Cartoon Hearst Castle Ghost

Crazy Quarantine Ideas

When last we left our intrepid heroes… 

All right.  Here is the deal:  I make a horrible producer and thus the Hearst Castle Ghost web comedy series has been floundering on the brink of destruction.  I could explain how the holidays put things on hold for two months or my nearly month long fever, chills, dry cough, and shortness of breath a couple weeks after traveling overseas put a cork in progress or how the Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020 has put the entire world on standby.  I could do that.  Or I can just accept the fact that I suck as a producer.

Being a producer is about herding cats and I am allergic to cats.  Dogs are okay.  I prefer monitor lizards.  You pick them up and place them down where you want them.  They might hiss but they are there.  Boom.  Done.  I digress, sorry.  Being a producer.  Yes.  Not so much me.

Anyway, the end result is that we had to rethink the hows and whys for the Hearst Castle Ghost comedy series.  Social distancing will continue to prevent a dozen actors from gathering in close quarters in front of a green screen for some time yet to come.  And the masks really ruin the microphone pickup.  So I got this idea:  cartoon.

I mean why not?  While I suck at drawing, I am a fair hand with Adobe Photoshop and my yearly Adobe Creative Cloud subscription gives me access to this lovely program called Adobe Character Animator.  I work with voice actors quite frequently as part of my game development projects and they are easier to herd (much like the monitor lizards above).  Plus, there are tutorials online for just about every skill I lack (except cat herding) and I am really good at following directions.  So again I ask, why not?

I make no guarantees that this will work.  It probably won’t.  There is a lot to undertake:  I have to rewrite some scripts, but I had to do that anyway.  I have to learn Character Animator, but that seems like fun.  I have to arrange for some voice actors, but I am already working with some great ones with my game development studio.  And I have to convert Greg into a cartoon character version of the Hearst Castle Ghost.

Cartoon Hearst Castle Ghost

This might work…

We Have A Set

Shortly after posting our non-update update this past Friday I received news that we have a location to film season one of Hearst Castle Ghost, thus we are jumping back into production mode.  Unfortunately for me, this means I have to grow out the obnoxious goatee starting today (first non-shave day).  The price we pay for art.

In additional news, I have a meeting today with a friend and actor to discuss casting call arrangements to fill in the various remaining positions and hopefully convince her to co-direct the season.  Fingers crossed.

Of course, this means there is a whole list of things that have to get done in a very short period of time to start shooting season one.  While things might get hectic and quite stressful over the coming weeks, I much prefer having to rush versus the snail’s pace we were trudging along at prior.  I just need to remember to breathe.  We got this.

No News Is No News

I had sincerely hoped to have a major update on production by now (well, by several weeks ago actually) but that does not seem to be the case.  Instead, you get a few micro updates along with an assurance that we are continuing forward with production as quickly as possible.

  • The hunt for a filming location continues quite slowly.   I have exhausted the sources I could think of and now must turn to a real estate agent to find a location willing to perform a very short term lease (one month) at a reasonable rate.  A secondary and much less attractive option will be renting a large hotel conference room and hoping for quiet during filming.
  • Greg has sent over final versions of the remaining scripts for season one as well as for post season one.  I have yet to get off my ass to read said scripts and give them the stamp of continuity.
  • Once a location has been procured that we can use as a set and casting facility we will be announcing a casting call for additional credited speaking and non-speaking roles.
  • We are quickly approaching Adult Swim’s launch of Rick and Morty Season 4, at which time all production on Hearst Castle Ghost will stop for intermittent, but brief, periods of time, because we’ll be watching Rick and Morty.

There you have it.  Moving forward at a snail’s pace, but still moving forward.

Frelling Fricking Frakking

WARNING:  The Hearst Castle Ghost may be offensive to some people.  There’s no denying that and, in some cases, it seems to be our goal.  Just watch the Ghost’s Apology Video over on YouTube as an example.  I’d be lying if I said that whole skit wasn’t written to piss on a few people’s cornflakes.  It is insensitive, insincere, sexually suggestive, and uses foul language.  And that’s just a preseason teaser video – imagine an entire season.  Fuck!

Boom!  There it is.  What was once the epitome of foul language for a television show, a word that still elicits shivers of contempt in the moral few, and the central theme of this post.  The f-bomb.  But what makes it foul (or graphic) language?  And why should I, or anyone else, care?

The answer is “intent.”  A tiny little word that society en masse has seemed to have forgotten.  Intent.  Intent.  Intent.  Did you catch that word?  Let me repeat it once more:  intent.  Probably one of the worst words to the special little snowflakes, because they don’t understand the concept.  Intent makes things go from a world of black and white to a world full of grays; and not the poorly written fifty shades kind either.  Gray is a very bad thing to a snowflake.

I will explain.  You see the title of this post?  Those are all words that represent the word “fucking” from a time when the television censors would quash a show into oblivion for dropping an f-bomb.  Frelling comes from one of my favorite sci-fi television series, Farscape.  Fricking comes from every kids’ cartoon ever written.   Frakking comes from one of my least favorite sci-fi television series, Battlestar Galactica (the remake).  All “made up” words with the same intent: to allow characters to say F-U-C-K-I-N-G without being censored and, more importantly, without offending anyone.

When Gigi Edgley said “Frell you” on Farscape or Katee Sackhoff said “Frakk off” on Battlestar Galactica we all knew they meant “fuck.”  That was the intention of each of those words and you would need to be pretty damn naive to not know that.  Yet the censors let it fly.  And we as a society let it fly.  And special little snowflakes didn’t have to melt into a puddle.  And many years later the Syfy channel was brave enough to let Magicians say “fuck” because, in all honesty, the Syfy channel had been saying it all along.

Here’s the thing with words: each one of them can be extremely offensive – or not – based entirely on the intent surrounding the word.  And it really is about time society stopped giving such power to a few chosen words while completely ignoring the intent.  In much the same way that a surgeon cutting open a person to save their life is not considered an act of violence because of their intent, words should not be considered good or bad without taking into consideration how the word was used or why it was used that way. 

Just using the word shit or ass or fuck should not tag a show as having “graphic language,” but rather the intention surrounding the words should be the determinant.  No word is good or bad, black or white.  A word does not instill love or hate.  They are all shades of gray which require each one of us to use our own brains to figure out what end of the spectrum the intent falls into.

All that said… Yeah.  The Hearst Castle Ghost is still pretty fucking offensive, with or without the f-bombs.

Location. Location. Location.

When we first started getting serious about producing the Hearst Castle Ghost video comedy series, we spent a lot of time doing research and attempting to learn from people who have paved the way before us.  This entailed taking in information from every source possible such as watching YouTube videos, reading professional articles, reading blogs, talking to professionals, and attending seminars.  To be honest, we are still spending a lot of time doing research and attempting to learn from people who have paved the way before us.  A good chunk of Comic-Con International 2019 (and 2017-2018) was spent in panels related to creating indie movies and/or TV-series on shoestring budgets.

One of the things that many of these resources hammered in is the need to make use of what you already have access to.  This could be anything from using cameras you already own, to using a friend who D.J.s as your sound engineer, to shooting at an old warehouse that your father owns.  As a matter of fact, the last one on that list was brought up quite a bit – making use of the various locations that friends and family can provide for shooting your film or web-series.

In the case of the Hearst Castle Ghost, we do almost all recording in-front of a green-screen with the backdrop for each scene added in post, so the filming location might not seem like it should matter all that much. Quite unfortunately, it does.

Here’s my not-so-brief rundown on why our filming location matters quite a bit.  The first reason is the audio recording portion of the filming.  Several of the locations that we might have easy access to record a web-series at are located very close to an airport.  A very busy airport.  With lots of very loud airplanes flying directly overhead at random intervals.  All those locations are out.

The second reason is the lighting requirements for properly chroma keying a video.  The big problems here are shadows and dark faces (see me, aka Brad Guy, in our SDCC 2019 Bound video for an example of both).  For the small teaser videos we have released, the lighting hasn’t been a huge issue because it is only one or two people on screen with limited movement.  The more people, the more movement, the larger an area that is required, the more lights you need, the more angles you need to cover lighting on the backdrop (green screen), the higher the ceilings need to be.  Effectively, for a normally scripted scene we need a 25’X25′ block with green screen on three of the sides going up 8′ to 10′.  Which means downward facing lighting from above the 10′ mark.  So, 15′ ceilings.

The third, fourth, and fifth reasons are the actors.  The primary part of this, or item three, is the set needs to be air conditioned.  Shooting with all these lights gets hot, so our 25’x25’x15′ green screen area needs to be kept cool to keep our actors and film crew from becoming drenched with sweat.

Item four is that not every actor and/or extra is in every scene.  You try to schedule the filming so that most people have scenes back to back and aren’t stuck waiting around all day, but that is not always possible.  You need a place for these people to wait off set, where they can run lines without being picked up by the on set microphones.  And you need a place to feed all these people.  And restrooms are a must.  

Item five is travel distance for your actors to the filming location(s).  In the case of a low budget web-series, like ours, the actors and extras are getting paid only in food and possibly scene credits.  There is little incentive for an actor to go out of their way to get to a filming location.

We had an offer to use a friend’s warehouse in Tennessee – which happens to be where we have shot the preseason episodes – but it lacks A/C and is in Tennessee.  It breaks two of our five requirements.  Portable A/C units are a possibility, but then we break the first requirement:  a quiet set.

When we started all this, we had access to a different friend’s nearly empty warehouse – completely air conditioned with an attached office space and conveniently located in Florida near two out of three of the actors playing major characters (the Ghost would need to walk his ass from Tennessee).  Kismet, being the bitch it is, decided to completely fill up this warehouse with pallets of crap, effectively eliminating it from the running by removing that 25’x25’x15′ area.

I personally would have never imagined that finding a location to shoot a green screen video series would be that difficult, but there you have it.  In looking back at the lectures and panels and videos we watched to help us make a better low budget web-series, there was never a mention of finding alternate locations when the universe throws a wrench in your plans and you no longer have access to someplace provided by a friend or family member. 

That’s the bad news.  But we are looking for a new location and hoping to be able to get back on schedule soon.  As of this moment, we are still planning for a November 2019 release for the show, it will just steal most of my editing time in post.  The good news is that I get to postpone growing out that fucking goatee for a bit longer. 

In the meantime, today is my Birthday, so go out and celebrate.

The Script: Creation of a Video Comedy

Despite the title including the word “comedy,” I will forewarn you that it is a bit more serious than my usual fare and is one of those “Things I Have Learned” kind of posts.  As it is a very specific topic that entails a bit more than just what I have learned in the creation process for the Hearst Castle Ghost web-series, I have opted for a separate entry all on its own.  As with most things, it is best to start with the basics and move forward.  In this case it is the screenwriting software.

Over the years the various dramatic industries have developed a standardized method for writing and formatting a script.  Whether the script you are writing is for theatre, television, the big screen, or even a simple web comedy series, there is an industry standard in place for how your script should look and behave.  While I am not going to even attempt to explain all the dos and don’ts for writing a script, I am going to tell you to use a screenwriting software package to do it.  I am also going to tell you to read the various formatting instructions and other such articles that the screenwriting software package has available.

There are plenty of screenwriting software packages out there, several of which are free.  If you are willing to pay for one and can afford it, Final Draft is pretty much the industry standard and what we use on Hearst Castle Ghost.  To be completely honest, the software is a bit clunky and in need of a UI overhaul, but despite that it works and works well.  Ultimately, the reason we chose Final Draft is because of the number of articles on their website detailing everything script writing from A-Z.  As they were kind enough to effectively put together what amounts to a free online course in screenwriting, we decided supporting them with a couple of software purchases was the least we could do.

On the subject of standards comes the major part of this blog post: uniformity of story, aka continuity.  There are two parts of this that we deal with in writing our web comedy series, the first being what I call canon. 

For Hearst Castle Ghost there are a few things which we consider facts and are not open to debate or interpretation.  That John Doe, aka the Ghost, is a deceased vagabond is canon.  No matter what actor we put in the role of the Ghost, that fact is not going to change as it is the very basis of the video series.  Brad’s life before becoming a docent is canon, the premise for the first three seasons revolves around slowly revealing that past life.  If we changed these things, we change the show’s foundation and it is no longer the Hearst Castle Ghost, but instead some other random show.

The second bit of uniformity in script writing that needs to be carefully crafted in each story is the actor’s interpretation of the character.  You brought specific actors into your production for a reason and they each have their own method or style of portraying their character.  As that style fleshes itself out, a good writer will include these changes in future scripts.  An even better writer will do a read with each actor to incorporate changes up front to the initial scripts. 

As writers we need to learn to not get butt hurt when an actor changes the lines we lovingly crafted.  It doesn’t matter how funny a line might have been, if the actor doesn’t feel the connection with the line it will just come off dull.  So be flexible, except when it comes to canon.  In those cases – where a line change conflicts with the story’s canon – the actors must be a little flexible as well.  Good actors will accept that.

When you are a solo writer for a show, keeping most of these things straight is relatively easy.  Even if it is all jumbled around in your head, the continuity is there.  When you are working with additional writers it becomes a lot more difficult.  Note cards and the sharing of them become a must.  A full write up of all things canon, including character motivations and backstory, is also required. 

While it might be true that you do not want to include too much character direction for your actors, as it stifles their creativity and the talent they are bringing to your screenplay, the same is not true for writers.  There is no such thing as too much information, too deep of a backstory, too many descriptions, or too in depth of a plot summary.  And all those write-ups should continue to grow as the story does because it helps keep future stories on track and, yet, provides a way to keep it from getting dull.

The other side of the coin is that you, as a writer, must be willing to read and absorb the backstories and character biographies penned down by the story’s creators and other writers.  You might have some brilliant ideas for expanding on someone else’s universe, but the creators and previous writers included physics for a reason.  You need to respect that.  After all, no fan has ever accepted “We changed writers” as an answer to why a story suddenly and completely changed directions (*cough* Star Trek Discovery *cough*).  Just saying…

Hearst Castle Ghost is Batman

Unsung Heroes

I’m just going to get this out of the way up front: video editing sucks.  Don’t get me wrong, my body becomes a huge endorphin factory every time I playback a video segment which I had spent hours or days working on.  That sense of completion and pride in the finished work is just amazing.  But the task?  The job?  Well, that’s the part that sucks.

I’ve been working on a few different video segments based on our time at Comic-Con and, suffice it to say, there have been more than a handful of times where I have been yanking hair from my head.  The sheer amount of time it takes to edit the video portion of some of these clips has had me promising the media gods all sorts of things, including human sacrifice.  Ok, maybe it was computer equipment sacrifice.  Or perhaps it was just me wanting to throw the computer across the room and smash it into a thousand pieces.  It’s all the same thing.

Obviously, one part of the problem is my inexperience with video editing.  It has never been my full-time job, so I have only ever really had to dabble in it. 

A second problem is the footage I am working with.  Yes, I recorded the video but as it was all live and unscripted, we really couldn’t do retakes.  I got what I got.

The third, and most frustrating, problem is the tools that are out there for editing video footage on a computer.  They suck.  The vast majority of software packages are designed to edit videos of your child and/or cat (usually the same entity) doing something that every other child and/or cat does; or, if it is really special, impersonating a dog which, let’s be honest, every child and/or cat does.  Slightly above those software packages in price and usability is Adobe Premiere.

If you have read my previous posts, or had the unlucky occasion to discuss the topic in person with me, you know my love-hate relationship with Adobe Premiere.  It is the best software package on the market for the semi-professional video editor.  It is the most frustrating software package on the market for the semi-professional video editor.  I won’t dive into the wheres and whys at this juncture, but I did become exceptionally frustrated with using Premiere while editing one specific piece of footage for a Hearst Castle Ghost promotional video.

The video was supposed to be a sort of flashback to Brad’s vacation at SDCC2019, highlighting some of the things the Ghost did while in San Diego and how that turned Brad’s vacation into a stress factory.  One of the segments involved the sign used to harass the “Jesus People” across the street from the convention center.  Try as I might, I could not get Adobe Premiere to do what I wanted with this video.  After many long hours of frustration with Premiere, I wound up exporting the frames as jpg files and manually edited each one inside Adobe Photoshop.  Two minutes editing time for each frame.  Thirty frames a second.  It was a 13 second clip.  Do the math.  

After I finished up all of that and several other clips, I ran into audio problems with two of the larger, more important videos and had to scrap the whole thing.  I am not ashamed to admit I cried.

Despite that, I did end up learning a few new tricks in video editing and added some items to my “Things I Have Learned” list.  I also wound up with one video that gave me that endorphin shot when I finished it.  I was (am) so in love with this clip that I immediately shared it out to a ton of people (read: I sent it to my mom). Although the parent video has been scrapped, I have decided to share it out with the rest of the world as well.

I still have every intention of including this in one of the upcoming promotional videos, but it is too much fun not to share on its own.  Trust me, hit play with volume on.

Anyway, I guess the point of this post is to say video editing is a lot more difficult and time consuming than most people believe.  I have only had a small taste of what these people do, but I do know that a video editor can make or break a web series, television show, or movie just as much (or more) than the writers, actors, and directors who get all the huge title sequence credits.  They are the unsung heroes of the entertainment industry who devote countless hours making everything look great long after everyone else has gone home.  Productions are collaborations and we should never forget that. 

Now go outside and play.

A Soliloquy On Facial Hair

I am my father’s son.  I’ve heard it all my life, “You look just like your father.”  There has never been any denying that.  So, when I was 8 or 9 years old and my father had grown out a mustache, the image stuck with me.  A few years later when he had grown out a beard for a brief period of time, I recorded every detail to memory.  These were images of my future should I opt for facial hair; thus, they were important images for a child entering adolescence and eventual adulthood.  Images that let me know that I did not want facial hair.

I won’t go into the various analysis I made regarding the growing of hair on my face versus my various features, but we will say it is enough to know that it was not something I liked the look of on my person.  Or rather the potential look of.  And for forty years I had kept myself mostly clean shaven, with never a whisker making it past a day or two.  That is until a trip to Europe kept me unshaven for an extended period.

I had arrived in Stockholm SE by way of Amsterdam NL, on what was to be a two-month long trip across various European countries, only to discover that my bags had decided to remain in Amsterdam.  I can only imagine the discussion the various pieces of my luggage had in order to come to the decision to jump ship on a two-hour layover; I, however, cannot imagine that they did not know the second to last leg of the trip was two weeks in Amsterdam.  Surely, they understood that there was plenty to do and see in the beautiful city of Stockholm and that Amsterdam could wait?  Apparently not, for it took an entire week for my clothing and toiletries to arrive and I am convinced to this day that my possessions, to the one, had squinty red eyes upon their arrival in Stockholm.

But I digress.  Not wanting to purchase all new items, during the week of the missing luggage I made do with clothing borrowed from friends and the toiletries available from the hotel front desk.  Unfortunately for me the hotel did not have a razor or shaving cream available, thus I went the week without shaving.  When my luggage finally arrived in Stockholm, and for reasons I can only blame on a contact high brought about from my errant possessions, I decided to go the rest of the trip without shaving.  “Just let it grow,” was my motto.

A little over a month and a half later and I was on a return flight to the United States from Manchester UK.  To say I was anxious to remove the facial hair would be an understatement of magnitude along the lines of saying my eyes may have been a little pink during my time in Amsterdam.  I don’t think I made it an hour in my house before my face was once again completely clean shaven.

I did manage to learn a few things during that experiment.  The first is that – at the time – 98% of the gray hairs on my body were located on my face.  That number has since dwindled down to around 90% as random gray hairs continue to sprout up across my body where before there were none.  The second is that I absolutely hate having facial hair.  It itches.  It pokes and pricks my skin.  It feels unsanitary.  And, to be honest, I really do not like the look of it on my person.  I really am my father’s son.

I mention all of this because when it came to the discussions Greg and I had regarding the appearance of various characters, he decided that Brad Guy should have a goatee with soul patch.  Granted, I had decided that the Ghost would have a scraggly, unkept beard so there is a small sense of fairness there.  However, Greg has had facial hair in the form of a goatee for the past 20+ years.  Additionally, he had already grown out a scraggly, unkept beard for a commercial he was shooting for another company.

I, on the other hand, had to grow out this goatee for our initial promotional video footage.  Despite intending on going to Comic Con International as Brad Guy and thus a reason to just keep the goatee, I had to immediately shave it off (as well as all my body hair from ankles to earlobes) for a quick round of surgery the week after shooting.  I am now going through the horror of growing the goatee out once again; which I am convinced contains more grey hairs with each time I regrow it. 

I hate it and it is absolutely driving me nuts.  At this point I am determined to dress as Brad Guy for the first two days of SDCC2019 so that I might shave this infernal thing off before the weekend.  Which will be heaven. Until I return home and must start growing the blasted thing out again for filming episodes of Hearst Castle Ghost in August and September.

I have no proof, but I am absolutely convinced that Greg’s arguments for Brad Guy to sport a goatee – no matter how logical his reasoning may have seemed – was strictly meant as a way of punishing me for some past wrong I perpetrated against him early on in my life.  Some grudge he has held firmly to for all these years which I likely forgot about moments after the occurrence.   I am my father’s son, but I am also apparently the target for my brother’s perverse sense of humor.  The things we do for art…

The Ghost Emblem

Making the decisions to proceed with creating a video web-series for the Hearst Castle Ghost and to attend Comic Con International 2019 as one of the main characters, Brad Guy, created a few additional projects for me.  One project that stood out for both decisions was that I needed a costume.  Not only for Brad Guy, the unofficial head of the tour guides for our fictional version of the Hearst Castle, but also for the other tour guides.

Being that this is a low budget production, lacking a team of costume designers and seamsters, it seemed prudent to keep the tour guide costume simple, using off the shelf garments where possible.  Luckily the series is based off a fictional version of a very real place complete with previously existing tour guides.  Even more luckily, I had managed to capture several images of the tour guides when Greg and I first visited the Hearst Castle.

If you were to take the time to search the Interwebs for images of Hearst Castle tour guides you might notice there are two main styles of uniforms depicted in these images.  Older images show tour guides in the standard California State Parks style ranger uniforms, which means khakis and fishing vests.  This makes sense, as the Hearst Castle was deeded to the state of California in January of 1958 and became part of the Department of Parks and Recreation.  At some point, and without knowing the internal politics involved, the uniform style changed over to that of a California museum docent.  I would hazard a guess that this change corresponded to Hearst Castle literature referring to the park as a museum as well.

I will admit some indecision as to the choice of uniform style for the web series, but we ultimately opted for the more up-to-date museum style.  I think this decision had more to do with wanting to use the word “docent” in a script or two than anything else.  Just comedy gold.

Regardless of the uniform style, one thing that remained static across all the uniforms worn at the Hearst Castle was inclusion of the California State Parks embroidered patch.  Or in the case of Brad Guy – for reasons that will be included as part of various episodes – the California State Parks Volunteer patch.

California State Parks Embroidered Patch   California State Parks Volunteer Embroidered Patch 

Being overzealous and wanting to get as much accomplished early-on for both filming the series and appearing at Comic Con, I promptly found the patches for sale online and ordered several quantities of each.  One item off my list quickly and easily.  Or so I thought.

A problem occurred to me sometime after the patches arrived but prior to attaching them to the various articles of clothing that encompass the docent uniforms.  For the sake of filming we are a satirical comedy and thus can impersonate California State Park officials with impunity.  For the sake of attending Comic Con International, held in San Diego California, I would be a random guy impersonating a California State Park official while in the state of California.  While I am certain our attorney could keep me out of prison, getting arrested or even harassed for appearing as a state employee would in no way benefit the show or my own personal enjoyment of SDCC2019.  Effectively, the patches go too far.

A new patch was necessary and as I was already attached to the idea of a slightly different patch for the volunteers (i.e. Brad Guy) I decided to base the fictional patches off the real-life ones.  A little design theft, some simple image editing, a dash of advanced Adobe Photoshop, and a smidgen of retweaks gave me the basic patch designs ready to be sent off to the embroiderer.

Hearst Castle Patch Artwork   Hearst Castle Volunteer Patch Artwork 

It was while I was in the process of designing the new patch artwork that I had started work on our Internet presence, namely a YouTube channel and this here website.  An emblem, or logo, was needed for both and what would make a better emblem than the patch I was already designing?  Back into Photoshop for a little additional tweaking, some consultation with Greg, some more advanced Adobe Photoshop features and a lot of how-to videos.  The end result?  The Hearst Castle Ghost emblem in all its glory.

There you have the story of the origination for the Hearst Castle Ghost logo.  I am considering this a work in process as there are several web and physical print media pieces that will utilize this logo, each having different RGB, CMYK, Pantone and thread index color requirements as well as rasterized resolutions versus vector artwork.  I have already had to create a second complete remake of the logo because of one of these physical media requirements, which may or may not pertain to items we’ll be handing out in San Diego in about two weeks’ time (from the date of this post).  But, as the Ghost has sworn me to secrecy, I couldn’t possibly comment on that.  Enjoy.

Conversation to Concept to Convention

Once upon a time this drunkard ghost living in a castle wrote down his (after)life story and gave it to us to do with as we pleased.  Easiest origin story for a sitcom ever. Unfortunately, the reality of the origin of the Hearst Castle Ghost is a lot less strange and far more cyclical in nature, in this case starting on the road to a convention with a conversation…

The year was 2017 and, as was our tradition, my brother, Greg, and I were on our yearly pilgrimage to San Diego Comic Con (SDCC).  We had been attending for a number of years at this point; designing and dressing in new costumes each year and had even gone so far as to enter into the Masquerade one of those years.  For a geek there really is no better vacation.

As part of our tradition, each year I fly out the weekend prior to “Preview Night” and meet up with Greg to wander across California and hit up some of the sights, attractions, and landmarks available.  At this time, Greg had been residing in California since the mid-90s so he knew most of the oddball places to take me each year.  For 2017 that oddball place was the Hearst Castle, located in San Simeon, CA and built by William Randolph Hearst.

I use the word “oddball” when referring to historic sites because of the simple fact that the majority of these places were either built by persons known for being completely bat-shit crazy, are known for being haunted by some sort of “intelligent” ghost, or both (such as the Winchester Mystery House we visited the year prior).  Thus oddball.  To the best of my knowledge, William Randolph Hearst was not completely bat-shit crazy.  Eccentric, yes.  He was rich after all.  But not bat-shit crazy.

Anyway, to keep myself from getting too long winded in the telling of the rest of the Hearst Castle Ghost origin story I am going to switch over to script writing format without all the font and formatting rules.  Enjoy.


Greg is driving a rental SUV through the unlit shoreline roadways leading to San Simeon.  Andrew relaxes in the passenger seat.


So this place is haunted right?




It’s a castle in the middle of nowhere, how can it not be haunted?


It’s not.  We asked on a couple of the tours.  All the guides said it wasn’t haunted.  As far as I know, no one ever died there.

Andrew leans his head back and closes his eyes.  Greg continues navigating the dark twists and turns of the road in silence.

(sitting up)

What if it really was haunted?

(in voice of H.C.G.)

Jesus Fucking Christ Guys.  I’m right here.  Why do you have to keep telling people I don’t exist.  That’s just fucked up.  It’s hurtful, that’s what it is.  Just hurtful.

Greg and Andrew spend the remainder of the drive riffing back and forth in the voice of the Hearst Castle Ghost, expanding upon the character and laughing uncontrollably.


That is pretty much where the idea for the Hearst Castle Ghost character came from.  At some point during that drive Greg threw out the names of Brad and Becca, and so they became canon.  Additional details were added in during our tour of the Hearst Castle based on what we saw, or didn’t see, such as all of the fountains and the Neptune Pool being empty for repair.

SDCC2017 ended and time went on with monthly phone calls between Greg and I invariably degrading into one or both of us switching into the voice for H.C.G. and riffing out the afterlife of this poor character.  I truly feel bad for the friends and family who had to listen to us switch over to H.C.G. for 30 minutes or more during these phone calls.  We have the habit of going too far and then sprinting a little further.

It was during one of our monthly calls at the end of winter 2018 when Greg asked me what I was dressing as for Comic Con this year.  We usually try to work in a costume or two with the same theme or as an ensemble (previous years included Steam Punk Alice in Wonderland and Steam Punk Avengers).  I can’t really remember why, but when my brother asked me I wasn’t really feeling the whole cosplay thing yet, so I responded “I’m going as Hearst Castle Ghost.”

That opened a small can of worms in the form of who actually made a better Hearst Castle Ghost.  Not that we had any real intention of going to SDCC dressed as the Ghost, but I must admit Greg definitely makes a better H.C.G.  Granted, he is more likely to cross the line from funny to WTF, but on a whole he just pulls off the character to perfection.  All said and done, for SDCC2018 I dressed as two different mashups: the Avengers (all of them) and Justice League (all of them).

Fast forward to end of winter 2019 and I get the same question from Greg.  Only this year two things were different.  First, I had been dealing with a lot of health issues from the end of 2018 forward which limited my time to construct a new costume as well as my desire to sweat my balls off in costume.  Second, Greg and I had another year under our belts of fine tuning Hearst Castle Ghost to where we began taking the concept seriously as a direct to Internet sitcom.  Thus my response was, “I’m going as Brad.”

There was a lot of back and forth at this point of, “You can’t go as Brad” or “No one knows who Brad is,” from Greg, which was counterbalanced by my most elegant argument, “I don’t give a shit.”  Eventually my argument won out over his logic and instead of spending a ton of time creating cosplay costumes for SDCC2019, we have spent a ton of time brainstorming, designing, fine tuning, writing, and casting for a web series about a drunk ghost living in a castle that was never haunted.

And I’m still going to SDCC2019 as Brad.  I have the costume after all.