As we’re all sitting in our homes watching Netflix and downloading porn … uhh…I mean Zoom, we’ve been hit with memes and videos all surrounding the craziness that is Corona/COVID-19. I finally decided to take a break from the news reports and group texts spouting conspiracy theories and went to my happy place, YouTube. The usual “suggested” videos came up: Drag Queens Being Fierce, Ryan Gosling Shirtless, and Bill Hader SNL Sketches. After watching the sex scene from The Notebook (3 times) I decided this just isn’t helping the way it normally does. I need to crack a smile. I need to laugh. I want to feel happy. I remembered a friend posting a web series featuring a friend of a friend. “I’ll do my part.” I thought. “I’ll support local artists.” I just want to take this time to say THANK YOU to the cast and crew of The Thick Blue Line. It was the first time I had a genuine laugh that wasn’t
Corona-affiliated. Watch immediately:
The Thick Blue Line is a 4 episode web series created by comedians John Hume, Andre Radojcich and Dylan Stretchbery. It follows Detectives Rip and Murph on the gritty streets of <Insert Corrupt City Here>. It’s a new cinematic sketch comedy series (directed by Radojcich) exploring the most climactic moments in the lives of two antihero cops, Murph (Hume), the cop that’s seen it all and heard it all but can’t solve shit. And his partner Rip (Stretchbery), the Rookie. Each episode portrays a classic cop tv show/movie moment. As an LA-creative I watched this the same way I watch anything: intense judgement and jealousy masked as pretentious criticism. I’m happy to say I was pleasantly surprised. Not only by the quality of the filmmaking but also the accuracy of the tone and content. When creating a satire like this you have to do it right. There’s really no inbetween. The tone is KEY. The writing and acting are important, but if you don’t nail the tone, it’s all for nothing. And my friend, these boys NAILED IT.
I was fascinated with the quality of work and wanted to get into contact with them immediately. The harsh reality when you live in a city like LA is, you meet a lot of people who are actors and writers who all have a script or an idea for a sketch. But you quickly find that not all of them have the drive to finish or even begin executing their idea. I wanted to see what their process
was and, more importantly, what magic elixir they drank to actually follow through on a project. But mostly, I wanted to nerd out on all the cop drama references I picked up on. I reached out to the friend of a friend of a friend and got into contact with the creators. I interviewed them via Zoom (another free plug for Zoom) and found them to be highly professional and they, for the lack of a better phrase, totally had their shit together. The best way you can tell the work is high quality is when you, as an audience, don’t realize all the effort that was put into it. And after our hour long chat, I discovered these guys put in a lot of effort and hard work.
A Little Backstory on the Boys:
The guys all met taking improv classes at the UCB Theatre in LA, formed a practice team, and now have their own team, Free Puppies, which hosts an improv show once a month B.C. (Before Covid) at The Clubhouse on Vermont Ave. and Hollywood Blvd. Which is donation based and donations go to the No-Kill Animal Shelter Sante D’Or in Atwater. In total they’ve known and been creating with each other for over 4 years. John has worked in several TV writers’ rooms, currently as the writers’ assistant on Lights Out with David Spade, Dylan has been a working actor for seven years and Andre has directed dozens of short films and has extensive experience working with writers in the feature world such as Dante Harper and Naren Shankar.
For any new filmmakers or people struggling out there to find ways to execute their projects–take note! The writing process started out as a team effort; all three would meet and pitch out ideas. After whittling down from 30+ sketches to the 4 strongest, they put it into script form. From there they performed the sketches in front of a live audience to see what worked and what didn’t. I thought this was an incredibly smart move and great advice for any comedy writer trying to figure out the voice/tone of a project. It’ll help to know what beats work and most importantly–how it reads to an audience. And as someone who has gone to many sketch/improv shows, an audience will tell you immediately if something’s funny or not. Although improv played a huge role in creating and writing the content, once on set and shooting, they stuck to a tight script–another great tactic. When you’re making an indie-budget series you’re not afforded a ton of time to film. Being on set is a LONG process for the crew who is setting up each scene. Night shoots, for example, are extremely difficult to light as well as taking into account sound and surrounding elements. It’s helpful to have the actors tight and hit their marks perfectly so you’re not wasting time changing things up. You’re also not shooting more than you need. *Which helps in the editing room. The 4 episodes were shot in 3 days. Which, after watching them you’ll see, that is quite impressive. Research is very important in the writing process but even more important when figuring out how you want something like this to look. A lot of what makes this web series work is how it’s shot. I asked them what shows they may have watched in preparation. And Andre, with a sad laugh, admitted he must’ve watched over a thousand hours of cop media. True Detective (season 1 and season 3) and LA Confidential were two of the biggest influences as well as The Wire. (Honorable mentions: Training Day, Bad Boys, The Negotiator). Those hours have not been in vain Andre. The care and preciseness shows in every moment. It shows in costume, in lighting and cinematography, and in the film score. I can’t stress enough the importance of getting all these nuances right. The more serious these characters take themselves and the world around them, the funnier these scenes become.
The Fun Part:
One of my favorite questions I asked them was, what scene were they most looking forward to shooting? And funny enough, all of their answers were my favorite moments in each of the episodes.
For Dylan, his monologue in Episode 2: “I Can’t Stop Thinking About That Day.” A scene focusing on going undercover and how important and specific your backstory needs to be. This is every actor’s dream. Monologuing and using everything they’ve learned in acting classes to get to that dark place. Dylan chewed up the scenery like it was Willy Wonka’s Chocolate factory. And I enjoyed every tear, every ridiculous music cue, and every light change.
For John, Episode 3: “The Good Partner.” That moment when the Rookie Cop starts to discover how torn and disheveled this job can make you by witnessing his partner’s mental spiral. Watching Murph, who has up until now been portrayed as confident and seasoned, become completely unhinged at the thought of a group text existing without him was so enjoyable to watch. The detail in the set design for this scene was something out of Se7en. And Hume mastered every beat perfectly.
For Andre, Episode 4: “End of the Line” The classic showdown on a roof between the good guys, the bad guys and then the good guys turned bad guys, then the actual good guys. The location was perfect. The sweeping aerial shots were goddamn beautiful. It’s the episode with the most setups, involved the most actors, and had the most complicated stunts. I felt so jealous and excited for Andre watching it, knowing how awesome it probably had to feel finishing up that day. And it all paid off. It looks absolutely incredible.
One of the things I really liked hearing on their end was that everyone who helped in the crew or on screen was someone at least one of them had worked with before. Which tells me they are fantastic to work with and people want to work with them again. Which, in LA, is not as common as you might think.
The main thing I took away from this interview is how hard they all worked and the level of professionalism. Something I really took from the interview: “Whatever you choose to work on, make sure you like it.” Which seems so obvious but it’s harder than it seems. You work for so long on a project and you really have to believe in it to follow through with it. The process is extensive and arduous. But the result is amazing and the hard work put into it paid off. The guys want to give a shout out to their amazing crew, including: Josh Russell, Brent Howard, Heather Brawley, Kirstie Muñoz and Esther Kim.
They’re currently writing a feature-length script for The Thick Blue Line set to shoot in Michigan (Go Blue!). Follow their Instagram @thethickblueline and please PLEASE do yourself a tremendous favor and watch:
Thank you again to John Hume @johnbhume, Andre Radojcich @portableandre, and Dylan Stretchbery @dstretchbery for your time and for the laughs!