By Chelsea Fung
We all have it, that devil on our shoulders, opposite of the moral angel, urging us to say and do, but just have a hard time acting on and vocalizing the dark matter that we resist, for some that dark matter is just a little darker or is possibly green. For Timothy Ryan Cole and Nathan Alan Bunker they personify just that with Mark, a green blob that is a mouthpiece for Kevin’s deepest, darkest most inner thoughts, that only the conduit can hear and see in the web series SAD MOTIVATOR.
In SAD MOTIVATOR the series follows Kevin, a newly single guy living in Los Angeles who enters the dating world with the help of his sidekick/navigator, Mark, a green blob that pushes the boundaries and forces Kevin into interesting, and sometimes, dangerous situations. We got to know the creator, writer, director and star of the web series presented by Funny or Die: SAD MOTIVATOR. Nathan and Timothy share with us how the flubber-like blob, Mark, voiced by Nathan, came to be from the mind of the main character, Kevin, played by Timothy and what is to come in Season 2.
Tell me a little about yourselves:
Timothy: I started acting in school plays when I was 9 and in 2001 I moved to New York to study acting at the New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts. I moved to Los Angeles in 2007 and started working on a lot of commercials. Mostly known for the recent GEICO campaign “Happier Than..” where the two musicians Jimmy and Ronnie play guitar and mandolin on stage. I met Nathan through Andrea Rueda, the casting director for this project and many others. Nathan had an awesome, creepy, inappropriate dark comedy piece and invited me to join in on the fun - after reading the script, I knew I wanted to dive right in and start creating. He rocked the finished product and created something that people can’t seem to get enough of - I think a lot of film festivals and the audience sees this and just can’t turn away - no matter how awkward, creepy or inappropriate. Nathan does a great job of walking (and crossing) that thin line to keep everything interesting.
Nathan: I’m the writer/director of SAD MOTIVATOR, a 7 episode web series shown at HollyShorts. I am also the voice of Mark in the series. I grew up in Michigan and made my way out here when I was 20. Went to school for Film at Columbia College Hollywood and have been working in the industry in some capacity or another for the last 7 years. This is my first real project I’ve put out in the world and have been pretty happy with the reception so far, especially being able to say I showed it at HollyShorts.
How did you two meet?
Nathan: Tim and the producer/casting director Andrea Rueda have known each other for a couple years and we’ve seen each other here and there in different areas. We were able to kind of really get to know each other when we talked about the project. So you could say the project really brought us together.
Where did you get your start in the industry?
Nathan: The very first industry job I got was as a camera assistant on a Power Rangers-type show called ’Kamen Rider: Dragon Knight’. It was fantastic. I was the 2nd AC and had no idea what I was doing, being only 3 months removed from college graduation, and the only reason I got the job was because I had just bought the camera they were going to shoot on. I didn’t know how to use it, but I owned it and that was good enough for them I guess. Met a lot of cool people I still keep in touch with today and it was a great learning experience.
Tell me about your short that brought you to HollyShorts:
Nathan: The project that brought us to HollyShorts was a web series called SAD MOTIVATOR. It’s a creepy love story about a heartsick 20-something, played by Tim, who tries to navigate through life with the help of his best Mark, voiced by myself, who is an animated green blob. It’s pretty dark and we are trying to blur the lines of funny and disturbing but not going overboard. I think that’s the difficult part of making this project; trying to justify what crosses the line and what would be acceptable. Mark never swears in the series, which we thought was necessary to his character and would go overboard if he had. Meanwhile, Tim takes his penis out in a park and we all thought that was appropriate.
Did a particular person spark Mark into existence?
Nathan: There wasn’t a particular person who brought this on, it was more his voice. I used to try to make my girlfriend laugh uncomfortably by walking around our apartment talking in Mark’s voice. The majority of it came from saying things creepy old men may say like ‘Give me some sugar’ or 'Come sit on my lap’ but in Mark’s voice. It made her laugh and pretty weirded out so we both agreed this should be a character.
Where did the idea come from to animate your 'id’ and make a web series about it?
Making Mark animated came about because we didn’t think a live person could pull off the comedy. If someone dressed up really funny and sat across from Kevin, saying the things Mark says, it just didn’t really feel right. Seemed a little too easy and didn’t impact the scene as much as we wanted. So we knew it would have to be something not of this world. We thought of a puppet, but that seemed a little too playful and would hinder what we could accomplish on set and in post. So animation was clearly the best option.
How did the female blob come about?
There was a big discussion on how we would end the first season. I knew I didn’t want to have Sasha be the typical girl in distress who was getting “caught up with the wrong guy but didn’t know it”. It was typical and we wanted to break from that. So, after beating around a couple ideas Andrea mentioned that Sasha should have a blob as well. Everything just kind of clicked from there and made sense. Giving Sasha a blob made her more mysterious and made her seem a little darker than what you may have expected. And it opened the world up for Season 2 where we can explore how a girl deals with her little blob.
How did you go about casting?
Casting went smoothly, mainly because we are friends with just about the entire cast. Andrea Rueda, casting director and producer, knew Tim from prior projects she cast him in and they became pretty solid friends. She thought he would be perfect and I agreed. Tim makes it easy to sell the weird horror/thriller aspect of the comedy. On set, he played it pretty calm, as if he was in a drama, but would tweak it slightly every now and again to show the humor. We were very much on the same page on-set and it worked out well. Ben Begley (Detective Grumble) and Renee Dorian (Mary/Connie) have been dear friends for years and were easy choices for their characters. The three of us have worked on each other’s projects for years and are comfortable with each other and know what each can bring to the table. So it was easy to trust them on set. The only casting came with Amanda Bauer (Sasha) and there wasn’t even auditions for it or anything. Andrea had auditioned Amanda in past projects and brought her to my attention. Amanda turned out great since she was able to show a lot of the innocence we were looking for in the role, but she has a little dark side everyone hasn’t seen yet. But you will in Season 2!
Where is the series headed next? Does Mark have any boundaries? Are we going to be looking at a female narrative coming up?
We have a lot in store for the second season. Sasha and Connie’s relationship, as well as the relationship between Sasha and Kevin and Sasha and Detective Grumble will be the main focuses. The female narrative will be very potent this coming season and we’re pretty excited to explore Sasha’s darker side. Not to say Kevin and Mark are taking a back seat, but Sasha will be taking on a slightly different role than she did in the first season.
What other films, shorts or features, do you have in the works?
I’ve been working on a couple projects, mainly focusing on writing a comedy/thriller feature that will be done in the next month or so.
Will Mark morph into a more flubber-like aesthetic? How did you come up with the look of Mark?
The idea of Mark was a result of whittling down what would be the funniest for Kevin to play off of. We went from an inanimate object all the way to an actual live person until we thought a fat little green blob would be best. We had the voice picked out first so the blob fit best in that category as well. As for now Mark will stay Mark, but I’m definitely open to see what this little blob can do. We showed off a little of his “magical skills” in the first season, most notably controlling Kevin’s hand to touch Sasha’s privates, but it’s going to be nice to see what this little blob is capable of.
Will you have more projects to feature on Funny or Die?
As of right now SAD MOTIVATOR is the only project I am concentrating on for the web. SAD MOTIVATOR was a little unique for me projectwise. I tend to write features and shorts based more for cinema, but this project worked best as a web series. So I don’t know if there’s another project for the web coming up, but I’m definitely open to the idea.