Sunday, July 12, 2009

WLS Interview: Meet the Men Behind EMPIRE

Brian Hewson and Greg Turner are the creators of a new indie web soap, EMPIRE, that debuts tonight at Hewson, who grew up in Poughkeepsie, and Turner, raised in Vermont, now live in New York and wrote and produced the series. They recently spoke with We Love Soaps about the show.

We Love Soaps: How did the idea for EMPIRE come about?
Brian Hewson: We were roommates and we worked together and we both watched soaps. We were constantly talking about it. We always said, "If we were doing it, we would do this or that." Then we said, "So why don't we do it?"
Greg Turner: We just decided to create our own instead of waiting for the phone to ring and ABC ask us to come write for GENERAL HOSPITAL. The soap industry is so small in terms of who is working it, and people just go from show to show, there seems to be no room for new blood.

We Love Soaps: So you set out to create a soap. I've seen some cases where people took a film and divided it into segments and put it on the web.
Greg Turner: We always wanted it to be a soap opera. We knew we wanted it to be short episodes, so we decided five minutes each and ten episodes for this first story arc. We have a lot of twists and turns and cliffhangers and reveals, so hopefully each episode will be satisfying and make people want to come back for me.
Brian Hewson: Five minutes is not a long time so we had to find a way to get those twists and turns in there but not move too fast.

We Love Soaps: Are you guys producing the series as well?
Brian Hewson: We're basically doing everything.
Greg Turner: It's very grassroots. We filmed the episodes in January and have been slowly getting them edited. There's been a lot of chaos since we wrapped up shooting.
Brian Hewson: Once the ball got rolling we really ran with it. We picked a premiere date to push ourselves to get it done. This is our first venture of this kind, and we're thinking on our feet and learning as we go.

We Love Soaps: How long did it take to shoot this first arc?
Brian Hewson: We shot it over three weekends in January.

We Love Soaps: January was particularly cold here in New York this year. Did you have any outdoor scenes?
Greg Turner: We did. That might be interesting because it will be snowing and we're airing it in the middle of summer.

We Love Soaps: What was the writing process like for the two of you? Have you written together before?
Brian Hewson: No. This is the first time.
Greg Turner: Brian gets mad at me because I think too far ahead. We've filmed one arc and I have outlined to Arc 30.
Brian Hewson: We have written our next batch of scripts. Things have already changed between now and Arc 3, so Arc 30?
Greg Turner: I'm not going to be dogmatic about what I come up with, but my mind keeps working and I have to write it down. If things change along the way, so be it.

We Love Soaps: How would you describe EMPIRE in a nutshell?
Greg Turner: The show is about these three brothers who don't necessarily get along very well from a rich family in Long Island. The oldest two are focused on the family business - the oldest heading that and the middle son in the shadow of it all. The third brother is gay and lives in Manhattan and his father disowned him when he came out. He's a detective and comes home when their parents vanish.

We Love Soaps: Did you film the show in Long Island?
Brian Hewson: We film in Brooklyn mostly, and some in Washington Heights, and some in New Jersey.

We Love Soaps: What was it like working with director Steven Slate?
Greg Turner: It was good. I think that he directed it in a new way. It has a lot of shots that aren't necessarily soap shots.
Brian Hewson: He's not necessarily a soap viewer like we are.
Greg Turner: he brought something fresh to it. It's not the Peapack GUIDING LIGHT model, but it is a little more gritty that what you think of for soaps, or high-def GENERAL HOSPITAL.

We Love Soaps: The first episode airs on July 12. Will this be available at only? How frequently will new episodes be released?
Greg Turner: The episodes will be available on our website. We're likely going to host the shows on YouTube. The plan is for the episodes to air every Sunday night.

We Love Soaps: What is your ultimate goal with the project? DVD release? Television series? Continue as a web series?
Brian Hewson: A little bit of all that. All of those things would be great to happen. We just "something" to happen from it ultimately.
Greg Turner: The actors are terrific and to be able to reward them with money and exposure would be fabulous. There has to be some way, and probably not a five-day-a-week, five-hour-a-week venture, to succeed with a daytime soap off the major broadcast networks.

We Love Soaps: It sounds like there a chance more episodes or a second season will be produced if this season does well?
Greg Turner: The next 10 episodes are written. We obviously will want to iron out some of the kinks. We're waiting to see what type of reception we get, but we're ready to keep the ball rolling.

We Love Soaps: How will you measure your success? Website Hits? Buzz?
Brian Hewson: There's definitely a buzz factor which would make us happen.
Greg Turner: We're trying to build a bridge between what we're doing independently and the real, establishment daytime community. We want to get on the radar of the people who do daytime.
Brian Hewson: We've had glimpses behind the daytime curtain.
Greg Turner: We're on one boat, and they are on another boat, and we want to build a bridge between the two.

- Greg Turner appeared on the "Indie Soap Beat" segment of the first episode of "We Love Soaps Radio"

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