Sunday, June 13, 2010
The Steel & Marsilio Companion, Part 4: Like a Phoenix from the Ashes
As the summer of 2003 set in, Steel & Marsilio was, at best, in limbo. Back then, uploading content to the internet was not so easy as it is today, so any potential projects Garrett and I might make had no clear method of distribution. Since we had never exactly been renowned for our productivity, the fact that anything we produced might never be seen by anyone (although, given the viewership of public access, one might venture to say no one had ever seen anything we’d done) meant that we simply didn’t do anything. Well, we went to Rasputin Music a fair amount, but I’d say that doesn’t really apply.
One day, our fortunes shifted, as Garrett received a letter from the public access station in Mountain View, KMVT15. Apparently, since the De Anza television station closed, the responsibilities for Cupertino’s public access now fell to KMVT, a larger and presumably more financially secure station. When Cupertino closed, I guess the Mountain View staff asked our old bosses if they had any recommendations for TV shows that should transfer over from the old station to Mountain View and keep airing. Because this move would be funded by the city, there was a limited number of programs that could make the move, and for whatever reason, our producers decided that we should be among those shows. Against all odds, it seemed that Steel & Marsilio was once again in business.
The Mountain View station was a pretty big step up for us. The rules were different; we had to take a number of production classes (which we were more than happy to do, as we were constantly striving to improve our product), and there were virtually no limitations on the content we could air, so long as we were broadcast after 10 PM. Whereas in the past, we had to tiptoe around our occasional uses of foul language and copyrighted material, it was a veritable free-for-all at KMVT. Finally, we were free to produce the show exactly how we wanted. And we would have a lot of help in that endeavor, because the station came fully equipped with a team of volunteers both willing and able to help us out with whatever we needed purely for the experience. Bobby and Wendy, the two main figures at the station, saw our potential and were very supportive of our work. All the pieces were in place for our biggest production ever.
The basic idea for the episode was already established: following “4KO”’s conclusion, Garrett and I were to announce the dissolution of our partnership. The narrative was to follow each of us on our solo paths, as I kept pitching terrible ideas for new TV shows to our station, while Garrett fell into a bleak downward spiral of depression and alcoholism. It was an unfortunately prescient plot line that at the time we considered a grim absurdity, lightly based in truth.
Despite our relative plethora of resources, production on the Steel & Marsilio finale was ungodly slow and plagued with difficulties. By the time we actually set about filming the episode, I had moved up to UC Santa Cruz, and not having a reliable mode of transportation at the time (and becoming quite absorbed in the college life, and being unwilling to separate myself from my pseudo-girlfriend for lengthy periods of time), my infrequent trips to the Cupertino area meant our shoots were very spread out, usually occurring during holiday breaks for me. The side effect of this was that the team of Steel & Marsilio, who were separating according to the show’s narrative, were beginning to drift apart in real life. Whereas for years Garrett and I would not go a few days without seeing one another, we found ourselves totally separated for weeks at a time. Thus, things dragged on and on, and before we knew it, it was summer 2004, and we still didn’t have an episode.
I was back home for the summer, though, and it was time to wrap things up. After shooting the last few scenes (I believe my Spanish-language segment may have been the last footage we filmed), I set to work editing the whole thing together. With the luxury of time and experience, I did a much better job putting the finale together than I did on my editing debut, and when Garrett and I handed in the episode, we were quite confident in its quality, albeit embarrassed by how long the process took.
Overall, I am immensely proud of the sixth episode, and consider it to be our masterpiece. Our new crew enabled us to do more complicated studio shots than before, and the sixth episode is certainly the best looking of the series. It is tightly paced, and contains some of our best material, with no real weak links. I am very pleased with how everything came together, and look back on it with a bittersweet feeling, as everything ended just as we were clearly hitting our stride.
Well, that’s not entirely accurate. I was unsure what our future was at that point, considering that I was headed back to school soon. Garrett had a different idea, though, and pitched the idea for The Garrett Steel Show to KMVT, which was to bring a format change to a Garrett-centric talk show. We filmed some segments for it (including an interview with a member of the Church of Scientology that could not have possibly gone less according to plan), but the distance between Garrett and I was still an issue, and my removal from the title of the forthcoming show made me rather disinterested in the process. At that point, I felt that if Garrett wanted to do a show by himself, then more power to him, but I didn’t have a huge amount of interest in a project that I didn’t have much creative input into. The Garrett Steel Show never materialized, and after an exceeding amount of patience on the part of KMVT15, we were taken off the air. Given that we were with them for about two years and managed to produce exactly ONE half-hour show, I can’t blame them; after all, they could only show the same re-runs for so long.
And that would seem to be the end of the story. Sure, we’ve done some stand-up here and there, but Steel & Marsilio ended with the sixth episode. I never let go of the dream of having Steel & Marsilio being a legitimate comedy show on a nationwide network (Comedy Central, maybe?), to the point where I wrote a potential pilot script for a version of S&M that actually, you know, has a budget. But, despite the fact that Garrett and I were roommates for a year back in 2006-2007, we never had any other video projects, and the Steel & Marsilio name languished in obscurity.
What I’m setting out to do here is to change all that. In a matter of days, the entire run of Steel & Marsilio will be available on DVD. I have been working on this project for three years, and am immeasurable pleased to finally been done with it and able to share it with the world. In addition, Garrett and I have been collaborating on a series of podcasts recently, we’re setting up to re-establish ourselves on the local stand-up scene, and most exciting of all, we’re working on a script for the upcoming Steel & Marsilio: The Movie (working title). Garrett and I have a renewed dedication to the establishment of our brand, as something we not only believe in, but as something we know can be huge. I envision the day when our dreams are finally realized, and Steel & Marsilio becomes a nationwide television show that we actually get paid to do. I would like to express my gratitude to everyone who took the time to read this, and who continues to support Garrett and I in our endeavors. Our day will come, thanks to you, and we will not let you down. Believe that.