making it into a TV show, but the process of adapting something from the stage to a TV pilot is a difficult task! So I took a class last year at NYU with Michael Zam, who wrote the screenplay that the current show “Feud” is based on, and I developed both a pitch and a script for the show. The class was the best thing I could have done, because I learned the structure of a pilot script and how to outline a series. We would read the scripts out loud in class and give each other feedback. The following summer I did the London Fringe Festival in Ontario with the show “Best Picture” and Tommy came up from Detroit and we did a staged reading of the script with a ton of other performers. It was great fun and incredibly encouraging because the audience just ate it up.
When I was in the class, the teacher encouraged me to film my script, because he said otherwise I would have difficulty pitching the show. He said that once you explain absurdist humor, the joke is dead. So we are filming it!
KRL: Where in Fresno did you film?
Kurt: We filmed much of it in people’s homes in the Tower District. Bitwise Industries let us film in their theater space, as did the Fresno Soap Company. We found a giant empty parking lot that had a random toilet in it, so we used that, of course. We staged a huge crazy party scene. It was all a lot of fun.
KRL: Why Fresno?
Kurt: We wanted Marcel Nunis, the Godfather and founder of the Rogue, to be director of photography. I had worked with Marcel a few years ago, acting in a play he wrote called “Dancing in the Mist,” and we’re good friends. During my years of Rogue, I would always stay with Marcel and we would often just hang out outside and laugh at silly things. Marcel also makes short films and shoots a lot of live shows, and he’s got an encyclopedic knowledge of film, which has always impressed me. We also had a crew that Marcel assembled in Fresno, access to locations and resources, and access to talented Rogue performers.
KRL: I understand that this involved other Rogue Festival performers and people in Fresno, can you tell us more about that?
Kurt: I mentioned Marcel, and our crew included Shane “Scurvy” Spears, Adrien Lim, and Kp Phagnasay. Martin Dockery plays a major role on the show, and Jill Vice, Claire Patton, and Renee Newlove play solid roles. Even Airplane Jayne pops up, as does Jaguar Bennett. Nick Haas from Blimprov plays a funny part. Bob Brader did Rogue a few years back, and he’s in the show. He plays Bob Brader!
KRL: When/how might people be able to see this pilot?
Kurt: The first step for us will be using the completed pilot to pitch the series, which will probably also involve entering into festivals. We want to show it to everyone in the community, so maybe we’ll come back and have a screening. It would be fun to screen it at the Tower Theater!
KRL: I know other than your Rogue shows you have done other acting, can you tell us a little about what you have done?
Kurt: I did a show called “Best Picture” at Rogue in 2015, and that show toured for the past three years. I did over one-hundred performances of that show.
I toured the Fringe circuit for twelve years with seven different shows, performing in sixty-five festivals. I knew that my lifestyle was becoming less and less conducive to festival touring, so I wanted to take the resources I had gained over those twelve years – the experience, knowledge, and other talented people I met – and start expanding it into TV and film, which is actually, where I started years ago. Hopefully it will all work out!
KRL: Anything else that you would like to add?
Kurt: We couldn’t do this without the help of others, so we have an Indiegogo campaign to raise money to complete this project. If you want to be generous and throw us a few bucks, please go to www.indiegogo.com/projects/campus-martius-tv-pilot-with-tommy-and-kurt# or go to Indiegogo and search for “Campus Martius.” You’ll get to see some behind-the-scenes footage and read about the rewards we’re giving, too. The campaign runs until April 20. Thanks!
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