LIFE RUINERS: LEE PORTER + MY RUINED LIFE
Lee Porter – the writer, producer, and director of the original comedy web series MY RUINED LIFE – is not only a prolific media-maker but a fantastic dude that let me talk to him about his award-winning show. Now on it's fourth season, MY RUINED LIFE is a Philly-based creation that follows two friends as they spend their days and lunch breaks on an impressive collective of benches throughout the city. It's esoteric, flourishing under that cardinal rule of a series that revels in the short + sweet, and has the writing and acting that make it a Youtube blackhole of binge-watching.
During it's first season it was awarded Best Web Series Shot in Philadelphia and Audience Favorite by the 2012 FirstGlance film festival. Since then it's been written up in publications like the Philadelphia Inquirer, Philly Weekly, the Daily News, and WMMR. The Roots's own ?uestlove tweeted about an episode from the second season. The latest season premiered January 28th, updating every Sunday evening throughout winter and spring. Porter answered some of my questions about the inception and future plans for his show.
How did MY RUINED LIFE begin?
Porter: The series all began when I really wanted to see some of my own favorite jokes acted out on camera. I have written plenty of fiction and screenplays over the years. Whenever I submitted a novel or screenplay to an agent, I would get frustrated that, realistically speaking, I suspected an intern was probably reading the first five pages and then tossing them into a pile. I loved lots of comedic scenes that took place later in my novels and screenplays and really wanted to see them "come to life," so to speak. Without any grand plan, we ended up having so much fun filming the first season in 2011 that we've produced a new season every year since.
What's your general process of producing a season?
Porter: We have a serious "guerrilla" mentality to film making. By giving MY RUINED LIFE a mockumentary feel, we're able to film at a very fast pace. I scout out locations in advance and choose locations where we can bounce from bench to bench with different backgrounds for each episode. I'm proud to say that we've filmed every season in just two-long days each. Aside from the first season, as far as the scripts are concerned, I draft out a bunch of scenes and then host a round table with the actors, who provide lots of valuable feedback and ideas. This fourth season in particular, actors Brian Cowden and Eric Wunsch really came up with a ton of great ideas and made my job as a writer a whole lot easier.
How much longer do you envision the show lasting? Was the fourth season originally planned?
Porter: Admittedly, after closing out Season 3 the way we did, I never imagined we would do a fourth season. Sure enough, cinematographer Nick Merola got in touch to ask about a potential fourth. I met with actor Brian Cowden to discuss it. Brian was game to keep the laughs going, Eric was ready with a ton of energy and – it was like we blinked and – we had a fourth season, almost out of nowhere. It's been a very exciting process. So while at this moment there are no set plans for a fifth season, given the passion and energy our team brings to this project four years in a row now, you never know.
Philly-centric media is always more exciting to watch than series or shows that take place in other cities – without sounding too sappy, watching scenes in a setting and environment you recognize makes the whole viewing experience exponentially more fun. MY RUINED LIFE blends that observational, mockumentary feel that shows like The Office and Parks and Recreation have gotten audiences to appreciate and expect with the natural feel of a show based in your hometown. Spend a few hours and seriously check it out, you can catch up on every season of the show at their site and look through their Facebook page or Twitter for info about the current season. You can also check out Porter's other web series about the internet and online relationships, Wink ;).