We open…on Hitler.
Actually, no. Our scene opens on me, sitting in a sandwich shop across from two gentlemen who can’t seem to stop making me laugh. I’m talking about the movers and shakers behind independent film makers, Long Walk Productions and their web series, No Fourth Wall, which is entering its third season. David Hensley and Chris Rinehart daintily enjoy their water, diet soda and modest sandwiches, while I guzzle my soda and stuff my face with what can only be described as a Dagwood with nearly a pound of bacon. Not only am I a terrible reporter, I’m anything but lady-like.
Long Walk Productions is the baby of David Hensley, and was founded in 2007. Hensley, who holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theatre Performance, has grown Long Walk through short films, original website and theatrical productions, as well writing, directing, producing, editing and acting in the series No Fourth Wall. Chris Rinehart, whose field of study was Teleproduction Technology, co-created, writes for and acts in the series.
WBP: So, how did you guys come up with the idea for No Fourth Wall?
Dave: That was Stan [Stan Wilson Lee] and Chris. They came up with the initial idea. I took it and ran with it.
Chris: Stan just one day came to me and said he wanted to do a show. The way he initially pitched it, I thought it was kind of like Stan as Mr. Bean, just kind of having random misadventures. And I was just playing around with it and didn’t give it much thought beyond joking around. And then Stan apparently mentioned it to you [points to Dave].
Dave: You guys came up and told me at work. You just came up and gave me this idea.
Chris: It wasn’t a serious proposal. At least, not to me. And then, I don’t know, it was a couple of days later…
Dave: It was that day.
Chris: It was that day [laughs].
Dave: Well, what they came to me with initially was just a series of unconnected episodes, all just putting Stan into wacky situations. And somehow, that evening after work I went home and wrote an episode with the concept that we ended up with. I printed it out and brought it to Chris, who was still at work. I went home and wrote four more. So, the first season was written almost entirely in one night.
Chris: And then at some point, Dave comes up to me and says, “We’re filming this Sunday.” And I was like, “Filming what?” And that’s how it all began.
WBP: And what was the “concept” you “ended up with”?
Dave: Well…it’s a YouTube series by three guys about three guys trying to make a YouTube series.
WBP: There’s a touch of Seinfeld to that.
Dave: I hadn’t thought of that…until now.
Dave: It was really just a way to make fun of ourselves and make fun of the whole concept and process. Because, as much as I love film and film making, I hate other film makers. By and large.
Chris: It’s true.
Dave: It’s been a debate about the fact that with the advent and continuing evolution of digital film making that everybody who has a DSLR [camera] can make a movie these days. I read an article, recently, on what they called the “death of Indie film making” because, as they put it, no one has an excuse NOT to make a movie. So, it is really difficult for someone like me, who legitimately wants to pursue this as a career and make a living off of it. It can be really frustrating. Especially with the amount of time and effort that we put into a production.
Chris: There’s just so much of it. Some people are just making videos and films and pumping them out as quick as possible and wind up over-saturating the market, is what he’s saying. Like the whole vanity publishing thing.
WBP: So, you hope to make a living doing this?
Dave: I’m doing anything that pays the bills with the ultimate goal being to do film making full time.
Chris: I would love to make movies for a living and love working with Dave. He does an absolutely wonderful job and has such a good vision for what he wants to do. I would absolutely love to do this for the rest of my life as a career.
WBP: I’ve recognized a number of faces that have popped up in episodes of No Fourth Wall. How did you go about casting your band of merry misfits?
Chris: We knew our limitations, having no budget whatsoever. So we basically called in a lot of favors for casting and for filming in different places. We kept it, for the most part, to us. Season one was very self-contained.
Dave: Originally, every episode took place in the book store where we all worked. And we filmed two scenes there for the first episode and quickly realized…
Chris: Yeah…that plan worked right up until the first day of filming.
Dave: After that, we moved everything to my apartment.
WBP: It’s nice that you have a lot of friends in the acting community that are willing to step in and help out. And, you’ve mentioned that though there were few guest appearances in season one, those supporting roles increased during season two, and you plan on bringing many of those faces back in season three.
Chris: Nathan Rouse is a great example. He has a new role coming in season three that culminates in what is probably my best contribution to the show, thus far. [He grins with pride] I don’t want to ruin it, but the name of his character…
Dave: Oh. Yeah. Ah…Well, that’s probably going to end up having to change, sadly.
Chris: WHAT? WHY?
Dave: Because of his [Nathan’s] contract in Minnesota.
Dave: He’s going to have to go back before we get to shoot that in the fall. So, over the summer I’m going to have to shoot the other role that I’ve given to him.
Chris: Well, great. Now we have to blow up Minnesota.
Dave: I don’t mind.
WBP: What kind of feedback have you gotten about the content of the episodes, either from the cast or from viewers? I mean, you touch on a number of…sensitive…subjects.
Dave: I believe in the South Park philosophy that everything is funny. And that if you acknowledge that there is something you can’t make fun of, like if you say we can make fun of this but we can’t make fun of this, then all of a sudden it’s a matter of asking yourself why? Why is it okay to make fun of this? If we can have Helen Keller jokes and Anne Frank jokes, but we can’t have black jokes, are we saying it’s okay to make fun of these people and not these people? So we make fun of everything. We run the gamut.
Chris: On top of that, we’re making fun of ourselves. Usually when we’re making these jokes, we’re making ourselves look as dumb as possible.
Dave: Yeah. And most people we’ve worked with have gone along with these things. Ann-Marie Calabro, who played our Helen Keller, would say between every take, “I’m going to hell for this.” And I’d be like, “Hey, we’ll be there with you!”
Chris: I’m not.
Dave: Not what?
Chris: Going to hell. I wasn’t there for those days of filming, so…My character tends to frown upon such shenanigans.
Dave: The thing one thing that I thought was going to raise the biggest stir was the racism episode. Which, by the way, was co-written and directed by Norman Burt. That whole episode was based on a comedy sketch that we saw and just ran with . And Norman was behind it 100% of the way. And we knew that if Norman couldn’t get behind this idea then it wasn’t going to work and we’d look like a bunch of racist assholes.
WBP: Why did you say you thought it would raise the biggest stir? What was the reaction to the episode?
Dave: We didn’t get as much feedback on that episode as we thought we would. I thought we’d get a bunch of hate mail. But, basically the main comment we heard variations of was “You guys have balls of steel!” I expected it to be more controversial than it was.
Chris: Yeah…just wait until you take off as a movie director and film maker and people find No Fourth Wall and that episode comes back to haunt you.
Dave: You’ve got to have a sense of humor about these things. And, I hate people that don’t have a sense of humor.
WBP: What was one of our favorite episodes to make?
Chris: One episode that stands out was the one that had the intervention scene, episode four I think it was. It was the one where Brett Reed guest-starred as the director. He was incredible! He blew us all away in terms of acting. And the intervention scene itself, where Stan has to give a small monologue about how what Dave has done has hurt him. [to Dave] We put it in the outtakes, right?
Dave: Yes! There was one outtake that was as long as the episode itself!
Dave: We just kept the camera rolling and Stan had to keep doing it over and over and over again until he could do it without breaking.
Chris: I admit, between the three of us, Dave, Stan and I, I’m probably the easiest to break. Because once I start, it’s unstoppable. I can’t hide it at all. When Stan started on his tearful monologue about how much cocaine he did [Chris’s words trail off as he busts into a fit of giggles that garner us stares from the waitress] I just…I had to keep from looking at Dave…
Dave: I was off-camera, so I could make whatever face I wanted to. I was trying to keep it together for you two.
Chris: Except for the couple of times that you didn’t.
Dave: I said,”Tried.”
WBP: What’s it like working together so closely as friends?
Dave: We haven’t had a problem with it.
Chris: [Turns and glares at Dave for a beat] He hasn’t had a problem with it.
Chris: No, it really works out well. And, I think the only thing, and Dave will admit to this, is that when we’re pressed for time Dave gets stressed and then harried…
Dave: I have to become…the Boss.
Chris: Yeah, he has to step into the actual boss role and lay down the law.
WBP: So, what do you see for the future of No Fourth Wall?
Dave: I have no idea. Because, ultimately for me it has been an outlet. For all of us involved, really, a creative outlet and a learning experience. Especially for me. No Fourth Wall has become my film school, taking everything that I have learned up until that point and improving on it and applying it. By the time we’re done filming season three I’m going to be ready to make a feature film. I said that years ago before moving to L.A. that I was done doing shorts [films]. Then, after I moved back to the Carolinas, we started doing No Fourth Wall and I realized that I was no way ready to do a feature yet.
Chris: I think it’s gotten you to step up your game, too. You realized you couldn’t just say to hell with it and plod along. You had to make sure to tighten up things and make sure they flowed together correctly.
Dave: Absolutely! I love the philosophy of “I have the equipment. I know the people. Let’s make a movie!” It’s great…in theory. But in practice, you have to take the time to make it work. Working on the show is another lesson for me to know that I have to take the time. I’ve spent a lot of time learning to do just that on this show. I don’t know if that made any sense whatsoever. Edit it and make it sound good.
Chris: Well, I would love to see this branch off into us making movies full time, and eventually, perhaps revisit this in another series. Or make a new series to show how much we’ve improved and make it funnier.
Dave: No Fourth Wall: the Movie.
WBP: I probably should have asked this earlier, but could you explain to the uninitiated the meaning behind the show’s title?
Dave: No Fourth Wall. Well, the fourth wall in theatre and film is where the audience is located at. Traditionally, it’s taboo to break the wall and address the audience directly as it shatters the suspension of disbelief and ruins the illusion.
Chris: You’re breaking the immersion!
Dave: We’re so self-deprecating and so self-referential.
Chris: Basically, it works on pro-wrestling rules that all the characters’ personalities are hyper-inflated versions of ourselves.
Dave: Me and Stan are; Chris is just like this.
Chris: I am not.
Dave: Yes, you are.
Chris: No, no, no. I’m not that much of a wet blanket in real life. It’s us to the nth degree, with less sever morals. The horrible thing is always going to come from Stan or Dave and I’m going to be like, No, that’s wrong. And then we’re going to do it anyway because that’s funny. In the third season, we’re actually going to add in a noir episode. Dave likes film noir. So, I get to run around in a trench coat.
Dave: And a top hat.
Chris: A top hat?
Dave: No. A fedora.
Chris: [talking over Dave] That doesn’t sound like a match at all. I’m the fancy detective.
Dave: I have a No Fourth Wall story.
WBP: Do you?
Chris: [laughs] Technically, it’s all Norman’s fault.
Dave: Before the racism episode, like I said earlier, I knew Norman had to be on board with it in order for the bit to work. And for the end of the episode to work, we had to have two more black people with the same philosophy and sense of humor as Norman. So, I told Norman, for this day of filming I need two black actors who get the concept. And…wait. That’s going to bother me [Rises from his seat and walks across the room to the deli counter. Dave bends down and picks up a marker that had fallen to the floor and returns it to the counter]
Chris: I’m glad you got that. It was going to bother me, too.
Dave: So, come the day of filming, Norman shows up with two people and we blocked the scene. Before we started shooting I asked them, “Norman explained to you guys what we’re doing today, right?” Which is what I’d asked Norman to do. They said, No.
Chris: Stand and I, in an immediate moment of cowardice backed away from Dave.
Dave: One of them says, “No, but I’ve seen the show before. I know you guys do crazy stuff.” [sighs audibly]
Dave: I give Norman the dirtiest look I’ve ever given another human being. And I was like, okay here’s what’s going to happen. You’re going to be standing here and when I call Action, I’m going to walk up and stand next to you. There will be a beat. And then I’m going to look at you and say, “What’s up N*****?” He looked at me and goes, “WHAT? Excuse me?” And I said, “Yes, like that exactly. Roll camera!”
Chris: If you go and watch that episode, the scene at the bus stop…that’s a seething anger that can not be pretended.
Dave: I was so mad at Norman for not explaining this to them before hand. But, we just had to go with it. The worst thing to come out of it was Norman had to take them to Waffle House afterwards to make up for it.
Chris: The whole joke of that episode is that Norman’s character is tricking them into saying that word to people. So, at the end they get the shit beat out of them as the end result.
WBP: Do you have anything else that you’d like to add before we finish up?
Dave: We’re in the process of writing season three and will start filming in the fall. Well, late summer, early fall.
Chris: I’m going to write some episodes, too. That’ll go well.
Dave: We’ll take the best of both when we write and combine them.
Chris: You’ll see a lot of cuts on my page.
Dave: It’s going to be…
Chris: [interrupts Dave] It’s going to be in red pen, too, so I’ll know how bad I am at stuff.
Dave: [ignoring Chris] Look for this season to be much bigger.
Chris: See. That’s ‘business’ Dave. The Boss. [laughs] I…I…um…What was the question? I really don’t remember what I was talking about.
Dave: The question was if we had anything else we wanted to say.
Chris: Oh! Right. You should all watch the show.
Dave: Yes, please do!
Chris: I think that it’s worth viewing at least once. [Chris’ last remark would lead to another self-deprecating conversation altogether. And someone may or may not have had a knife pulled on them at the table; like Helen Keller, I can’t be sure.]
Be sure to check out Long Walk Productions and No Fourth Wall. You can watch episodes on their website, on YouTube or you can purchase full seasons on DVD. Season three will premiere later this year. Like them on Facebook or Follow them on Twitter.