Why ‘Welcome Home’ is a must-see for 30-somethings
Some of the best television is written based on true experiences. Curb Your Enthusiasm is Larry David’s way of going after his Hollywood experiences. Aziz Ansari brought his experiences of being Middle Eastern in NYC to life in Master of None. But these are celebrities bringing to life their past experiences long after they became famous.
On the other hand, writer Bobby Chase is not well known in Hollywood, but will be now with the second season of his show Welcome Home, based on real life and returning to Amazon Prime.
After attending SUNY Plattsburgh, Chase moved to NYC to work in the indie film world and was doing well, until the money stopped coming in. After couchsurfing for a while, Chase was sick of the unstable job market and moved back to upstate New York.
Bobby Chase then took up a career within the advertising industry until he could get enough money to take another go at the film industry. The stories told in Welcome Home are based on his experiences after moving back home. Chase and his friends Dan Martin, Justin Alvis, and Amanda Stankavich all teamed up to turn those stories into the successful and award-winning first season of the Amazon Prime comedy.
Of course, it’s been three years since the first season of Welcome Home premiered, but Bobby Chase has kept himself busy. In honor of his brother who took his own life, Chase created the short film Jacob that told the story of the day his brother died and how he used humor as a coping mechanism.
The second season of Welcome Home is now available for streaming on Amazon Prime, and you can follow the show on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We were lucky enough to sit down with the director and writer of the show Bobby Chase to talk about the show and his growth over his career.
Tell us about your history as a filmmaker. How did you start your journey?
I went to college at SUNY Plattsburgh originally intending to study audio production through their communications program. I thought I would go into sound design for film/television or try my hand at becoming a music producer.
Then I took a television writing class at which I wrote a spec script for the TV show Seinfeld. Writing was fun and seemed much more natural to me than anything in the math or science field. From there I began taking more classes in filmmaking and continued writing and producing my own short films while on campus.
I then graduated and worked in the indie film scene for free as a production assistant and sound designer until I was hired at a recording studio as an editor and voiceover producer. Two years later, I found myself living in Brooklyn, NY writing spec scripts, producing two web series, and even interviewing comedy greats like Will Ferrell.
After going broke from the high costs of the city and low pay (I was once paid for a job with a pair of used shoes; I wore them for a year.) I took a job back home in upstate New York at a CBS affiliate producing and directing TV commercials while continuing to develop my own stuff on the side.
Once I was back on my feet financially, I met with my friends Dan Martin, Justin Alvis, and Amanda Stankavich and we began to develop the idea that would eventually become Welcome Home.
Who were your early influences?
Being a comedy guy, some of my early influences were John Hughes, Harold Ramis, Judd Apatow, and Seth Macfarlane.
How was working on Welcome Home? What did you learn from the experience?
It was a fun and stressful experience. For the second season we had 68 speaking roles and more locations than the first season. Most of our cast including the producers have full-time jobs, so trying to schedule everything was quite the nightmare.
Three of our cast members also became pregnant right before principal photography, so we ended up having to write that in. Compromise is often vital to fast moving projects such as ours and we found ourselves often rewriting on set as problems are a constant in filmmaking. I think you need to find a healthy balance of your initial vision and compromise, otherwise it could cripple your project.
Tell us about your career before film and TV.
I guess since I went to college for communications, I wouldn’t really call any of my jobs before film and TV a career. I’ve worked at a carwash, a fire & water restoration company, a summer camp as a camp counselor, and K-Mart – though I spent more time huffing the helium balloons and getting on the store intercom than actually working.
I also had my own mobile DJ company back in high school, so that helped me get by financially. My last job before landing anything in the TV and film world was with GE working as an intern for the engineers.
I had no clue what I was doing, but they paid really well. I had a communications degree and was horrible at math, but my father worked there and got me the job. The main thing I think I learned was how to bullsh**. So, I guess my communications degree did come in handy.
Where did the concept come from for Welcome Home?
It was something Justin Alvis, Dan Martin, Amanda Stankavich, and I were going through or have gone through. We’ve all had to move back in with our parents later on in life because life was kicking us in the balls and the same thing was happening with a lot of our friends, so we knew that it would be very relatable.
Tell us about your creative process.
I’m big into development. I guess that’s because I started off as a writer before directing, but I like to spend the majority of my time on the script. It is by far the most important part and the easiest and cheapest to fix. We’ve all seen great action movies that look great and sound great, but their stories suck. We are story-driven people. We’ve been since we were kids.
Like most indie filmmakers, I write, produce, direct, and edit. I was never really big into directing, but it’s a necessity for a writer who wants to get their stories made and being the editor also gives you a great amount of control on the final product. If you can, learn as much as possible and try to take on more than just one hat. It might be the only way to survive in this newly evolving film market.
What tips do you have for new filmmakers?
Make bold choices. This goes especially for writers. I’ve seen a lot of network TV and Hollywood films that try to appeal to a very broad audience and their product is watered down because of it. Now is the time to be as specific as possible with your project. There are plenty of niche audiences just waiting for something tailored specifically to them.
Also, your voice is very unique. You are the only one who can articulate your story in a certain way. That is worth everything. Fight for that as much as possible without being an a**hole and going to war, and you will most certainly stand out.
You’re very hands-on with your projects. How hard is it wearing all the hats?
It is certainly difficult and stressful. But I think the more hats you wear, the more control you have over the project and the more of your sensibility shines though. Plus wearing more hats will give you more insight and allow you to communicate better with your actors and crew.
What’s your next project?
I’ve just wrapped a short film titled Dementia that will premiere at the Adirondack Film Festival in October, and I’m currently writing a feature film as well as a limited television series.
Have you worked with mentors in the past? How would you recommend people go about finding them?
I’ve worked with mentors in the past, though I probably didn’t realize they were mentors at the time. It’s hard to give advice on seeking one out. Most of the time they just seem to form organically or through someone you know.
I think my first mentor was my college advisor, Tim Clukey. He taught me a lot about audio and gave me plenty of advice in navigating the digital media world. I believe he was assigned to me, but don’t tell him that. If Tinder created an app for students and college advisors, I’d like to think that we both would have swiped right.
Another one of my mentors was Jeff Knight, who taught me editing and motion graphics. He’s someone I reached out to after college. My friend was an actor in one of his movies and he told me he needed some help with audio, so I reached out and told him I’d work for free. Jeff’s recently worked on projects for Sony Pictures creating motion graphics and promos for movies like The Equalizer 2.
What’s your filmmaking mission? Name the most important thing you want viewers to experience when watching your movies.
As a filmmaker, what inspires me is the ridiculousness of the world that we live in and its often negative undertones. I’ve always been one who tries to find some sort of humor in a negative situation.
I’d like viewers to be able to escape from their own crap-filled days and ultimately learn from a character’s downfalls and personal issues through humor. I think that humor is the best way to get someone to listen and pay attention – if done well.
Your life has been filled with many struggles and adversities. How have these informed your vision as a creative?
I had the misfortune of finding my brother’s body after he took his own life. That’s a different kind of funeral. The tone is completely different. No one really knew what to do or how to react and a lot of them seemed to look to me for some sort of leadership.
I somehow managed to incorporate my sense of humor, somewhat changing the atmosphere. Everyone seemed more relaxed and started to speak more freely. It was there I realized I could use my background as a filmmaker and sense of humor in order to make people enjoy life again.
I’ve recently completed a short film about the entire experience of that day titled Jacob, which aired on PBS and is now available on Amazon and IndieFlix. Jacob won two Audience Choice Awards and Best Drama at the New York State International Film Festival.
Jacob was incredibly difficult to make, but I’m very proud of how it turned out. On a positive note, proceeds from the film are being donated to the American Foundation For Suicide Prevention.
What filmmakers should be on our radar?
Jim Cummings is currently doing some pretty incredible things in the industry. Also, Eliaz Rodriguez and Micah Kahn are some younger up-and-coming directors that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting through the festival circuit.
What’s your favorite film of all time? What’s your favorite TV show? What did you learn from them?
This is a tough question to narrow it down to just one. I’m a big fan of A Bronx Tale and I think Wedding Crashers is a near-perfect comedy movie. It has a great hook, sharp writing, and unforgettable performances. I think its only con is it’s just a tad too long.
My favorite TV show would probably have to be Modern Family. The writing is insanely sharp and witty and I love shows and movies that utilize ensemble casts. Also, everyone in the cast is brilliant.
I think I’ve learned a lot from the writing. Modern Family utilizes almost every bit of the page and the joke ratio is impressive. They also infuse a great amount of subtle jokes which makes it even more fun for the viewer when they go back and watch it again.