by Lorie Lewis Ham
Check out our review of another web series, Leap Year, and an interesting interview with creator Wilson Cleveland.
Leap Year, Web Series Review
Thanks to my daughter I recently began watching web series and find I have fallen in love with this fairly new style of entertainment. The length of episodes (generally running from 5 to 10 minutes) is perfect for my busy lifestyle–I can sit down and take a quick break and enjoy an episode or two. What has amazed me is the incredible quality that is out there–they easily rival the quality of big budget TV.
I am also a huge Joss Whedon and Buffy The Vampire Slayer fan, and when I found an interview with Eliza Dushku about this web series she was on called Leap Year, I had to check it out.
Leap Year has a very interesting and unique plotline. Five friends, I’m guessing all in their late 20’s and 30’s, work for the same company and find themselves suddenly laid off. At the urging of their most outgoing member of the group, they decide to take the “Leap” they’ve always talked about and turn this into an opportunity to start their own company. They learn of a competition where a mystery benefactor promises to invest $500,000 in one of their startups and decide to go for it.
I love how this show has packed a little bit of everything you could want into two short seasons. There’s a young married couple expecting their first baby, his brother who is talented but seems to always get himself in trouble, the outgoing ladies man who seems to always find his own kind of trouble, the strong businesswoman looking to prove herself, and the brilliant emotionally troubled goth outsider. Not only does this show have the business side of the storyline that appeals to me as an entrepreneur, but there’s love, betrayal, friendship, mystery, drama and comedy all wrapped up in this brilliantly written, acted, and directed web series.
They also have some very fun guest stars–Eliza Dushku (Buffy, Tru Calling, Dollhouse), Emma Caulfield (Buffy), Steven Webber (Wings), Joshua Malina (Scandal) and Craig Bierko (TV & Broadway actor).
Created and written by Vlad Baranovsky, Yuri Baranovsky and Wilson Cleveland–Yuri and Wilson also act in the show. Yuri is the young married one Aaron Morrison, and Wilson is his brother Derek. The rest of the main cast are-Bryn Arbor played by Alexis Boozer, Aaron’s wife Lisa played by Rachel Risen, Olivia Reddox played by Daniela DiLorio, and Jack Sather played by Drew Lanning.
Leap Year is the perfect introduction to watching web series if you have never tried one because it is just so well done, or if you like me are already addicted to web series–it’s the perfect next one to try!
Leap Year currently has two seasons with a total of 20 episodes–which in the second season run a little longer with some being just over 20 minutes. Not only can you find all of the eps on YouTube, but Leap Year is also available to watch on Hulu! No word yet on a third season but I’m crossing my fingers because this show definitely left me wanting more!
Interview With Leap Year Creator Wilson Cleveland:
KRL: Have you been involved in a web series before?
Wilson: Oh yes. Many. Probably over 30 in the last 7 years, either as a creator, producer, actor or marketer. I actually founded a digital studio in 2006 called Unboxd Media where I make shows for brands, networks and media companies. In addition to Leap Year, I created and starred in a show called The Temp Life for 5 seasons (2006-2011). Temp Life was the first web series produced specifically for a brand. I also created, executive produced, wrote for and acted in Suite 7 for Lifetime and The Webventures of Justin & Alden; exec produced Bestsellers and have guest starred on shows like The Guild and Easy to Assemble. I also created/executed the distribution and audience development strategy for Easy to Assemble’s second season.
KRL: How did Leap Year go from an idea to a reality?
Wilson: Unboxd is part of a PR firm called Prosek Partners and we initially created Leap Year for Hiscox Insurance, one of the firm’s clients, as a branded entertainment/PR vehicle. Hiscox was looking to build brand equity among startup entrepreneurs to promote its small business insurance offerings so we made a show about startup entrepreneurs.
KRL: How did you cast it? Did you hold auditions or did you ask people you knew?
Wilson:No auditions for the main cast. Yuri and I hand-picked everybody. Everyone in the main cast had worked together on other shows. Yuri, Alexis, Daniela and Drew were on Yuri’s show Break a Leg; Rachel Risen (Lisa) was my co-star on Temp Life; and Yuri wrote both Temp Life season 4 and an episode of Suite 7 that I starred in with Shannen Doherty.
KRL: What is your background in acting, writing and producing?
Wilson: I started acting when I was 11, appearing in various stage productions and as a background performer in films like Scenes from a Mall starring Woody Allen and Bette Midler, Howard Stern’s Private Parts and The Devil’s Own with Harrison Ford and Brad Pitt. I performed throughout Russia with my high school theater company and was cast on the popular college television soap Bay State when I was a freshman at Boston University. During that period I also appeared on the MTV series Twelve Angry Viewers and the NBC soaps Days of Our Lives and Another World. After college I worked in entertainment PR for a year before going to work on Wall Street for two years. After that I went back into PR working with tech and digital media companies. I started producing in 2006 when I began making shows for clients.
KRL: I believe I saw that Yuri writes for Leap Year as well, correct? How did that come about?
Wilson:Yuri and his brother Vlad write every word we say on Leap Year. I’d previously worked with them on two other projects and I knew I wanted Leap Year to have their smart, witty, Aaron Sorkin-y voice. I brought Yuri and Vlad on board before the first season was even green lit.
KRL: I notice you are now on Hulu as well–can you tell me about that relationship? How it happened? Has it helped you find new viewers?
Wilson:Hulu has been a distribution partner from day one. Our vision for Leap Year was always to do an original TV series for digital distribution, not unlike what Netflix has since done with House of Cards and Orange is the New Black. Hulu’s audience was already accustomed to watching long-form network TV shows online, so it made sense to us for Leap Year to be on Hulu with similar content.
KRL: You have had some fun guest stars–how did they end up being on the show? Especially Eliza Dushku and Emma Caulfield? Any chance you are a Buffy fan?
Wilson:I am a notoriously insufferable Buffy fan. It’s my favorite TV show of all time. I love everything Joss does and tell him every time I see him. Yuri and Vlad are the same way about Aaron Sorkin. We’ve found ourselves in a surreal position at this point in our careers where we get to create characters for and work with actors we’ve geeked-out over for years. Eliza and Emma played my two favorite Buffy characters and it’s no a coincidence Josh Malina and Steven Weber have each starred in at least one Aaron Sorkin show.
KRL: So why did you cast yourself as Derek?
Wilson:I typically act in the shows I create or produce because I was an actor before anything else and I love doing it. I knew I wanted to play Derek the minute I read the first drafts of Yuri and Vlad’s scripts. I love playing imperfect and occasionally unlikeable characters because I’m fascinated by the reasons behind people act and do the things they do. Yuri and Vlad wrote such a rich, complicated character in Derek. He does some bad things but ultimately means well. I love playing him.
KRL: What is it like working on a web series and having to fit so much in such a short span of time?
Wilson:It can be daunting at times but depending on your budget it doesn’t necessarily have to be. Our Leap Year season 1 budget was significantly less than season 2. We had a bare minimum crew and approximately 4 weeks to shoot ten episodes. We worked 18-hour days and every single one of us in the cast and crew got deathly sick at some point during production. We couldn’t afford to take time and rest so everyone just pushed through. We made it work but wouldn’t recommend anyone attempt it themselves.
KRL: How long does it typically take to put together an episode?
Wilson:We shoot the entire season out of sequence, but one episode can take 1-2 weeks to produce.
KRL: Is this show entirely a labor of love, or do you make money from the show? How did you find a sponsor?
Wilson:As I mentioned, Unboxd is part of a PR/marketing firm and we initially created Leap Year as a marketing vehicle specifically for Hiscox Insurance, one of the firm’s clients.
KRL: So if Leap Year was created as a marketing vehicle for that insurance firm, did they then foot the bill for everything?
Wilson:Yes, they funded production.
Check out KRL’s reviews of other web series in our Web Series & Vlogs section.