Madison may not be known for television production, but a Madison-based production company may change that.
Dave Grundgeiger, founder of Chicago 139 Productions, is the current producer for the comedy web-series “Staydream.” After 18 months, the series’ pilot episode went live on Youtube, with a plot that follows the life of an aspiring filmmaker.
The Badger Herald spoke with Grundgeiger about the show, its future and how students can get involved with its production.
The following interview has been edited for style and clarity.
The Badger Herald: Can you give a general overview of “Staydream?”
Dave Grundgeiger: “Staydream” is a production of Chicago 139, which is a Madison-based production company. We are a group of Madison-based filmmakers with the goal of creating studio-quality television productions right here in Madison. That was our goal that we started with about a year and a half ago. We started by spending some time to write a pilot episode for a web series — it’s a comedy web series. Episodes are going to be about 10 minutes. We do have the pilot available. We’ve been taking our time to make a quality production. Our mantra has been that we want something that you can put up alongside anything that you record off of Netflix and Hulu or anything like that and not be able to tell the difference. I think we got a very big step of the way there, not quite all the way there with the pilot. We know what we have to do. A lot of people tell us that the pilot itself was professional and they can’t tell the difference, but we can see the difference. We’re going to have something where literally you can’t tell the difference between that and a studio production.
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BH: Have you ever worked on any productions in the past?
DG: I have not. My professional background is I’m a software developer — I’ve been doing that for 25 plus years. As part of that, I’ve learned a lot about project management, so I think that’s what makes me well suited to be the producer of “Staydream.” The producer role is all about pulling things together and making sure that the project continues… I’ve managed my daughter’s acting career for about 10 years. I’ve been her manager, and one of the things that you learn in the field is that when you’re not working you should be self-producing it. That’s really how I got into the entertainment industry, and that’s where the bulk of my knowledge comes from.
BH: What is a summary of the plot of the pilot episode?
DG: “Staydream” is about a young film student who wonders why her life can’t be more like the classic film genres she’s studying. It’s a light-hearted comedy — it’s not a sketch-comedy at all. It’s real people with real dramatic situations who are trying to find their way through life. Inspirations have been shows like “Master of None,” “30 Rock,” “My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” things with that vibe. And so Nadia, the main character, at the beginning of the pilot has her heart set on… she gets accepted to USC as a filmmaker as a director, but then through unfortunate circumstances in her family, they actually can’t afford to send her. She’s from an unnamed Wisconsin town, a little town, and now she’s faced with trying to make her dreams real at her community college. One of the things we like about the premise is… how she sees life through the classic films, so we actually show that in the show. We see it through her eyes as well.
BH: Are you in search of actors and filmmakers?
DG: Yeah we very much are. We’re very interested in connecting with actors and crew — particularly people who are studying that. This is a vision that is a professional production, so folks who are in school studying acting, studying filmmaking, we very much want to connect with students who are doing that.
BH: Since 18 months went into this production, how do you feel now that it’s finally being released?
DG: I feel fantastic. A lot of blood, sweat and tears went into it. A lot of people worked hard, and with any filmmaking endeavor, there were setbacks. Our director, he slipped on the ice last January so he was out of commission for months while his back healed. We had other crazy situations and scheduling challenges, but we kept with. Every set back the group took as an opportunity to dig in, show their commitment, show that they were actually going to get this done, and I can’t tell you how incredible it’s been to work with this group of people.
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BH: This is the first ongoing production to be based in Madison in quite some time, so I’m sure that makes you feel proud too.
DG: I’m very proud. There actually was a Hulu Original show several years ago, I think it was 2009, called “Battleground,” that was entirely shot in Madison. Our hope is that we can follow in those footsteps. Sometimes people say, “Why Madison?” Madison has a great love of the arts. We have so many ways in which we’re world class. UW is a world-class university. UW has the dance department, it has the school of music. There’s no reason that we can’t be on par with Los Angeles, New York or Chicago.
BH: Since everything is based out of Madison, why is the production company called Chicago 139?
DG: I mentioned my daughter’s acting career, so for about the past 11 years, we had been traveling down to Chicago at least once a week, often more, for training and auditions. You get on the interstate from the Belt Line, the first mileage sign is “Chicago 139,” so over all those years I thought ‘That would be a good name for a production company.’
BH: Is there anything else about the show that you’d like readers to know?
DG: The one thing I’d like to leave readers with is that we are looking for more passionate people. This is going reach. There’s going to be a certain population of your readers are like, ‘Man that is so cool,’ so I really want those people to know that they can reach out to us and get involved in some way.