A comedy TV show set amid the office politics of putting on a Renaissance festival featuring the talents of MST3K and Freaks & Geeks
About this project
WHAT IT IS
RenFest is a TV comedy that explores the office politics of putting on a Renaissance festival, and all the quirky personalities involved. This particular festival has the unfortunate experience of hiring Elisabeth Crönk as the new assistant general manager—she is a clueless yet tirelessly optimistic and politically correct academic historian that is oblivious to the festival culture—and AK, her Somali-American assistant.
For the crafters, vendors, acts and players—all the accountants and dental hygienists cum gallant lords and royal maidens—the festival is already everything it should be: fun. But for Elisabeth, it’s a chance to give children an historically authentic educational experience addressing the crisis in American education, and that doesn’t include storm troopers or faeries.
Politics and battles of profound import and little consequence ensue. RenFest is a thoroughly entertaining workplace satire that will have you snorting your turkey leg as it skewers today’s complex social and workplace issues ripped from the headlines and writ ridiculously small—but with a big heart.
Sample future episodes below.
Let’s face it: Hollywood doesn’t know how to make comedies about nerds without mocking them. We do, and it’s better humor. The show’s creators are all seasoned professionals, we know what we’re doing, we already did it in proof-of-concept form with a 2-minute trailer and a 10-minute mini-pilot that you’ll get to see if you pledge, and it’s world class and funny as heck. We’ve got a full and excited production team standing by and ready to rock and we want to make a full-length pilot and many more episodes – with the help of everyone who:
WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING ABOUT RENFEST:
“Rennies and MSTies together at last?! What’s that? Gruber too? Is this my birthday?! This is the best idea ever!” —Hob the Troll
PLEDGE AND YOU GET TO WATCH THE 10-MINUTE PILOT – FREE!
***JOIN THE “GUILD” BY BACKING THE PROJECT AND GET TO WATCH THE SECRET 10 MINUTE MINI-PILOT OF RENFEST!***
We have made a mini-pilot that you get to watch by pledging, and we have mapped out the next several half-hour episodes of the series. Here is just a sampling of some of the episodes we have in mind:
COWBOYS IN KILTS Elisabeth lands the job as second assistant GM and bumbles her way into overturning a lot of the natural political balance of the festival. An edict by Lloyd over a proposed sports bar throws the land into further disarray.
QUEEN ELISABETH “Queen” Elisabeth issues “inauthenticity citations,” causing a mutiny. Lloyd regains the upper hand. AK has to play messenger between opposing Renaissance camps. Viking does some magic to resolve the situation.
GAMES OF THRONES Lloyd’s idea for a Game of Thrones throne becomes a surprise hit. The king and queen get in a pissing match that divides the royalty, while a strike at the porta-potty company takes all things throne to a medieval level.
THE MOOR AK fights to have a Somali Day at RenFest and Elisabeth experiences conflict between her need for authenticity and her belief in diversity, and must navigate a path between differing views of political correctness.
WINKED IN A conflict erupts when Elisabeth lists herself as a “creator” of RenFest. An endorsing war ensues as festival denizens jockey for online status, and the program starts sending out prompts to congratulate people on their new RenFest positions. Meanwhile, Elisabeth loses her special badge, setting off a fest-wide hunt.
JUGGLING JOKERS A battle ensues when in Lloyd’s absence Elisabeth hires a new juggler who is a technical master and uses authentic period weapons but doesn’t know how to tell a joke; and hires a stand-up comedian she thinks is hilarious, but who has no physical comedy routine. Meanwhile, a lost joker in a canasta game divides the crafters.
A LINE IN THE SAND Elisabeth draws a line in the sand at the mermaid pond, arguing over what is authentic: the actual fact that there were no mermaids, or the actual fact of Renaissance-era belief in mermaids. Authenticity and commerce battle with beauty, while a cosmetics salesman derails things. Viking settles a debate over Muslims inventing Renaissance science. Hijabs forever.
ROYALS Who rules RenFest? The king and queen go passive-aggressive with the national acts and the administration, including Elisabeth. Second class citizens unite! When is a coronation not a coronation? A Renaissance psychiatrist is prescribing everyone antidepressants, but somehow things keep getting worse.
TURKEY LEGS A controversy erupts when a James Beard Award-winning chef opens a food stand and sets off a competition for the business of festival foodies. Should RenFest be about locally sourced free range gourmet food? Meanwhile, a case of jock itch breaks out over a misplaced pair of leather pants.
PLAYTRON A new aspiring actor attempts to wile his way in to festival employment but Elisabeth has to talk to him about his weirdly creepy jokes. What is appropriate and inappropriate in an “office” full of double entendre? Elisabeth tries to define it in a contract, which causes an uproar.
ILLEGAL ALIENS Strange beings arrive from another planet. RenFest royalty descend from another festival, causing a reality inversion and immigration issues, while AK has flashbacks to the camp in Kenya. Who is a real RenFest citizen? A festival-on-festival competition and cookoff to support charity ends badly.
DIRT CIRCUIT An unexpected player breaks out big. An opportunity arises to blow up to the dirt circuit, which brings office animosities and insecurities to the fore. Meanwhile, a windstorm inundates the festival with dirt, and Elisabeth gets into a heated argument over climate change adaptation measures.
Our initial goal will fund one episode. We have stretch goals to fund additional episodes.
Trace Beaulieu is a comic actor, writer, producer, and goofball. He was a founding member of the Emmy nominated, Peabody Award-winning, hit cult show Mystery Science Theater 3000(MST3K). For MST3K, he performed the puppet character Crow T. Robot and the mad scientist, Dr. Clayton Forrester. Trace also played a recurring character on Freaks & Geeks and has had cameo appearances on The West Wing and Arrested Development For six years, he toured with the original cast of MST3K in a live movie riffing show called Cinematic Titanic Trace also wrote for ABC’s America’s Funniest Home Videos for nine seasons. Trace is currently the voice of A.R.T. the robot on Paul Feig’s Other Space on Yahoo TV.
Mary Jo Pehl was a writer and actor on the critically-acclaimed, Peabody Award-winning Mystery Science Theater 3000, and a writer/performer/producer with Cinematic Titanic, the live stage version of MST3K. As a standup comedian, Mary Jo has appeared on Comedy Centraland A&E, and in stage productions in New York and Los Angeles. She has also contributed to RiffTrax. Her work is featured in several anthologies, and her commentaries have aired on NPR’s All Things Considered and Weekend America, and The Savvy Traveler on Public Radio International. She is currently touring with her hilarious show chronicling her life as a former crossword puzzle clue.
Shawn Otto is an award-winning screenwriter, producer, novelist, and science advocate. His credits include writing and coproducing the movie House of Sand and Fog which was nominated for three Academy Awards. In television, Shawn has worked for Starz, Lions Gate, and Epix, and has worked as a writer and developed and sold a television show under legendary TV writer/producer Joel Surnow, co-creator of 24. His recent novel Sins of Our Fathers was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize.
Paul Sadeghi is a creative production executive with over 15 years production, post, and digital content. As VP of Operations for Minneapolis-based creative studio, Pixel Farm. With capabilities ranging from live action and VFX to animation, music, and gaming, Pixel Farm is a national leader in multi-platform creative content with a client roster that includes Target, Minnesota Twins, 3M, Purina, among others. As a producer and postproduction supervisor, Sadeghi has contributed to numerous film, TV, and branded content projects. Sadeghi worked on blockbusters such as Hellboy, Sin City, and The Day After Tomorrow with the San Francisco-based visual effects studio, The Orphanage. In addition to managing the editorial team, Paul maintained a key role at The Orphanage’s Original Productions division, leading to the development and production of the films Legion and Priest.
Joe Schaak is an award-winning director and producer who has been entertaining audiences worldwide, and his resume includes directing recognition at Cannes, MoMA, Clios, Effies, AICP Show Honor, The One Show and various Addy awards. His work has also been cited in Adweek’s Best Spots, Communication Arts, Boards, D&AD, and SHOOT’s Director to Watch. He has collaborated with agencies such as Saatchi & Saatchi, Leo Burnett, DDB, Publicis, Taxi, BBDO, Carmichael Lynch, Campbell Mithun and Rethink. He has also worked with William Shatner, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Danny DeVito, Deion Sanders, Shaquille O’Neal, Donald Trump and Britney Spears.
Jeff Stonehouse is an in-demand cinematographer with three decades of experience. He has shot for numerous award-winning national and international broadcast networks and programs including: Comedy Central’s Mystery Science Theater 3000, ABC, CBS, BBC, PBS, NOVA, A World of Ideas with Bill Moyers, and Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion 30th Anniversary broadcast special. Jeff also contributed cinematography on numerous National Emmy-winning documentaries for national networks including America’s Wetlands and Barbara Kopple’s Dixie Chicks documentary film, Shut Up and Sing.
The film and TV world is going through a revolution right now similar to what happened in the music industry a decade ago. It’s an amazing time and a chance for us as artists to have a much more personal, direct relationship with our fans. You love us, you support us, and this wayyou don’t have to buy Viagra or adult diapers to fund us. Woohoo!
With your support, we can make not just the short mini-pilot we already did as a proof of concept, but a full-blown pilot independent of the business influences of the television industry. We can make it better, cheaper, faster, and funnier, we can take creative risks and be edgier and more exciting, and we can build a more organic relationship with our fans and with people who love this world as much as we do and want to support the beginning of an amazing new TV series.
We think it’s the only way to go, and we think it will pay off with a better quality show, something smart and funny as hell that we can all be proud of. If you like what you see in the trailer, you’ll LOVE the 10 minute mini-pilot we made—you can get access to watch it by supporting us!
We’re reaching out to you so we can continue to create and develop the series with the personal touch of the close-knit team we’ve created. We can only do that with the contributions of like-minded smart and funny folks like you. We have a feeling you appreciate “home grown” ideas like this. We think the time is ripe for the Renaissance festival world to get its own TV series – and we think you’ll want to be a part of it. Once we get the show made right, we’ll take it to the industry and work to get it distributed, using your amazing support as proof that there’s a huge and hungry market for this subject. Or, we’ll rock it on our own online channel.
Now, if we surpass our initial goal, we plan to make additional episodes to further develop the gazillion hilarious potential storylines contained in the arc of the series.
WHOA, THAT’S A LOT OF MEAD. WHY DOES IT COST SO MUCH?
Do you know how much turkey legs cost? Do you realize we have to pay royalties every time someone says “Huzzah?” JK.
Actually, this is very, very cheap. The average half-hour comedy pilot costs over $2 millionper episode. To get a visual idea of what that looks like compared to our budget, here’s a helpful graphic, this time using a hilariously oversized flagon of mead:
A better question might be “Whoa, how the heck can you guys do this so cheaply!?” We can do this so cheaply by shooting in vivo at a working Renaissance festival, taking full advantage of the existing sets, costumes, and people already there — and by being very, veryfrugal with our other expenses. We believe in this project and we’re willing to prove its worth. You’re getting every drop out of the mead flagon on this one, baby!
We’ve done a lot of number crunching among our team of long-time production pros. A lot of our friends who believe in the project worked for free or on the cheap to make the trailer and the mini-pilot, but they have to eat, so we can’t ask them to keep working that way. And you’re probably familiar with Kickstarter—we don’t get to keep all the money we raise. Out of the first $250,000 we have to pay about 8-10%—( that’s about $20-25,000) in fees to Kickstarter and the credit card processor. We also have to create and ship rewards. Plus, we have costs associated with marketing and administering the show and some remaining costs in producing the 10-minute mini-pilot. We have to pay licensing fees and business fees and gear rental and budgeters and transportation costs and those little bags of M&Ms on the set and… well, you get the picture. It takes a village to raise a comedy.
Sir, may we please have some more?
You can help us meet our goal by pledging to one of our many reward tiers. If you’ve never used Kickstarter before, please be aware, that unless we make our initial goal, you will not be charged. If we do make our goal, you will be charged immediately at the close of the campaign. So to help us we need you to do two things: give and tell.
We’ve put together a buffet of incredible rewards including:
- Posters, DVDs and T-shirts!
- A opportunity to visit the set of RenFest during shooting!
- Being able to attend the cast and crew wrap party!
- Walk-on roles on the show!
- Becoming an Executive Producer of the show!
- Working closely with the writing team to help write an episode of RenFest!
- Custom Designed RenFaire Masks by MeriMasks – like this:
And here is an early look at the Official Renfest T-shirt designed by Adam (Apelad) Koford that you can pick up starting at the $75 reward level:
You can also help us by spreading the word via social media. If you do, you can unlock some extra special funder achievements!
Funder Achievements are the campaign WITHIN the campaign. We have designated four distinct houses based on the four main characters of RenFest: House Elisabeth, House Lloyd, House Viking and House AK.
Each house has different achievements tied to certain funding goals: Twitter followers, Facebook followers, number of total backers and total funding percentage. If we reach the designated goals for each house, then brand new, unique, limited rewards and free stuff will unlock for all backers!
You can back any of the four houses by proudly posting the JPGs from the pack you will receive when you back this project. There are no penalties for supporting them all. But if you choose to show your support for one particular house, post those JPGs from the pack you will receive.
The complete list of funder achievements are below. As we approach each milestone, new prizes and rewards will be revealed. Check back daily to see how you can help unlock even more great stuff for everyone!
If you’ve read up to here, thanks for your time. Have you checked out the trailer? We’re pretty proud of it, and we hope this shows you what our team is up to and gives you a sense of the project and its massive potential, and we hope it inspires you to help propel us forward as artists on this bold and silly journey.
Thank you so much for your support! See you at the RenFest!
Risks and challenges
Hmm… Well, we already know what we’re doing. We’re all seasoned pros. And we’ve already done it – you can watch the trailer and once you support us, you can watch the exclusive 10-minute mini-pilot that’s ridiculously funny. We have a great production crew standing by and ready to shoot.
So there’s not a lot of risk in terms of our being able to pull this off.
The budget numbers are based on certain assumptions that may change, and costs may increase if certain equipment or personnel rates increase, but those aren’t things that will stop us, and we have contingency plans to deal with them. Heck, we’re creative types! We get stuff done! And as you can see from our budget compared to the usual industry budget, and what we’ve already done with the mini-pilot out of our own pockets, we know how to pinch a haypenny.
One of our core team or stars might get hit by a car, or be arrested, or suddenly become unfunny. But none of those things are what we would class as very likely. If one of them happened, we would wrap it into the show as excellent material, or, if absolutely necessary, we would find another talent.
Barring that, we’ve got a whole production team ready to rock, and we’re good to go if you are!