An interview with Joe Flanders

This was the first and only interview that I ever conducted twice. After having a really great conversation with Joe about his work, I realized that I had not properly set up Audio Hijack to record the Skype session. Luckily Joe was kind enough to hop back on the phone to immediately re-record.

Thanks to our newfound familiarity with each other, it actually came out better than the first take.

Recently, we stumbled upon a web series gem called Average Joe that we just loved. Very true to its name, the show follows a normal guy named Joe throughout Los Angeles as he seeks out companionship. Editor Jacob Tender recently sat down with the creator and star of the show to talk about the series and some of his other projects which includes the documentary found on the deluxe edition of Black Veil Brides’ latest album, Wretched and Divine: The Story of the Wild Ones.

Read the entire interview below.

Hi Joe, for those who aren’t familiar with your work, can you explain what it is that you do?

Yea yea. I’m a comedy writer and director. I’ve been out in LA for a couple of years and bounced around, but Average Joe is my first big project. It’s a six episode first season web series about a guy who gets dumped in the pilot. He’s hanging out with his friends and real life cousin, Andy Biersack. They tell him “you need to get that rebound, you need to fuck the pain away,” and I guess that’s a normal thing to do when you get dumped, but in this show that proves a lot more difficult and awkward than expected.

So the show follows Joe as he meets girls at the bars and clubs and online dating. He even gets into a mistaken celebrity situation. All of this with the hope and goal of fucking the pain away. He fails. Numerous times. And by the end of the season, he’s starting to think, “Maybe it’s not a random hook-up I’m into, but a connection with a person.” Then he thinks he has that, but it ends disastrously. So that’s the major theme of the show.

What first inspired you to get involved with filmmaking and how did you originally get your start?

I got my start in community theater, acting wise. It was in highschool when I really started watching Woody Allen movies that I really took note of the film makers, not just random films and actors and things. He was the first person that, you know it’s a Woody Allen movie when you watch it. His voice and his style and everything else.

So that got me thinking, “Ok, who are these other film-makers?” And from there I wanted to make my own movies and have my own voice. I went to college at the North Carolina School of the Arts which is essentially this little arts bubble in the south filled with really silly kids and a thousand people. After studying film for a few years, directing, in particular, I moved out to LA. I’ve been chasing the dream ever since.

You recently produced a stage production that played on Santa Monica Blvd. Tell us about that.

I produced two plays back to back. One was an original that a buddy of mine in college wrote called Laboratories of Our Youth. That ran for eight weeks. I’d never produced anything before, but I was really into the script. I told him that I would love to act in it, but it was cast. I told him I’d love to direct it, but that role had been filled. So I said, “Well, fuck it, I guess I’ll produce it.” So I did and it was an incredible experience.

The other play came right after that Michael Showalter, David Wain, and Joe Lo Truglio wrote. It was called SEX, aka Wieners and Boobs. It was a pretty crazy show and a crazy experience. We had three sold out midnight shows as part of the Hollywood Film Festival of 2012. So I spent 8 months doing theater, then got back into film with Average Joe.

The show has seen fantastic ratings on Funny or Die. What has the reception been like for you?

It’s been great. You never really know what to expect. I spent 14 months making season one. Between writing and shooting and editing and everything else. So once it’s out there, it’s out of my hands. I’ve been happy that the response has been so good. Between the ratings on Funny or Die and the people who Tweet at me and tell me they enjoy the show. It makes it all worth it. We’re hoping to build on all of that and go for a bigger and better response with season 2.

Your cousin, Andy Biersack is the lead singer of the glam-rock group Black Veil Brides and a featured member of your show’s cast. What has it been like working with him?

It’s been great. We grew up together and it’s been awesome watching his success and the band’s success as they’ve gotten bigger as the years have gone on. So, it was a lot of fun to collaborate with him on something because I definitely have no talent musically, so that wasn’t going to happen. He’s really funny and I knew that, so I thought “Hey, you know, why don’t you play my cousin. It’ll be a real stretch for you. You can give me advice throughout the series.” He was totally down. Anything I threw at him.

His stuff gets pretty dark later in the season and kind of crazy. Any idea I came up with, he was down or had a better one. It was a fun opportunity to collaborate with fam.

Are you looking to keep him on in season 2 of Average Joe?

Yea. We’ve talked about season 2 and where he’s headed. He’s going to have a lot of dark secrets. Shit’s going to get real with Andy in season 2. I’m excited and I’m in the process of writing it now. If people and fans of the band enjoyed seeing Andy in season 1. Look out, it’s going to get real in season 2.

Your latest project involves more of Andy and Black Veil Brides. Tell us about that.

I filmed a 50 minute documentary on the making of Black Veil Brides’ new album, Wretched and Divine. If you buy the deluxe version of the album, you get the documentary.

Essentially I was in the studio with the guys for 3 months while they were recording it, then I spent 3 months editing all the footage. I had something like 29 hours of footage that I whittled down to an hour. It was a great experience and for fans of the band, as opposed to watching interviews talking about how they work, this documentary actually shows how they work. I was very much a fly on the wall, so it doesn’t look particularly good because we didn’t light anything. I wanted to be as least intrusive as possible. If I missed something, I didn’t ask them to say it again.

It’s an opportunity for the fans to see what it really takes to make an album, not in a staged way like I think most of these behind-the-scenes things can play.

Critics have likened the program to Judd Apatow’s style and writing. Would you agree with that?

Yea, on some level, definitely. It’s very humbling to be compare to Mr. Apatow and I’m a big fan of his work. There’s a good comparison there. The show is about a schlump of a guy who’s with women who are probably far too attractive for him. I think my stuff is a little more awkward and a little more drawn out. I take my time to get to the punchlines. I think what Judd does so well – I say that like I know him – is “band bang bang” good, solid dialogue. I think I’m a little slower, but it’s a welcome comparison and one I’m very humbled to get.

Earlier you mentioned Woody Allen? Who are your some of your other film making influences?

Beside Woody Allen, Louis C.K and Larry David are big ones. Growing up, Mel Brooks (Blazing Saddles, Young Frankenstein, High Anxiety) all of his movies, Steve Martin’s stand up and his movies like The Jerk and Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid. I loved all of those movies. Those were the big ones.

What is your ultimate goal as a filmmaker?

My ultimate goal as a filmmaker is just to make things that a lot of people can see and hopefully identify and relate to or get some sort of emotion out of- along with laughing. I don’t want to sound too pretentious, but I think that’s the ultimate hope. To move people in some way. Hopefully to make them feel a little better after laughing at my work.

I’m working on a few features and my hope is to get them out into theaters and have people respond well to my work.

When can we expect season two of Average Joe?

I’m writing it right now and it’s going to be 13 episodes. I’ve got a lot planned for it. I would say, hopefully, Spring, if not, Summer of this year we’ll have season 2 out. We’re figuring out financing and where you’ll be able to find it and whatnot.

What are the chances of a Teen Crush reunion?

[laughs] You are awesome. It’s funny that you mention that. Teen Crush was a boy band that I was in while in high school. I’m actually working on a Teen Crush feature. The basic pitch is Spinal Tap with a boy band. That’s something I’m really excited about. They had one big hit in the nineties then a colossal meltdown and now they are getting back together for a reunion tour or show or something. It’s something that I’m working on, definitely.

Thank you for your time.