Acting out/up: ‘Dr. Wanker’s Short Adventures’ wraps up season one

Dec 1, 17 • 5enses, FeatureNo Comments

Promotional poster. Courtesy of Heissenkuken Productions

By Robert Blood

[Editor’s note: The following interview was culled from conversations between the reporter and Kevin Goss, writer, producer, and star of “Dr. Wanker’s Short Adventures,” which is available on YouTube via Dr. Hans Wanker’s channel.]

Why don’t you introduce us to your web series, “Dr. Wanker’s Short Adventures”?

It revolves around this short actor who actually has a doctoral certificate in theater from a school in this fictitious country, Schweisenland. He comes to America on a work visa and gets a job at a community theater in Prescott. In the first episode he loses that job and falls and hits his head and has a vision of being on a movie set. So, he decides to pursue that and go to L.A. in search of a movie career. The series follows him in Hollywood going to auditions and not getting cast and having to get a job as a flower delivery person for a florist and meeting a woman. This love interest plants a seed in his head that the reason he’s not getting cast is because he’s too short and he decides to figure that one out — if that’s really the reason. Initially, he thinks it’s because of his European accent, so he goes to a vocal coach, but after that he realizes that, hey, some of the most famous actors in Hollywood have accents. Michael Caine, Christoph Waltz, Arnold Schwarzenegger — they’ve all got accents. So, several episodes in, he decides to go down to the casting director who rejected him and confront her and see if that’s why she didn’t cast him and, if so, prove to her that he can act.

How would you describe the character of Dr. Wanker?

As our co-director on the project, Andrew Johnson-Schmit, says, he’s hapless. He’s an intelligent and confident man, but he has an unfortunate name and doesn’t live in the same reality as everyone else. One of the things I like about him is that every barrier and obstacle he comes into contact with becomes something to overcome. Even though he seems to fall flat on his face over and over again, he picks himself up and pushes forward.

Why do this comedy as a web short? Why that medium?

I’d written a draft of the script to be a short film. I’ve worked on a handful of independent films in Arizona, so I sent it out and pitched it to everyone I knew that had more experience than me. Andrew and Angie, his wife and the other co-director, bit and wanted to get involved, but didn’t want to do a short film. They thought it could be better broken into short episodes and released as a web short. The idea was that instead of a 15- or 20-minute short that people were likely to click away from, they could watch little bite-sized pieces as it was released or after the fact. And that made sense to me. I knew we’d have a lot of work ahead to split it up. The real challenge was to build each individual episode so that it was an independent story but would build and help tell an overarching story that would keep people coming back. … When Andrew and Angie first pitched a web series, I looked at a bunch online. I found out they can be really cool and quirky. There’s one I really like, “Pedro’s Auto,” about a Mexican-American guy that’s really interesting.

What was it like reworking the material you’d already wrote and rewrote for a different medium, or at least a different mode of presentation?

I really enjoyed it. Andrew and Angie ended up joining me and we’d have writing meetings. Sometimes we added stuff between and sent it to each other, but the best stuff came from when we were all working together. It really did improve a lot, and they helped me cut stuff that didn’t need to be there. We found new, more creative things. One thing I really liked that they were big on was that the medium of film needn’t always be spoken. A lot of it can be visual. Sometimes when things were getting too wordy, we’d cut something back and go with a visual expression or prop or something else to get the message across.

How was shooting a short compared to shooting the independent movies you’d worked on?

It was shot pretty much the same way as the movies I’ve worked on, actually, which is not in sequence. Most of it’s driven by location. You try to film as many things as you can in one location in one day or on the same weekend even if it’ll appear in separate episodes. We all have day jobs, so a lot of the filming was on weekends.

By the time people read this, all but one, if not all of the first season of “Dr. Wanker’s Short Adventures” will be out. What’s it been like releasing it piecemeal?

It’s been a lot of work. There’s been a lot of social media and word of mouth. It’s been nice, though, to watch the viewership go up with each episode. The first one has less than 3,000 views on YouTube but less than a week after releasing the fourth one, we already had 17,000. So, we’re building an audience. … We’re doing a really big promotional push after the final episode is released. There are really two different ways to promote web series. In the age of Netflix, putting out a whole season at once lets people binge watch. The other method is like television, with spaces in between. We’re hoping to get that former group once everything’s been released. As it’s been picking up steam, I’m already writing again and have been getting some material ready for, hopefully, a season two. I don’t see the full release of season one as the end of anything. I’m always looking for inspiration and pretty active in theater circles in Prescott, so I’m always getting ideas for other things as well.

In some ways, the fast clip seems appropriate for a comedy, but it’s got to be difficult to balance tone and storytelling.

I don’t know that much of “Dr. Wanker’s Short Adventures” is a laugh-out-loud comedy. It’s a comedy, but our goal was just to make it interesting, to draw people in. We wanted it to be consistently quirky, but there’s some underlying depth to the character. … As a short actor, myself, some of what Dr. Wanker confronts is based on my own reality and what I’ve experienced. We don’t want to come across as bitter or jaded. It’s has to be personal and comical in a way that people can digest. It has to be done in an interesting way. He could just keep raging against the machine and picking himself up again, but it’s got to be done in way that draws people in.

Did anything about the process of making “Dr. Wanker’s Short Adventures” surprise you?

I was really surprised that casting was a lot easier than I thought it would be. I thought that when we put out the call for unpaid extras that one or two people show up. It was a dozen or two people who were interested though. Some of that’s the connections I’ve made in Prescott, and Andrew and Angie, as well. They thought we should do the cafe seen at the Crossroads Cafe at Prescott College, and I thought we’d have a hard time finding enough people to fill it. But, indeed, we filled it.

That’s all we had prepared. Anything else you wanted to add?

I wanted to thank you for even considering running a piece about “Dr. Wanker’s Short Adventures.” Of the people I’ve heard back from about the press release, some have said they can’t print the word “wanker.” I responded, well, it’s a real last name. I knew that might happen when we started, but I wanted to make the character have a memorable name that added to his character and added another challenge beyond him being short. Since deciding on Wanker, I’ve found out there’s a doctor in Kansas and a judge in Nevada at the State Supreme Court level. You know, we kind of put our own social stigma on words as a society and, in a way, this short asks what it would be like to live with that, to have that name. Because the character’s from a country that speaks a derivative of German, it’s his family name and his heritage and yet people snicker at it. It’s a joke and a bad word. So, it’d be a challenge to have that name, as some real people do.

*****

Watch “Dr. Wanker’s Short Adventures” on YouTube via Dr. Hans Wanker’s channel or interact with him via Facebook and Twitter.

Robert Blood is a Mayer-ish-based freelance writer and ne’er-do-well who’s working on his last book, which, incidentally, will be his first. Contact him at BloodyBobby5@Gmail.Com.

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