San Francisco is a fun place to be. No one knows this more than writer and director Ryan Lynch who has set her acclaimed comedy web series, SanFranLand, in the City by the Bay.
Lynch works as a story supervisor for Pixar and has left her mark on projects ranging from Brave to the upcoming TV special, Toy Story That Time Forgot. While developing her filmmaking skills in an environment as positive as Pixar, Lynch has also found success on her own as a writer and director. In 2009, her short film Real Men Go Hunting took her around the world to Cannes and everywhere in between.
Lynch's newest project is a web series exploring life in San Francisco through the eyes of a new transplant. SanFranLand follows Bobbi, played by Ashley Chaney, who moves to the west coast after experiencing a traumatic breakup. With the help of two wild friends, Tara and Coco, played by Chrissy Mazzeo and Liz Anderson, she acclimates herself to all that the city has to offer...always resulting in hilarious situations.
Along with some help from some of her friends and colleagues at Pixar and Lucasfilm, Lynch was able to craft a very fun and inventive show that has been turning heads at festivals and screenings all over the world. We were lucky enough to sit down recently with the series' creator Ryan Lynch and actor/producer Chrissy Mazzeo at Pixar, to talk SanFranLand.
PoG: So tell me a little about your background and how you got here?
Ryan Lynch: I got my undergrad in Colorado in multimedia, B.F.A. studying painting, photography and animation. And then I decided to come to San Francisco for grad school and I went to the Academy of Arts and studied film and animation there. Before I graduated, I got a job here, at Pixar, as a P.A. in feature film development. You know what you do as a P.A., but I read a lot of scripts, did a lot of coverage for the studio. Then I moved into the Story department on the movie, Brave. I was on Brave for about six and a half years doing story. Which has been an amazing experience, to be in such a great environment learning how to tell stories and to tell comedy and heart-warming stories. I felt like that was even more like film school then when I went to film school. Then I started writing more.... I have this great group of girlfriends in the city. A lot of these stories and moments came out of personal vignettes from my life. I thought they were heartwarming or funny or like 'you just can't make this shit up' kind of moments (laughs) and a lot of it involving the city of San Francisco because you wouldn't have these certain things if you weren't in the city.
PoG: I noticed in the show there are many authentic staples of San Francisco life. So you have bicycling life, the Valentine's Day pillow fight, Folsom Street fair. Do you keep a personal list of these locales or more write just as you see it?
RL: It's not like I had a list going, but I've lived in the city for 12 or 13 years now and i've gone to a lot of these events. And I think it is what makes the city so unique. You have Sunday Streets. You have Bay 2 Breakers...season two. (laughs) All these things that I love doing. And that was a major part of making the series, the community and events in San Francisco that we could plop our characters into.
PoG: How did the process go and what advice can you give to those looking to get funding with Kickstarter?
RL: The best way to do it is have a strategy going in. Decide when you are going to drop things. Map it all out. You can do a 90 day, 60 day or 30 day run. I mean I think the 30 day is the best because its gets a fire under people to help you, or not. I mean we had a team of six of us constantly blasting things out and trying to put up new stuff. And have your goals mapped out. If you reach your goal, what is your reach goal after that? Emailing, Facebook, Twitter, all of that. And you have to have a killer video. Not that ours was the greatest thing but I thought we did a pretty good job getting across what we wanted.
PoG: When do your story ideas hit you?
RL: For SanFranLand its definitely when hanging out with a girlfriend or at some bar. I use Evernote on my phone. Or stories someone tells me and I pick it up and think that would be so perfect to throw our characters into. Conflicts or especially where it's kinda like, San Francisco versus human. I find those really funny.
PoG: Which characters are the most fun for you to write?
RL: Definitely my three main girls, because they have unique personalities. I think the main character, sometimes is the hardest to write because your outlying characters can become more interesting than your main character. I mean like, Coco, always has something snarky to say. It's easier to write those. I find that even in the features I write that the main character all of a sudden it's so boring. Because you have given the supporting (characters) quirks and all these things to stand out. But really what ya gotta do is go back and see what makes your main character so unique and what is that emotional problem that they are trying to handle and overcome... It's something that younger writers go through. And I find that a lot of times they (the characters) can be an extension of me sometimes. I don't wanna go there because that's painful or something that I haven't learned about myself yet.
PoG: You have experience with strong female characters, on Brave and SanFranLand. What should anyone who is writing for female characters consider?
RL: There is a test...(laughs)...If there is a female character and they are talking to another female character and it's not about a man. And they are not standing in a shadow of a man and have their own thoughts and their own feelings... I think that they need to have their own unique voice and it's not a flat voice. Not always talking about men, for instance. Not there just to support the male character, be the damsel in distress. Helping the superhero do whatever it is he needs to do. Take us out of those situations and give us some meat. We have other thoughts too. Not just about men.
PoG: What type of female heroes would you like to see brought to the screen?
RL: I think Game of Thrones does a great job of that. They have so many strong woman characters. I mean Cersei is amazing. And it's not about her finding a husband. She is trying to protect her people. Trying to get on the throne. Those are the type of heroes I would like to see. Those that aren't afraid to jump on the fire. Even Merida in Brave, she was coming to terms with being 16 and royalty, but her end goal wasn't to get married. She wanted to live her own life before she had to compromise. Because you do have to compromise when you get married...Elastigirl. What I love about her is she was this mom, but she could totally take care of the family, kick some ass and keep her husband in line.
PoG: How is this role different than others you've played?
Chrissy Mazzeo: Very different. It's pure comedy. I've never just straight comedy. If you know me, you'll know that I'm not like my character. It would be really cool to do a second season, to explore more for my character. Her general way, would be something I would aspire to have a little more of in my real life. For me it was different because I found a little something in her I would like to keep. And it's really cool to play something where you are affected by it.
PoG: What actors inspire you?
CM: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, who is one of my favorite actors. Julianne Moore. I get drawn to really strong character actors. Melissa Leo. Sometimes you don't even know it's them until halfway through or til the end. It's not always the lead or superstar I'm drawn to.
PoG: What writers inspire you?
RL: I love Charlie Kaufman. Tina Fey, obviously, she is a good one. I love P.T. Anderson. I love Harmony Korine. Spring Breakers is one I really loved. And it's a little bit of inspiration for my next one. There are some indie ones that really moved me. I went to Sundance, Obvious Child... that was great. I just love how raw and authentic the voices that are coming out right now... And it seems to be based more on real life scenarios. And not based on magic or made up stuff. Real emotions. I like real emotions.
PoG: You don't shy away from the harsher parts of life in your show...Whether it's partying, sex, drinking. Do you have any rules for yourself when writing these scenes.
RL: Try to write it as real as possible. Then go further. And if it's too much you can always reel it back.
CM: Depending on the day of the shoot. It felt it was being toned down... And now when some people are watching it are like, "Whoaaaa...''
RL: What I wrote is a little more PG than how I experienced it initially. (laughs)
PoG: Was it my imagination, or did (your characters) bike past the 'Full House' house?
RL: It's funny because I was like "I wanna show the underground of the city." I don't want to show all the touristy spots. I don't wanna do the Golden Gate Bridge. That's why we showed the Bay Bridge instead...It was just an easy place to bike. Slap on my wrist for not sticking to my original intention.
CM: It's hard to ignore the prettiness!
PoG: No, it's awesome! So it's kinda like a 'Full House' for a new generation?
RL: It's a full house. There are three of them living there! With lots of characters that don't leave... (laughs)
PoG: Season 1 is basically a year in the life. Is that the structure for the series? Or did it just kind of work out that way?
RL: It worked out that way because of the Valentine's thing...It can be kind of arbitrary. Do your characters grow and change? That's more important to me. Sometimes in episodic TV you don't want your characters to change. You want them to stay the same way, but it's different when you are making something that has an arc.
PoG: Where do you see the main character Bobbi going?
RL: I think it's more about finding herself. She doesn't even have a job yet. She has been in San Francisco a year and hasn't figured out her career path or passion. That is where I want it to go. People in San Francisco are here because they have a passion and are going for it. All this innovation is happening. It's a very sink-or-swim kind of place. I would like for her to find it within herself and to go with it, with all her gusto. And for her friends, which are already doing the things that they like and are passionate about.
PoG: How is the film festival circuit going?
RL: It's going great. We went to Broad Humor in LA. I'm going to Raindance. Very excited about that. Miami Web Fest and Bushwick Film Festival are happening at the same time... We (already) went to LA Webfest, Hollyweb, Awesome Web Fest...
CM: It's been a really good run of festivals. This one was all on our own. Hopefully next one can be fully funded!
PoG: Where do you see the show going? Would you like to ultimately get your show picked up by a network?
RL: Yes that would be amazing. The more people to see it the better. You have more creative control on the web. But having it on a place like Comedy Central would be amazing.
CM: We are looking at how series that get picked up from the web are going. Because sometimes, their happy place is on the web. Because of course this is very new (industry) to everyone...The more exposure the better. Of course if you are going to TV you are looking to changing the format. And filling out the stories...
RL: I think its looking at who you are partnering with as well. If you are going to go into a studio and they are like "We love it. Now change all of it." Like with High Maintenance, the web series, they were about to sign a deal, I think with Comedy Central or somebody. Then they ended up pulling out, because they got an exclusive deal with production funds, with Vimeo to keep going. Now they have complete creative control. They get to keep their actors. and format. Where as Comedy Central they have to make it a half hour show.
CM: ...We are trying to stay open to possibilities...
PoG: What kind of show should people know that they are getting with SanFranLand?
RL: There is some nudity... (laughs) It's a show about celebrating life and reinventing your life. Set in the beautiful city of San Francisco. It's not for the close-minded or straight and narrow.
CM: Honestly. It's fun! It's quick and it's fun. It lifts up your day. You want to put a smile on your face? Watch a five minute episode. Watch ten minutes! It's a nice lifter upper! Take little breaks and lift yourself. Everyone's got a lot going on. It's nice to have a moment to crack a smile and get out of your own little world.
RL: I think laughter can save the world.
Indeed it can...
If you like the outrageous comedy and tone of Sex and the City and The Hangover, you will have a blast with SanFranLand. It is definitely a series to keep your eyes on. .
So got check out SanFranLand and tell us what you think! Let us know on the comment boards!
Source: Point of Geeks, SanFranLandseries.com