Jack Lawrence Mayer, Sarra Jahedi and Ed Hausman were a year out of the University of Chicago when they created the comedy pilot Single Long, based in part on a weekly web series they’d produced as undergrads.
“I took that casual format and the broad characters we’d been building for a few years, and put together a script, says Lawrence Mayer, who wrote the first draft, then revised with Jahedi.
“It reflected, to me, the wall that it feels like you’ve hit when you’re post-graduate and all your friends seem to have better jobs than you, and you’re probably just going to fail miserably at everything and die alone,” he says.
That pilot has evolved into the web series Single Long, which quietly launched in early August as one the first four HBO Digitals, original series on HBO Go, the cable network’s streaming service for cable subscribers, until now populated entirely with repurposed TV content.
Lawrence Mayer and Hausman play roommates vying to establish the eponymous hipster dating web site, while Jahedi plays an up-and-coming standup comic.
Pilot at the right time and right place
It’s partly inspired by Lawrence Mayer’s experience running the web site Couch Potatoes/Living Room Songs, for which he filmed bands performing in their living rooms.
“It really didn’t get much traction,” he says, “mainly due to the esoteric and not-particularly-commercial nature of the website — and due to the fact that it was just me with a backpack, Sony EX1, field recorder, and shot gun mic acting as a one man production team.”
Their independently-produced 23-minute pilot won the 2011 Chicago Comedy TV Pilot Competition. A UTA agent who judged the competition brought the project to HBO, which was fortuitously looking for short, low-budget comedy for its streaming platform—the first significant success coming directly from the competition.
“With the HBO Go mobile platform now available to us, we were able to consider the alternate, experimental approach of shortform storytelling,” HBO Entertainment president Sue Naegle told Variety. “And, when it comes to comedy and HBO, experimentation is what it has always been about.”
Episodes filled with new music and songs
During development, Lawrence Mayer says, “it was great to continue to live life as a fairly broke, single, incompetent wannabe filmmaker while writing the characters and developing the show. I was continuing to live the exact same life as before, but now it was all fodder for the scripts.”
They shot in Wicker Park, Pilsen, Evanston, and around the Chicago area beginning in the spring. “HBO was very straight forward from the beginning that we would have a lot of creative control, but we would be doing this micro-budget, which was more than fine by me,” Lawrence Mayer says. “It’s good to always remember that low budget is an ideological stance with regards to artistic control.”
“I do want to give as much due and credit as possible to the amazing independent musicians who composed music or gave their songs to the show,” he adds. “We were able to fill the episodes with great, new music, and it was such a thrill to collaborate with the bands and composers.”
All seven 15-minute episodes are currently available at HBO Go.
Also on the HBO Digitals slate are Zach Galifianakis’s Brody Stevens: Enjoy It!, which was originally developed as a TV series before shifting to online only, along with two other projects developed specifically for HBO Go: Mike White’s The Boring Life of Jacqueline, and the music duo comedy Garfunkel and Oates.