Zombies are the middle children of the otherworldly family. Vampires are the oldest brother who gets to have a room in the attic, all tripped out with a disco ball and shag carpet. Werewolves are the youngest, the babies, always getting pinched and told they're cute. With all that attention stolen away from the middle child zombie, no wonder she shuffles off grumbling, "Marsha, Marsha, Marsha."

- Kevin James Breaux

Monday, October 15, 2012

Web Series Reviews: The Lumber Baron of Jasper County – Web Series Season One

The following is not horror related but is from one of Georgia's most respected indie horror film makers - Dave R. Watkins - who decided to show his more comedic side.

Not being the type of person to sit down and watch a web series I was only interested in this newest web series “The Lumber Baron of Jasper County” because it was produced in Georgia and starred several known actors in the Georgia indie film community.  The first season of the series (eight regular episodes with a Halloween Special) is now on Blip (www.blip.tv) at http://blip.tv/lumberbaron.  The series is created by Dave R. Watkins and Michael D. Friedman and concerns the misadventures of The Lumber Baron (Watkins) and Ashley (Candace Mabry) when The Lumber Baron hires his fallen from Wall Street cousin Mike (Grant Garlinghouse) to help modernize the lumber business.  Mike’s changes don’t always go so well especially when it comes to Pete (Friedman), the yard manager, and the colorful customers that visit the business on a day to day basis.  Also making things more interesting is the fact that “The Lumber Baron” is a split personality of real owner of the lumber yard Dave.  The “Lumber Baron” was originally a character Dave used to promote the lumber yard and business but now it seems that the Baron has taken over Dave completely.

Most of the first season of episodes is written by Watkins but co-writers Friedman and Nathan Hill contribute greatly to the series’ overall off-beat nature.  One of the show’s greatest strengths is the relationships between characters.  As Dave fights through his personality conflicts with “The Lumber Baron” he misses out on the fact that Ashley has fallen in love with him.  Ashley is all heart except to Mike, the person she believes came in and stole her promotion so she is constantly undermining his authority and Mike has his own problems just trying to fit in at the lumber yard with all the colorful characters that he didn’t have to deal with when he was in New York working on Wall Street.  And just why did Mike leave Wall Street to begin with?  These questions and many more add a level of realism to the characters that could have easily fallen into caricature if handled in the wrong way but Watkins and his writers and especially the actors manage to always ground the series by the personal issues that each of the core characters have to deal with. 

Each episode comes in at just under ten minutes so they are a breeze to watch in just one seating.  Knowing this, Watkins and company created a companion web series to run along the main one called “Ask the Baron”, which is an open forum for customers and fans of the Lumber Baron to go online and ask him questions about lumber.  This is made even more entertaining by the fact that The Lumber Baron and Ashley are doing this behind Mike’s back.  These smaller webisodes allow fans of the series to get a glimpse at the people who shop at the lumber yard.

The web series (both of them) are quite entertaining and despite some occasional lighting issues (especially in outdoor scenes) the series is an extremely competent endeavor that demonstrates that Georgia indie filmmakers have more to offer than just more horror films and web series (which there is no end of).  Also of note is the original music by Markleford Friedman which gives the series a very surreal ambiance that elevates the tone and mood of the series.

Dave R. Watkins is best known for his starring roles in indie feature films Jack O’Lantern (2004) and Stragglers (2004), which he also wrote and directed, and for producing another series “Witch Hunters Extraordinaire” (2002) as well as countless other short films.  Candace Mabry is no stranger to web series as she had a role in “The Rising Sun” (2009) and “Let Us In” (2011).  She is best known for her roles in Return of the Jackalope (2006) and Undocumented Executive (2011) but has starred in numerous short films.  Grant Garlinghouse is a regular of Watkins’ films having starred in “Witch Hunters Extraordinaire”, Return of the Jackalope, and the short "Dead Vengeance" (2009).

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