HighSpeed Dating short on time, long on fun

RCR Wireless News
MARINA DEL REY, Calif. — The writing team of Terry Rossio and Jocelyn Stamat wasn’t allowed to write during the 100-day-long writer’s strike that ended last February, but they were able to think and imagine — and that’s exactly what they did.

Enter “HighSpeed Dating,” a new made-for-mobile and online short sketch comedy series that got its first preview here at the MEFCON conference last week.

“This is sort of speed dates gone horribly wrong,” said Rossio, an Oscar-nominated writer/producer who’s worked on “Pirates of the Caribbean,” “Déjà vu,” “The Mask of Zorro,” “Shrek” and others.

Rossio was drawn to the idea and the medium because it emphasizes ideas, performance and writing with a much more immediate return, he said. “You don’t need a lot of spectacle to have fun with these and you can explore the human condition in an endless amount of ways,” Rossio added.

“It lent itself to something that we could do on our own. On some of these big movies — on “Déjà Vu” I think it was like seven years in creation,” he said. “A lot of times you embark on these projects and the reward is years away, if at all.”

But even more powerful than that is the appeal of maintaining control of the entire project down to the final two-minute clip, he said.

So far they’ve shot 10 episodes and have spent $28,500 thus far with plenty of post-production and more costs still to come. Frank Chindamo, who runs Fun Little Movies, a mobile video production company, said he was absolutely thrilled at the opportunity, just marveling at the scripts.

“This is like the best made-for-mobile script I’ve ever seen,” he recalled thinking after Rossio and Stamat first presented him with the idea. The company is now meeting with potential sponsors to come on board before it releases the series later this year.

The pair of clips shown at MEFCON were quick witted, wasted no time moving the story along and got laughs from the audience along most of the way.

Sketch comedy on mobile is about eccentric characters, diving right into the topic and presenting ideas that are entertaining, interesting and might even make you think a bit, Rossio said. Every word has to be funny, give a characterization or move the story forward, he said.

“To do comedy pieces like this … you get the sense that you are really bound by what people want to see,” Stamat said.

“They want to be rewarded and they have to be rewarded otherwise you’re losing them in 30 seconds,” she said. “It’s better to err on the side of being quick.

Stamat, who is also a trained professional surgeon, admits the idea originally stemmed from her own failed attempts at speed dating.

Rossio said content for mobile and online will garner more value and industry-wide recognition in the next couple years.

“It’s a meritocracies system,” he said, adding that it will quickly get included in industry award categories and such with more popularity surrounding the medium.

Indeed, Fun Little Movies won the content award at the 2008 Mobile Entertainment Forum awards last month and other organizations are honoring content producers for their work in mobile.

“It’s not another summer movie that someone’s shoving down your throat with advertising,” Rossio said. Recognition will flow from viewers upward.

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