If you haven’t seen Pillow Talk yet, then you are missing out. Creators Dan Salem and Mandi Mellen have put together a comedic webisode series about relationships and sex and it has proven to be captivatingly zany and laugh-out-loud hilarious. Dan and Mandi, who play a variety of characters in the series and also happen to be married in real life, produced this series completely in house by gathering a group of very talented, creative friends to play every role in the production, both in front of and behind the camera. Dan took some time out of his schedule to answer some of my questions about his and Mandi’s backgrounds and what inspired them to create this talk show style series with some comically shocking moments that just might inspire you to hit the replay button.
What are your backgrounds in the film industry and how did you get involved in webisode production?
Mandi studied Film at Boston University and has been acting since she was in elementary school. I was lucky to have an aspiring director as my freshman roommate at BU who put me in his projects right away. Once I met Mandi in our sophomore year, I was in her projects and we never stopped working together. I’d always been writing and so had Mandi, so our skills melded very well together.
As for webisode production, Mandi and I wanted to produce a comedy show completely in house. We felt a show for the web allowed us to flex our creative muscles and not be limited by traditional budgetary and structural ideas of what a TV show is supposed to be. People love unique and original content and the web is the best place to view it. By producing a non-linear comedy online, we were able to go wild so to speak.
How did you come up with the idea for Pillow Talk and how long have you been working on this project?
Pillow Talk came about from a few simple ideas. We wanted to produce a re-producible product. We wanted to make a show specifically for a web-based audience, one that we could produce entirely in house, and keep making for as long as we wanted. It was going to be comedy, but not in the usual linear sense.
Mandi and I had produced a web series in the past, but it was a more traditional style show and we found it didn’t quite work on the web. For Pillow Talk, we knew it needed to be two-minute shows that were engaging and fast paced. Attention spans are short, especially online, and Pillow Talk is geared towards just that. As actors, we set out to put the funny in the hands of our performers, which included ourselves, and to follow in the footsteps of a show like ‘Curb your Enthusiasm’ which gives guidelines to shoot for, but doesn’t give specific dialogue. We both loved the limitless possibilities this allows for on set and in the final product. And hopefully you want to watch every webisode a few times in a row to keep experiencing the comedy.
Can you tell me a little bit about the experience of producing this web series?
We had an incredible time making Pillow Talk. I wish we had twice as many shoot days, if only to ask even crazier questions to our characters. Mandi and I came up with about thirty to forty different questions, ranging from the benign to the sexual to the deep philosophical kind. We put our actors on the Pillow Talk bed and warmed them up a bit, asking questions to break open their characters on camera. Then we got to the funny, crazy stuff, asking questions about butt sex and what it would be like to live in the Matrix. There wasn’t any line that didn’t get crossed.
We also shot days of B-roll, showing the characters out and about and interacting with one another. These were some really wacky days as you’ll see throughout the webisodes.
Where did you film?
For Pillow Talk we literally kept everything in house. We turned our living room into the Pillow Talk bedroom and staged it up completely. We had a three camera shoot that really maximized our time. Our crew was small but really organized and efficient. Since we only had two actors on set at a time, we were able to move people in and out and keep the laughs rolling along.
Favorite moments during production?
Our favorite moments during production were squeezing our three person couple of Rico, Julie and Ryan onto the small Pillow Talk bed. Rico and Julie are a happy couple, both artists in their own way, and poor as hell. They live with Ryan who is a creepy single man. Very creepy. The three of them squeezed onto the bed with all of that tension and weirdness was hilarious to watch and direct.
What did you learn during the process of creating this series?
The biggest thing we learned from Pillow Talk is that having a strong team of actors who you trust with your material leads to incredible things. We took our time to pick our actors and shape characters around the things we saw in them. And boy, did it turn out great!
What were you hoping to bring to your viewers and what were some of your favorite moments from the final cut?
We wanted to bring our brand of comedy to our viewers: relatable and smart humor that keeps you on your toes and makes you laugh and question what the heck just happened. We couldn’t be happier with how Pillow Talk turned out. The final cut has some of the best one liners like “Micheal Phelps—he’s like the ugly Dolphin.” and “He knows when you poop.” Completely unscripted and perfect.
Mandi’s favorite moments were just seeing how the actors in our show are so incredibly talented. She said that each time she would watch one of these couples she was amazed at the chemistry and truth they brought to their relationships. They nicknamed each other and put so much depth into their characters. For her, these are the moments that shine through in the final cut.
What is next up on the horizon and what are you currently working on?
We have a few projects lined up right now. Mandi and I are co-writing and directing a new comedy web series called ‘Weekend Warriors’ about the things young people do on the weekend. You’ve got drinking games, Tinder dates, and that one friend who does the unimaginable. We play ‘Angel’ and ‘Devil’ type characters who guide people towards hilarious choices. We are in post production on a horror short film called ‘Daylight’ and are writing a feature film based on our real experience with battling cancer. It’s our first venture as a team into feature length drama.
And let’s not forget season two of Pillow Talk! Another Valentine’s Day premier is in the works.