Machinima Prime has quickly emerged from the pack as the go-to studio for innovative and hilarious series. We’ve documented much of their work here at NMR before and are always excited to inform you, dear readers (and even our not-so-dear readers), anytime they’ve cooked up something exciting and fresh. That’s where “Sketch Royale” comes in. Connecting with a couple of their in-house talent groups and reaching out for a couple others, Machinima has concocted four very unique and individual “voices” into one very sharp new sketch comedy series.
Teaming up with Reckless Tortuga, Dr. Cool Sex, Billy Sorrell and the Good Cops, Machinima extended a theme-a-week challenge to the crews, and has now sat back to see what gets dialed up. Admittedly, Dr. Cool Sex’s Super Bowl-themed submission had me laughing out loud in a way that should have attracted nervous stares from coworkers (had I not tied them all up in the basement). But there is an ample array of fineries to pick from, so don’t just watch one episode and then roll over to your buddy Terry’s house to smoke a “j.” No, damnit. Put in some time on this. Get your learning on.
Needing just a bit more elaboration on this fine and funny series (and fortuitously being in a job with access for such things), I connected with Ian Moffitt, the General Manager of Machinima Prime plus Reckless Tortuga and the Good Cops teams so I could get the real dirt on just how the hell bold comedy gets minted.
Ian supplied the meat of the interview and the two comedy crews supplemented everything for a “SUPER INTERVIEW” of sorts. Now read this while I go pour maple syrup on the pile of my coworkers and dance naked to their confused and terrified shrieks. It’s gonna be a good day.
How did the idea/opportunity for “Sketch Royale” come about?
Ian: We are always looking for ways to engage with the talented people in the Machinima network, but sometimes producing a full series can get complicated and time-consuming particularly for those partners that have really developed a career from their YouTube presence. This show was a way of bringing different voices together in to one show while giving them some freedom to create and shoot on a flexible schedule.
There is such a diversity of voice amongst the sketch groups — are the topics picked at random or is there some consideration given to each group’s strengths and weaknesses?
We wanted to have topical sketches but without the production nightmare of weekly writing, shooting and delivery. So we simply looked at the big events coming up in the calendar in the future in the weeks we knew we wanted to launch – Super Bowl, Chinese New Year etc. — and gave all the groups the topics well ahead of time to enable them to shoot and achieve economies of scale. The voices are very diverse – that was really the point. I love the idea of seeing what happens when you give creative people the same overarching theme resulting in totally different ideas.
How much time are the groups given from idea to finished product?
We decided on the sketch themes around the end of November, and gave them all to them at the same time. They then submitted their ideas and scripts (we didn’t really note them that much, this was just to make sure we didn’t have overlapping ideas, which we didn’t at all!). Then we just told them that we needed the finished sketches three days before launch of each sketch, and other than some minimal notes process once they had shot them, that was kind of that!
Is there an established best sketch chosen each week, or is everyone a “winner”?
We toyed with the idea of doing some kind of scoring system, even one which was spurious and not based in any reality (a bit like “Whose Line Is It Anyway” used to do), but what’s great is people kind of do it themselves in the comments which is something we want to encourage more as the series develops.
How were the four groups chosen for the show?
We are always talking to our affiliate management group, and we asked their advice on who they thought would be good groups to engage with from within the network, and there were probably 12 – 15 that we talked about originally, and as things developed and we talked to different groups (we were already in business with Reckless Tortuga on the upcoming series “The Clan,” and of course, Good Cops) we just settled on some great people with great ideas who were easy to work with. A large part of the process is finding talented people who are easy to work with, whether one is making feature films, web series or a $1000 short film.
Are there any limitations and restrictions placed on content or copyright?
That was another of the reasons for getting the ideas and scripts up front – we always have to be careful on that side of things, but we didn’t really encounter any issues as all these guys are professional enough to know where the limitations are anyway.
How has the audience feedback been and are any of the groups so far the clear favorite?
I think that’s the beauty of it – everyone has a different favorite. Reckless Tortuga have the biggest following of all the participants, but it’s great to bring different voices that the audience may not have come across before as well. We have some pretty fantastic sketches coming up – in particular I would say Good Cops and Dr. Cool Sex with Valentines this week. I loved Billy Sorrell’s Chinese New Year sketch, and just wait till you meet Bacon Man in Reckless Tortuga’s National Pig Day sketch.
Is there a design to the placement of each sketch in the show (worst to best) or that sort of thing?
We just try to mix it up each week. The audience retention is very strong, as I think people want to see how the themes are treated differently.
Have there been any deals made for product placement in the show, or is that even a possibility?
Sony theatrical and home entertainment are our partner on the channel, and we had some conversations at an earlier stage but couldn’t quite make it work with the flight of their campaigns. Now we have one series under our belt almost. The conversations may be a bit easier to make that work if and when we do a second season.