The interior design industry is rife with jokes; just ask Designer Pages founder and CEO Jacob L. Slevin and film producer-cinematographer Adam J. Richman. The pair, who met through one of Slevin’s former employees, produces Lunch & Learn, an offbeat Web series that profiles the fictional interior design firm Monarch. The comedic duo chatted with EAL about their latest series and what makes NeoCon fun, er, funny.
What are some of the funniest aspects of the A&D industry? Where do you mine your material?
It’s hard to craft a comedy series about an industry you’re not fully immersed in. Fortunately for us, Jake, who runs Designer Pages, is our inside man. Not only does Jake bring his own sense of what’s what in the industry, he’s also somewhat of a comedic genius. Through his seemingly endless network of contacts in the industry, we’re able to parse material from a mixed bag of real-life experiences that happen to designers and industry professionals, as well as call in ideas from folks in the community.
Adam’s knowledge and years of experience and sharp eye as a filmmaker pairs seamlessly with Jake’s insider knowledge. Together we craft each episode, thinking equally about long-term story arcs and per-episode drama and comedy—we’re the architects of the story line. That said, the core cast members—Ryan [Williams], Brit [Belsheim] and Jamie [Campbell]—all deserve a great deal of credit as well. The structure is usually laid out on a per-scene basis, but when we’re on-set filming, a great deal of the dialogue choices and comedy is born thanks to their strong backgrounds in improv and standup. It’s an incredible synergy.
What TV shows or Web series were your inspirations?
We draw a lot of inspiration from The Office, in terms of the way the series is shot; from Seinfeld, in terms of the dynamics of the characters; and we pull from modern hits like Silicon Valley and Entourage to stay present.
Who are some of your sponsors?
OFS Brands, Bentley Mills, AF New York and maybe a half-dozen others have supported the show since its inception. Designer Pages has, of course, been critical to the birth of the series and maintains an important role in producing the show.
Tell us about some of the feedback you’ve received from designers, architects and others.
Those that know the industry probably appreciate how real the story lines and anecdotes are. Don’t get us wrong, there’s no doubt we’re dramatizing a lot of things, but so much of what you’re seeing is based on references put before us by friends and colleagues. We’ve seen pretty overwhelming support for the series from across the industry. Designers, architects, manufacturers, critics and more have fallen in love with the characters.
Last year, when we were filming the finale of the first season at NeoCon 2015, we constantly had to stop production as different folks would recognize the cast and come up and say hi and ask what to expect next. It was a surreal and exciting moment for both cast and crew; in those moments, we all had to step back and realize how big the series was getting inside the thriving commercial interior design community.
And on a somewhat serious note, we love watching designers learn about new product by way of the show, hence the series name, Lunch & Learn. Just think about how many real-life “lunch and learn” presentations a manufacturer must host across different firms in different cities to release a new product to the market—whereas Episode 6 of Season 1 was viewed 95,000 times! That’s a profound reach for a manufacturer that wants to communicate with its customers.
After our first episode last year, designers were all e-mailing each other about the carpet “that guy is licking in the premiere.” After our second episode, we again heard all the stories of folks e-mailing back and forth about “the workstation that could support an elephant,” again a reference to a product we featured in the show. After our season finale, we know there’s a manufacturer out there somewhere that’s already working on furniture designed specifically for lefties!
We promise this upcoming season is going to provide the same underlying education and inspiration, if not more. We don’t want to spoil the end of this first episode in Season 2, but no doubt, you’ll quickly gain a sense of where we are going. And that said, any brand that wants to be a part of this emerging trend should quickly reach out to sponsor an episode!