"If you're not known, or don't have a big name in your cast, [the networks] don't really want to deal with you," says Greg L. Corner, a substitute teacher who co-founded Lips Productions a year and a half ago with Compaq-employee-by-day Buddy Howard. On the agenda for their company are stand-up comedy routines, independent films, original music videos of local bands, even their own sitcom produced in-house -- quite literally.
This network doesn't exactly have the facilities of CBS. Corner simply scraped together enough to buy a digital camera and a personal computer with the appropriate editing software and then began posting shows onto the Web. As Howard explains, "If the world won't come look at what we're doing, we'll show the world."
The duo quickly proved that if you post it, they will come. "We crashed the server we were on three or four times, overloading it," Corner boasts. It soon became clear that Lips would have to find another Internet provider. The pair eventually swung a deal with the Jarvis Network, a division of the Jarvis Entertainment Group, which, in addition to owning a couple of bowling alleys, is ranked among the top 500 Web properties by PC Data Online. Jarvis provided the badly needed gigabytes and bandwidth simply for the opportunity to host the "first Internet sitcom."
"Not only has this never been done before, but this is a great group of guys. And we saw one of their films, and it was real professional, and we just wanted to be part of a new thing," says company owner Nick Jarvis.
The name of the show is Still Workin' On It, the story of the washed-up members of an '80s band named Lips (from which the production company's name is derived), ten years after their one chart-topping single faded from public memory. For the cast, Corner and Howard staked out the local comedy clubs for talent, and enlisted former KLOL night-time DJ Jordan Sinclair. For the role of the lead guitarist, the duo was able to snag Dane Sonnier, who strummed for Galactic Cowboys, the Christian rock band that gained national recognition before Sonnier quit a few years ago only to wind up working the grill at the now defunct Velvet Elvis. (Things may be looking up for the musician, however. See Amplified, "In Good Company."
Already Jarvis Network has been having trouble keeping up with the Internet traffic, which has made the show difficult to see at peak times because of a slow video stream, something they hope to fix with some hardware upgrades in the next couple of weeks. "I think the one problem we didn't foresee was how quickly it would take off on us," Howard says. "We were looking at a really slow start-up, just getting our name out there." Corner has already had to deal with one fan who threatened to fly down and kick his ass if they didn't get their Web site sped up. "We have a very rabid little fan base that will let us know every week we screwed up," Howard explains.
In addition, Corner found that shots with more than two people tend to blur on the Web, which forced them to reshoot the entire pilot episode. But in the end they hope the advantages will overcome the problems. "The great thing about the Web is you don't have to wait until the summer to catch what you missed.....This way we archive the files for two months, and you can check it out anytime you want," Corner says.
Most of all, the budding Web network also hopes to provide an outlet to those local home movie geeks who really do have some promise. "For a town this size, it's relatively void of any small productions," Howard says. "[T]here's so much going on. Houston is just starting to pick that up."
It would seem the guys are still workin' on it, in more ways than one.
You can view film shorts and the trailer for Still Workin' On It at www.stillworkinonit.com (be sure to drop the "g"). Lips Productions will also consider independent shorts of ten minutes or less, stand-up comedy routines and local music videos. For more information, contact email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.