Remember when you were a kid and you assumed your teachers either lived at the school or ceased to exist after 3 pm? Former teachers Carl Foreman Jr. and Anthony Gaskins, co-creators and co-stars of the IFC web series Frank & Lamar, aim to show a different side of the educational profession. The show follows two middle school teachers and best friends, the titular Frank and Lamar, as they navigate workplace, relationship, and personal growth drama.
After a successful six episode first season on IFC’s Comedy Crib website, the real life BFFs are now working to adapt the show for IFC’s cable channel.
Foreman, left, and Gaskins in Frank & Lamar
I spoke with Anthony and Carl, who met as Acting MFA students at Harvard’s ART Institute, about pitching their web series to IFC, pitching their television show to IFC, creative collaboration, and more.
Stareable: Where did you guys meet, and how did you know you were comedy-compatible?
Anthony: Real recognize real. Carl and I come from similar backgrounds and there was an unspoken comedy understanding based on our life experiences. We began joking about being in our situation at Harvard and from that moment on, we’ve managed to keep making each other laugh. Whether it be from story sharing or from making fun of shared experiences, our relationship has always been organic.
What is your writing and development process like, as collaborators? How do you split up the work?
Anthony: We tend to work first at spending time developing the ideas and content of the project. For the Frank & Lamar web series, we broke out the note cards and took over a Starbucks for a few hours in order to storyboard the entire arc of the show. We then typically divvy up our writing duties into a scene by scene basis. Whichever scenes we feel most connected to are the ones we write first. Then we double back on them and try acting them out in order to find what seems truthful and what needs tweaking. I’d like to mention we got a little fancy for one of our last writing sessions when we rented a house for a writing retreat as we began developing the Frank & Lamar Pilot.
Carl: Yeah, that work nailing down the structure of the story is so crucial. Even if your dialogue flows like the Nile River, if the story arc is trash it’ll show and undermine all your efforts. After we’ve gone off and written our self-assigned scenes, whoever didn’t write it serves as the editor or quality control for the other. To be fair, we rented a portion of a house. The owner was still upstairs. He regaled us with “interesting” conversation.
You both have acting MFAs- do you recommend other actors and performers do the same? Why or why not?
Anthony: Yikes! I hate answering this question because it’s so tough to answer this in such a general format. I guess my main advice would be to take time evaluating what you’d be getting out of that MFA. Do you have to pay full tuition? Do you really believe that tuition is worth the experience you’d be getting? The only reason I say this is because, after completing my MFA, I had positive life altering and professionally stimulating acting experiences. However, I’ve seen and heard from many of my fellow MFA graduates that their experience was not as fruitful. Then there is the Graduate Debt!!! The flip side is that for many of the classes you’d take during an MFA program, you can take in the major cities [independently]. And when you couple that with hustling to get paid as a performer, you might end up having an even more fruitful journey. All that being said, an MFA conservatory is helpful if all you’d like to do is focus on becoming a better actor. How many of us watch tv or a play and beam in admiration of those actors who’ve trained classically and who slay their performances. They took the time and accomplish the struggle of becoming the best at what they do. I value that and that is the reason I respect the MFA process.
Carl: If you can go for free or for cheap, great, do it. But don’t go into massive debt like we did. I had a great experience earning my MFA, but in retrospect I probably could’ve just stayed in NYC, taken individual classes for voice/speech, auditioning and acting technique, paid a la carte and still be eligible to audition for projects in the meantime.
If you could go back in time to when you were first developing Frank & Lamar, what advice would you give yourself?
Anthony: Keep being hype about the work you’ve created and stay diligent and patient. I remember we got so excited once we got the digital deal with IFC that we wanted to produce the show immediately. Though that passion eventually fueled us, it also led us into a corner planning shoots without completing all of our contracts. Our eagerness deflated a bit of our momentum and I apologize to all of those who decided not to work with us throughout that particular process. Eventually, we handled all of our paperwork and made the show you can enjoy today on IFC.
Carl: Patience is a virtue. Also, don’t sell yourself short. There were many stumbling blocks along the way in which we could’ve thrown in the towel, so I’m glad we didn’t. I would just remind myself not to despair ever.
Is Frank & Lamar the first film project you’ve collaborated on? How did it get from idea to pitching to Comedy Crib?
Anthony: Carl really enjoys telling the story of how Frank & Lamar made it to Comedy Crib, so I’ll let him have it. However, we had collaborated on a bunch of other projects before leading to Frank & Lamar. We were a part of a sketch comedy collective called The Jumpoff, produced a short-lived podcast and made a short film together with the late great, Craig “Zook” Davis.
Carl: Facts. Initially, we just wanted reel footage of ourselves so casting directors would bring us in and we could get agents as actors. Eventually, that web series morphed into a dramedy pilot we submitted to NYTVF. Though we didn’t get in, we had a product in hand. So when I did well at my character showcase audition for Comedy Central’s Comics to Watch, IFC contacted my manager and I had a general meeting. In the meeting I brought up F&L, we pitched that version of it, and they were into it but wanted some stylistic/story changes. So from there we went back, reworked the story and tone, converted it back to a web series, and they greenlit us for Comedy Crib.
What was the pitching process for Comedy Crib like, and what knowledge can you pass on to other creators hoping to follow in your hilarious footsteps?
Anthony: Be confident in your project, be excited about it, but be willing to listen to what those you’re pitching to are asking for. What do they like about what you have and how you can improve this idea to meet their expectations without completely changing your vision. That being said, if your particular idea doesn’t work, keep the door open to come back and pitch them another idea. Try and set dates that you hope to hear back from them by or that they should expect deliverables to them. Lastly, be as prepared as possible. If you have a pilot already shot, companies love to see them and it’s a great bargaining chip to show what you’re capable of. You could also benefit from having as much of your project outlined and fleshed out as best as possible. Even when they say, just bring by what you have, I would try and make it as detailed as possible. Remember, they don’t know your idea, so make it as clear and fun as possible!! (Damn, I sound like a “how to” article!)
Carl: What he said. We learned a lot of this on the fly. We literally googled “how to pitch a TV pilot,” and adapted the WikiHow steps to our work because we had never done this before.
What differed between pitching Frank & Lamar the web series and Frank & Lamar the TV show?
Carl: We only pitched the old version of the pilot in terms of live pitching in the room. For what became the web series that’s out now, we replicated the same steps and gave it every bit of the gravity we did the first time around. The development deal came straight from IFC being happy with the product of the web series.
Will fans of the web series recognize scenes and story arcs from the web series in the TV show, or will it be completely new? Or is it too early to tell?
Both: They’ll recognize the story arcs thematically speaking. All the relationship dynamics from the web series are in there, but at an advanced stage. In terms of details, still too early to tell.
What did you learn from making your web series that you’re going to apply to making your TV show?
Both: Same rules apply. If you treat your web show like a TV show in terms of attention to detail, you’ll be in good shape if you scale it up.
What are your favorite web series?
Both: Projecting, Singledumb, Clench & Release, The Outs, Incognito…so many but these are just a few off the top of the head.