Film Short: Joke and Biagio Are Passionate About Work and Each Other!

Published On October 20, 2010 | By admin | Director, film, film production, Film Short, Filmmaker, filmmaking, Independent Film, television

One of the most fun and talented couples in reality television, film and on the internet is Joke and Biagio, who are a husband and wife producing team in both real and reel life.  Known for such shows as “Beauty and the Geek” and “Scream Queens” as well as for sharing their knowledge of the entertainment industry on their blog, these two are funny, smart and very savvy in business, so it is a pleasure to feature them this week on Filmmakers Notebook.

How did the two of you meet, marry and decide to become producers?

Biagio:  We were both junior transfers to the undergrad theatre, film and television program at UCLA.  It was the third day of school and I met Joke in the hall.  We got to talking and at one point she said, “I’m convinced the only way to make it in this business is to produce your own projects.”  I immediately knew I wanted to marry this girl!  As luck would have it, I’d just auditioned to be on a new game show called “Majority Rules”.  I said, “Hey I’m going on a new game show.  Maybe I’ll win some money and we’ll make a movie.”  A short time later I won $38,206.38.  That summer we made a movie together.  We produced, directed and acted in it together.  From there, I was cast on a TV show called “Kenan and Kell” and Joke went to work for a big time producer called Gale Anne Hurd (Terminator, Armageddon).  We just keep making stuff over the years and finally people started noticing.

Describe your creative process working as a team?

Joke:  Like any other creative process, it’s back and forth.  Usually, it starts with one of us having a seed idea.  If the other responds we’ll usually go back and forth until we feel we’ve cracked it, then we go out and pitch it.  In terms of existing shows, either challenges or storylines, we’ll throw things out, see if they land.  We both trust each other’s instincts a lot and that goes a long way.  That said, there are plenty of times we ask  to speak to our “spouse” and not to our “business partner” because sometimes you want support, not an analytical assessment of whether your idea has merit.

What’s the best part of working together and what do you find the most challenging?


Joke and Biagio

Joke:  Best part is that we’re building something together.  We’re investing in each other and in a shared goal.  It’s amazing to have someone to share the victories with and so comforting to have someone by your side that understands exactly how you feel in defeat.  As for the challenging part, the  fact that we are together all the time and self-employed, makes every minute of our day a minute to talk about work.  We do struggle to set time aside where we don’t talk shop.  We hold each other to that as much as we can, but we love what we do, we are inspired by our work, so even at those moments where work is off limits, we find ourselves discussing projects.  Then we laugh about it and change the subject.

Biagio:  For me, having come from a home where my parents divorced, I always knew I wanted to have a wife I could work together with and count as my best friend.  Boy did I luck out!  Joke is all that and more.  She really is my everything.  It would be horrible to have to work 15, 16, 17 hour days and never see her.  The long days are much easier when you’re working with the person you love.  The most challenging part is keeping up with her.  She’s a freakin’ genius from Belgium and I’m a kid from Cleveland.  I hold my own as best I can.

Do you have a preference when it comes to developing reality TV shows, producing films or creating other types of projects?

Joke: It may sound cheesy but we consider ourselves story tellers and whatever medium is best to tell the story is the one we use whether that be scripted, “reality” or doc.  Each genre fulfills something different in us, but the real satisfaction comes not from the genre but the story itself.

Biagio: Ditto that.  Sometimes a real life story is just better as a documentary than a scripted feature.  Some larger-than-life characters work best in a reality show that can explore them for several seasons.  And, of course, sometimes that story is meant to be boiled down to 120 pages of movie magic.  We refuse to let a story be limited to a specific medium if it will work better in another one, even if that means it’s best done as a web series.  Admittedly, the ones that work best as web series probably won’t keep the lights on long, so if we’re super passionate about two ideas that can tip the scales…but passion for a story always wins out. 

You’ve become known for offering so much helpful info on your blog, so what’s the one piece of valuable advice you’d give someone wanting to be a producer?

Joke:  Make something.  To be a producer you have to “produce”.  In every other business the “production” arm is where stuff actually gets made.  Only in Hollywood has the term “producer” been co-opted by all kinds of people who don’t actually do things.  It’s become a vanity title and that’s sad.  The truth is that in the industry people can find out very easily if you are the kind of producer that can actually make something or if you’re a producer in name only.

Biagio:  I think a producer should be comfortable picking up a camera, sitting down to edit footage, making simple graphics, doing a sound mix and, above all else telling a story.  Then, specialize in one or two “practical” skills and be smart enough to hire people who are better than you when you have a real budget.

At what point did the two of you feel like you had made it and “arrived” as producers?

Joke:  That’s a funny question, not sure how you define “arrived”.  Truth is, this is a very cyclical business.  The team that has a hit this year may not have a hit next year, but could have another hit in 10 years.  So, if “arrived” means success, then I don’t think any of us ever “arrive” .  You have to work hard to stay in the cycle.  If “arrived” means the time people started taking us seriously, I can point to a specific moment when Biagio and I – on our own – produced a sizzle reel for a TV show.  Our agents tried to talk us out of it, saying it would never sell, but we loved the stories so much we did it anyway.  It turned out so well that whomever we showed it to looked at us differently.  It was like we “arrived” in the club.  The show never ended up selling, agents were right on that point, but the value it added to our career was immeasurable, so our gut instinct to make something we were passionate about was correct.  Again, tell the stories you believe in and tell them well and you will “arrive”. 

Biagio:  I always said I just wanted to make stuff I was proud to show.  I think, for me, the first time we edited a pitch reel that looked like a real TV show, I’d felt like we’d arrived.  In my heart, I knew we had what it took…We’d just proved it to ourselves.  We were good enough.  Just had to let the rest of the world know.

Part 2 of this Q&A with Joke and Biagio will be in the next blog post on Filmmakers Notebook, so stay tuned.  In the meantime, you can find out more about this dynamic couple and their project on their website or follow them on twitter @jokeandbiagio.

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