Rebecca Norris interviews Ian Brown, creator of The Bruvs – an animated web series for adults only that’s a little rude, crude, and definitely hilarious.
Rebecca Norris is a producer, writer, and filmmaker with her production company, Freebird Entertainment. Her award-winning feature film, Cloudy With a Chance of Sunshine, has been distributed on Amazon Streaming and DVD. Rebecca is also a script analyst who has read for many companies, including Sundance, ScreenCraft, Bluecat, and the International Emmys, as well as her own script consultancy, Script Authority. Rebecca also writes the ScriptMag column True Indie, where she explores the writing, production, and distribution of self-produced, truly independent film, and blogs for ScreenCraft and The Script Lab. Follow Rebecca’s posts on Twitter at @beckaroohoo.
It’s always exciting to find an international web series that I may not have had the chance to come across on my own. It’s even more exciting when that web series goes against the grain and feels truly original! I was delighted to be introduced recently to The Bruvs, a British animated web series for adults only. The title characters are a little crude, a little rude, certainly not PC, and definitely hilarious.
I had the opportunity to interview co-creator/writer/producer Ian Brown, a veteran TV writer and producer who has produced shows including Top Gear and has written and produced for everyone from Simon Cowell and Jamie Oliver to Jason Statham and Liam Neeson.
Rebecca: THE BRUVS is a hilarious animated cartoon series geared toward grown-ups. What inspired you to create a cartoon web series for adults?
Ian: Thanks for calling us hilarious. I suppose rejection was the inspiration. The idea had come quite a few years before. It was put in front of production companies and broadcasters in between other projects I was working on. While people liked the idea, the big costs involved put people off. So, a few years ago I decided to give it a go and managed to persuade animation director Eoin Clarke to come in on the project with me. We managed to get a great editor and sound recordist Paul Richmond involved andThe Bruvs were born.
We did a couple of episodes in our spare time and put them online to see how people reacted. Positive feedback has led to 17 films and the continuing saga of The Bruvs. It’s adult only in the sense that the characters had to be believable, so they had to be a bit violent and a bit sweary. But we have no A-class swearing.
Rebecca: The series follows the misadventures of a family of London East End characters who try to leave their old, less-than-sophisticated ways behind as they make a new life for themselves in Essex. What inspired the characters? Are any of the characters or situations based on real life events?
Ian: There are known – and unknown – criminals who bear a striking (in all senses) resemblance to Doug and Den, the main characters. When Eoin designed the characters he got what I had in mind totally. These guys – and other characters – can be seen every day in East and Northeast London and the county of Essex, where the action is set. Naming names might be too risky.
Rebecca: For those unfamiliar with working in animation, what goes into the production of a completely animated series that makes it different from live action? What are the different considerations you have to make for an animated web series? (Who do you hire, what kind of production design do you have to do, how is the writing process different?)
Ian: In the first instance, we are unlike mainstream animation – like The Simpsons and Family Guy. While they have large budgets and big teams, we are just five people. I write an outline script, which is then discussed with animation director Eoin Clarke. He will come up with extra visual gags and ways to get from one setup to the next. Our main constraint after that is time and money. So, often, we will drop super complicated ideas. As Eoin animates solo, they might add four weeks to a schedule. We like to get the films out as soon as we can – within reason.
After Eoin has worked out a storyboard – each frame of the animation – we then go into the recording session for the voices. I play all lead characters with some quite painful contortionism to get the voice of Chanterelle. Even at that stage we are working as a team adding more gags, improving lines with Paul. Meanwhile, if we need music, we pull in our great part-time musos Stig Winslet and Pete Harbour to create some magic.
Once the voices are recorded, Eoin will get stuck into the animation, which is a very labour-intensive process. He’ll be sent the music, once ready, and will tie all the elements together. I trust him implicitly so when he decides to change something – because it makes it funnier – there is no great discussion. Once the film is ready, we view it and make any changes that might be required. Usually there are none. Then it goes on our website and Youtube and other platforms.
Rebecca: In what kind of a budget range was your series? Did you self-finance, or raise money from crowdfunding or investors, or a combo?
Ian: In a way there is no budget. It is a passion project – which I define as a production in which you persuade other idiots to come in with you and work for nothing. We do the work in-between other projects that do pay us. That said, all the online elements need self-funding: trademark, website, T-shirts and mugs made up to help with promotion, etc. We are trying to build The Bruvs into a larger online presence. We are looking for more followers to our social media. The hope is that we might get commissioned to develop longer episodes and more of a sitcom format. Or we’d like to become a brand and look at other funding avenues.
Rebecca: What lessons did you learn from the process of creating your web series? Was anything harder than you thought it would be, or easier?
Ian: I had never worked in animation fully before. So the time involved was a slight learning curve.But it is always worth it. Eoin always comes up with something amazing, if I may say. I cannot wait to see the finished product and he brings the characters and gags to life. The other issue is what is involved in building up the following. You have to work quite hard on social media and publicity to help viewers find you. But it is definitely one of the most rewarding things I have ever done creatively.
Rebecca: What advice would you give to prospective web series creators out there? Is there anything you recommend new web series creators do or not do, or anything you’d do differently if you had it to do all over again?
Ian: I think the key thing is to go for it. If you have confidence in your project, make it happen. You sometimes have to do long hours, knock heads together and put in the effort, but it is a vibrant place and a very responsive field to work in. It’s stating the obvious, but because it is online it has the potential to reach a worldwide audience instantly. No TV show has that really. Feedback also comes instantly. It is like working in live theatre. You soon find out if it is worth carrying on. People don’t hold back in giving an opinion.
Luckily, The Bruvs, so far, have had great response from all over the place. It’s great when someone thousands of miles away leaves a nice comment or shares a link to your stuff. I can’t think of anything I would do differently. The whole process has been a learning experience. Before The Bruvs I did not have a Facebook or Twitter account. Now I almost live on them, as well as on Instagram. I’ve had to learn how to make the most of them as well. Go for it. As we always say when the Bruvs try something new and improving, “what could possibly go wrong?”