Vic & Murray
WOK IN PROGRESS
Beijing Expat struggles turned into a sitcom
Did you know that wearing a green hat in China, The hat of shame if you will, means you’ve been cheated on? How about a pair of chopsticks vertically shoved in to a bowl of rice – did you know this feeds the ghosts?
If yes, you will get the subtle jokes. If no, you have a lot to learn – and this sitcom will teach you. I am excited about this because I can show this to my friends and family in Sweden who have never been to China, who have no idea what its like and most importantly – who most likely don’t even believe half of my stories from here! This show is like having a guy standing behind me just nodding along while I am talking.
Naturally, I have high hopes for this show. I hope they will put it all in there – not just the things we have all heard about, but the things we don’t talk about. Like finding yourself pooping on a squatter with no door, with a line of ladies standing in front of you tapping on their cellphones. Hopefully not taking pictures, but playing angry birds. Both alternatives equally surreal. I’ve plenty of situations where I am thinking “What just happened?”, like someone accidentally spiting on me, cus they spat to the side when riding a bike. I’ve seen youngsters pooping in trashcans on the subway platforms. Holes in baby pants mid-winter. I’ve gotten hit by food poisoning so many times now it is starting to feel like a ritual. I also want to see someone else dealing with an ayi. An ayi who tries to optimize, but ends up tying a hair brush and a shoe horn together – cus the both are made of dark wood and are roughly the same size. Stuff like that! I want to see all of it! All these reasons for us to go mad sometimes, that also are the reasons for why we stay so long. We love to be living in a country, where everybody is not what we are used to. Wok In Progress celebrates that – with humour they help both sides understand each other a bit better.
Larry & Melvin
Jhonny Cash did not really shoot a man in Reno, but that line filled filled its purpose in getting a point across. In creative projects it’s sometimes necessary to exaggerate to make people get the big picture and stereotypes are great for that! Larry & Melvin are stereotypes for sure, but harmless ones.
Larry is a bit of dick – but he did bring Melvin to China as a friend. Poor Melvin had been left at the altar and both of them contained some Chinese language skills, so Larry decided for them that it was time to go to China. That it was time to move. He is the wanna-be-womanizer. Joey from Friends kind of guy.
Melvin is the over cautious, kind man who brings a fannypack, because “you never know”. Allan Harper in “2 and a half men” kind of guy.
The two healthnuts Victor and Murray are the hard working men behind the show. Murray writes it and actis in it, they produce together. Vic is a “man of many hats” and does part time DJ gigs at locations like Migas. Murray is an actor full time and just finished a TV show called Marry to the west.
I call them healthnuts because I noticed a few things and Murray is currently on a fancy diet called “Intermittent fasting”. Victor brought him a big bottle of Organic Apple Cider Vinegar w. Mother as a delayed birthday gift. For himself he had brought his home made pink drink for nutrition.
I finished my glass of wine, got another and got to work.
How do you make it?
I fill a 600ml Blender Bottle with tap water filtered by a Cleansui filter.
Into that, I add a 9 oz, scoop of Barlean’s Superfruit Greens powder for its probiotic qualities, a table spoon of Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar, a heaping teaspoon of Y.S Organic Raw Honey. I add a splash of cranberry juice for flavor and color. Then I just shake it up and drink it.
Why do you drink it?
Water, it’s important to be well-hydrated. I filter tap water because I don’t trust bottled water.
Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar (also referred to as ACV), it promotes alkalinity in the body. ACV also has these health benefits that are important to me, but it also helps maintain weight; something that is not important to me:
Rich in enzymes & potassium
Support a healthy immune system
Promotes digestion & ph Balance
Helps remove body sludge toxins
Rich in potassium, a mineral that is often times lacking in adult diets. This mineral is key for growth, building muscles, transmission of nerve impulses, heart activity etc. It also helps to prevent brittle teeth, hair loss and runny noses.
Rich in acetic acid. This acid is said to slow the digestion of starch which can help to lower the rise in glucose that commonly occurs after meals.
Rich in ash which gives ACV its alkaline property. This aids your body in maintaining proper pH levels for a healthy alkaline state. (It is particularly important if you drink a lot of coffee or wine.)
It can help regulate blood pressure and reduce bad cholesterol.
Rich in malic acid which gives ACV its anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties.
May help improve bowel irregularity and helps to remove toxins from the body at a faster rate.
It can help clear up skin conditions and blemishes.
ACV helps with weight loss by breaking down fats so that your body can use them rather than store them.
Organic, raw honey, because it contains bee pollen and bee propolis. this honey has proven bioactive properties and contains the vitamins and enzymes necessary for the proper digestion and metabolism. Honey is also a potent antioxidant, fighting the buildup of low-density lipoprotein, or “bad” cholesterol, in the arteries and harmful free radicals. Honey is rich with bifidobacteria, a group of bacteria associated with digestive and immune health. An effective probiotic, raw honey stimulates bifidobacteria growth in the intestine. Plus, apple cider vinegar is very sour by itself. Honey sweetens the drink.
Barlean’s Superfruit Greens powder for its prebiotic, probiotic and enzyme blend. It also contains antioxidants; all from natural, non-GMO sources. Unfortunately, it’s not labeled organic, but Barlean’s is a trusted brand with lots of organic products.
Wow. Thanks. I gotta change my lifestyle.
TALKING TO VIC & MURRAY
– The makers of Chinas first bilingual sitcom!
What was the first seed this sitcom grew from?
M: As an actor in China, I was so frustrated with the roles I was getting. I figured that if I wanted to do something decent – then I gotta write it myself. I started working on the pilot 4-5 years ago and didn’t know where it was gonna go or If I’d even find a platform. Then all these web series started sprouting on youku, so I just kept writing this damn pilot thinking “well, I enjoy the process and wanted to do something creative”. Then I met this guy! He waved a thumb at Victor who was wearing a smerk that spoke slightly of uncertainty. Then he phrased “Should we really be talking about about how?”
– We speed dated the hell out of each other! Murray blurted out.
Speed date as in speed date?
M: It’s exactly what it sounds like!
V: Well, we were trying to meet girls…
M: It was the most unsuccessful speed dating experience.
V: It depends how you look at it…
M: Well, neither of us got laid that night, but we did set up a partnership that’s been fucking awesome!
Murray, what gave you the strength to push this project through? It’s quite a commitment.
M: Meeting Victor was a massive turning point for me. I had already written a really bad version of the pilot – but to actually have somebody read the script and go “Lets do it!” made a big difference.Having the right people in your life is crucial to getting anything done ”HAVING THE RIGHT PEOPLE IN YOUR LIFE IS CRUCIAL TO GETTING ANYTHING DONE”
Victor, what was your first reaction to the script? What made you take on the project?
V: It was a great idea and I am interested in narrative film making, in all different forms. A sitcom is a form of storytelling and it’s something I’ve wanted to do.
What sitcoms did you guys grow up with?
V: Mork & Mindy, The 3 Stooges, Gilligan’s Island, I Love Lucy, The Brady Bunch, Get Smart, Homes & Yo Yo, Different Strokes, Good Times, The Addams Family, The Munsters, The Beverly Hillbillies, Mr.Belvedere, Facts of Life, ALF, Mama’s Family, Happy Days, Who’s The Boss, The Jefferson’s, Alice, Roseanne, Perfect Strangers, Bosom Buddies, Married with Children, It’s Gary Shandlings Show, Family Ties, Laverne and Shirley, Growing Pains, The Golden Girls, Night Court, The Cosby Show, Seinfeld, Three is company & Friends…. Maybe I watched too much TV growing up.
Victor, what has been your biggest challenge in this project so far? How is this different?
V: I believe if you do everything systematically – it is not that different. The most difficult part has been working with such an extremely limited budget. Basically we’ve been relying on cash from Murray, favours from my network and 4 Corners.
Who came up with the name “Wok in Progress”?
M: This man right here, Murray said and pointed at Victor. I called it “No pets or foreigners” first but decided to change it to something less offensive. Then Victor came up with the new name “Wok In Progress”.
V: I really liked “No Pets or Foreigners” though..
M: Ha, nobody else did though I’m sure.
Murray, what inspired the personalities of Larry and Melvin?
M: The movie Sideways. There is a really entertaining and likable duo that’s travelling together. Also, I’ve always liked the friendship between Chandler and Joey in Friends.
V: We’ve used a lot of our favourite shows for references, like Seinfeld and some aspects of Parks of Recreation and Modern Family. We are not trying to recreate anything exactly, but they inspire somewhere for style.
Sometimes our minds run wild with possibilities, whats the biggest thought you’ve had for the series future?
M: 500 episodes! Spoken with a tone of exaggeration.
V: Picked up by HBO!
M: Explicit sex!
So its not for children then?
V: But we are making children!
M: Seriously though, just to be a series is the biggest thought I’ve had. To succeed.
V: As long as people love the series, it doesn’t really matter if its a web or TV series.
M: Yeah, and as long as we somehow can help both sides to understand each other a bit better.
Is that purpose of the show?
M: It’s nice to create something with a benefit outside of being entertaining. Not to be perpetuating stereotypes, but we have used them in the show. But no negative ones.
V: No empty calories!
M: Exactly!They are somewhat…nutritious.
Wait, what? What are we talking about? How did we get into food?
V: Oh, Empty calories? If you eat white bread […]
LONG STORY SHORT: An empty calorie does not serve a purpose. The expression was used to clarify that their stereotypes are not hollow. The metaphor works this way: The stereotypes brings entertainment - and their ways of thinking/dealing with situations are informative. Alright, got it.
– Launching Kickstarter at 4 Corners on Friday!
Why did you choose 4 Corners for the Kickstarter Party?
V: Because 4 Corners is where it all started. 4 Corners has been our strongest supporter, they let us shoot the whole pilot here.
How did find 4 Corners from start?
V: I’ve known Jun for years.
What is the goal with the Kickstarter Party on Friday?
V: We want to build excitement, and funding is the goal with the Kickstarter. After launching it on Friday we have 30 days to reach our goal of 30.000 dollars. If we reach it, we will start filming in October.
M: A part of me wants to launch it earlier, just to see it works..
V: And there are all these strategies of how to run a kickstarter. One of the rules is that you have to have money there already before you tell people. Because people wont feel excited if its all quiet. This is worrying with the live launch.
I heard that Kickstarter usually gets perks. What would I get for donating $50?
For 50 bucks we use a disposable camera to take pictures all over Beijing for a day and send you the film, which you develop yourself. Like a mystery album.
Wont I just receive a roll of dick-picks from a bunch of strangers?
M: Ha, Maybe if you give Larry the camera… Bigger donations gives you producer credits on iMDB, like 700 – 800 bucks.
V: A dollar will give you a high-five every time we see you.
Could I outsource the high-five? …
Invite you to my house to high-five my mother?
V: No, but for 10.000 dollars, the maximum, we will fly your mother to Beijing, all expenses paid and even take her to the Great Wall. We’d put her in an episode, credit her as an executive producer, give her a high five and a hug.
M: And Victor would French kiss her…
Come experience China for yourself like the hotshot hutong Executive Producer that you are! We will fly you coach to Beijing, arrange transportation from your home to your hotel in the hutongs, provide up to 6 nights of accommodation and 7 days of authentic Chinese meals, and take you for a tour of the Great Wall.
Drop by the set whenever you like, and you’ll get full access to the project during the post production process. Plus, you’ll earn an executive producer listing on IMDB.com. Think of a cool story idea for an episode, and if we use it, we’ll credit you as co-writer for that episode, earning you a co-writer listing on IMDB.com.
If you come to China during the production of Wok In Progress, then take advantage of reward #20, a cameo appearance.
If you come to China during a Wok In Progress screening, take advantage of reward #17, you and your guest are invited to the screening.
Interested in the process of shooting a sitcom, and shooting a sitcom in China? Come during the production of Wok In Progress and be a part of our crew, depending on your experience. Even if you don’t have any experience, you can be a production assistant.
Includes rewards #4, #5, #8, #9, #12, #14, #16 & #19.
So titles on iMDB can be bought?
V: Executive Producer credits are pretty blurry. You being the one bringing in the money or introducing the main actor/actress, can be enough to get the title in Hollywood.
M: Its different in China though because they take the word “Executive” very literally. The Executive Producer in China is the one who executes; does the labour work. Chinese people must be so confused by American movies. They read “Executive Producer: Steven Spielberg” thinking he is doing location scouting and actually being on set shouting orders with a loud speaker.
Murray, did you buy your title on iMBD?
M: Haha, no, I don’t have that kind of cash.
How will the money be used if you reach your goal of $30.000 withing 30 days?
V: Realistically, each episode costs $15.000. We need to find a studio, where we have to build sets, camera people and assistants for them. When going into production we don’t want to be relying on favours like we’ve done so far, so everybody needs to get paid. And since Beijing city is a character in this sitcom, we need to show different sides of it, so we will have to travel a lot.
I heard you will replace Ling Ling, where will you find her?
M: We don’t know.
Alright, that’s all I’ve got. Any final words?
V: I hope that people will feel that filmmaking is a group process. Even the production assistant holding bystanders from walking into the shot is vital. Supporting our Kickstarter really makes them part of our filmmaking team. Even if some pledges $1, they should own it.
One more thing! Did I mention there is free pizza and beer tonight? Well, there is!
Writer & Photographer: Sanna K / email@example.com / Tel & Wechat: 186 10 344 632