Interview: Joe Flanders from "Average Joe"

Photo Credit: Joe Flanders
February 26th, 2014

Web series shows are taking off these days and several web shows out there have gained enough attention that they have been turned into television shows.  The guys from Workaholics are a perfect example.  Average Joe is one of the newest and most popular web series going right now and its writer and lead actor Joe Flanders is hoping to have his show running for a long time.  Average Joe has just released its 13 episode season two and Joe was kind enough to sit down with Movie Room Reviews and tell us all about it.

Nick Leyland from Movie Room reviews: Well, I just watched a bunch of your season two of your Average Joe show today.

Joe Flanders: Oh great. Okay.

MRR: Yeah. It's a fun series, man.

Joe Flanders: Thanks, I really appreciate it. It's been a crazy year in the making.

MRR: So season two's been a year in the making?

Joe Flanders: Yeah. I started writing it last February. And we started shooting in September. So it's been a long ride to get it out there.

MRR: I saw six episodes. Is there going to be more than that?

Joe Flanders: Yeah. And then right now there's 13 episodes out total on my YouTube channel.

MRR: Well, let's get talking about it. Because it is fun, and it's a great platform for people to do without having to go to these big companies and worry about deals and things. It's a great platform for you to do your art. Why don't you tell us about the series?

Joe Flanders: Average Joe is about a dude who... I mean the first season he gets dumped in the pilot, and spends the rest of the season just trying to get a rebound and kind of screwing the pain away, I guess. And he fails miserably at that throughout the season in a wide variety of ways that are showcased. And then by the end of the season, you see him kind of realizing like "Oh, maybe I should actually get to know somebody first. And then it will be actually kind of nice and meaningful." And he fails at that too.

So we kind of used that as the springboard for season two where, he's a guy who wants a relationship, and I think that when you really want one, and life in general I think you can find one, if you're hell bent upon it but it's probably not going to be with the right person. So he forces the issue with people that maybe he likes and that like him, but they're just not right for each other. So he's often dating a crazy drug head, and he's dating a mom with a high school son. He's just trying to find the right person, I guess.

And as far as the character goes, I think we all, on a day-to-day basis, are faced with decisions to make and maybe for a split second you think "Oh, I'll do this option." And then you instantly realize "Oh that would be really stupid." or "I shouldn't do that or say that" or whatever. And nine times out of 10 Joe does stupid options without even thinking about it. Whether it's saying the wrong thing at a funeral in an episode that you'll see later, or being with the wrong person, or what have you. He's just a man who lives his life by making the wrong choices, and has to deal with them in a comedic way.

MRR: Do you ever throw in any personal experiences into the episodes?

Joe Flanders: Yeah.  It's a blessing and a curse, but my brain never really shuts off as far as, just in my day-to-day life thinking something happens "Oh, that'd be a funny bit." And then I run with that, and usually expand it. But yeah, there's plenty of things especially in the first season with some of the more ludicrous, sexual situations that are based in some form of reality, I'll say that.

But as far as season two goes, I just sort of thought back on different kind relationships I was in, and how maybe the issue was forced or how everybody has blinders on when you first meet somebody. So I just took that to the extreme level which Joe decides not to acknowledge with both the crazy druggie, and also somebody who's much older than him and in a very different place in life. There's definitely a lot of reality in the series, but it's amplified, obviously, for comedic effect.

MRR: Well I think a lot of people now are starting to realize what these are. These web series that are coming out. And they've become more popular in the last couple of years. Especially with broader bands for people where they can stream the video. Why do you think web series are becoming more popular, and what were some of the ones that you got started out watching with?

Joe Flanders: That's a really good question. I mean, I can speak to people my age... I just moved and when I moved I decided not to get cable for the first time in my life. And so, I got one of these Chromecast things and it's great. I was streaming the episodes from YouTube onto my TV and they look terrific. It's free and I think as the technology's gotten better, and everything else, the production value has gotten a lot better, so people don't feel like they're watching their friend's goofy high school video that they made. That's kind of fun. They feel like they're actually watching a show. Beyond all the production value stuff, too, I think the series' that really take off are the ones that are well written and well executed and tell a story or make you laugh or whatever their goal is. Something like Burning Love, the Ken Marino thing that started off online, I think on edotcom or Yahoo I think, and then now it's a TV show. Workaholics started out online, I believe. People just like good content. I think the downside, maybe, to all these web series, is that the market is flooded, but ultimately I think the ones that really are bringing something new or different or unique to the table, they still kind of rise above 'cause people ultimately just want to watch good content.

MRR: I read season two was started with a Kickstarter.  Doing a web series like this, is there the opportunity to make enough money to keep it going?

Joe Flanders: I hope so. That's kind of what we're in the process of figuring out right now. We were able to raise a nice chunk of change for season two through Kickstarter, and that was kind of a humbling thing anyway. So many people that I didn't know. It wasn't just friends and family, or whatever. So that was good, but yeah I mean beyond that, I think you still need to find some sort of revenue whether it's a larger YouTube channel that will kind of help fund you or you can get sponsorship, which is what we're in the very early processes of doing right now for season three. I think there are ways for money to be made. We have like an Average Joe store now online, where you can buy t-shirts. And if that's successful then we'll make more designs. So yeah, we're kind of in the process of figuring out how much money can be made and if it's enough to at least pay the rent and continue making things.

MRR: Well, I think it's just such a young art form, but people are gonna start getting a lot more involved with it, I feel like, within the next couple years, in terms of sponsors and all that kind of stuff.

Joe Flanders: Yeah, I think so. I think it's only going to grow. As more and more people are watching it on their phones or whatever, there's just going to be more and more of an audience base for it. I'm 26 and the friends that I have, I'd say the ones that actually have like cable or basic, sort of the old standard for entertainment, they're in the minority. So, yeah, everyone's just looking for good content.

MRR: There's awards now, and you won Best Lead Actor in a Comedy Series at the LA Webfest. I didn't even know that existed, an awards show existed. When did that start?

Joe Flanders: I think the LA Webfest has been going on for maybe three years or something. It was a lot of fun. Yeah, again, it's sort of taking film festivals and putting it into web content. It's a chance to watch the best web series from all over the world and network. Just like you would with a film festival, but it's all web-based. So it's a good chance to network and win an award. I wasn't planning on it. I don't really consider myself a great actor, but they liked it.

[chuckle]

MRR: Well, congratulations on it.

Joe Flanders: Thank you.

MRR: Now, you've been doing a lot of work on this. One thing I always find interesting, talking with guys like you is, as you started filming this, what are some of the things that you thought would be easy that you found to be extremely difficult and gave you a lot more respect for the people that can do it so well?

Joe Flanders: Goodness. That's a good question. I think just the grind of shooting. This season especially. As the writer I had a lot of fun expanding the world. Season one pretty much just takes place in apartments and like inside locations and it's just people talking, but we really, and as you see the second half of the season you'll see even more of this. But we really tried to expand the world and challenge ourselves. Which is great, but shooting with 20 extras with a four-person crew, one of which is me who is acting and everything, is, shockingly, very challenging. When you write something it's never better than when you write it, because you think it's going to be brilliant and every joke is gonna hit and "Oh, we'll figure out the logistics of somebody getting shot and blood and all that stuff. We'll figure that out." And then it comes time to shoot it and it's like, "Okay, time to make some compromises." So I think that that was the biggest challenge. And then just, I mean editing-wise, I edited every episode of the show. That also presents with challenges and stuff.

I mean, it's kind of boring stuff, but it's just like not having somebody to actually go through and sort all the footage and label everything and it's just incredibly time consuming and that also proved to be a challenge, but I got through it. When I talked with with my workers on the show about what our terms are for success, what the positive momentum is for season three and so we have enough money to hire an extra three people that can do basic things that we don't ever have to do. We're really shooting for the stars here.

[laughter]

MRR: I feel like just every little detail would just be such a pain. The lighting, the makeup, the cinematography, all that stuff. And you guys all doing it with the small crew that you have would just be so intense and so time consuming.

Joe Flanders: It's daunting. Yeah, I think that that's really the challenge and yeah again doing this with a four-person crew, and doing it out of necessity. It's just, when you don't have money or a very limited amount of money. I would have loved to have somebody else edit at least half the episodes, but I just know from experience that even a well intentioned person says, "Yeah I'm really excited about this," and da-da-da, and then as soon as they get a paying gig, it's like, "Well this is gonna have to take a back seat." And I totally get it. So doing all the things is not out me saying, "I'm amazing at everything and I should do it all." It's just like, "If I don't do this, I don't know that it will get done."

[laughter]

Yeah, I would be happy to relinquish some of those duties moving forward.

MRR: Well, my last question for you is, where can the audience go to see it?

Joe Flanders: The first episode of season two is on Funny or Die's website, but all 13 episodes are available on my YouTube channel. It's just youtube.com/theJoeFlanders. And yeah, it's 13 episodes, they're all out right now. We had like 140,000 views when we launched it, so that was awesome.

MRR: Oh wow! Congratulations!

Joe Flanders: That was good.

MRR: And this is, it's free right?

Joe Flanders: It's free, it's 13 episodes, it runs about two hours. So we've had a lot of good response from people saying they planned to sit down and watch one, and kinda binged on the whole season. That's what we wanted, so decided to keep the Netflix model.

MRR: It's funny though, years of your life condensed down to two hours, right?

[laughter]

Joe Flanders: Yep. I know it was essentially a year of my life. At 12:01, yesterday morning just, "Okay, well now it's all done." It's kind of a surreal feeling.

MRR: I bet. Well, thanks a lot, Joe. I really appreciate it, and good luck with the series and hopefully a lot of our audience will go check it out.

Joe Flanders: Yeah, and for what it's worth, if you think your audience would be into it, but we've got a bunch of different musicians and stuff that have made cameos and stuff that the people seem to enjoy watching these guys do a very different side of their persona that they're used to seeing. So that's been another kind of added bonus I guess. So anyway.

MRR: Cool. Well, thanks a lot, man. I really appreciate it.

Joe Flanders: Absolutely. Have a great one.