All-Star Comedy Collective Crowdfunding to Launch Sitcom Filmed at Toy Joy

Baby Lion Studios is teaming up with some of the biggest names from ColdTowne Theater and beyond to create the new sitcom Wind-Ups. Based on the 4 years showrunner and director Adam Protextor spent working at the iconic local institution Toy Joy, Wind-Ups follows a cast of six core characters as they navigate interpersonal relationships and growing older, all while working (and often playing) at an independent toy store. Breaking traditional structure, Wind-Ups’ season 1 arc is told over six episodes, each set on a different major holiday over the course of one calendar year. 

“By placing each of our episodes a few months apart, you get a sort of ‘fly on the wall’ quality as we drop in on these people’s lives. Writing funny jokes is a must, but inviting our audience to see themselves reflected in our core cast is what will make them feel invested. So much can change, or sometimes stay the same, in a year and it’s fun to start to piece together what has happened with our characters in the interim as each episode unfolds,” says Stephanie Thoreson, Baby Lion co-producer and one of the show’s head writers. 

Joining Thoreson in the writer’s room is an accomplished and award-winning team including fellow head writer, Ashlee Pryor-Pitluk (Super Black, Clone Squad) alongside Protextor (Bigfoot: The Musical, Hunnicut), Nathan Sowell (Angola: A Comedy, Friends For Now), and Devon Coleman (Sugar Water Purple, Hell Hole). The cast is equally as impressive and features some of Austin’s most beloved comedic actors. Yamina Khouane (2018 Best of Austin “Best Actress” winner, My Own Worst Enemy), Kenah Benefield (Sugar Water Purple, Call Me Brother), Ryan Darbonne (Sugar Water Purple, director of Angola: A Comedy), and Haley Alea Erickson (Mustang Island, The Say) join Protextor and Thoreson in the core cast, while James Fernandez (Latinauts, Latinacional), Kristie Denlinger (Porch Cat, Way Down in the Hole), Mason Pitluk (F*ck This Week, Call Me Brother), and Laura de la Fuente (Liz Behan: One Woman at Dusk, Loverboy) round out the supporting cast. 

“This is an intensely personal story to me, and a project I’ve been wanting to do for 9 years. I truly believe that this show took so long to come to fruition because it was waiting for the right people to bring it there. The team we’ve assembled couldn’t speak any more loudly to the spirit of local artistic collaboration both the store and the show represent,” says Protextor. 

Equally as important was finding a Director of  Photography perfect for Wind-Ups. The team continued to stray away from sitcom convention when they brought on board Taylor Camarot, an award-winning DP whose creative camera moves and inventive lighting make up his signature storytelling style. Protextor says, “We know that Taylor can elevate it past ‘another sitcom’ territory into something that can be as unique, tonally thoughtful, and beautiful to look at as it is funny. We’re incredibly excited to see what he does with 6 comedians in a toy store.”

With such an incredible group of people, they needed the final piece of the puzzle – a toy store to film it all in. That’s when Protextor went back to where it all began and reached out to Toy Joy, securing the Airport Blvd. location (just a short walk from ColdTowne Theater) as the new home for Wind-Ups. In a full-circle moment, the very store that inspired the show became the place that would help bring the story to life. 

Wind-Ups is currently crowdfunding on IndieGoGo to launch filming in early 2020! Visit igg.me/at/windups to become a part of their creative collective and join the Wind-Ups journey by donating or sharing their story! 

Adam Protextor and Stephanie Thoreson formed Baby Lion Studios in 2018, and have since used the imprint to produce YouTube shows, live comedy shows, and promotional materials for a variety of local comedians and venues, including ColdTowne, BettyFest, Chlane, Glam Fam, and many more. Protextor is best known as a rapper and founder of Austin Mic Exchange, and has spent the past two years expanding into comedy. Stephanie Thoreson has been acting and performing sketch and improv since 2013, and is a founding member of the award-winning ColdTowne house team Loverboy. In 2019, she staged her second solo sketch show Fishbowl and toured the festival circuit to promote her starring role in the feature film Good Feels on Wheels, for which she has won three “Best Actress” awards.  

Paranormal Disruption blends comedy and horror where it’s never been: the workplace.

Paranormal Disruption is a startup satire in a haunted reality. An upcoming web series written and starring Nikita Redkar, Paranormal Disruption is a comedic horror series set in a startup. It contains big funny characters in open floor plans and nap rooms with beer on tap. It addresses cult mentality, a lack of racial diversity, bait-and-switch job perks, and the chilling ease of your replaceability. Sound familiar? Thought so! It makes you wonder why there aren’t workplace horror shows.

Nikita Redkar (Moontower Comedy Festival, BettyFest) is currently crowdfunding for Paranormal Disruption, which features a cast of familiar Austin talent and an all POC crew behind the scenes. Nikita took a moment to tell us why we should all rush to hit the donate button.

Nikita: Like most comedians, I’ve kept up a string of jobs to keep me fed and sheltered while I pursue comedy. From healthcare to technology to even a shady law office, I’ve kept myself afloat in all sorts of day jobs. And I’ve noticed one common theme uniting all offices.

Remember in the early 2000s when Blink 182 was all like, “works sucks. I know.” That was true! And now, we’re in an era of following our passions and scoring our dream jobs (hey, I wouldn’t be here right now if I wasn’t doing exactly that!) But somehow, EVERYTHING has become a dream job. Offices have taken the message of “bE yOuRsElF” and dangled it in our faces in the form of an exciting work culture, only to have it be a lowkey trade for unquestioned allegiance. The number one culprit of this? STARTUPS.

How is this funny?! Oh it totally is. We haven’t seen enough of startup culture antics on TV. Silicon Valley got us started, but now it’s time to get more niche and call out the rapid spread of cool offices all over the world!

How is this scary? Well, I’m a big fan of horror. We’ll talk about this again in another paragraph.

The series weaves narrative structure with sketch comedy. As in, each episode contains 1-2 quick sketches introducing us to the absurdity and satire of startup culture.

But the overall episode pushes the plot forward. The series centers around Nikita, the main character, who begins working at a startup with a mysterious, insidious way of conducting business. The employees aren’t normal and seem to be operating on a weird agenda.

Horror is the most challenging genre. One wrong emotion from an actor, missed cue from a director, poor edit from an editor can ruin a perfect scare. That’s why I love the genre so much – it’s CALCULATED. Also, I love a good scary movie. Especially when I’m watching with someone I want to cuddle. If my series can give you that excuse, well I’ve done my part.

Paranormal Disruption’s core crew is made up entirely of people of color. I hadn’t set out to make a point of diversity, but everyone I’ve ever dreamed of working with turned out to be a person of color. And the best thing about us is we never have the same idea. Different backgrounds bring different perspectives, and if you want to relate to as many people as possible, you need as many perspectives as possible. That’s why I’m pushing diversity in film.

But I need your help! I want to make Paranormal Disruption as perfect as possible and that can’t happen without money. Why should you support me? Because I love when comedy has a good message. You know that feeling you get when you leave a comedy show feeling energized and smarter? Or even when you have a moment in your life where you feel a little less alone and a little more supported because you heard someone voice what you were thinking? That’s what I want to do with all my content, ever. I use comedy to learn about different perspectives and to learn about things I take for granted. It’s kept me on my toes, and I want to do the same for you.

In short, Paranormal Disruption is a startup satire in a haunted reality. It contains big funny characters in open floor plans and nap rooms with beer on tap. It also addresses cult mentality, a lack of racial diversity, bait-and-switch job perks, and the chilling ease of your replaceability. I hope you support or share our project. Mostly? I just hope you enjoy the shit out of it.

You can make a donation to Paranormal Disruption on Indiegogo: www.indiegogo.com/projects/paranormal-disruption

Follow the series on Instagram

An Uncomfortable Woman: Read, Relate, Donate

Meghan Ross is a writer, producer, and comedian, and the host of the women-run late night show That Time of the Month (Teen Halloween episode is this Saturday at ColdTowne, featuring an all-teen girl lineup!). We sat down with Meghan to talk about her upcoming film, An Uncomfortable Woman.

 How’d you get to ColdTowne?

I moved to Austin 2 years ago from New York, where I had started performing comedy and completed my improv/sketch training at UCB, and ColdTowne was kind enough to give me a monthly spot on the schedule when I wanted to adapt That Time of the Month here (I’d previously been co-hosting it for 2 years in New York with Liisa Murray). This fall, I’m also directing and producing An Uncomfortable Woman, a dark comedy short film I’ve written with Sam Stepp.

You’re currently in pre-production mode for An Uncomfortable Woman. Can you tell us what inspired you to write and produce this project?

Every year, I make a resolution to film something I write, and every year, I procrastinate on that goal (does this make me relatable???). About a year ago, Sam and I started meeting up as writing accountability buddies, keeping each other in check on our own personal projects. During one of these meetings, Sam had just finished watching a disturbing amount of Lifetime movies on YouTube and we started discussing how they all have one theme in common: show women in pain, as a form of entertainment.

We were both drawn to the dark comedy genre, and it seemed natural to use that tone to depict someone going through some real shit, while using humor to cope with it. I’d found myself in one of those shit moments last year with the passing of my Aunt Dawn, who was like a second mother to me. I continue to use comedy to help me ride the ups and downs of the grief rollercoaster (which sounds like a failed idea for a Six Flags ride).

Our idea developed further when we honed in on a woman dealing with her own personal trauma, and at the same time, experiencing the everyday behaviors of a patriarchal society. We thought it’d be interesting to show what seem like trivial moments in the script (ex: a waiter putting his hand on her waist to brush past her) as much more eerie and exaggerated through cinematography, to convey the discomfort a woman feels internally, but might not be as obvious to others externally. And on top of everything that’s already happened to this woman (her mother passed away, she had to move back into her childhood home after the end of her engagement), she still feels like a third bad thing is lurking around the corner.

Tell us about the leading lady.

Robin Beltran as Dylan in An Uncomfortable Woman

The role of the lead character is played by Robin Beltrán, a Houston-based actress who also happens to be an amazing vegan chef and an all-around wonderful woman being! Our goal was to cast a WOC as the lead, because we wanted to flip the trope of an ethnically-ambiguous sidekick who serves a white lead character’s storyline and instead focus the story on the WOC, with support from the fantastic Haley Alea Erickson (Say Uncle Improv) as the lead’s childhood BFF.

I met Robin through casting and quickly learned the obstacles she’s had to overcome in her personal life, from a tragic incident where her husband was shot (propelling her family to adapt a plant-based diet, since it was the only way he could process food), to a former news station employer criticizing and wanting to change everything about her appearance, including her natural hair. Her resilience has been so inspiring to me, and she’s been incredibly supportive of the project since the day she came into auditions.

 

Why was it important to you to have a crew made up entirely of women and POC?

It’s taken a long time for the TV/film industry to realize the importance of diverse casting when it comes to telling stories from the perspective of POC (see: Matt Damon, Emma Stone, Scarlett Johansson, someone probably auditioning for Aladdin 2 right now) and we still have a lot more work to do to improve it. But booking a diverse crew and staff (anywhere from the writers’ room to showrunners, gaffers to directors) continues to be an afterthought for many studios and networks who boast about their “woke” content.

That’s why another priority on this project was to have a crew that reflects the inclusiveness of the cast. And for me, that extends to booking women in roles that are often exclusively filled by men on set. I’ve witnessed this gender inequality in previous work experiences in the TV industry, as well as in the comedy scene with show lineups. I may not be a rich and powerful TV/film executive, but I can still implement the kind of change I’d like to see, even on a smaller level.

How can folks support the project?

We’re currently raising money to fund our film (most importantly, pay and feed our amazing cast and crew). If you have the means, please consider donating to our Indiegogo campaign where in exchange, you can get some cool-as-hell prizes from local women-owned businesses, women artists, and women professionals.

If you can’t donate, please share the link with anyone/everyone you know! We’re also looking for businesses who are interested in donating meals for craft services during our shoot days, so if that’s you, please email us at uncomfortablewomanfilm@gmail.com.

Where can we follow for updates?

You can follow us on Facebook, Twitter (@uncomfwoman), and Instagram (@uncomfortablewoman). This is the one scenario where it’s appropriate to follow around “an uncomfortable woman.”

You can see Meghan Ross in her monthly ColdTowne show, That Time of the Month, and on Saturday, Nov. 3 at BettyFest at the Historic Scoot Inn.