An interview with ED TOOLIS | THERE'S AN APP FOR THAT | VMA 2022 | April Edition
For the last 150 thousand years, mankind has longed for a time when all of the human knowledge could be at their fingertips. And with the Digital Age and cellphones, that time has finally come.
Unfortunately, there have been some "comic unexpected consequences", so says Ed Toolis in the intro to "There’s an App for That" which explores the era we’re all living in. And Ed Toolis, the producer, writer, and director, whose film short was a semifinalist of last April's edition, is with us to talk about his project, a four-to-five season multi-cam, comedy TV series that has already been written and ready for transmedia marketing possibilities.
• Hello, Ed, and welcome here to the Vegas Movie Awards™. First of all, congratulations on your semi-finalist status in last April's fierce competition! Would you like to introduce our audience to who you are and how your career in filmmaking began?
It was an accident really. I financially supported a filmmaker here in Chicago, and after going through the process of filming it, I decided to give it a try myself, to showcase my own work.
• Your style of storytelling is firmly rooted in the creativity given by Comedy. Would you explain your stylistic choice and vision in this regard?
Comedy, when done right, is the most creative and concentrated form of writing. And I believe the comic web series will be the next innovation in the visual arts, because it’s perfect for the streaming world.
I define a web series as recurring characters, or a parade of characters that fully explores a subject. Their opening scenes grab the audience’s attention, as being worthy of their time, and they are followed by a series of fast-paced comic action. Rather than use expensive settings or special effects, they build comic worlds in the imaginations of viewers. And unlike most movies and TV series, famous actors are not required. Ensemble casts work just fine in comedy.
Great social change is a goldmine for comedy. It allows writers to take a fresh look at the same age-old topics.
• For this project you oversaw the writing, direction, and production. In which of these roles did you feel the greatest sense of satisfaction and fulfillment and why?
I’m a writer. To me, history and evolution are all about creativity, it’s mankind’s best quality, and I always wished I was capable of doing it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come easy. It took 20 years of going through hell to get to a point where I began to like my own work.
But even later I discovered something totally unexpected. As it turns out, creativity was necessary for my mental health. All the best things in my life happen in my head, as I see a project evolve before my very eyes. I even get to experience all kinds of great adventures, that I’d never get to experience in real life. all be it vicariously, being in the heads of the point-of-view characters.
And to return to the question, I see no difference between writing and directing. Producing is enormously frustrating, trying to get what I put on the page, captured on the video village monitors.
• In "There's an App for That" you deal lightly and humorously with an extremely topical issue, which we are sure will continue to be a hot topic in the coming years. How did you get the idea for this project and what are the elements in real life that have inspired you the most?
First, great social change is a goldmine for comedy. It allows writers to take a fresh look at the same age-old topics. And one day, I was doing research, trying to come up with ideas for apps mankind wished I had, and the project kept growing. And suddenly, I wanted to “own” the Monty Python of the digital age brand.
And in this regard, I’d like to make another point. The streaming services are overloaded with horror, action adventures, whodunnits, sci-fi, spy, superhero, historical, and so on storylines—none of which is relatable to the lives of the viewers. “There’s an App for That” is about their lives and the world they live in. And it would be an outrage for them, 20 years later, to see a documentary or TV series, and suddenly see why this is the most fascinating and fun time to be alive—and they missed it!
• What were the difficulties, if any, in writing the 4 books on which the project is based?
First, writing is always self-torture. It’s something, that if someone else forced you to do, it would get them life in prison. Second, if your writing depends on what will pop into your head, whenever it wants to, you’ll never be able to come up with a constant flow of original material. And for comedy writers, this is the best time ever in the history of mankind to be the business. Content aggregates have thousands of articles on any given subject, and when you brainstorm them for comic ideas, comic characters, comic conflicts, and details to build comic worlds, your creative output goes sky-high.
• What were the challenges you faced in turning those books into a TV Series?
Not much of a challenge at all. First, it’s easy because comedy, as I write it, is almost totally dialogue. And it’s just a matter of dropping the setting one-liner descriptions and dialogue into their boxes. The body language and dialogue tags go into the parentheticals.
But converting it to a TV series is just the beginning. There are all the other transmedia possibilities. The video series can also be republished as a podcast series, or an audiobook version. Something people can listen to while they’re commuting, exercising, shopping, house cleaning, and doing yard work. I’ve even done one of the bits in the series as a standup act at five comedy clubs, here in Chicago.
And when comedy is done right, it can be like a great song. Many bits can be enjoyed several times. And since they cover evergreen topics, many can be enjoyed by a generation that hasn’t even been born yet—like Monty Python is.
• What are the things that you feel have enriched you the most in dealing with this topic and what would you recommend to a young person facing this world in today's reality?
I am not a nut! I am a visionary. Comedy is a spiritual quest to see the world in a whole new enjoyable way. And if all young people follow my teachings, and find unique comic perspectives, they’ll see how much life there really is in life, and they’ll constantly get to see how incredibly fascinating people and relationships really are.
• What are, if any, the next steps you are working on regarding this project?
I’m currently in post, putting the finishing touches on the whole two-hour production. Then it’s on to finding a financial partner, with distribution connections, to make the four to five season project a reality.
• What are your artistic and personal plans for the near future?
I’m already working on my next brand about how comedy can teach people to get their lives together. For instance, how rom-com writers can show couples how to make their real-life love stories better than the crap on TV. How the acting class instructors can teach people how to not only be lovable characters in their real lives, but even get them to make the big bucks, as character actors in a blockbuster TV series. That sort of thing.
• Thanks for being with us today, Ed, it has been a pleasure having you as a guest for this interview. Would you like to dedicate your achievements to someone in particular?
I want to thank the actors. I thought my words looked great on the page, but it was an incredible experience seeing them on the screen.
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