Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Geek Hash Interview: Steven Foundling, Co-creator of Frown Town

Do you like puppets? Have you been down to Frown Town? We discovered Frown Town at this years APE in San Francisco. The show is described as, "a puppet show about children but most definitely not for them." The all-puppet cast include brothers James and Phauntleroy Rumsey, Orley Dresden, Geer Karabekian, Judy Swinehopper, Pabst Tecate, Chip McFavorite, Chip Doogan and "Patches" Kitestring.

We got to ask co-creator Steven Foundling a few questions about bringing the denizens of Frown Town to life.

Geek Hash: Tell us about the warped minds behind this awesome project.

Steven Foundling: When scientists have babies (our parents are all scientists) those babies turn out a bit off, not like full blown Asperger's off, just ravenously obsessive when it comes to collecting and collating intel. For our parents it was microorganisms and fish, they sought to know the world and improve it through research and development. For us, it's art and culture, we seek to escape the world and build our own, albeit an imaginary one made of felt and broken dreams.

GH: It took quite a while to get this project from idea to the hilarious first episode, "Are You My Boy." Can you walk us through what it took to get Frown Town realized.
James at APE 2012 in San Francisco

SF: In the beginning we were under the project's thrall. It became the object of our obsession and where our minds naturally went. But with projects - as with real human relationships and normal people interests - the enthusiasm and excitement wears off and then it becomes a slog, as much a chore as a recreation. That's when it gets hard. But most things worth doing are hard. Really nearly impossible if you're doing them right. The biggest set back was when we ended up on opposite sides of the country for two years. But now we're both back on the West Coast and we've been able to out of hiatus. It's essential with a project as complicated and time-consumptive as Frown Town to work with someone else, you need someone to reinforce the idea that it's all worth the effort. Like how alcoholics and drug addicts enable each other. And it's always good to have the extra set of hands.

GH: I got to see James at APE in San Francisco. Obviously a lot of love and and a lot of work went into creating the puppets that populate Frown Town. How long did it take to create each one and what's the process like?

SF: Well, we made them in one big batch so it's hard to say how long they take. I reckon I could make one in a week or two if it were all I was working on, but with full-time jobs and reasonably active social lives that's never the case. Andy did a lot of preproduction work designing the look of the characters and then we got to hacking up foam cushions from street couches, covering them in fleece and felt and crudely tailored thrift-store children's clothes. I made a lot of puppets back as a boy, but never professionally and not in years, so we were really making it up as we went along. Sort of reverse engineering them off what I'd culled from out of print books about the Muppet Show. It was a labor of love and a learning experience. A lot of false starts and dead ends. Especially with the stillborn fetus character. I'm actually making an entirely new version of him right now for the video after next. Never really got the first draft working up to snuff.

GH: It looks like Pabst Tecate (formerly know as Trey Awesome) is going to be in the newest episode. When can we expect to see it? Do you have a set number of episodes you're shooting for or is Frown Town just going to go on forever?

SF: Pabst will be slamming four lokos, riding a fixie down Valencia street while texting his bros, dancing with drag queens, and having some brunch - pretty much just partying right and teaching you how to do it too.  Almost all the characters on the show are weirdo outcasts or antiquated in one way or another. Pabst, though, is the glistening gem of Awesomite at the center of all the attention. He gives us cred with the cool kids. Or so we hope.

We plan to keep making shorts until we can get our production values up to a point we're proud of and then we'd like to shoot a longer 10-15 minute pilot to try and shop it around. Our ideas always outreach our budget/grasp/skill sets, but if we ever managed to hook up with a professional production company, we think we could really bring the world of Frown Town to life as we've envisioned it, and that world, it is sprawling. So many monsters to vanquish and supernatural realms to explore. Trash kings and shadow cats, sewer creatures and genetically modified horse/narwhal/unicorn hybrids. The ideas come easy but the execution takes years. What we really need is slave labor, or, you know what, let's call them interns.

The official Frown Town YouTube channel can be found here. Click the link and add it to your list!

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