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Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2008

Who Wants To Buy A Sitcom?

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Withoutan agent, you’d have better luck getting an audience with the pope than with a Hollywood studio executive. That hasn’t stopped Milwaukee’s Eric Joy, however, from completing and promoting his sitcom, “Playback.” The actor-musician has been busy shopping the show’s pilot episode, which he wrote, edited and produced. We talked to him about the show’s origins and the long road to a production deal.

What was the inspiration behind “Playback”? I spent 10 years writing and recording music—mostly with bands called Capstone and Architexts. I’ve opened up for Kid Rock, Linkin Park, Buckcherry, Filter, etc. I’ve recorded at Butch Vig’s studio in Madison, D’arcy from the Pumpkins’ studio in Michigan, and R. Kelly’s studio in Chicago. I also played a showcase for 15 record labels at the Whiskey in L.A., which resulted in the worst show we ever had.

The place started on fire before we took the stage, and when the smoke cleared and we took the stage, all three guitarists’ straps broke, resulting in guitars slamming the stage—but not in a cool way! As far as a blueprint inspiration [for “Playback”], it was the original BBC version of “The Office.”

Vic & Pat, main characters, are always on the make. Can you tell us if their behavior and antics are based on real-life acquaintances? The characters aren’t inspired by any single person—just a combination of all the characters that we met over the years in the music business.

What was the biggest obstacle to getting the pilot “in the can”? The hardest part was casting and finding a small crew who were interested in the project and willing to work without pay. I couldn’t have been any luckier finding the people I worked with. My biggest fear was scheduling a shoot date and having someone not show up— knowing that’s the risk you run when you’re not paying anyone to be there.

There’s no shortage of talented local bands. Was it difficult to choose the musicians to portray the on-screen group My Own Prison? I completely lucked out finding Poor J to play My Own Prison. They were incredible sports for taking that role because we kind of goofed on the band. They were also great for letting us use their music as My Own Prison’s. I think people are smart enough to know what’s going on, though, and I’ve had so many people that watched the pilot say, “Wow, that’s a great band. Who are they?”

Any negative experiences shooting the pilot? It was amazing how perfect everything worked out. I was anticipating shit to go wrong, but it didn’t. This was probably one of the few things I’ve ever done that went exactly as planned. After we wrapped shooting, I was on a high and couldn’t sleep for about three days because I couldn’t believe we pulled it off! The entire process, from deciding to shoot a pilot to the premiere at the Downer, was about six months—and a day didn’t go by without working on it.

What next? I’m trying to shop the show and I recently got back from NATPE in Vegas last week. It’s a conference for television production executives. We took the trailer out there and got some great feedback and networked with some people. The biggest obstacle we found was that all of the big networks wouldn’t even listen to our pitch or watch the short trailer. Essentially, the clich is true; it’s about who you know.

You can watch the trailer for “Playback” at www.youtube.com/PlaybackSitcom.