My Ruined Life: Poking fun at everyday troubles with the help of some Philly musicians
Lee Porter has a fascination for two things: film-making, and local folk scene mainstay David Falcone’s monstrous beard.
Sprinkled in with a bit of comedy, he’s combined the two together, somehow convincing Falcone, who frequently plays World Cafe Live, and his facial hair to make his acting debut in a three-minute webisode called “Sales” (about shaving, who would have guessed?) for Porter’s series, My Ruined Life.
In the episode, actor Nathan Holt tries to sell shaving cream for the company he works for by targeting random passer-bys in a park.
Holt remains unsuccessful, but the comedic aspect of the short begins when Falcone enters the shot.
Dressed casually, he walks up to Holt and stands with his massive beard and long, fluffed locks of hair, staring at Nate and camera. End scene, cue laughter.
And though this is Falcone’s first acting performance, it isn’t Porter’s first time behind the camera.
“This is my baby,” Porter said. “This is my project I started myself.”
He gathered a group of four actors along with animators, musicians and more together to form the series in 2011. Now, the group is in their third season, releasing a new three-minute short every Sunday at 5 p.m. The plot now stars two characters, Brian and Eric, played by actors Brian Cowden and Eric Wunsch who meet up after work on a various park benches in the Philadelphia area to comedically discuss “their ruined lives.”
To keep things exciting, Porter started reaching out to Philly musicians during the second season. Typically, the local artists meet up with Brian and Eric to perform a song, or just join in on the two’s discussions.
So far, aside from Falcone, Porter’s featured Sean Huber of Steady Hands and Modern Baseball (who also edits for the series), Nero Catalano of Work Drugs (who composed and sung the webiseries’ theme song), as well as Dan Bruskewicz and John Machiz, the vocalist/guitarist and bassist for folk/punk group TJ Kong & The Atomic Bomb.
Work Drugs is known for its electro-pop feel, self-described as “sedative wave,” but Catalano, the bassist, stepped aside from its sound by Porter’s request for the sake of the series.
Porter describes coming up with the theme song as a “wonderful creative process.” He said he had something in mind upon reaching out to Catalano, who he wanted to compose the short piece.
“I remember he sent me an email with two songs as a reference,” Catalano said. “It was a kind of barroom, blues kinds of thing and I basically tried to make something up with the songs he sent me.”
The final product is nearly unrecognizable compared to popular Work Drugs tracks like “License to Drive” off of Absolute Bearing released in 2009 and “Rad Racer” off of Summer Blood released in 2011.
My Ruined Life released the 10th episode of its 13-part season this past Sunday. And though it didn’t have a direct tie to a Philly musician, Brian does talk about a new idea to sell children’s books he calls “remix.”
“They do it with rap and techno music all the time. Why can’t we do it with children’s literature?” he remarks.
This Sunday, Porter still strays from a musical influence, but will keep audiences entertained with “Workouts,” where Eric tries to tie in a creative way of getting in shape and advertising the shaving company he works for. And really, it’s creative.
I’d go on, but no spoilers, folks.
For Bruskwicz, it was all about the creativity of the experience and about the chance to play some tunes for an audience that may have never heard of rockers TJ Kong before.
Bruskewicz, who said he was a writer before he was a musician, met Porter last February at “Writer’s Night in America,” a monthly writer’s workshop he hosted at Jose Poistola’s in center city. The vocalist / guitarist said all the members in TJ Kong & the Atomic Bomb are avidly involved in Philadelphia’s arts community, no matter what the medium may be.
“I just think that’s what makes working in Philly so easy and creatively stimulating,” Bruskewicz said. “It’s the communal aspect.”
In the video, “Dibs,” the two briefly tone down their gritty, blues-rock sound, something Bruskewicz said wasn’t a problem for him. Brian, who meets Eric after work, gets offended that Eric’s meeting his friends, Bruskewicz and Machiz.
“You can’t have a concert on a bench!” Brian remarks.
Sure enough, they can, and they did. The two performed their foot-stomping, raspy sound, reflective of Catalano’s theme for the series, while the actors danced around the two.
Not all of Porter’s webisodes have as strong of a tie to Philly’s music scene, but he said he tried to use his ties to the community whenever he can.
“I’m friends with a lot of musicians and I’m a huge music fan, so why don’t we try this a little more?” Porter said. “It’s also a way for my comedic audience who might not be in tune with the Philly music scene [to find out about new bands].”