Joel and Rachel have just discovered they’re pregnant.
The only problem is – well, actually there’s several problems: Joel is an ambitious young filmmaker who’s not sure how fatherhood will fit into his career plans. And Rachel prefers the company of women.
If that sounds like the set-up for a primetime sitcom, it could soon be.
It’s also Joel McCarthy’s real life.
McCarthy, 25, is a New Westminster filmmaker. His friend, Rachel Kirkpatrick, is pregnant with their child. And as they kept explaining the nuances of their non-traditional relationship to friends and family and planned to navigate their impending parenthood, they realized they had the seeds for a pretty funny story.
“I’ve got the ability to find things before they’re funny,” said McCarthy, a Capilano University film grad. “I realize when life is funny.”
McCarthy operates This is a Spoon Studios on Auckland Street with two of his fellow grads, Nach Dudsdeemaytha and Charles Chen. They pay the bills by shooting corporate videos and travel documentaries in places like Peru, Morocco, India and Panama for non-profit organizations.
Joel McCarthy on the meaning behind the name of This is a Spoon Studios:
“We don’t have a good backstory. We’re just putting our cards on the table; a spoon isn’t intimidating, it comes off as friendly and approachable. We’re making art with our friends.”
But their passion is turning their own personal adventures into crazy narratives.
Their first feature, a documentary called Taking My Parents to Burning Man, followed the foibles of a colleague, Bryant Boesen, as he took his parents to the Burning Man festival, an annual ritual of debauchery, music, mind-altering substances and fire in the middle of the Nevada desert. They endured a broken-down RV and party-hearty travelling companions. They were rewarded with accolades on the festival circuit.
Their second feature, Shooting the Musical, is a no-budget mockumentary about a group of film school grads trying to produce the most offensive film of all time. It was shot with a crew of volunteers on the sly at local schools after McCarthy submitted fake scripts to gain approvals from administrators. It’ll be released in August.
“I’m not exactly proud of how we got it done,” said McCarthy, smiling. “But it’s hard to sue people with so little.”
McCarthy, Chen and a couple of buddies also produced a web series called Average Dicks and they recently participated in the Crazy 8’s competition that challenges filmmakers to deliver a finished project in just eight days.
But Inconceivable will be their most ambitious effort to date. It’s also the first time the’ll have a budget they didn’t have to beg, borrow or crowd-fund.
That’s because they just learned their pitch for Inconceivable won a $10,000 grant from Storyhive, an initiative by Telus to help up-and-coming filmmakers get passion projects off the ground. The money will allow them to hire real actors to play the autobiographical parts as well as give them the freedom from financing concerns to develop, write and produce the script for the 10-minute pilot by July 27, which could evolve into a five-episode series or more.
“It’s going to free us up to get access to the things we need,” said McCarthy.
Their entry into the competition almost didn’t happen. McCarthy and Didsdeemaytha didn’t create their one-minute video pitch until just before the deadline. Once submitted, they spent a solid week on social media getting out the vote. Now that their project has been green lit, McCarthy faces the reality of spinning his own awkward life situation into comedic gold.
“It’s going to end up hitting close to home,” said McCarthy. “It’s going to be about the pressure a lot of creative people feel between having security versus keep creating to push their career forward.”
Hopefully, he said, his own life will follow the latter path. After all, he’s got a lifetime of fodder to fuel his ideas.
“It’s easier when you have so much source material,” said McCarthy. “We’re just a group of nerds. A lot of what we do is like summer camp.”
Joel McCarthy on why young filmmakers are gravitating to New Westminster:
“It’s central, but it’s not as expensive as Vancouver. Film is mobile, so you have to be able to jump around, and that’s easy to do from New West.”