Interview: The creator of APT, Kevin Scott

The title sure is apt

Today, something different! Kevin Scott, a friend of mine, made his own TV show called APT. It’s a sitcom about three roommates and their apartment. It’s available on YouTube, and for Toronto residents, Rogers TV. He graciously allowed me to interview him about his show. We talk about the creation of the show, decisions made around the setting and plot, getting it on the air, and plans for the future. Enjoy, and go watch APT, starting with episode 1, to support Kevin! It’s free on the Internet.

Andrew: What made you decide to use your apartment as a setting? Is it because it would be expensive/difficult to shoot in the outside world?

Kevin: I used to do sketch comedy, so budget was and is always a concern. So I was thinking about possible ideas that could be done on the cheap, and I wanted to do something story-based not sketch-based. So I thought about locations I could use that wouldn’t cost much or nothing at all. And a typical sitcom uses an apartment setting, in addition to others, so I thought I would just use the one set, the apartment. And guess who had an apartment?

You did! Not many people have apartments.

Well, everyone does! Everyone could make a show in an apartment if they wanted to. So I thought I could tell funny stories on the cheap, so that’s why I decided to set it in an apartment.

Did you ever feel limited in your storytelling ability by your decision to set it in an apartment?

Definitely, I think from doing sketch comedy, you are always thinking about budget. So I’m so used to writing for budget that I will cut ideas out of my mind very quickly if it’s too expensive. The problem sometimes is that we have scenes where you think “That scene should probably take place outside the apartment, how do I get that scene to happen inside the apartment?” There are episodes that I watch now and go, “that doesn’t make sense that that scene would be in the apartment!” Sometimes it seemed contrived to get a scene in the apartment, which really should have taken place outside the apartment. That’s the biggest thing that comes up.

And you had to have a lot of stuff happen off screen, like the episode with the party and the sweater–you couldn’t see any of it happen because it wasn’t in your apartment.

That’s right. We had toyed with the idea of having photographs of the party, just quick snapshots. We were going to have a party, and we were going to take snapshots. But we ended up deciding that that would be cheating on the rule of not leaving the apartment.

The sweater in question

So was that actually a rule that you set up for yourself?

After a while it became a rule, yeah.

But you still had the lobby.

Yes, but that doesn’t break the rule because people are watching it on the TV from inside the apartment. The closest we came to breaking the rule was people outside the door, taking a shot from behind them looking into the apartment. We extended the rule to include looking into the apartment. Colin, who shoots the episodes, the cinematographer, felt guilty, like we were cheating on the rule by shooting from the hallway. But the rule became if you were looking into the apartment whatsoever, you were fine.

So what was the craziest idea you had that you had to cut out for any reason, budget, couldn’t be done in the apartment, etc.?

We had a lot of crazy ideas that were just too out there. One that we did that might still get made at some point is where we find a portal in the apartment, and one person goes through the portal. And the other two talk about what to do, do we go in after him, that sort of thing.

I immediately thought about having an alternate universe, with evil Kevin, and that sort of thing.

That was an idea that came up. That he goes through the portal, and it’s the same apartment, but all skewed and exaggerated. We talked about making everything the same except the opposite, but we would have had to move everything in the apartment. That might be what you’re talking about budgetary constraints. It would be a bitch to move everything around and back into place afterward.

That’s the kind of thing you can’t do because you have so few people involved in the show instead of a whole crew.

And we’d need an actual set, so we wouldn’t have to mess up where we live.

[Kevin tries to read my notes and questions that I had written down, pre-interview. I offer him the chance to read the questions himself, he declines.]

How did the process work, going from an idea for a TV show, or an idea of wanting to do a TV show, and making it, going from putting it on YouTube and then later taking it to Rogers TV? How did that process go from start to YouTube to Rogers?

I’m glad that you asked that. Good question! Well, it wasn’t initially conceived as a TV show, but me and my bro Curtis, who should get a mention, and Colin, were going to do a project that was very sketch-based at first. And we were pretty far along in the process, we had a bunch of scripts. It was going to be one of those deals where each skit ties into the next, like Mr. Show, with David Cross and Bob Odenkirk [who is Saul, from Breaking Bad, not Saw, from the Saw franchise, despite a slight misunderstanding]. We were trying to do something like that, and then right before we were going to shoot it, I just wasn’t that excited.

You just wanted to try something different?

I wanted to do something more story-based. More funny story-based, that wasn’t just a series of sketches that were just one joke, just get in get out. I wanted to use a three-act structure.

That lets you tell one story in a bigger, longer period of time, like the sweater episode, which stretches out the story of the sweater from beginning to end.

It was kind of like a Seinfeld, Curb Your Enthusiasm thing, where I wanted to have storylines intersect sometimes. That one has it more than others, but it happens in other episodes as well. I wanted funny stories, rather than just premises for skits where there isn’t much reality to it, just jokes.

Did you enjoy getting to work with the same characters, and trying to differentiate between them?

The portrayal of all the characters went like this: Graeme was the straight-man, who I refer to as the Paul Rudd, who reacts to everything, hopefully in a funny way. I was the fool, so nothing like my actual personality. And Roman is the wild card.

The best scene with Roman is in the episode with the gun where he’s sweating a lot while holding the gun.

Yeah, that was Colin’s idea. As soon as anyone held the gun, they would be drenched in sweat.

Roman's got a gun

So did you guys spray each other with water or go to the sink?

We had a spray bottle on set, actually. We shot another episode where there was a storm, and whenever someone would enter the apartment, they’d have to be drenched in water. So we would just get in the shower before shooting.

We got a bit off topic, let’s go back to talking about the process of creating the show and putting it online.

I set about writing, I wrote the first eight, I believe, and they were all 10-page scripts, 8-minute episodes. We started shooting them, and putting them online. [Kevin tells a “funny story” that we eventually decide is just a happy ending coincidence story. Also, the “funny story” happened right around two years ago!] I heard from a brother’s girlfriend’s cousin that Rogers TV was looking for new content. So we went to the Rogers TV website, where we pitched the show, and put a link to the YouTube channel. Then in December I heard back that they wanted to take a meeting. We discussed the project, and they committed to showing the first ones that we had, a special one episode with what we had. Then they committed to six episodes. [Kevin would also like to thank this cousin that mentioned Rogers TV to him.]

What was Rogers’ initial reaction to APT?

Well, when I went in to meet with Rogers, I thought I was going to meet with the original woman that I’d pitched the show to. But when I went in to have the meeting, it was with someone completely different, and I had to pitch the show all over again. I was pitching the show, describing the characters, saying that one is like Kramer, one is the buffoon, and Brian [the Rogers employee] said, “so he’s like the Costanza?” And so I knew he was alright. The swearing though was also a thing.

What’s Rogers TV, is that just network TV swearing level, you can’t say fuck?

I’m learning as I go, as to what they can and can’t show. Definitely your fucks, shits, motherfuckers, Carlin’s seven dirty words, can’t say any of those. We had already done 6 episodes that ahd swearing in t hem.

You probably had all of the 7 words in there.

The episode “The Cake Thief” involves us saying the word shit a lot, and it never aired on Rogers. For some of the others, we did some great, great dubwork. But this episode just had too many shits.

What did you change the swearing into, how did that work?

We tried to cut as much of the swearing as possible. We bleeped some swearing. One of the ones that Rogers bleeped is when we changed “motherfucker” to “motherfather,” and they still bleeped it!

I think they must have just not heard it right. Motherfather is just nonsense!

That was the packing heat episode, that had the most swearing. There was one where Graeme said “fucking assholes, both of you” and we changed it to “friggin hassles,” which I thought was great. Colin gets credit for that one, good idea! That didn’t get bleeped, but if you say friggin hassles, it sounds a lot like friggin assholes. Edgar Wright is really funny when he dubs stuff, he uses the same word for fuck every time for the PG-13 version. He actually wants to make the TV/PG-13 version dubbing as bad as possible, with no variation to make the words realistic in those versions.

One more thing on the censoring: we had an episode recently that I thought was okay, but apparently they didn’t. The premise of the episode was that I get handcuffed to my bed, and over the course of the episode, 4 days, eventually I have to go to the bathroom, so I pee in a bottle, and they wouldn’t show the pee in a bottle on the air. They blocked it out. They put a block over the pee, and the block was so bad that you could still see the pee! So why even bother censoring that if people could see it anyway?

So they were okay with you getting fake shot, and having a gun around the apartment, but no peeing in bottles?

Yeah, or just no pee at all on the air, apparently. We all do it. You pee, I pee. It seems like they should be able to show natural bodily functions. I never heard from them though, I thought someone would say “what’s with the pee?” but that never happened.

So they don’t give you a list of things you can’t put on the air?

Well they gave me an initial list, which included three things: no swearing, no violence, and no bloodshed.

But you had violence and bloodshed!

Well, there’s no actual violence and bloodshed, it’s all faked. They actually didn’t want to air that episode first, because they weren’t sure if they could show it. So they showed the episodes out of the order until they got the okay to air that one. I feel like we got away with one there, though. We came pretty close to violence and bloodshed. I feel like we won the battle. But there’s a lesson learned at the end of the episode, that guns are bad.

One more question: what’s the next step?

I just handed over the last episode yesterday, actually. Last night I went home and didn’t know what to do with myself, I didn’t have to worry about episodes anymore. The next step is to put together a nice DVD of all the episodes, some commentary, maybe a gag reel, and shop it around, make up some good pitches. The best part of the bitch is that we’ve already done the show, so it would be cheap. Maybe CBC, or the Comedy Network. The ultimate goal would be to get paid to have it on television.

What would your dream writing job be, on a show that’s airing now?

Either Parks and Rec or Community. I’d just like to get paid to write, though ideally I’d get to do this show, because it’s my own show.

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Comments
2 Responses to “Interview: The creator of APT, Kevin Scott”
  1. H. Smith says:

    The gun episode aired this morning July 18, just a few days after the Danzig shooting in Scarborough. This episode isn’t funny and airing it today was very poor judgement.
    Who’s asleep at the wheel? Rogers should have cancelled this episode.

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