Amy Berg has been the writer and producer for some of the best shows on TV including Eureka, Person of Interest, Leverage and The 4400. Today she premieres a brand new web series called Caper, which is available on Hulu, Hulu Plus and the Geek & Sundry channel on YouTube. The show is the story of a group of superheroes and their human roomie. These guys aren’t exactly bringing in the big bucks whiled doing good and they have to come up with some other ways to pay the rent. Crime does pay! I got to hang with the very awesome Amy this past weekend at the Atlanta TV Fest where we chatted about the show. Guys, it’s amazing! You have to check it out right now! Read what she has to say about the show, casting, future plans and check out the exclusive poster!
Fan Voice: I love the idea of exploring the fact that good guys don’t always finish first and having to find alternatives. How did you come up with the idea?
Amy Berg: I feel like we’re on the verge of there being push-back with the crush of superhero stuff out there in film and television right now, not to mention all the stuff in the pipeline. But there’s a whole sub-genre that hasn’t really been explored. What happens when the heroes are hampered by real world realities? Not everyone has a budget like S.H.I.E.L.D. or inherited fortunes like Bruce Wayne and Oliver Queen.
That being said, I don’t look at Caper as a superhero show or a heist show, which is the comparison everyone is trying to make. It’s about a group of friends who find themselves with their backs against the wall and are forced to make choices they wouldn’t otherwise make. And, naturally, hijinks ensue. Even well-intentioned people make mistakes.
Fan Voice: I met one of the cast members with you at the Atlanta TV Fest and he said you cast him off a tape. Can you give us the scoop on casting, cameos and guest stars?
Amy Berg: Hartley Sawyer, who plays Dagr. Yes, he was the only one I cast off tape because we were looking for a very specific type. Paul Ruddy is a casting director buddy of mine and I asked him to keep an eye out. He found the diamond in the rough. Hartley is amazing.
Most everyone else on the show, both cast and crew, were personal friends of mine. I’d worked with both Beth (Riesgraf) and Abby (Miller) before, and Harry Shum, Jr. is my geeky soulmate and a friend of the Geek & Sundry family. For guest stars, I called in a lot of former colleagues but I can’t name names quite yet. There will be quite a few pleasant surprises.
I was very particular as to who I brought onto the show. I have a strict no-BS policy and I wanted a group of people who would make the experience enjoyable for everyone. Fact is, we get to make things for a living. If you don’t think that’s incredibly cool, I don’t want you on my set.
The team spirit on Caper is unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Everyone is invested. The best thing about being the boss is you get to surround yourself with people you know and trust. People you’ve worked with before whose talents and personalities mesh well.
Fan Voice: You have a long history on TV. What made you want to move to web series?
Amy Berg: I could’ve just pitched Caper straight to studios and networks, but I wanted to actually make the thing. I’ve had enough experiences in development to know how the process gets bogged down by too many cooks in the kitchen. There a lot of people in this town that need to justify their jobs by sticking their hand in and stirring the pot. More often than not you end up with a product that looks bad and tastes worse.
My production company is the studio on Caper. I don’t have overseers telling me what I should and shouldn’t do. This is just me and my friends making a thing. And right now, the only place I can have that experience is on the internet.
Felicia (Day) and I have known each other a while and worked together before. We trust one another’s creative instincts. Honestly, I wouldn’t want to do this anywhere else.
Fan Voice: What were the challenges of a smaller budget? Did it help you? What was the craziest way you cut corners? And I ask this because it looks super expensive.
Amy Berg: Honestly? I have no idea how to make a web series. I only know how to make television. I’m accustomed to having five or six millions dollars to make a pilot or two to three million to make a episode of something. This is… different. This is like going back to film school. In fact, it literally was. Both my producer (Peter Dress) and my DP (Joel Deutsch) are guys I made short films with back in the day.
In order to avoid the cheesiness of doing superheroes on a budget, we only see the alter egos in live action. No costumes. There are superhero sequences, of course, but they’ve been drawn and animated by an incredibly talented artist in England named Dave Kennedy. They’ll look like motion comics, but cool ones as opposed to what people are used to seeing. But there’s not enough of them to take you out of the story.
Obviously with a micro budget you can’t do all the things you’d like to do. If you try and fail, you’ll see the lack of production value on screen. I called in a lot of favors on this one. As a result, we’ve got talent in front of and behind the camera and we ended up shooting something that won’t look much like what people are used to seeing on YouTube. This isn’t a show where people talk to the camera or are confined to a single location. This is a television series that just happens to be airing on the web.
I have tons of experience writing to a budget, but this was a challenge. I’m not going to tell you the context, but our craziest corning cutting involved an impenetrable vault door that our team was supposed to break through. We quickly realized we didn’t have the time or money to pull that off… so the vault door turned into a force field, which then turned into an open doorway when the VFX proved too costly. The whole thing was epically sad, but hilarious.
Fan Voice: After being on an episode of Wil Wheaton‘s Tabletop, which I know you were as well (check out Amy’s episode here), you know I love Geek & Sundry. What was the process of getting involved with them and Hulu?
Amy Berg: Felicia and I have been friends since I brought her onto Eureka for seasons four and five. We’d been talking about our next project together for quite some time. Occasionally I’d toss out an idea that she’d love and vice versa, but the timing’s never right because I’m always working and/or out of town.
I shot a TNT pilot last year and once I wrapped post I actually had a week off. It was my first week off in, like, forever. So Felicia and I scheduled lunch to catch up. My buddy Mike [Sizemore] happened to be in town on another project so I brought him along. Coincidentally, we’d been tossing ideas around the day before. We pitched Caper to her during the lunch and the rest is history.
Hulu showed up after we finished making the thing. Geek & Sundry has been putting out quality content for a while, and they were particularly excited about Caper. Their excitement must have rubbed off on Hulu because they wanted it on their platform, which is awesome.
Amy Berg: There’s not a single person who’s seen this show who believes we made it on the budget we were given… and that’s because we didn’t. Making the show involved a lot of favors that I can’t ask a second time. And it also put a dent in my own personal finances. Simple fact is, we can’t make season two using the same model as season one. If we can improve on that model, then yeah. Everyone has already said they’re in, whatever the format.
Fan Voice: Please, oh please tell me there is going to be a comic series to go along with this!!!
Amy Berg: You’ll just have to wait and see. So will I, as I’m a bit busy making a television show. But, man, yeah… I’d love that, and there’s definitely interest!