When you mix together elements of Baton Rouge and Lafayette, stir in some inspiration from “Twin Peaks” and “Desperate Housewives” and throw in LSU screenwriting instructor Zack Godshall, you get a pretty interesting concoction.
Let’s call it “Hogwash.”
After writing and directing his first feature films and documentaries, Godshall decided to dip his toes into creating a web series.
Set in the fictional town of Oubliette, Louisiana, creators describe “Hogwash” as a comedy “about unintentionally-hilarious locals doing mysterious things.” Co-created with local filmmaker Ross Brupbacher, “Hogwash” features a cast of local actors, and draws inspiration from the shows mentioned above. The web series seeks to take viewers on a comic adventure through a caricatured version of small-town America.
“It’s a little bit of a mythical universe, set in a slightly off-kilter reality…that’s set in a very real place in Louisiana,” Godshall said. “You’ll see some things you don’t typically see in movies or other TV shows, everything from the performance to the style.”
The first season introduces six central characters and how they are all, in some way, living a double (or even triple) life.
“It’s kind of about people keeping secrets and that sort of thing,” Godshall said. “So, some small mysteries are occurring in the town with most of these main characters. The plot really gets going when this one guy, who is a local playwright, is hired by a charity organization to write an opera for a fundraiser. And as he is writing the opera, he realizes this character starts to lose his grip on reality, and he blends in his own characters, his own fantasy life into his real life.”
Godshall said he and Brupbacher worked off an outline and allowed actors to improvise on “Hogwash,” allowing scenes to grow organically. He said the pair used a similar method in a previous collaboration, the 2011 “Lord Byron,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.
“As we started writing, we created a cast of a few characters, and then we decided to cast other people…we kind of would invent roles for people we know,” Godshall said. “As we did that, we were kind of working backward in a way than when we usually write a screenplay. What that does, is it forces you to find ways to draw connections where you might not have otherwise thought to draw connections. It keeps you really on your toes with unexpected results. It feels kind of uncanny or, not actually accidental, but an almost accidental real-life quality to it.”
The town of Oubliette was not based on any one town and was instead created using parts of Lafayette and Baton Rouge, Godshall said. Godshall used a few houses where the actors lived in different areas of Baton Rouge, as well as a few public parks near downtown.
“I think it’s definitely a south Louisiana town,” Godshall said. “Parts of it might look like Lafayette. Parts of it might look like Baton Rouge. Parts of it might look like some of the other small towns around there.”
There will be a second season, as the first and second seasons were shot all at once.
“Every film brings its own set of challenges, but I’m sure the hardest part was that it was going to be bigger than what I thought it was going to be,” Godshall said. “I didn’t realize it would be so big, so I had to divide it into two seasons just to make it more manageable. Depending on the response, I’d like to do a third season. It all leads up to the production of the opera, and that will happen in the third season.”
Baton Rouge actor Susie Labry met Godshall while at the Louisiana International Film Festival, and she expressed interest in working with him in the future. He invited her to become involved with “Hogwash” because her look fit with the series, and she accepted because her character, the eccentric genius Phoebe, appealed to her.
“I could be serious, and I could be funny at the same time,” Labry said. “I’m so serious and passionate [it’s] funny. I also like the Louisiana background. It was very interesting, and I think I do rural really well.”
Response for “Hogwash” has been positive after the public screenings in Lafayette, New Orleans, and Baton Rouge.
“It was overwhelming,” Labry said of the response. “I think every seat was filled [at the Hartley Vey Theatre]. I think it’s gonna go over well. It was a packed house.”
Labry believes projects like Godshall’s will help the traction of the local film industry and she looks forward to future collaborations with him as a director.
“I’d like to do more, I’d like to see the independent and local industry grow and I think this will help sell our local talent,” Labry said. “I’m pushing for tax incentives to help support the locals. That’s why I’m supporting Senate Bill 254 because it’s an incentive for locals to [branch] out.”
Using local actors was a practical matter for Godshall. When filming “Lord Byron,” his cast was almost entirely made of actors from Lafayette, and so he set out to do the same with “Hogwash” and work with local actors to make it a real, local production.
“I guess that was part of the goal, but also just what we wanted to do,” Godshall said. “It’s a really fun way to work. People that don’t typically get leading roles have leading roles here…I think you can get pretty interesting performances from people who aren’t used to acting…Everybody’s creative in some sense, and I like pulling out that creativity.”
Watch season one of “Hogwash” below:
Photo by Nicholas Martino.