Dream Shake Productions’ Alex Ybarra and Carl Stoneking first started making comedy videos together 10 years ago as students at Texas Tech University. After college they pursued more traditional career paths, but their passion for filmmaking reunited them three years ago in Austin. Alex and Carl immediately got involved in the local comedy scene including taking classes with the ColdTowne Conservatory, enlisting dozens of comedians and actors in their award winning short comedy films.
Last year they took on their most ambitious project, a web-series written by Christina Parrish called Toddumentaries. The science-fiction teen dramedy has been an official selection at SeriesFest in Denver, Melbourne WebFest and HollyShorts Festival in Los Angeles and is making its debut online this month. After the success of Toddumentaries, Ybarra and Stoneking decided for the first time to seek outside funding for their next project, High From Texas, which is live on Kickstarter until the end of August.
We sat down with Ybarra and Stoneking to learn more about their new stoner comedy.
Tell us a little more about Dream Shake Productions.
Stoneking: Alex and I started making dumb comedy shorts when we were in college, it was just for our own amusement. Then about 4 years ago I decided to move to Austin and pursue filmmaking more seriously. Alex was already living here working as a PA.
Alex: I was just soaking up everything on set, or I have been for a while now. I worked on independent films, TV series and had a stint in the post production office for Terrence Malick. I wanted to be an assistant director before deciding to jump into the camera department, and that’s where I’ve been the most comfortable. Filming comedy is what I want to do, and I’m eager to continue improving my skills behind the camera. I’ve always thought Carl was a natural director, and I’m a natural facilitator, so we continued to grow our relationship and here we are, still making things.
Stoneking: We both graduated from ColdTowne Conservatory. We met Christina Parrish through the theater, and she wrote the last web-series we produced (Toddumentaries). We also met Cody Dearing, who helped write our new project High From Texas.
What is High From Texas about?
Ybarra: High from Texas is set in the year 2023 when weed has been legalized nationwide. It follows a small town couple as they attempt to open the lone star state’s first marijuana dispensary despite concerns from a collection of interesting locals.
What made you want to combine weed and Texas?
Stoneking: I spent a lot of time in Denver and found the whole marijuana scene very hilarious. I didn’t really see any shows that represented it accurately, so I wanted to write one. When I moved to Austin, I felt like I was really living in Texas for the first time. You go to Barton Springs or Zilker, you see the capitol, living in this city really made me feel like an actual Texan. So it felt natural to me to combine these two cultures that I’ve spent time in.
What is your goal with this web series?
Stoneking: The first thing we want to do is make people laugh. Cody Dearing and I have spent almost a year working on the scripts, and we are very proud of where they are now. The cast is made up of some of ColdTowne’s most talented performers, so with them the scripts are taken to another level.
Ybarra: Beyond the comedy of the show, we really want to shed light on the issues of federal prohibition on marijuana, and to show that it’s not that big of a deal. Life in Texas will go on, there will be so many people who are for it, and the state would be better off, period. Texas is so far behind the rest of the country, we honestly just want to create a world where that’s not the case. It’s fun to ask the question, “What if Buc-ees had a small marijuana dispensary section by the Yeti coolers?” There’s a lot to lampoon here, and we intend to do that without restraint.
Why should people support and back this project?
Stoneking: The scripts are hilarious. The cast is extremely talented. There are 40 million Texans and like 3 billion pot heads, so the audience is enormous! We just need a little help to get it out there.
Ybarra: This is a collaboration with so many funny Austin improvisers and comedians, who are working together on a unique idea. The list of actors is incredible, and you can find all of them on stage in Austin any given night. Not to mention, there are a lot of shows about weed, and there are a lot of shows about Texas, but we have created the only show about weed AND Texas. Apparently, Willie Nelson is a fan of the whole idea, too. He agreed to sign some posters as Kickstarter rewards, and three have been bought already. We’re extremely grateful for his interest, it’s amazing.
If you’re into the idea, believe the state of Texas doesn’t want us to CHILL or just love throwing your money at the arts, you can back the project here: https://goo.gl/m9KXXH
You can also check out other work by Dream Shake Productions here: https://goo.gl/w1BhEo