Matt Ruby: How to Film a Web Comedy Series on a Budget

In Chapter 18 of 19 in his 2012 Capture Your Flag interview, standup comedian Matt Ruby answers "What Has Filming a Web Comedy Series Taught You About Doing More With Less?"   Ruby talks about the importance of communicating a vision to onboard a talented team to work within budget constraints.  He notes the more you have to prove a concept, for example showing them a script, the better chance you can onboard them.  Ruby notes the importance of setting managable and realistic timeframes given the sacrifices team and crew may be making.  Lastly, Ruby notes the benefit of having budget constraints and working cheaply.  Matt Ruby is a standup comedian and comedy writer based in New York City.  He co-produces the weekly show "Hot Soup", co-hosts the monthly show "We're All Friends Here", and manages a comedy blog "Sandpaper Suit".  Ruby graduated from Northwestern University. 


Erik Michielsen: What has filming a web comedy series taught you about doing more with less?

Matt Ruby: The biggest thing is trying to work with other people and trying to, you know, like, especially if you’re getting people to work for cheap, or free, or you know, like less than they would normally get for doing something, I think you have to kind of give them a vision for why they should wanna do—like, they should be excited for the project, you know, should be making something cool, funny, fresh, something that they wanna be part of, something that if they’re not getting paid anything or a lot right now, maybe down the road could turn into something. 

Thinking about what are their desires or goals and like how can you meet them or how can you guys meet halfway, I think it helps too, to take stuff as far as you can on your own before you bring other people in like if you’ve got scripts to show people, that’s way better than if you just have an idea for a script, and if you’ve actually shot something already, and you have that to show, that’s gonna be even better than a script, so like the more you can kind of prove the concept to people the more I think likely you are be able to get them onboard for, maybe, you know, not what their normal rate is, sort of thing. 

I think also you know you need to realize that there’s a limited window on that, you can’t just keep, you know, milking people, you know people just don’t have the time or the energy, the resources necessarily to donate, you know, all the time, so, you know, like hopefully, you know, you can have something that evolves into something bigger that does have a budget that’s more substantial. 

Also I just think people spend way too much on everything all the time. Like I’m mean, I’m a cheap bastard, so like I just sort of apply, you know, if I’m working on something, a project I conduct it the same way I do my normal life which is like I don’t spend money if I don’t have to, so like if I can use cheap props or film somewhere cheap, or you know, just I think people—when people are spending other people’s money, they spend it in a way different way than when they’re spending their own, so I think it’s just, you know, try to, you know, try to be a cheap bastard, even when you’re working on stuff—I don’t know, I just think—I think having those constraints even when you start out, like knowing, okay, we need to do this all in one location, or with these 3 actors or it needs to be 60 seconds or less, or whatever your limitations are, and be like, okay, well, that’s what it’s gotta be, so now fit into that, you know, box or perimeters, and make it work. 

And you know I think that can—that can actually—you know if you embrace that, it can actually kind of encourage creativity or take you to an interesting place as opposed to being like well, no, I need, you know, 5 locations, and dozens of extras and you know a budget of you know all this money and all that stuff. Whereas like, is that really making it funnier or better? You know I think that’s probably the bigger question is like, okay, well, if this is a little rough around the edges or you know, kind of cutting some corners here or there, is that the thing that’s really gonna make it not as good or is it just gonna make it not as polished? And I don’t always care about polish, like some rough edges are alright for me. Sometimes that’s what makes it interesting.