I recently watched the pilot for a bold, new Canadian television series, Purple Squirrels. Go here to read my review. The series is a lot of fun, shows great potential and is a refreshing take on Canadian life, combing elements of big city sitcoms like HBO’s Girls with the workplace satire of NBC’s The Office.
I’ve been in contact with the series creator and director Mike Lippert to do a brief interview about the creation and production of the Purple Squirrels pilot:
SR: Mike, what was your inspiration for the idea of Purple Squirrels?
ML: The primary inspiration was to write a funny, half-hour character drama. That’s what I started with. When it came time to decide the setting, Recruitment made sense. I’d worked as an agent in that industry for close to four years, so I knew it was something I could write to from an insider’s perspective. I wanted the show to be funny, but also wanted it to have that feeling of authenticity, like viewers were getting a backstage glimpse into this world they had no idea existed. The possibilities for comedy in that world are endless and something the rest of the series really builds upon. The title comes from a recruitment industry term to describe a candidate with a skill set that doesn’t exist. Like a Help Desk person with a PhD. In Astrology. It’s something that all recruiters spend a great deal of time searching for. Hence the tagline “Everybody’s searching for something.”
SR: What’s your favourite shot in the pilot?
ML: It’s hard to pick one. There’s a lot of great stuff in there. I love the opening streetcar montage with the footage of Toronto and every time Alex makes that career defining trek from the washroom back to the office in the third act, I’m with him every step.
But really, my favourite, and the most impressive shot in the pilot is the closing credits. There’s a full crew of around 48 people in those credits and it blows me away every time I see it. This pilot was made with no budget, by people with no formal filmmaking experience or connections in the film industry. I went to the industry and said “Here’s a script, there’s no money but we’re going to make it. Would you be willing to help out?”
Every person on that credit roll said yes, just based on their belief in the script. I’m grateful to each and every one of them and can’t wait to work with a lot of them again.
SR: What was the most difficult part of making the pilot? Was it in production, writing or was there a specific technical day that really challenged you?
ML: The hardest part about making a television pilot for no money is making a television pilot for no money.
But seriously, the biggest challenge was probably writing the pilot. The pilot took around 12 months, on and off, to write. You have to establish a setting, introduce an environment, introduce a handful of characters, tell a self-contained story and leave the audience with enough to want to tune in next time, all within 25-30 pages. Not easy.
I’d say, given the circumstances, the production was very smooth. We had 48 hours to get everything we needed, in an office that wasn’t ours. People were on the clock for no money and we had a full cast and crew to manage. Looking back now, it seems daunting, but I think the key was that everyone saw that we were there to work and make something that would get recognized. No one wanted to be that person that dragged the whole team down. It’s a really rewarding feeling to see so many people get on the same page and strive for the same ends. You put so much time and effort into creating a show and you have no idea how anyone will react to it, but it all came together. Although everyone worked their asses off, I can tell you that I have never seen so many happy people on one set before. It was a very inspiring moment for me.
SR: Why should Canadians watch Purple Squirrels?
ML: It’s funny, it’s relatable and it’s very Canadian while also pushing the standards of what people have come to expect from Canadian television. The only place for this series to go is up. Remember, this is a completely independent production so I hope people will discover the pilot, see the potential for these characters and this setting and spread the word. Canadians have been waiting for a show like this. I think it’s time someone gave it to them.
Special thanks to Mike for taking the time to answer some questions and discuss his new show!
Watch the trailer for Purple Squirrels below:
I really recommend checking this series out. As I’ve mentioned in my review, I think it’s funny and smart and very exciting to see. Canadians will take a special interest in the show as it portrays a different side of Canadian life than most of the shows we see do, but it’s not a culturally exclusive show. It has a wide appeal, and I think anyone should be able to enjoy it.
The pilot is available to watch on the Purple Squirrels website.