Festivals TV

ATX TV Festival 2018: James Lafferty and Stephen Colletti talk “Everyone is Doing Great”

The ATX TV Festival is a four-day event that celebrates the television medium: looking back at its history, where it is now, and where it is headed. The festival consists of panels, screenings, and events where attendees and leaders in the TV industry talk, watch, and experience television together as one community.

“Everyone is Doing Great” (“EDG”) is an independent TV pilot from writer/director/actor James Lafferty and writer/actor Stephen Colletti. The half-hour comedy follows struggling actors Seth (Colletti) and Jeremy (Lafferty), who enjoyed relative success from “Eternal,” a fictional hit television vampire drama but, five years later, are trying to reclaim their previous level of success and relevance, while awkwardly navigating the perils of life and love amidst a humorously painful coming of age. The television pilot also stars Alexandra Park (“The Royals”) and Cariba Heine (“Home and Away”).

We had a chance to interview James and Stephen about “Everyone is Doing Great” and get some insight to their project.

How has it felt interacting with fans on Instagram Live and putting yourselves out there in a different way?

Stephen: I feel like I’m evolving in a healthy way just because of where our media has gone over the course of the last 10 years. I’ve always had this relationship with social media of “what am I going to do with it and how much do I keep a mystery of myself.” The potential of social media is that you can directly engage with those people. It doesn’t have to necessarily be from this whole brand or image that’s been put up by publicists and only doing certain interviews at certain places.

I think it cuts it down and you can get to the heart of certain people. For us it’s the heart behind our projects and that it’s very palpable. We want people to understand that. And we’re very proud of it. We believe in everyone that’s involved in the team. I think that having these resources now and being able to go Live and do this is fun to kind of connect. James and I have done a crash course in social media. We were at Facebook the other day and learning something new and to me that’s interesting. So, it’s been a new experience.

James: We’re naturally very guarded people and private people, I think. I struggle with being shy and I think social media was a scary thing. When you’re connecting with people on Instagram Live and are spending a long time on social media to connect with people, you’re putting yourself out there. You’re not hiding behind a role anymore and as an artist you’re putting yourself out there. It’s been really refreshing to see that we’ve been embraced and to see that people have been so supportive and amazing. It’s gotten us really excited because everybody’s scared when they put themselves out there that they are going to get rejected or something negative will happen. But that hasn’t happened. People have shown so much love and it’s just reinforced our passion for this project. 

With this project, you guys are the directors, writers, producers and actors. How has that felt different from other projects you’ve been involved in?

James: I know that Stephen and I feel very similar about it all. But speaking for myself acting is always going to be a passion of mine. It’s this wonderfully complex and emotional journey to be an actor but it’s also simple in that you show up and you’re just worried about what you’re doing on set. And that’s your only concern and that should be your only concern. But if you really love storytelling the way that we do, showing up to set and being able to coordinate with everyone on that set in order to make this art that you’ve all agreed is worth believing in is the most incredibly satisfactory thing. It is everything that I’ve ever wanted. And so, it really feels like a dream realized and to get this here.

Stephen: I’m in this industry for the camaraderie of people coming together to make something. And just all the different types of people you meet. I can go back to my days when I did “Laguna Beach” and my favorite memories from that show were with the crew. And I felt like I was a part of something and that we were making a production.

There’s a new focus you need to find because you’re still focusing on a role and a character but it’s just really satisfying to bring all these people together that are down for the cause. And everyone’s wearing different hats. The ego is left at the door. And let’s make something together and again that camaraderie to me is why I’m in the industry. 

James: We come from “One Tree Hill” which was this kind of a small intimate show but it was still a huge budget and over a million dollars an episode. There were all kinds of resources and over 150 people working at any given time. You can kind of compare it to the difference between staying in a five-star hotel and going camping with your family. It’s like “One Tree Hill” was that five-star hotel. “Everyone is Doing Great” is going camping. And they’re both awesome. They’re both really cool experiences that you’re always going to remember. But you know there’s nothing that will ever compare to going camping with your family and friends.

How did you guys get to your final pilot edit?

Stephen: The first cut was like 50 something minutes. We were pleasantly surprised with a lot of the fun nuances and moments that we were finding in scenes. And so, we would try to cut things down on the first cut. And all of a sudden, we still ended up with 50 minutes. James and I made a decision. James was very poignant about like we need to get this to 30 minutes and we’re going to hit that number because even though we’re not going to network television we want people to know that we can deliver like a specific number. We worked really hard to get it down to that. And that was really tough. I mean you’re killing your darlings. That was the toughest part was having to cut down. 

James: I think we listened a lot to our producers who had some incredible insight for us. I was being pretty diligent about getting it down to 30-32 minutes. And we showed them the long 50-minute cut and then we showed them the 32-minute cut and I remember them coming back to us and saying “Where’s this, where’s this and where’s this? We miss all this stuff and telling it to let it run when it wants to run.”

For me that gave me the confidence to sort of loosen the reins on that a little bit. So that’s how we got to the 37-minute mark when we decided that this is an unconventional quirky little show and it’s going to live somewhere where they broadcast unconventionally so we don’t have to be too worried about a time limit. But you also don’t want to be self-indulgent. You don’t want people to sit there wondering why they’re still watching. I think we found the sweet spot in that 37-minute range. 

After watching the Pilot, “Everyone is Doing Great” finds the awkward moments and lets the audience laugh at those real-life moments. Can you talk about that a little bit.

James: We knew the comedy in this show was going to come from that awkwardness and so we really leaned into that with our cut. If we saw something in life that was like what was that person just doing and why are they doing that. You know that’s interesting. So, we would save that kind of stuff for our final cut. We’re just trying to find humor out of real-life awkward moments.

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