gemified | May 10th, 2011 - 12:00 am

The Bubble Maker

By Gemma Jacob

With every interview I do I learn more and more about what it takes to create ABM and the talent they have assembled to create the show. More than once I have commented on how ridiculous this talent pool is, especially given how nice they all genuinely are. It truly is a testament to everyone involved in the show that they have created such a family. And it is their commitment to the fans that pushes them to create the show and characters that we have all fallen so deeply for.

I have been watching movies all my life, yet the majority of the jobs that scroll along during the opening and closing credits are a mystery to me, including that of Producer. I remember hearing a quote a long time ago that said something like, ‘A producer is the money behind a movie. The director is the one that spends it.’ Having spoken to one of Anyone But Me’s Season 2 and 3 producers, P.J. Palmer, I’ve realised that view is more than a little wrong.

Charged with producing a high quality show on a limited budget is going to be hard for any would-be producer. Add to that the challenge of producing a show based on the East Coast of the US when you’re based on the West Coast and the string cheese demands of a certain actress, it is P.J.’s passion for the show and the amazing sense of camaraderie amongst ABM’s ranks, that makes his formidable task that much easier.

ABMFans: How about you tell me what it is being a Producer on ABM means, I have pretty much no idea what you do…I gather a lot of organising and co-ordinating is involved, right?

P.J.: Yes, a lot of organizing and coordinating for sure. There is a lot to it and to be honest, I get that comment a lot: What does a producer do? My mom still doesn’t get it…but that’s a different story. So, as producers, we do everything that needs to be done to get the show made and for every show that can be pretty different. Some of the constants are: creating a budget based on the script or any other info available if there is no script, finding and hiring a crew…and helping in each and every department as needed. Because ABM is an indie project, there isn’t a ton of money flowing around so we often do not have every crew position covered, but the job still has to get done.

ABMFans: Is that where you come in?

P.J.: Yep. As producer you might find yourself running a casting session one moment, having a high-level intense budget meeting the next, picking up a cargo van and some donuts (gotta have donuts) working close with each cast member to try and make sure their experience is as non-chaotic as possible so they can act, finding a new location to shoot in suddenly, getting permits from the city, working closely with the writers and director and DP to make sure all bases are covered and the list goes on and on and on. It’s really a moving target. Every project I have ever worked on always throws a whole new challenge, one you would never expect so you become very used to expecting the unexpected.

ABMFans: So yeah, you pretty much do everything.

P.J.: It can certainly feel like it! But at the end of the day, as producer, you are there to provide everything you can so that the show can be made. My short answer is always: as producer, my job is to manage expectations…

ABMFans: In that case, job well done.

P.J.: Thanks.

ABMFans: If you’re based on the West Coast, how did you get involved with ABM?

P.J.: Well, I had some down time when the economy went sour and I started scouring the trades for work. Which by the way is not usually how a producer gets work, you either create it or you are referred. But anyway, I answered an ad that Susan and Tina had posted for Season 2. I was really intrigued, I’ve never done a webseries before and had been working towards doing one myself so threw my hat in the ring figuring if I got the job, I’d learn a lot. Tina and Susan happened to be in LA so we met up. We all fell in love for each other pretty quick (at least I fell for them!). They were pretty nervous about an LA based producer coming out to NYC to make their show, but we talked it over a lot and in the end I found myself in NYC working hand in hand with them. I have to say, it was a HUGE challenge to produce the show, my experience in NYC had been pretty limited before then. But now, I feel like I have that city pretty well figured out.

ABMFans: Yeah, I think the idea of NY can be a lot to overcome, but once you’re there, and if you have good people in that city then you find your way. Still in love with Susan and Tina after seeing them in full writer/director/exec producer mode?

P.J.: Of course! Production is stressful, and we all get pretty intense, but at the end of the day, we all have the same goal in mind and we have become really good at supporting each other with a hug or nice thing to say in the heat of it all, even when we disagree (yes we disagree sometimes). And as for NY: the god-honest truth is, if I didn’t have my i-phone, I would not have been able to produce this show!

ABMFans: Is working on a webseries harder than anything else you’ve worked on previously?

P.J.: Yes. Very much so. Mostly because we are out to make a show that has production values and story and performances on par with programming on pay-cable. So, we always bite off a huge amount. But our resources are very limited. ABMers are an ambitious group so in some ways we expect so much of ourselves that we make it pretty hard on ourselves in the process, but it is always so worth it in the end.

ABMFans: Yes I’ve seen some webseries that don’t look half as good as ABM, and the ones that do have a heck of a lot more money behind them. And as a fan, it is definitely appreciated.

P.J.: I am glad to hear that. We never cut corners unless we have to. And yes, we often have to, but we work hard to make up for it everywhere we can. We are always thinking of the fans…every single choice we make is about that.

ABMFans: And this is why we love you all. Is that the hardest part about working on ABM, the budget constraints?

P.J.: Yep. And we always seem to shoot in the dead of winter in NYC. No amount of money can warm up NYC in Feb.

ABMFans: Yeah that wind is no joke.

P.J.: Those poor actors. When we shoot outdoors we are often shooting scenes that are not suppose to look like its 16 degrees out. So when camera is rolling they are wearing far fewer layers than anyone should in the weather!

ABMFans: They do a very good job of making it look like they’re not freezing. Which of the cast is your favourite person to be around?

P.J.: I really enjoy it best when we have the whole cast together. They are a GREAT bunch of actors and we have a lot of fun when we are all together on set. Rachael and I can not stand each other, but that’s another story.

ABMFans: It’s okay, she’s difficult I know ;).

P.J.: Terrible.

ABMFans: Especially with all her food demands.

P.J.: I shudder every time I see string cheese these days. I love this cast. They really work hard and put up with a lot of things thrown at them by production. Things like last minute schedule changes and long hours and all the things we as producers try to make sure do not happen but seem to happen any way (Murphy’s Law is always at work).

ABMFans: Keeps it interesting for everyone I guess.

P.J.: That is very true.

ABMFans: Were you on set when there were the cameos for the ABM fans that won walk-on parts from the web-a-thon?

P.J.: Yep :).

ABMFans: How was that? Was Rachael a diva again?

P.J.: For Season 2 and 3 we had walk-ons who had won that role. You know, it’s funny: I am always a little nervous about it because you don’t know what to expect from whomever the walk-on role person is, because everything else is in our control. We decide who is on set and who is not etc. But this is a bit of a wild card. And yet, each and every walk-on role winner we have had has been EXCELLENT! In fact, when we have been able to we have brought them back for multiple days even just to hang out with us.

ABMFans: ABM fans are awesome that’s why.

P.J.: Very true. I don’t know if the ABM fans know how much they are listened to by all of us. This show is made entirely for them. And in the case of Season 3, it’s made by them too. The fans have a huge and very important voice in everything that happens with ABM.

ABMFans: This is why I keep going on to Susan and Tina about being nicer to Vivian and Aster. I appreciate that they’re teenagers and they need to figure out what they want and people like drama (whatever), but they are literally killing me with this Vivian-Sophie storyline. However, I’ve been told to have faith. So I keep hoping, perhaps against hope.

P.J.: Yeah…but really, if they didn’t drive you nuts with the Viv-Soph story it wouldn’t be nearly as fun would it?

ABMFans: No comment. Susan and Tina need no encouragement from me to drive me nuts.

P.J.: They are pretty good with it I must say. This season is going to remain interesting to say the least. In fact I am going to do that from here on out: say the least. I don’t want to slip out any details I am not supposed to!

ABMFans: Don’t worry; I have long given up trying to get any information from any ABMers about what’s coming up. Even if you did slip up, I’m not sure I’d trust it and I’d fear for my life if I printed any of it!

P.J.: Our Season 3 producer, Zelda Hallman and I did pitch a story line early on where the whole cast is in Hawaii for the season and in the end, Vivian wakes up and it was all a dream. Surprisingly it didn’t fly with Tina and Susan.

ABMFans: I applaud you for trying.

P.J.: I can’t say that idea was for the fans so much.

ABMFans: I for one would be happy to see the cast enjoying some much needed sun and surf, plus can you imagine how hilarious it would be to see Vivian (well, Rachael), trying to stand up on a surf board?

P.J.: We were thinking it could be a take on the Brady Bunch vacation episode.

ABMFans: See these are the ideas Susan and Tina need to be listening to.

P.J.: Or maybe Gilligan’s Island. But I digress.

ABMFans: There needs to be a dream episode where the cast are just allowed to go crazy on something like that. So apart from the Hawaii Vacation episode, in a more realistic (Tina and Susan friendly world), what would you like to see happen on the show? It can be as a fan or as simply whatever would make your producer life easier.

P.J.: Hmm…in all honesty I like the twists and turns the ladies have created. It would be nice to shoot in better NYC weather. I like when we shoot outdoors on location. NYC as a back drop is amazing and some of my favourite scenes happen outdoors.

ABMFans: It does make for a pretty good location, although I’m petitioning for a London based ep for Season 4.

P.J.: I am not against that.

ABMFans: Good man. So looking at your resume, you’ve been a producer, writer, and director. Which is your favourite hat to wear?

P.J.: Depends on the project. Tomorrow I shoot a pilot that I am wearing all three hats. Not sure I’ll do that again!

ABMFans: Yeah that just sounds crazy.

P.J.: It is. Ask Tina.

ABMFans: I find most ABMers are in some way a little bit insane, but I think it adds to the character of the show.

P.J.: Yeah it’s a nutty (in a good way) group for sure.

ABMFans: Given the opportunity, would you consider wearing any of those other hats for ABM?

P.J.: Of course! I think any writer or director out there would LOVE to jump in on this show. And yet, what makes ABM ABM is that it is Tina and Susan’s baby. So, my producer hat wants to protect them and says…hmm not such a good idea. That’s really what we producers do: make a safe bubble of production and put Tina and Susan and the actors and key artists on the crew in that bubble so they can create. We protect it that safe-space at all costs and the better we are at it, the better the show will be because they have the safety and the resources and the space to create.

ABMFans: Now I think I understand what a producer does, and I’m glad that you’re the one doing the bubble making.

P.J.: It takes a team of us for sure.

ABMFans: And I am finding you behind-the-scenes team mates are a very important part of that team.

P.J.: Yeah, there is a lot to putting on a show, and each person is VITAL to it. Another very important part of producing is being a good leader. The best leaders allow the people working with them to do their part as best they can and we strive to do just that. Also, ABM is a place for people to grow. We have crew members who have moved up through the ranks of production. I always try to make sure that people have a good challenge to grow with if they want it. I feel that is just as important as providing the bubble. In fact maybe that’s what the bubble is: a place for people to stretch and grow.

5 Responses to “”

  1. Trudy says:

    Great Interview! Love it P.J.! So proud of all your hard work in making u the person & the success u r! Sending hugs for those moments when u need it! Love my ABM!!!

  2. Tina Cesa Ward says:

    Yay P.J.!!

  3. Rach Hip-Flores says:

    PJ is so lovely on those rare occasions when he’s sober…

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