RocketJump: The Show: The Update

Hi! My name is Ben M. Waller and I have been with RocketJump for four years now. I used to sit in my crappy apartment and send my parents Freddiew videos every morning, starting the email with, “If only these guys were hiring…” At the time, I was finishing up a documentary; I would bring hard drives into the Apple Store and plug into their Mac Pro towers because my computer at home wasn’t powerful enough to handle color correction and rendering (computers used to have to render footage!) Apple didn’t like the idea of me using their retail front as a co-working space, so I finished the documentary and stepped into unemployment. But that’s when I found a craigslist post that was clearly written by Freddie, found the email of the domain holder of the old FW website, and barraged them until I got an interview. Said interview consisted of cutting this video together. Hundreds of videos later, and I’m now showrunning of RocketJump’s latest show… RocketJump: The Show!

Wait, what is the show?

RocketJump started as a group of friends who made weekly videos and took you behind the scenes to show our process. And as we’ve grown to the point where we’ve become a modern “digital production studio” hybrid (or whatever it makes sense to call it) and are making full-on tv shows, we still wanted to make a show that reflected those roots… This is that show. Every episode you follow us as we ideate, create, and release a short that is at once in line with our classic videos, but enlarged to fit the scope and size of larger Hollywood productions. And every episode takes you inside RocketJump to learn about the crew and show the trials and tribulations of doing something chaotic as filmmaking. The end result will be a little bit BTS, a little bit action comedy extravaganza, and hopefully a lotta bit of heart. Just like the company, the show is a hybrid: ‘Project Greenlight meets Parks and Rec meets Looney Toons’… okay that one is a tri-brid.

Development is a long and strange process.

We have two amazing partners to help us bring it to life. Lionsgate believed in us enough to give us a first look deal, and this show was the first product of that agreement. Together, we then took the show to Hulu. They signed on and agreed to support us 100% on their platform. It’s hard enough to find an audience online, let alone finding the people who want to finance your creativity, and so far we couldn’t have asked for better partners.

But since television development is such a strange and cryptic process, I wanted to share a little bit of the story so that it all seems just a little bit less nebulous. So here are the several levels of “pitching” that had to happen to bring the show to where it is now.

  • June 2014: I pitched the show internally to the RJ Crew and everyone liked the idea of getting back to shorts and BTS. We spent a few weeks refining the “one-sheet” and took that to Lionsgate. Basically, when you want to get something made, you don’t walk into a room like Shark Tank. You send somebody a PDF and hope for the best.
  • July 2014: We have a few pitch meetings where we get to to talk about the show and now LGF is in, and from there they want to find a good home for the show and distribution. We start taking calls and having meetings. As this is a “documentary” show (aka reality) most of the networks can’t understand why we’d want to make a show where nobody was drunk, nobody got fired, and the only romance was between Jamie and his scooter.
  • August 2014: We have a great meeting with Hulu where we pitch them the idea. No ridiculous sizzle reel, no inane slide presentation, just ideas and conversation. They ask a few questions. We answer. They seem in. We get an official call later. They’re in. Boom.
  • September 2014-March 2015: The crew assembles! On the shorts side, Ashim Ahuja, who we had just produced Every 90s Commercial Ever and London Brawling with us comes on as Producer. We put together our writing team including new-to-RocketJump hires Anthony Burch, Ashly Burch, and Darnell Murphy Jr. We simultaneously begin work on the documentary and bring in Nathan Koepp, a fellow BTS editor and shooter who comes on as Story Producer. We get to work and develop the show over a long period of time. We begin to try to answer problems and run though constant shifts and incarnations of the show. Is it more of a sketch show? Is it more of a work place comedy? In the end, it becomes closer to what was originally pitched.
  • March 2015: Oh shit, we have to actually make this thing! We enter heavy-pre-production, we narrow down a list from our 30 favorite shorts to the best 8. We realize some are too expensive. We divy up direction duties. We hit the ground running.
  • April 2015: We film part of the first short which we’ll just affectionately call “Bus Puncher” while simultaneously prepping the other shorts while simultaneously cutting existing footage into a trailer for an industry event known as the “NewFronts.” You can watch that trailer here!
  • May 2015 to RIGHT NOW: In the blink of an eye, we find ourselves in the last week of shooting. It has been a crazy month, but well worth it. Rather than spend any more effort or word count on describing the shoot, just take a look at the photos below.

In short, it has almost been a year since we started talking about the show, and we are just now entering the last week of production. For a lot of people, creating a television show takes even longer than that. We are beyond lucky and beyond excited. But we have so much work left to do. You have to remind yourself that everyday you are starting from scratch. Right now, Rocketjump: The Show is just 40 TB of data sitting on our servers and it’s our job to cut it into something great. Something that you hopefully love as much as we already do.

Get ready for some bus-punching.

-Ben