Space Janitors is a new sci-fi comedy web series created by Toronto-based duo Geoff Lapaire and Davin Lengyel. Geoff and Davin are two of the guys behind one of my all time favorite shows, Pure Pwnage, which you can read about here. These guys know what makes a good show, so when I found out they had something new in the works I knew I had to check it out.
In the pilot of this Star Wars-inspired series we meet Mike and Darby, two janitors on a familiar space station operated by the evil Empire. Through their eyes, we get a unique low-rank perspective on daily life aboard an Imperial starship. In the course of the season they will be joined by Darby’s android girlfriend LN6-K, android psychologist Edith and clone trooper Dennis 4862.
The first episode is available now on The Escapist, the online magazine known for the fast-paced video game review series Zero Punctuation. The rest of the season will be released starting April 13, with eight episodes in total. I think we can expect a very funny show with a lot of great references to satisfy any sci-fi geek.
Davin and Geoff were kind enough to answer some questions about the show, what it’s like to create content for the Web and TV, and more.
Nerdlocker (NL): How did Space Janitors come about? Was this something you guys have wanted to do for a while or is it a recent invention?
DAVIN: I’ve been a lifelong sci-fi fan. I’ve been dreaming of doing a pretty big sci-fi movie for many years now, playing around with ideas in my head, but I hadn’t thought of doing a comedy. About a year ago I was chatting with a comedian friend about some “buddy” type comedies we could do – funny situations for two bros – and I had a vision in my head of two guys with brooms standing in the bottom of the Cloud City bottomless pit coming across Luke’s severed hand… and a bunch of other severed Jedi hands… and a year later, here we are with the show running in full steam!
NL: Having worked on both Internet and television shows, what would you say are the major differences you experience? I can imagine you have more control over what you can and can’t do when creating web content, but on the other hand you must be plagued by the smaller budget. Are those assumptions correct? Which of the two do you prefer?
DAVIN: With WebTV, there’s something very exhilarating about pulling together a vision on a slim budget. There’s a sense of accomplishment against the odds. That’s not to say a television project is also a wonderful thing – and I think we were lucky with our television experience, in that we still had a lot of creative freedom. The major differences are actually aspects that most people wouldn’t think of, and for me, it’s mostly the level of access to your viewer. With the television series, it was harder to gauge the audience – to understand what they were looking for. With an online fanbase, they’ll tell you what they don’t like – trust me! That means online I have the ability to change direction and course correct content in the middle of a season – that’s a type of flexibility you lose with TV. Maybe I’m greedy, but at this point in my career I want both!
GEOFF: With WebTV you can access a global audience instantly. I think that’s very exciting, to have people watching all around the world pretty much everywhere there is Internet.
NL: Clearly Star Wars was a major inspiration for Space Janitors, but I’m sure it wasn’t the only thing. What were some other influences for you while creating this show?
GEOFF: Space Janitors takes place in an evil empire that values order above all else. In that sense it is very much like the empire in Star Wars probably because we found a lot of comedy potential in what the “lower deck” support staff live in that society. As we roll out the series you will see that we borrow from other sci-fi staples and classics.
NL: I immediately recognized Pat Thornton (Mike) from the “Guitar Hero” episode of Pure Pwnage. Was this where your professional relationship started? Can you also tell us a bit about where you found Brendan Halloran (Darby) and the other actors we’ll get to know over the rest of the season?
DAVIN: We know a lot of people in the show, but that’s not how they got their parts. We actually did 10 full days of casting, seeing nearly 200 people. We purposefully saw as many people as we could, but in the end, our friends who are part of the comedy community in Toronto demonstrated that they’re also extremely talented and they rose to the occasion. I consider myself lucky to work with people like this, and you’ll definitely see what I mean as the episodes roll out.
NL: I loved the pilot episode, but was a bit disappointed it was only 4 minutes! Can we expect longer episodes when the show continues in April?
DAVIN: For sure! The pilot is essentially one scene that sets up the universe. You’ll see a lot more of it this summer with longer episodes released more frequently.
NL: So far eight episodes have been announced. Will Space Janitors be an ongoing show with multiple seasons if the show turns out to be a great success, or was Space Janitors written as a one-season show?
DAVIN: We definitely want more seasons. There is SO MUCH great sci-fi out there to parody, and now that I’ve seen what the characters look and sound like, I want to keep this going as long as possible. It’s too expensive to make this show out of pocket, but one of the beautiful things about working in Canada is that there are some small funds that help put a show like this together. We hope to keep working with these great funds to bring many, many seasons of the show to the web and eventually to TV.
GEOFF: We’ve planned the show to have “legs” as they say. We’re building up our own rich universe and cast of unique characters. With a show like this there is definitely no shortage of ideas!
NL: The last few years it has become a lot easier for content creators to distribute their material online. While this is obviously a good thing, it also means there is a lot of stuff out there that isn’t that great. You guys obviously know what makes a good show, so I’m curious to know what your favorite stuff on the web is. What are the things we need to be watching?
DAVIN: I actually watch Internet shows a lot differently over the last year that I ever have before. I’m always mindful of what they are doing right, and how I can improve my content for people that watch our series. One thing I’ve noticed is that you have very little time to impress an online viewer, but if they like you in the first 5 seconds, they’ll generally keep liking you. Compare WebTV to film using a meal analogy: A film is like a five-course meal. There’s plenty of time to take your viewer through an experience. The start of the meal will be very different than the dessert. There will be tastes and textures that will surprise you. It’s an adventure. With web TV, we don’t have that luxury – we’re making bags of chips. Your audience HAS to like the first bite, HAS to like the second bite, and so on. The idea is so important – if the idea isn’t interesting in episode 1, it’ll never be interesting. I came across a series that demonstrates this quite well called Freeman’s Mind. The series is footage of someone playing through Half-Life and voicing over what he thinks the main character is thinking the whole time. It’s pretty funny, and I liked the first few seconds… so I chained all of the episodes back to back – like eating through a bag of Doritos.
NL: With all the work going into the show, do you have any time left for fun? What games are you playing at the moment, if any?
DAVIN: I was playing Skyrim and Skyward Sword when we started shooting, but there just simply isn’t any time right now. Honestly, I’ve started dreaming about Skyrim! I may take a week vacation just to do some gaming!
GEOFF: Making the show IS fun. 🙂 But when we’re not making the show there’s Starcraft 2/Skyrim. Haven’t tried Minecraft, though I’m sure that if I did there would be delays in the episode release schedule.
NL: If you had all the resources at your disposal and budget was not an issue, what would you guys work on? In other words, what is your dream project?
DAVIN: I’d be filming Space Janitors Season 2, but space would look a lot more like a private island off Bermuda.
GEOFF: I’ve got a few features I’d like to do, and another series I’m pitching. I hope enough people spread the word about Space Janitors to help me get other projects off the ground.
The first episode of Space Janitors is available now on The Escapist. The rest of the season will start rolling out April 13th. Many thanks to Davin and Geoff for taking the time to answer my questions! Make sure to follow them on Twitter @spacejanitors and check out the show’s Facebook page for updates and behind the scenes looks.