What a ride it has been with this little project of ours, Sex Drugs and Jazz. It all started - like all series do - with the first episode, “The Chronicles Of Neptune.” When I started putting the script together for the Pilot I knew I wanted to make it a believable musicians story, and include a lot of the places I frequented in New York. I wanted the show to feel like you were actually there with the characters, getting down and dirty on the L.E.S. I based the first season of the show around the genius stoner Neptune, mainly because I thought that he would just be a really fun character to write. Neptune is like a lot of people - seriously gifted in some areas, and just dumb as ass in others.
The story begins as viewers meet Neptune, who has just spent the night with a pretty young thing. We see him scramble to try and play for change so he can take his lady out for brunch, but winds up getting smacked down by another street musician trying to get his corner back. This is one of my favorite openings in the first season because it was really true to my experience - there were plenty of times during our first year living in New York, that we were playing in the streets in the snow for change to get dinner. And I loved every minute of it - well maybe not the freezing my balls off part, but in retrospect, I totally loved it. And there were definitely times our friendly group of musicians were verbally and near physically attacked for being on another musician’s corner. Good times.
In the next scene, we see how Neptune interacts in the real world, at his office job. It doesn’t end well, another storyline drawn from life as my entire life as a filmmaker and musician has been a battle to balance multiple jobs at once. We meet Neptunes corporate roommate Mitchell Rock played by Sean Hartofilis, who basically is the antithesis of everything Neptune believes in - living together for convenience sake, a very New York experience.
Netpune’s best friend Chris Wang is always there to rescue his bud. Chris is an engineer, scientist, consultant to NASA, and also a major stoner like Neptune. The Pilot episode also introduces us to an intimidating but teddy bear of a drug dealer Dino - another character ripped ripped straight from the streets of New York; there was a pot dealer lots of musicians knew about that was pretty bi-polar. One day he’d be delivering weed smiling laughing, the next day screaming cursing and intimidating. Another funny side note on the role. Originally I hired an actor...Forget his name as we didn’t end up using him as the day of the shoot he didn’t show for call time. Doesn’t answer his phone, nothing. Later I hear the actor I hired to be our drug dealer got arrested.... Oh sweet irony. By happenstance, working on set that day was great friend and actor Rob W. Miller. He jumped in, grabbed a script, and in about 15 minutes, we had a pitch perfect Dino.
The second to last scene in the Pilot is Neptune meeting his new love interest Julie Danes played by the fantastic Tory Dube. I wanted to shoot this to be in places I frequented. We lived on the border of Chinatown, Financial District, and the Lower East Side. me and the lady used to take lovely walks all up and down the pungent East River where people referred to as Two Bridges. It’s a beautiful area just up from the Southstreet seaport in between the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges. We spent many a days sitting on the benches and staring out over to Brooklyn. I thought it would be great to have Neptune meet his lady here.
On the technical side of things: The Pilot and series was shot by my brother from another mother and brilliant DP Joe Gabriel. Neptune is played by the quirky and delightful Ashley Springer. The Pilot intro was shot in Williamsburg, and the exterior in Chinatown. The Office scene in midtown Manhattan 38th and 8th Ave. Neptunes apartment interior is in Williamsburg Brooklyn at South 9th and Bedford. Dino’s apartment is shot on the Upper East Side on 91st and Lexington. Neptune and Julie’s scene was shot on Catherine St and South Street under the FDR.
Anyhow, I may have out nerded you with all the details, but perhaps some of it will be interesting to you. Furthermore I highly suggest you get up immediately, grab a bottle of something with alcohol, go to our YouTube page, and watch the Pilot episode and see what I am yammering about.
A huge thanks as well as I talk about the Pilot to all of the cast, crew and friends of this project who made this shoot possible. A huge shout out to the Mayor’s Office of Film and Television of New York.
The above pic was Neptune (Ashley Springer) playing guitar at sunset in Washington Square Park for the intro to the show. Below is the full Pilot episode “The Chronicles of Neptune.”