The new MTV(other) series “Social Media Special-Ops” (“SMS”), debuting today, was born of creator Eric Ian Goldberg’s love-hate relationship with the internet.
“You can learn about any subject with the click of a button, but instead of doing that, you spend all of your time refreshing Instagram or trying to find out if people you knew in high school gained a ton of weight,” Goldberg told VideoInk. “It can be really toxic. We all take it so seriously. Every post could presumably live online forever. We could screw up this interview right now and be tainted for life. I find it frightening/hilarious that social media has so much power over us, so I wanted to create a show that highlights how absurd it could get.”
“SMS” stars Anu Valia (previously seen in videos for IFC, “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and CollegeHumor) as Kelly, the field commander for SMS, a shadowy organization created to make sure that, in the character’s words, “social media crimes don’t fall through social media cracks,” whether it’s the theft of an internet celebrity’s phone or a dead man whose fantasy baseball team remains inexplicably active.
The series also features Nate Fernald (named one of the New Faces of Comedy at this year’s Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal) as new recruit Spitzy and Mehran Khaghani (from season 9 of NBC’s “Last Comic Standing”) as team muscle Bruno.
“I combined this idea with a crime procedural because the stakes on those shows are always so high and it gave us a formula we could immediately recognize and play with,” Goldberg said.
“Then once we had our procedural angle, we worked in a somewhat meta approach that walked a fine line between embracing that style and making fun of it,” added Matt Kazman, who co-wrote the series with Goldberg, as well as directed. “Because those shows can be ridiculous with how seriously they take themselves too.”
MTV (other) is the digital content studio for MTV that serves as a creative hub for burgeoning writers, directors and talent. Since launching in 2013, it has produced such short-form series as “The Untitled Web Series That Morgan Evans Is Doing for MTV”, “Decoded,” featuring Franchesca Ramsey, and “Braless,” starring Laci Green, which is currently in its third season.
“SMS” came to MTV (other) via its director of development Brendan Kennedy, who had been a fan of Goldberg and Kazman’s previous work, including their series “Love’s a Bitch,” which also featured Valia.
Goldman and Kazman have known Valia since their college days at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. The rest of the cast was drawn from the New York comedy community.
“We wanted to cast actors that fit the archetypes of these kinds of shows perfectly, but could find a way to put a twist on them,” Goldberg said. “I tend look for people that are so good it makes me angry, and I just try to work with them instead of hate them.”
The series was shot over the course of five days with a crew of 10 to 12 people, mostly friends of Goldberg and Kazman. They primarily used practical locations, including the MTV office, a loft space, Goldberg’s apartment and the streets of New York City.
“It was so cold when we shot this, you can probably see the camera shaking in all the exterior scenes,” said Kazman, who has directed and/or edited branded video content for companies such as Glamour Magazine, CollegeHumor, Vice and Maybelline. “It adds to the style, but it was probably because the DP was freezing his ass off.”
For additional pick-up shots with, Kazman just used his smart phone.
“We went to a bar with [Laura Kleinbaum, who plays Ricki] and just… filmed a bunch of stuff with her in character,” Kazman said. “We also filmed a video of her puking into a baby’s stroller in a coffee shop, which sadly didn’t make the cut.”