Well, during the post-production phase of the film, we stumbled upon a MySpace contest hosted by FX’s It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. The idea was to submit a 5 minute pilot of a series that you created.
With the actors from our film easily available we decided to take a weekend and shoot an idea that our writers, Vlad and Yuri Baranovsky, had been mulling for a few weeks. The idea was for a TV comedy in the vein of Arrested Development but much darker — where people died, things exploded and the Child Actor’s Guild lived in the sewers. We wanted to create a fantastical, bizarre Hollywood and so… BREAK A LEG was born.
The five minutes that we shot didn’t win us the contest, in fact, we didn’t even get into the top ten. But something strange happened — a fanbase started to develop for the show. Several people wrote angry letters to FX for not choosing BREAK A LEG, and people started asking us for more episodes.
And that’s how, essentially, Happy Little Guillotine Studios became a company (we were then named, rather unfortunately, Late Again Films). BREAK A LEG was a big hit for us — part of it was the timing. With basically no other scripted series online (except for maybe The Burg), our show gotten amazing write-ups in places like the Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Chronicle and even The Times in London. Eventually, the first season of it was sold to FOX Italy for international distribution (at that time, a first of its kind deal), but even more interesting… it apparently helped cause the Tunisian revolution.
Let us explain. A fan of ours — from Tunisia — told us that under the strict Islamic government, western shows were basically banned. So many people turned to the web for their entertainment. BREAK A LEG somehow became very popular and was passed around, literally, by being ripped from the web and put on DVD, through the population. It was popular amongst different groups and, even more crazy, because it was decidedly Jewey (Yuri, the lead actor, is not only Jewish, but so is the main character he plays, David Penn) it, according to our fan, showed people that Jews were regular, good people and not the monsters their government portrayed. It, apparently, made the government look foolish and insane. Which, by the way, they were.
Is the story true? We have no idea. We haven’t been able to reach him since and we’ve never been able to verify the story (he told us that some people ripped the show and subtitled it in different languages, like Arabic and so on). But, we certainly hope it is, because, hey, if Twitter can ignite the Egyptian revolution, why can’t a silly web series about Hollywood start a Tunisian one?
Oh, and yes, we would love to do a second season one day and are, in fact, getting materials together to start pitching a second season around. Maybe we can start another revolution.