Break: The Musical is an almost bizarrely ambitious webseries about a music journalist who is forced to face her own musical ambitions while interviewing a reclusive rock star. It stars writer/creator Mary Bonney as said journalist, Kate, and America’s Got Talent finalist Brian Justin Crum as Carter, the rock star who is avoiding his record label’s demand for an album he doesn’t want to make.
It’s a lot of fun, and I recently had a chance to talk to Mary about the production and her inspirations, though we ended up talking a lot about Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
The total run of the series only adds up to about 35 minutes, but there’s a lot of ground that gets covered, including Kate’s insecurity, Carter’s disillusionment, and Kate’s editor deciding to turn the interview into a hatchet job. That’s part of the beauty of webseries that are done well, getting in everything you can in a few minutes, and this one manages the job well.
Still, even among webseries, which are legion at this point, musicals are pretty rare, and perhaps a bit of a daft idea (as daft as the above-mentioned, brilliant TV show), so I wanted to get an idea where it came from.
Be sure to check it out – www.breakthemusical.com
So, Break – The Musical is kind of a crazy thing, where did this come from as an idea?
Mary Bonney: I’ve been a music journalist for about a decade, in D.C. and L.A., and I wanted my first project, that I funded and that I had written, to be about something personal and that I know a lot about. I had been telling people stories about interviewing artists and being backstage, and it seemed like an interesting perspective and one that people liked to hear about.
So, I knew that I wanted to do a story about the music industry and about a female journalist. What she would face, and how she would deal with things if she had her own music. How she would be nervous about sharing it as she’s interviewing the people who are doing it for a living.
Do you think being a music journalist, seeing things from both sides, would turn you off of the idea of getting into music then?
MB: Sometimes. It depends on the artist. Not exactly because I see their lives, but I worked for a management company once, and we had a band (who I won’t name) that had just released a single and they were a huge breakout hit. Suddenly, they were in this huge press tour, and we had flown them to London for a late night tv show, and they came back to the office and just looked like zombies. They were so tired and just didn’t look as happy. That was a moment that it really hits you that this is not always the glamorous life. You realize in those moments that it’s a lot of work.
I have to ask, because as soon as you go to breakthemusical.com, the first thing you see is that it stars America’s Got Talent finalist Brian Justin Crum, what’s the story there?
MB: So, we filmed this January 2015. The post for this ended up taking a long time, so I was at the whim of my editor, sound mixer, and other technical aspects of post. Then we finished it at the beginning of this year, and I wanted to just release it, but people said I should wait and do festivals first. So, we did that.
Obviously, Brian was on AGT, and then everyone said we should release it now, since everyone knows who he is.
So, when we filmed this he was performing around Los Angeles in live theater productions. In L.A. the theater scene is not as big. There are actually only a few places to see musicals. He was doing like Rockwell Table & Stage in these great, modern musicals. We were really lucky to have him.
In the latest episode (episode 4), we get to the part where Kate’s editor wants to really trash Carter, that’s a bit of a twist. Can you take us through that aspect of the show?
So that part of the story happened a couple of times to me when I wrote about people. I remember the first time that happened that I was so shocked that an editor could change the article, and completely change the tone.
It happened to me when a comedian came to my college, and I’ll be honest, he wasn’t good. But, at the end of the article, I said, let’s give him a break. He was a writer on a TV show, and he was just doing this tour during the writer’s strike, and maybe he isn’t a great comedian on stage, but everyone had a great time. Trying to end on a positive note. Then, my editor completely cut the last paragraph, so the review ends up completely negative, and I’m thinking that I look like a jerk.
The musical webseries is an unusual effort, and that makes me wonder if there was anything that turned out surprisingly difficult about putting it together. Did anything pop up as much harder to manage than you expected?
It was a lot more work in the prep aspect of it. You know, you’re playing it back, you’re not singing it live. So, the hard part was recording all the artists, and we were using scratch tracks when we did it. But, for us, we had not found a lead about five days before we were set to start filming, and that was scary for many reasons, but mainly because we have to record music for this person before we get on set.
But, a lot of people ask me if it was difficult vs. non-musical, and I don’t think it was. It was more ambitious because you can’t look at the script and know exactly how long filming is going to take. In a musical, especially when there are a lot of people or a lot of blocking, it doesn’t translate on the page how long it’s going to take. For that reason it was difficult.
In the final episode, there’s a really big number, and that took almost a day to film.