22 QUESTIONS WITH THE WEIRD GUY:
1. How did you come up with the idea for “The Weird Guy”?
The seed was initially planted towards the end of Seinfeld. I was hoping for a spinoff show called “Kramer”, which would show him in his natural habitat with Newman, Bob Sacamano, Lomez, Slippery Pete, Franklin Delano Romanowski, and all of his other oddball friends. Unfortunately, all we got was the ill-fated “The Michael Richards Show”. Around that time, I was receiving the Seinfeld newsletter and people would submit ideas for episodes. I remember one where Kramer got a beeper, and would go to Jerry’s apartment to make the call. When George saw how popular Kramer was, he got one too, but nobody called him. He then would pay others to call him, but he later got busted. That initially got the juices flowing for creating an oddball-themed show, since I saw that there was more content to be made.
About 10 years later, when I was attending college as a creative writing major, I wrote a short story called “The Weird Guy”, which was very amateurish, so I kinda just let it sit while I was finishing up school. Then little by little over the years, I saw that this idea had legs and started to develop it from there, and since nobody else was making a show like this, I felt the need to keep on adding more and more content. As I got closer to graduation, I had to figure what I was going to do next, and this was in the height of the recession, so I figured that I might as well create a show based on that very story, since all the other “created” jobs were probably few and far between. But as with anything good in the writing field, it takes quite a bit of time and nurturing, so I dedicated myself for the long haul. So, after years of not being able to forget about this idea, and of course getting frustrated with not finding a show on TV that I myself could relate to, I figured that I might as well start delving into my past for some episode ideas that could go on for at least 3 seasons, so here I am.
2. What events in your life do you think influenced how the show was written?
One thing you may or may not have noticed is that the Monfredis are a structured family who are always eating together. I never had that growing up, so yes, I’m filling a void with that. Also, I was definitely NOT the one you wanted to sit next to while on a long bus trip, or even a family trip. Not to mention all of my “isms”, which there was no escaping if you had the privilege of being around me for a long period of time. Throughout school, I was the guy who would give the those who were considered weird more of a chance than others, so I made sure to insert that in there as well. A lot of it though, like the trip to the carnival and adoption episode is 100% imagined, with a comedic hint of me inserted of course.
3. What is your background as far as writing?
For the most part, I write for fun, for venting purposes, and kind of because I have to, because otherwise I’d have trouble falling asleep. I also ended up majoring in creative writing in college, since none of the other majors suited my aptitudes. I’ve also taken a bunch of one-off classes here and there ever since I started take this endeavor seriously. Even though I’m not taking anymore classes at the moment, writing is a muscle that I’m constantly exercising whenever I dedicate an hour or two towards it, so there’s that too.
4. What made you feel that there would be an audience for this type of show?
What was considered normal as I was growing up and living these “Garence” experiences, being cast off as weird (in a bad way) has since taken a 180 degree turn. Seeing how things have changed have made this “weird guy” character too big to ignore. If I was who I am say 20 years ago, but in today’s world…forget it! I’d be the prom king, although I don’t really know how to dance. Looking at how the current breed of how old people view this world only confirms how things have changed for the weider, so I figured, why not document it in my own little way?
5. What made you decide to turn the show into a web comic?
The old saying that if you want something done right, you have to do it yourself. As far as getting too attached to my own material, I’m definitely guilty of that. I figured that by the time it got to a studio/production company, it would have been revised time and time again to the point where the original mission statement would be diluted…can’t have that. So rather than waiting for someone who has clout to become a true believer and take this on, I figured might as well get it drawn out so I can get an audience and see what happens from there.
6. What do you hope your viewers will take away from reading your web comic?
My aim is that those who relate to him will feel less alone, and those who don’t will perhaps use him to validate how normal they really are.
7. Do you feel that you’re the only one that this character is based on, or do you think that there are others who can relate to him?
Once I started telling people about the character I was creating, which I told them was loosely based on me, a lot of people would tell me, “no, that’s me”, or “I know somebody just like that”. So, I see Garence in not just myself but I think there’s a little bit of Garence in many of us who consider ourselves at least a little weird.
8. Is there a certain demographic that you’re aiming for?
Obviously, the main target are the kids from middle school all the way up through college. Being an old soul myself, I’m hoping to reach the older demographic, because I grew up undiagnosed as such, so that was one of the conflicts that ensued in my life as a kid. Otherwise it would’ve been much easier to blend in with what was going on at the time, and I probably wouldn’t have been as weird as I was. So, I’m hoping the older crowd will get it too, perhaps to understand their black sheep kids a bit more.
9. What made you decide to take this project full on, in hopes of one day getting it made?
After observing how the culture has changed over the years, I’ve never seen such an appetite for anything and everything out of the box in all my life. Just like the how the wild and crazy 60’s was a breakaway from the square and structured 50’s, growing up in the 90’s were bland and apathetic, at least compared to the 80’s. Now, you’d be bland if you didn’t have at least a tinge of weirdness about you. I guess you can say that I was waiting for this cultural shift ever since it was just me and perhaps a small handful of others, at least from what I remember growing up in that particular context. So, I truly believe that the world needs it, and it needs me to do it so that it gets done right.
10. Why did you give up on your original idea of The Weird Guy becoming a TV series and turning it into a web comic series?
To start, there are so many variables working against someone in my position, specifically script supervisors. I’ll be the first to admit that after many hours of brainstorming and revision sessions, sweating out as much material as I thought I had in me, there was no way I was going to hand it over to someone who would potentially stray too far from the original vision, which I had painstakingly worked to make clear to whoever was on the receiving end of it. Between the potential changes that would be out of my hands, the possibility of miscasting the show, poor editing with too many different cuts and lackluster marketing, it was too much of a risk to do all of that work so that it could be mishandled by people who just view it as a business first, so they can attach their name and position to it, not caring about the material even one tenth as much as I do. Until that changes, many great ideas are going to fall by the wayside, and great shows aren’t going to be made, while others last for only a few episodes, because after going through all of the obstacles of getting made in the first place, all of the stuff I described earlier, which apparently has to happen in order for a show to be made anyway, did happen and it seems like there’s so much set up for failure, it’s like why bother?
So, by turning it into a web comic series, I get to self-publish it, not have to go through anybody, except for the illustrator, whom after sitting through many applicants, I finally found the right one, and I get to release everything I’ve written, just as I’ve written it. I won’t have to worry about abrupt cancellations because someone else involved who couldn’t care less about the show’s success couldn’t do their job. And it only cost about as much as I’ve spent on all of the pitch sessions, which I truly believe were scams in and of itself, so even though I had to compromise my vision a little bit, at least it gets released. Also, if it does get made into a show, animated or real-life, which is still the original mission, at least now I’ve got some storyboards to go by.
Lastly, television as we know it is going the way of terrestrial radio, due to steaming services. Since the business model is changing so fast, that’s another risk that I’d rather not take. Now, I’m beholden to the big 4 streaming services, which I don’t know is good or bad. Maybe I’ll find out after they become fully matured.
11. Does Garence consider himself weird, or does he consider himself normal and everybody else are the ones that are weird?
He doesn’t consider himself anything but himself. He marches to the beat of his own drum, and if others want to tag along, that’s fine, but it doesn’t make or break/decide how he lives his life.
12. Where did the name Garence Monfredi come from?
A friend of my brother once called me Garence, as a way of changing things up from time to time when he got sick of calling me the same name for so many years. At the time, my brother used to call me Gary, and his friend thought briefly that Garence was what Gary was short for, much like Terry is short for Terrance. Of course that wasn’t the case, as I’ve asked every guy named Gary if it was, but it could be in the case of the show. The name Monfredi came from my other brother, who would say “Ready Monfredi” right before leaving for whatever it is we were leaving for. When the time came to give the protagonist a name, I needed to find something memorable that rolled off the tongue, so I somehow managed to put the two together. I think Garence came first, then the Monfredi later, but don’t quote me on that.
13. Why Lawrencetown, NJ?
At the time of the show’s initial inception, there was a long-running magazine called “Weird NJ”, so I chose NJ mainly because of that. There’s no way I could picture the show taking place in Staten Island, considering its current perception in the media. Lawrenceville, which was the original idea I had for the setting, came from having grown up on Lawrence avenue (in Staten Island), and I’d much rather not risk getting into trouble with the people of Lawrenceville.
14. What’s your definition of weird?
There are 2 types of weird as I see it. There’s interesting-weird, aka Garence, and there’s crazy-weird, where you suddenly realize why mental institutions exist. I address both of that in the series. One thing I’ve noticed is that there are a lot of shows that somewhat claim to be weird, but they seem to be written from an outsiders perspective. The only way I believe that you can write something as true to form as I set out to do, is to have lived the life of the character that you’re writing about. Otherwise, it won’t translate.
15. How similar are you to this Garence character?
I’m somewhat similar to Garence, but not a carbon copy or even close. The bulk of it comes from imagined situations based on what I would do in certain situations that would never happen in real life. There are a few quips here and there that I took from real life experiences, like the family reunion shirt gag (boy was he pissed), the peanut butter in the cereal thing, which was from when my brother was on a workout regimen and had to find some way to add protein to his breakfast. “There’s moisture in this” came from a trip back from a swap meet in Jersey where I said that to a friend of mine, whom at that time I’ve known for years and even then, he said to me “you’re weird”, so of course I had to put that in there. The line: “I think your dog wants to be in his natural habitat” came from when my neighbor’s dog used to bark incessantly and I was hoping that line would convince them to let the dog free somewhere (didn’t happen). When I said it, my friend who overheard it was like “WHAT?”, so of course I had to finagle that line in there as well. Those little quips are combinations of half a laugh, and a half “what the hell?”, which is the type of humor that I was going for when I set out to do this.
16. What were your favorite shows to watch growing up?
The Simpsons, Married…With Children, Seinfeld, Cheers, Alf, and some obscurities like The Jackie Thomas Show, The George Carlin Show, and Get A Life. As for comics, I hardly read any, except for Garfield.
17. What other jobs were you doing before you were doing this?
Mostly odd jobs, like real estate, which lead to my clean out gigs. On any given day, I would have at least 50 different things on ebay, which I would get from just about anywhere. I had a brief sting in shipping, as well as the census bureau (I got fired from both). I drove a cab, and I also worked in a few kitchens back when I wanted to be a cook, but that’s because I was underfed as a child.
18. What are your current favorite shows to watch now?
American Pickers, Pawn Stars, Storage Wars, Strange Inheritance, 60 Minutes, Monday Night Raw & Smackdown Live.
19. What do you like to do in your spare time?
I have other creative endeavors that I’m also working on. I have 3 movie ideas that I’d like to develop, as well as some WWE storylines. Speaking of which, I wouldn’t mind getting commissioned to write “CM Punk: The Movie”, so that would be 4 movie ideas to keep me busy. I also have some poetry that I hope to one day turn into song lyrics, as soon as I can commit to singing lessons. I don’t collect anything other than life experience, so I travel whenever I can, which of course I’ll turn into some sort of travel log, since I have this duty to write almost every thought that pops into my head. I also sleep as long as my body will allow, because I get some interesting ideas from dreams.
20. What advice would you give to yourself as you were just starting out?
NEVER pay to pitch/aka get purposely rejected. Considering how many writers are trying to do the same thing, if someone “opens the gates” to people trying to pitch what they could find if they just put up an ad on any given writers forum, then they’re obviously just stealing your money. A little side note about paying to pitch. I have this theory that it’s nothing more than a way to curb all of the millions of solicitations that’s been bombarding producers, managers and talent agencies for the longest time, by taking them and giving these upstarts false hope, while taking their money, while never straying from the business m.o. of finding any overly opinionated reason to say no, so that they’ll keep dropping money on more pitches. I could be wrong, but as I was going through one of the pitch sessions up for sale. I noticed that the producer had the same amount of credits as she did over a year prior from when she did her last pitch sessions. Is there something going on behind the scenes that I’m not aware of? I would say probably yes. Don’t quote me on it, since I don’t have any proof, except the lack of credits and discoveries that has come from all of these pitch sessions, which seem to get sold out almost immediately.
On a personal note, my first pitch session was a video pitch, where the producer seems interested in my idea, but then I never heard from her again. That’s when I started doing the written pitch sessions, which all seemed like fabricated opinions that were just different ways of saying no, when their minds were made up before they even read my pitch. That was until I got a request for not 1, but 3 teleplays that I’ve written. I sent them in as requested, didn’t hear back for over a year, only to find out after doing the follow up myself hat the producer no longer with the company, and that the company fizzled. Not only that, I wasn’t allowed any contact with her, as I would violate the rules. So, I got a free code for another pitch session, which of course meant another rejection. I hope I’m wrong, but until I’m proven otherwise…
21. Where do you see the show going in the future?
As long as the word “weird” is commonly used, we will always need an outlet. Especially now that the circus is no longer around, where’s our freak show going to come from? I personally have enough plot lines for at least another 2 seasons. If someone wants to submit a spec script, by all means, but be very patient.
22. What advice do you have for other writers?
Don’t let anyone discourage you. If you’re passionate about what you’re doing, like you feel that it’s your life’s mission, keep at it until your final breath. Whenever you think you’re done, you’re probably not. Let it sit for a week or two, then revise. Also, don’t get too sidetracked with other things that you’re not as passionate about, mainly because writing is like a muscle, and you do get better the more you do it, so practice, practice, practice. Also, wear your rejections as badges of honor, because Back to the Future was initially rejected, as were The Beatles and My Big Fat Greek Wedding…and the list goes on.
Also, after learning that paying to pitch was nothing more than a 2-way scam. 1 of the ways is that they take your money, keep you in suspense, and come up with any reason they can to reject your idea. The other way is that they’ll reject you, then steal your idea, but change it enough so that only you know that they did it, since they changed it to the point that it’s kind of similar to your idea, but they hired writers for dirt cheap to change it around so that it’s just as sellable as it is original. Lesson learned…NEVER PAY TO PITCH…you’re paying for a rejection, simple as that. Get your stuff out there and get it dated! Even if it means getting it drawn up and put on instagram. It’s better than keeping it under your bed.
And the thing is with that, I can’t blame them entirely, because they foot the bill for the production, cast, catering…everything. What are the chances that it’ll be a runaway hit, considering that so many producers are chasing that same dream, so you have to cut costs somewhere, might was well be at the writers’ expense, since there are so many of them. Unless they’re rich and don’t have a moral bone in their body.
Another hurdle was learning the hard way that nobody, and I mean nobody on this physical planet cares one iota about what you’ve written. Even if someone in the industry likes it, deep down they’re probably kicking themselves in the teeth, wondering why they, or someone on their team didn’t come up with it first. Ego is the #1 driving force in Hollywood, and it’s part of what’s been driving me to get this project off the ground as well. I mean who hasn’t had a day dream of even just a little spotlight. But, since I’m doing this more because I have to, that’s why I financed the comic illustrations myself, because nobody believed in this project as much as I did to the point of financing it. So, lesson learned.
Now, they say it takes 10 years to become an overnight success, that is definitely true in my case. To start, I came in thinking that I could write a pitch, pilot and a series overview, and that would be all I needed. It turns out I needed a whole lot more. Not only did I have to get a website, I had to invest in hosting, search engine optimization, web design, copyrights & trademarks. I also had to look into every single way that other writers have gotten screwed, like the writer of Forrest Gump (why isn’t there a “Forrest Gump 2” about little Forrest growing up…hmm), so I would encourage those who are reading this to do the same.
Also, if you’re going to go for the self-illustration route, let me tell you a story, which I’ll sum up with this one lesson if you don’t want to read on…do one page at a time, and don’t pay anymore than $30 per page, fiverr is a good place to start. Anyway, here goes:
This one local artist, or shall I say wannabe artist who basically took my money and didn’t do the job he said he was going to do. 8 months go by and I’m left with a poor quality illustration, when he told me flat out in the beginning that he was going to do the full 30-page script. I guess that was to get the most amount of money out of me. And I remember it clear as day, because otherwise, I never would’ve dealt with him, as that was my intention going into that meeting. One of the red flags I should’ve paid more attention to was that when he was selling himself to me, he didn’t make eye contact for even a second. Let that be a warning to those who are putting their intellectual property in the hands of others, if they can’t make eye contact with you, they can’t be trusted for a minute.
The final straw was when he had his wife, whom I’ve never met nor was I told would be involved in the process, e-mailed me and basically said here’s your illustration, we’re done, that’s it. Now, I can’t blame the guy 100% on this, because guys can only take so much loneliness before they cave in and get castrated, and with that, it’s not a question of if, but when. That’s actually one of the reasons why this took so long. I can’t even tell you how many women saw that I was a writer in my personal ads, picked my brain for a bit then POOF. And that little bit of motivation could’ve gone a long way, if I only had some, but that’s life. So anyway, the “better half” didn’t have any discussion with me about the job whatsoever until that day. Part of which entailed him to upload certain files to a drop box, which were too big to e-mail, files that I never got, nor did I get the empty dialogue boxes so I could insert other languages into them, just an excuse along with instructions on how I should do what I paid him to do. With all of the other artists I’ve worked with on fiverr, I got better quality work at 5% of the price in no more than 5 days. With him, I got delay after delay, including the old “I’m on vacation” bit. He also put other projects in front of me during the 8 months that it took to throw the poor quality drawing together. Like when I would ask him how things are going, he would tell me that he has other projects going on, months after we were supposed to start. So in the end, he lost a great customer, who would’ve worked with him for much longer if he stuck to his word, and his reputation is shall we say…unprofessional to say the least.
Although I would rather not name him, here’s the review I wrote for him on Yelp:
and for those who would rather not click away from this website, here’s what I wrote:
$1,000 down the drain. After 8 months and plenty of simple instructions to do what I thought would be an easy job, I ended up getting an e-mail from his wife (whom I’ve never met, nor was I ever told of her involvement) basically saying “here’s your illustration, we’re done”, even though I was supposed to get certain files linked to me on drop box, as well as empty dialogue boxes so that I could have my illustration translated into other languages, which I didn’t get. And the final product was absolutely useless, and completely paled in comparison to the example I showed him to mimic. When I showed him an example of what I wanted, he said he could do the job, and In the end got a cheap rate version of it, for 20x the price at 30x the time. Not only that, several times he said it would be done in 2 weeks, 3 weeks, etc when I gave him everything he asked for, the deadlines he gave me weren’t met. He also took a vacation during the time when he was supposed to be wrapping things up. I mean if you can’t do the job right and in a timely manner, at least tell me ahead of time. Don’t keep dragging my feet, then in the end pass the buck to your wife who had nothing to do with the job in the first place. But lesson learned, never deal with someone who can’t make eye contact with you. Guess I should’ve paid attention to that in our first meeting. And what could’ve been a long-lasting professional relationship with more jobs lined up in the future, turned out to be a lesson learned the hard way…stick with fiverr and work in small/quick increments.
With all that being said, I’m glad I finally got my work out there, and on my own terms. If I’ve inspired or touched at least on person from doing this, then I would consider that a success.