If the Ghostbusters and the Scooby-Doo gang got stoned together in Stanley Park and Frankensteined a high-larious single-camera sitcom, it would probably look something like Paranormal Solutions Inc.
As it stands, the new web series is the twisted office comedy offspring of Sociable Films and Rare Little Bird Pictures.
The key creative players already have a couple of impressive web series progeny between them: Nicholas Carella and Michelle Ouellet (Sociable Films) were heavily involved in the Leo Award-winning The True Heroines – about 1950s housewives who have superpowers and fight crime – and David Milchard (Rare Little Bird) is one-half of the duo behind Convos With My 2-Year-Old, which has logged more than 91 million hits to date and features grown-up re-enactments of father-toddler conversations (Milchard is the toddler).
Paranormal Solutions Inc.stars Vancouver actress Julia Benson (What An Idiot) as Sarah, a bona-fide medium, and Milchard as Jared Sculder (say that name out loud for full comedic effect), who – despite having dissolved their romantic relationship – launch a business together dedicated to quashing the assorted paranormal issues of their zany clientele.
The company’s tagline is “We Believe in Everything” – even though, when the series begins, Jared (unlike that other famous paranormal fighter whose name rhymes with Sculder) is a non-believer. View the trailer here.
“We were really inspired by Ghostbusters, but imagine if Ghostbusters was written by the guys who did It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” says Carella during Reel People’s visit to the office set in November 2014 (not a typo; that’s representative of the typical gestation period for productions in the indie sphere). “It’s a workplace comedy that happens to have monsters.”
Character came before monsters. Carella and Milchard fully fleshed out the characters before they started to write the scripts.
Besides Sarah and Jared, there’s Carella’s Darryn, who has no distinguishable skills and is determined to be abducted by aliens; The Interview’s Diana Bang as an infinitely practical co-op student; Daniel Bacon as Mark, a scaredy-cat cameraman; and Christina Sicoli (also of Rare Little Bird) as oddball occult specialist Madonna.
The leads share the screen with a revolving door of homegrown talent, including Peter Benson, Ali Liebert, Jennifer Copping, Erica Carroll, Dave Collette, Geoff Gustafson, and Arrow star Emily Bett Rickards, whose character – Genevieve Cream – hosts the episodes as a kind of modern-day Alistair Cooke.
“It’s kind of like idiots in extraordinary circumstances,” says Ouellet, who directed six of the eight episodes (Carella and Milchard directed one episode apiece). “What do these people that don’t think that paranormal incidents exist, what happens when they find out that it all exists?”
Each episode considers standard paranormal series fare, but from a sideways perspective. There’s an episode where the team considers the varying degrees of zombiedom (Says Carella: “How much of a zombie would you be if you’d only been a zombie for nine hours? How rotting would it be? We have these legit discussions”).
There’s an episode where the team deals with a lecherous leprechaun, and another where they attempt to exorcise a ghost that has cerebral palsy (the ghost in question is portrayed by Vancouver actor Andrew Valance, who has cerebral palsy in real life).
“[That episode is] making fun of being politically correct,” says Carella. “That’s where we sit in the show. Is it okay to exorcise this ghost? We feel really bad; we don’t want to.”
Unlike many web series – which, due to funding constraints, typically film on weekends, with large gaps between shooting days – Paranormal Solutions Inc. filmed over several weeks in 2014.
“It almost feels like an indie movie,” says Bacon between scenes.
Also unlike other shoestring web series, “the production value of the special and visual effects is ridiculous,” says Bacon. “Just some of the details we’ve seen – a couple of the creatures are people in masks and costume – look amazing.”
Ouellet says creating Paranormal Solutions Inc. for the web has given the team the opportunity to play with different genres, which content creators generally aren’t able to do in the traditional network realm.
“I think working in digital is very exciting because you can do things like mix genre with comedy,” says Ouellet, who directed the feature film Afterparty, as well as the upcoming Prodigals, which lensed in late 2015. “We’re trying to keep the funny funny, and the scary scary.”
There’s also the joy of working with friends, which is typical of the Vancouver indie scene, says Sicoli. “It’s a team of people who just want to create and get work out there,” she says. “There’s so much talent in this city. There’s so much talent that’s underused. It’s a business. It’s a game. We all get it. So we come together and produce something and get it out there.”
Paranormal Solutions Inc. was funded by the Independent Production Fund and TELUS Optik Local.
Besides the eight episodes in the series, related content – all specially created to expand the story and build out the Paranormal Solutions Inc. universe – will launch around the episodes.
• Paranormal Solutions Inc. premieres April 19 on Milchard and Clarke’s new YouTube channel, YouTube.com/CocoMilkTV.