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Getting to Know: Internity’s Creator Joey Adams

unnamedPlease allow us to introduce ours….. Joey Adams the mastermind behind Internity, a dramedy set at Portland Memorial Hospital that is described as a combination of ER and Scrubs go to Comic Con with a little Grey’s Anatomy on the side.  TNWU has been interviewing the very talented cast that has been lined up for this project over the last couple of weeks and they all speak very highly of its creator.

So with their praises ringing in our ears, we here at TNWU decided it was about time we went straight to the…horse’s….well maybe straight to the writer’s mouth.  Our aim was to get a little more insight on how Joey came up with the idea, recruited the actors and decided to crowdfund the project and how the show will develop.

 

How did you come up with “Internity”?

“I wish I’d been smart enough to devise this as a vehicle for myself. Unfortunately, I’m not that smart. [laughs] Writing has always been a hobby of mine since I was a kid. The idea popped into my head for a couple of characters, who happened to be doctors, and they took on their own lives from there.” 

How long did it take you to write the script?

“I wrote the script in about two days. I’m a horrible procrastinater. If I don’t finish something right away, I never will. I’ve started writing seven different novels but I’ve actually completed two. So, I had to write this script quickly; not because I’m some type of boy genius or something, but because I’m very, very lazy. [laughs] I had to finish fast before I got bored with it!”

Where did the idea of the project come from?

“I’ve always been attracted to unconventional, flawed and quirky characters. It sounds obnoxiously cliché to say this, but it’s true. I’ve always been drawn to TV shows which have passionate cult followings and don’t subscribe to typical ‘TV formulas.’ I don’t understand the appeal of procedural dramas at all. I tend to like off-beat and uncomfortable comedy. I guess you could say that was the impetus. Just to see something on television which hasn’t been seen four million times. 

I’m in love with the city of Portland. I keep threatening to run away and move there, so I set the show there as an excuse to hopefully visit more often. I knew I wanted to do something that was genre-defying from the beginning because…well, because why not? Life is funny and sad and amazing and devastating, simultaneously. Why can’t a TV show be that too? This show is for all the misfits out there. People who are different, who defy labels, the underdogs.

As I mentioned, a couple of characters came to mind first: The character of Dr. Camila (played by Marina Sirtis) is a fifty year-old first-year intern who returned to medical school after a messy divorce and sending her kids off to college. If this was a traditional sitcom on NBC or CBS, I might’ve called it ‘Dr. Mom.’ [laughs] That’s obviously pretty terrible, so everyone’s lucky it’s not a typical sitcom. You’re welcome, future audience! [laughs].

The second was Dr. Owen (played by Richard Ruccolo) who is a brilliant but conflicted medical director. He’s the Obi-Wan Kenobi character, you could say. He’s wise, measured and earnest; he has the soul of a poet. He’s always dispensing this thoughtful, hippie wisdom. But, there’s a distance about him because he’s a guy who got everything he ever wanted, and then suddenly realized “everything” wasn’t what he sought after all. He has a successful career, an amazing wife and a baby on the way, yet he feels smothered and wants more than this idyllic life he envisioned would be his path. 

The third character was Nurse Tracey (played by Carla Jimenez) who is the sharp-tongued loudmouth we all know. The one who’s always busting someone’s chops and doesn’t have a filter. But, if you look past the tough exterior, you realize they really have something to say worth listing to more often than not. After these characters, Dr. Sara (played by Julie McNiven) came to mind. She’s the textbook perfect intern, who’s sort of a know it all, but she’s very lovable and endearing. Sara’s usually the smartest person in the room, if not the whole building. She has a good heart and the best intentions, always, but she gets herself into trouble trying to help and please everyone. I’m sure a lot of women can relate.

Andrew (played by Jim Beaver) came next. We’re keeping the details about Andrew a mystery and a tease, but I think his fans will really love seeing him do the role. It’s my new personal mission to get Jim Beaver an Emmy. So what if I had to create a show to make it happen! [laughs] When Jim shows up, everything turns on a dime and his character sets the main season one storyline into motion. 

Believe it or not, last was my character, Dr. Nate. He’s this fanboy who’s a genius but definitely has some arrested development in terms of life skills. He grew up being babysat by TV, so he often imagines himself in old movies and shows through dream sequences, which gives us license to have guest appearances from anyone and everyone we want. The possibilities for storylines and themed episodes are infinite. We have several other roles left to cast, but this is who we have so far.

I guess the character most obviously inspired by my life is Marina’s. I was raised by a single mother. Mine never went to medical school, but I’ve always felt there was an under-served audience of single and working moms out there. Rarely, if ever, does Hollywood document their stories, at least in an honest and realistic way. With a few small exceptions, one being that I love TV, this show really isn’t autobiographical for me. However, because of my family situation growing up it matters a great deal to me to help put strong female characters on TV, especially one who happens to be over forty. 

I’m sure it’s no secret to anyone that the media in America doesn’t exactly celebrate women in general, but especially older women. I hope, in some small way, we can change that with this show. We have some fantastic female characters of all ages and colors. Shonda Rhimes, obviously, comes to mind as someone who’s been a trailblazer with respect to this concept. I certainly don’t equate myself to someone as talented or successful as she is, and our show isn’t as commercially conventional as hers are. But, I hope we can carry the torch she lit. I believe with my whole heart that the stories of our ladies deserve to be told. Quite honestly, women kick ass. That’s why I’m relentless and passionate about seeing this idea to fruition. “Obsessive” is probably more accurate!”

And TNWU loves you for it Joey! 

Why/how did you decide to use crowdfunding for the project? Why Indiegogo specifically?

“There are a few reasons. One, the concept of this show, “’Scrubs’ meets ‘E.R.’ and they go to Comic Con together,” is probably not something many networks would be interested in on the page alone. If I pitched Internity to a network they’d say, “Great, but what if we made Dr. Camila thirty-five instead of fifty?” and “What if we kept Nate kooky, but lost the guest stars and themed episodes?” Thanks, but that’s not our show. Our show is quirky, unusual, charming and I hope something with special characters no one has seen before. 

Viewers are much smarter than the studios think they are. Audiences typically respond well to high-concept shows which break the mold. It’s the networks who often don’t know what to do with something they can’t easily categorize. That’s why a show like this is important. It’s why we HAVE to make this pilot our own way; to show them our vision, not just tell them on paper. Hulu, Netflix and Amazon are all making amazingly inventive, unconventional shows at the moment. HBO and cable channels have been for a long while, so the big networks have some work to do, but I think they’ll catch up eventually.

To that point, number two, I’ve had a few scripts optioned over the years. I’ve seen them systematically dismantled by production companies and, as Julie McNiven would say, ‘the suits.’ I refuse to let that happen with this show because I truly believe it’s one of a kind. I mean, consider that our cast is involved solely because of the script. They haven’t earned a single cent for this yet, but they’re out promoting like crazy and personally asking their fans to donate money and help us make the show. For established actors, that takes guts. They’re really going to bat for our show this just doesn’t happen in Hollywood, trust me.

Jim, for instance, has this huge movie out right now, Crimson Peak. He was practically doing more press for us the week Crimson premiered than for his big budget blockbuster! He’s that kind of person, someone who gives and gives. The same could be said about Marina and our whole cast. I just hope people will make the connection there. The cast has done tons of free interviews, shot promotional videos and Tweeted until their thumbs fell off for us. They haven’t earned a cent yet. They’re all fantastically talented, but more so, they’re all fantastic people. I’m so fortunate and blessed to have all of them.  

And to their fans I would just say, they are ALL exactly the kind of people you’d hope they are in person. I really hit the jackpot. I hope I won’t have to, but if I’m forced to sell my organs on the black market to fund this show, I’ll do it! [laughs] The cast is doing all of this, not to befriend some unknown like me, but because they believe in Internity. We need the fans to believe too, it’s the only way we can succeed.

We’re crowdfunding this project simply to keep our cast in place and to maintain artistic integrity. We wouldn’t have any control if I simply sold the script to someone else for production. If I was interested in a paycheck, I would. Trust me, it would be much easier! But, I’m not in this for the money. None of us are. I mean, we don’t have any! [laughs] This way, we make the show we want to make for the people who would be our viewers if Internity was on the air. 

Three, I’ve said before actors have been producing their own work since the days of Charlie Chaplin, this isn’t a new idea. But, actors taking that work directly to their audience is new; I believe it’s the way of the future.

Four, we’re trying to make “the first fan-funded, actor-created series ever picked up by a network.” With the support of fans, we’ll succeed. Without their support, we’ll fail. We’re a bunch of TV addicts making a show for TV addicts, essentially, a show for all of the fanboys, fangirls and everyone in between. The best part about this is the viewers have all the power to make it so. My hope, my belief, is they’ll give this show the greenlight.

Indiegogo was chosen at random. This is my first crowdfunding campaign, so I have no idea which platforms are better or worse than another. I will say that crowdfunding has been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. People think it’s a “if you build it, they will come,” kind of thing. It’s not. It takes constant work and it’s really expensive. Paid ads, press release distribution, publicity, promo videos… it’s certainly not cheap or easy. So, when I ask people to contribute their money, I understand how they feel because, trust me, I’ve contributed lots of my own cash into this too.”

How did you choose the incentives?

“We tried to come up with something for everyone and offer perk options that are affordable for most people. The economy is still rough, we get that. Also, there are so many crowdfunded projects out there with perks which start at forty or fifty bucks. I saw one the other day that wanted $25 for just a “thank you” shout out on Facebook! No disrespect to those campaigns, but that’s just not doable for many people these days. 

There a lot of projects out there, especially in the sci-fi genre, which have been using the Internet and fandom as their personal ATM for a number of years, people are spent, they’re tapped out. You can only buy so many t-shirt perks and support so many friends’ pet projects, you know? So, we have to continue trying to convince our backers they’re not giving us “donations” to make a one-time movie. They’re actually investing in a new series, with very strong potential to go the distance, and coming along with us whenever this may take us. We think we can go far, but first we need the seed money to make our pilot.

We’re all just really committed to making the best show we possibly can. We’re pulling favors and making deals to cut costs. Everyone’s working for low pay so we can get the most out of our backers’ bucks. If we’re lucky enough to raise the funds we need, I think viewers will be really happy to be a part of this show and glad they took a risk on us. And, unlike a film, we’ll potentially have dozens of new episodes a year. That’s a good return on an investment, no?

We’re trying to get the idea across that we’re not asking people for their life savings, here. We’re asking people to give up one pumpkin spice latte or one hamburger to help make a show. If 30,000 fans pitched in three dollars each, we’d all get a new show and nobody breaks the bank. We also want people to know if they can’t afford to contribute a dollar, Tweets, email blasts and sharing links are absolutely free! Reaching out to media on our behalf is a huge help. Every media mention gets us closer to the finish line. Telling friends and family is the best advertising, which money can’t buy. We’re grateful for any and all contributions, no matter how small they may seem. Really! That’s the point we’re trying to make with the video I did, ‘Couches Across America,’ that you can help make a TV show with just the lost change in your sofa.

How did you get some of the actors to come on board?

“The TNWU family has interviewed most of them, so I’m sure you’re aware of how passionate they are about Internity. The truth is that I’m incredibly lucky. I’m just some guy who wrote something I’m not sure anyone would ever like or even understand. I’m pinching myself because every actor I’ve sent the script to, so far, has said yes. I’m not sure how I got so lucky, but I’m gonna run with it and shut up about it! [laughs] 

I simply wrote the script with the actors we’ve cast in mind and I reached out to each of them myself. A couple I knew, a couple I didn’t. I never expected any of them to actually do it, but to my surprise they agreed. Carla Jimenez was the first cast. I don’t know if she knows this, but I’ve written a part for her in every script I’ve written since I saw Nacho Libre. [laughs]

Marina Sirtis and I share a manager, Jerry Silverhardt, who is also producing this. Jerry is famous for discovering Tom Cruise. His client Travis Wall just won an Emmy for choreography on So You Think You Can Dance. Jerry was a producer on Travis’ Oxygen Network show, All the Right Moves, and a bunch of other stuff, so he really knows what he’s doing. He’s been in the business for a very long time. Anyway, Jerry introduced me to Marina over lunch. I loved her and I wrote the character for her. Marina’s such a terrific actor and such a cool person. She’s a very accomplished dramatic actress, but she has terrific comedy chops and is one of the sharpest, most gracious people you’ll ever meet. She’s incredibly grateful for her success; she’s very grounded and approachable. She seems to have absolutely no clue that she’s an icon. From day one she was like, “Whatever you need me to do, I’ll do it.” If you saw her video, Afternoon Tea with Marina Sirtis, she killed with that! She has no pretense, she was willing to make jokes at her own expense, she’s amazing! I’ve learned so much from her just by being in her presence.

The funny thing is, ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation,’ was a little before my time. I wasn’t really aware of it growing up. I’ve seen it since of course, but I was familiar with and admired Marina’s film work before I ever saw TNG. Marina suggested Michael Dorn, who was her co-star on TNG and is her best friend in real life. I was like, um, yeah! Not only do we want him to direct, we want to him to do a recurring role as a doctor and appear in a TNG reunion scene for the pilot as Worf! Cool?

Like everyone else on the planet, I’ve been a fan of Jim Beaver’s for years. I remember Jim from Sister Act when I was a kid. He played one of the cops who arrested Whoopi Goldberg, who is one of my all-time favorites. I mean, be honest, who doesn’t cry like a baby when they flip past the Color Purple on TV? Anyway, I’m not sure if Jim knows this but I’m distantly related to his late wife. If he hadn’t said yes, I would’ve had to play the “relative card,” but thankfully he didn’t resist! [laughs] 

As for Julie McNiven, you may have heard, we have TNWU’s Tracy Miller to thank! I actually had Julie in mind when writing Sara. Everyone knows Julie from Mad Men of course, and Jerry and I are both die-hard Supernatural fans. We wanted to pitch the show to Julie, but we heard she’d had a baby and knew she’d be busy with her family, so we waited. We fully intended to approach her again if our campaign was successful. But, Tracy suggested Julie as being perfect for the show on Twitter, Julie got word of it and now she’s playing Sara. So, thanks, Tracy!

I’m not a person who believes in fate exactly, but at the risk of sounding corny, it really does feel like this cast was meant to be. They just kind of magically, organically came together. I hope people will see how hard the cast has been working to make this show happen, it’s so rare. I hope people will reward their hard work with support and enough contributions to see this though. The cast really deserves to see this show get made. We have a few roles left to fill, as I mentioned, and I’m really excited to see who else comes on board!”

How many episodes do you envision?

“Our goal is to make a broadcast-quality pilot and have it picked up by a network as an open-ended series. Generally, a series is twenty-three episodes a season on network TV, usually half that if it’s a show on cable or Netflix, Hulu, et cetera. I hope Internity runs for fifteen seasons, has four movies and at least one spin-off! [laughs] 

I think we had a slow start with our crowdfunding campaign because people are used to seeing films financed on the Internet, but TV, not so much. They’re confused. We keep trying to explain this isn’t a one-time deal like a movie. This is a pilot for an ongoing series with, potentially, hundreds of episodes. I hope people will see the value in that and help us make it happen. A pilot is like a gift that can keep giving and giving.”

Is writing and acting something you were always interested in doing?

“I’ve wanted to be an actor since I can remember. I got my SAG card when I was a young kid doing commercials. Acting, quite honestly, is the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do. Other kids wanted to be a doctor; I wanted to play a doctor on TV. 

I never pursued writing as a career, I still don’t. It’s something that keeps finding me every now and then. This may sound odd, but I didn’t write this show to make money or to be in it myself. I wrote this show because I wanted to see something like this on TV. I got my start in writing because I had a wonderful teacher in elementary school that recognized my love for acting. She encouraged me to write little skits and plays to be performed at school with classmates. She submitted one of the plays I wrote to a kids’ writing competition and it ended up being published. I was, like, eight or nine years old, so I literally owe my career path to an incredible teacher who believed in me.”

If you don’t make your funding goal for Internity, do you have a back-up plan?

“No. The sad truth is the show has no future if the fans don’t come out and turn the pilot from a dream into a reality. We’re creating a show for fans, so without fans we can’t make the show. We’ll have to cross that bridge later, but if the fans don’t rally and pitch in to help, this dream and all of the hard work we’ve put in it will be dead. It’s painful to think about failing when we’ve all worked so hard and for so long. The campaign is only a few weeks, but we’ve all been working on this for over a year making videos and building the cast and crew. It’s been a long, difficult process. If fans don’t show up, it was all for nothing, so I’m really hoping people will turn out in time to help us make this a reality. 

Jim, Marina and Michael have all said publicly if their Twitter followers all contributed just $1.00, we could end the campaign immediately and get to work filming the show. If you’re a fan of theirs, or anyone in this cast, you follow them on Twitter or Facebook, watch their movies, it’s probably because they made an impact on you with a performance, right? Knowing that, I can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t be compelled to give at least a dollar or two to get these actors together on a new weekly show. I can’t imagine someone calling themselves a ‘fan’ and not helping us make a show with these great people which is, essentially, about fandom! [laughs]”

What do you want to say to the backers who have helped?

“The saddest part of crowdfunding is that you realize many people whom you’ve known since childhood, including those who you know love you deeply, just don’t care to help or pitch in. They don’t share your vision or your passion for your project. They just don’t get it; they’re too busy, too broke, whatever. That’s difficult and painful. It’s also heartbreaking and soul-crushing, if I’m being honest. It’s like, c’mon Aunt Linda, we’re working our butts off here, help us out with twenty bucks!  And you get no response.

However, the most uplifting part about crowdfunding is when total strangers you’ve never met come out to support you and donate their hard-earned money to your vision. It’s an incredible feeling to have a person you’ve never met supporting you, believing in you and encouraging you from the sidelines and behind the scenes. Crowdfunding is, literally, investing in the stock market of people’s dreams. It’s an amazing thing to behold when it’s successful. When it fails, it’s probably the most humiliating, agonizing form of debilitating rejection there is. [laughs] 

We’ve had some incredible support from the very beginning; people who have been working for us, tirelessly, promoting the show, sharing links, pitching us to media. We have some Twitter superstars who’ve just been amazing to all of us, and, especially me personally. We’re all so grateful and touched. I’m blown away myself. I wish I could hop in my car and go thank everyone in person. I want them all to know we see everyone’s hard work on our behalf and we appreciate it so very much!

We’ve had a few entertainment shows and websites, yours for instance, who’ve been real champions of ‘Internity.’ We’re shocked and awed and of course, thankful. We’re discouraged we haven’t raised more money, I won’t lie. It hurts. We know we have something valuable on our hands and it’s frustrating that more people aren’t catching on. But, regardless of the outcome of this campaign, we’re forever grateful to all of those who have supported us. We feel so lucky and honored to have the supporters we do and we appreciate all of their hard work.  So, to them (and you) I say thank you! On behalf of me and the entire team, we love you all. If only we could clone our supporters, this show would be funded already! 

I would say, also, to our backers, supporters and well-wishers: I know you’re tired. I know you’ve been working hard. I know this hasn’t been easy, but we have to keep going. We just have to. If we give up now, all the work we’ve done so far is for nothing. We have to dig deep and do even more. We have to find the strength and the stamina to go the distance. We have to reach more people, find more team members, and we have to find more money, somehow, someway.”

How do you decide which ideas to pursue?

“There’s no formula. We’re doing the TNG reunion scene because we have Marina and Michael, so we just had to take advantage of the amazing opportunity we were presented. Not to mention, the rest of the cast all wanted to cosplay Star Trek with them! [laughs] The other shows we’ll include in future episodes, they’ll simply be shows or movies we all love and include guest stars we want to work with. It’s that simple really. Everyone wants to work with their friends and this cast has a great treasure trove of famous friends!

I want to have everyone from Betty White and Whoopi Goldberg to Neil Patrick Harris and Chris Pratt to George Tekai guest star reviving their most famous characters. I want to do scenes from Alias to Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Friends and Firefly to thousands more. The possibilities really are endless. We envision the fans and viewers weighing in on the story lines and guest stars in the future with online polls or an app, possibly. We’ll figure out a way to make this a TV show in the style of the Choose Your Own Adventure books. I’m not sure how, but we’ll do it! Of course, I’m getting ahead of myself because we can’t do any of that unless we fund the pilot.

Marina and Julie want a Doctor Who themed episode. There’s actually an Internet campaign going on right now to get the BBC to cast Marina as the next Doctor, so we might just beat them to it. Julie would make a great Amy Pond. Jim loves westerns. Carla loves musical theater, I have a lot of friends from my Broadway days we can call. Richard would make a great Wolverine. I mean, the guy’s jacked. Me, I’ve always dreamed of being in ‘Star Wars,’ so who knows. [laughs] With this cast, we’ll for SURE be doing a Supernatural reunion episode in the future!”

Joey, thank you so very much for taking the time to answer our questions; hopefully as people read through your answers they will gain a better understanding of the project and the people behind it.

“Thanks for thinking of me. 🙂 I can’t tell you how much it means to me, and the entire cast and production team, to have your support. As you might have heard, I’m a bit of a fanboy… as a TNWU reader; it’s a special honor to have you in our corner!”

If you wish to help Internity film its pilot episode, you can click here and make a donation and choose a perk.  Remember, lots of small donations add up over time!

 

 

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