By Lydia Ahern
A couple of weeks ago, the atmosphere inside Gasson 307 buzzed with excitement and humor as the New York Picture Company, a comedic production house founded by three Boston College graduates, Matt Cullinan, James Fagan, and Zach Bubolo, visited to film for their upcoming season.
The Gasson classroom was used to film “Dad Joke Academy,” an upcoming episode of Season Two of their Sketch Show series. Dr. Jorgenson, of the Theatre department, plays a professor, who instructs thirty year old men how to be more “dad-like.” The episode riffs on the Harry Potter owl delivery system–men on their thirtieth birthday receive an invitation, by way of owl, to join Dad Joke Academy. Gasson 307 provided the setting for “Obscure Reference Class.”
It was clear to me, as an observer to the filming process that night, that most people in the room knew each other. Remarks of encouragement were shouted out to actors as they ran through lines, and between filming shots, laughter and jokes were the norm: I was to later learn that most of the actors and production crew were also BC alumni.
After the filming for the scene ended–around 2 hours for just a short 15-second slice of the episode–I was afforded the privilege of sitting down with the three men behind the New York Picture Company, Matt Cullinan, James Fagan, and Zach Bubolo, to talk about their experiences in starting their own Production Company, and explore the dynamics between the three charismatic and funny friends.
Your say your work has a “quirky” voice. Could you describe this quirky-ness?
Matt Cullinan: Comedy should come as a surprise. We always start off with a practical semi-real premise, and by the end something happens that blows it into absurdity.
Jim Fagan: We want to make each other laugh–and we don’t make each other laugh by doing obvious things, we make each other laugh by being weird.
How would you describe your group dynamics?
Zach Bubolo: All starts from a place of love, but you know [Matt and Jim] are really dumb, and I really need to take control over what happens. Even though they always have really great, funny ideas, and are the creative engines of the endeavor, they really just need a father figure in their lives that sort of tells them how everything works.
M: We really are like brothers, we absolutely love each other, and we fight all the time coming from a place of passion and belief and commitment and the ideas we’re presenting. We test and challenge each other so we know the ideas that are coming out of it are really great and strong, and we all believe in them.
What’s involved in your creative writing process? It is different for every project?
M: Each project is approached differently, but I feel like our overriding structure is that we all come together to talk about the macro of what we want from something…From there we kind of have a brainstorming session, where we brainstorm the ideas that we are really interested in exploring and then we assign roles…We come back together depending on our schedule to give feedback and collaborate…We pretty much try to move on when all three of us are laughing at the same time.
During your time at BC, did you picture yourself creating a production house post-graduation?
M: I don’t think I ever thought I’d be doing quite this.
Z: I definitely though I was going to be a movie star.
J: I kind of pictured this, I just thought theatre. But I have always been more interested in doing this, and it took me until a couple years ago to realize that theater was my safety job, (which was insane because it’s harder, or as hard), so I was like, I should just be doing the awesome thing that I really want to do.
How did your theatre major at BC help you with writing and acting?
J: The major at BC helps so much because you have to do everything. You have to write, you have to build sets, you have to light things, you have to direct—you have to do everything at some point or another.
M: I think a large part of it too, is because of the theatre background, we kind of operate this company like a theatre company in the sense that we have a group of actors, a group of designers, and a group of directors that come together to create and collaborate.
Z: The professional contacts we have are Boston College contacts. Our actors are BC actors, when we bring in writers or guests, we want them to be BC people because we feel the connection is really strong. That is one of the great things that comes out of the major: it’s not just your skills but also your working professional relationships are really strong and you also know the taste of the people you want to work with.
In fact, the main star of their short, Dr. Luke Jorgenson, was their own theatre professor during their time at BC. Not only did Dr. Jorgenson play a role as an actor for the episode, but he also helped them with the logistics of filming in a classroom at Boston College.
Were you involved in clubs or activities at BC related to comedy, acting, or production?
Jim: I wish that I had done Hello!…Shovelhead…The theatre department at the time was sort of ‘all in’; we did a lot of shows.
Zach: I did Chorale, I did BC Bop, and I was an orientation leader.
Matt: Within the theatre department there were two clubs, Contemporary Theatre and DS, and Jim and I were on the boards. I was on CT and he was on DS.
Jim: Senior year I finished a film minor, which was nice because it got me out of [the theater] building, and some of that has helped still [for what we’re doing now].
When you were all undergrads at BC, did you picture yourselves working together post-grad?
Jim: I think for Zach, again, this is his worst nightmare coming true every day of his life.
Zach: I thought I would be hiring them, like as personal assistants.
What was the most fun project you have worked on to date?
J: This season has been, for me, unbelievable.
M: Since August when we’ve been working on our second season, Josh, our DP, has come along. His job freed us up to do other things and so it has just expanded the reach of what were able to accomplish, so this season has been great…We just shot something last weekend, it’s a new cooking comedy show called, Cooking For One With The Crying Chef.
J: I mean they’re all fun for different reasons…We also have weekly live talk shows from our tubs now.
M: That’s fun because I take tubs once a week now. Tubs are so relaxing.
How did it feel to win an award for one of your commercials?
J: Oh my god so good, do you remember that?
Z: Oh my god I think about it all the time.
Matt told me he celebrated this achievement by buying tacos for everyone in “the tiniest, cheapest” Mexican restraint in central California.
J: When you’re doing this, you’re all in, you’re all on your own, and you need little benchmarks that tell you you’re doing it right and that you’re “good”. You need little wins.
What can we expect from New York Picture Company in the future?
Z: Every Monday night for the next couple nights, we’re going to be showing TubTime at 10pm, were going to be releasing Cooking For One With the Crying Chef, Tuesdays from November 24th through Christmas, and then February 13th we are launching season two of our sketch show.
M: But before that you can expect many panic attacks.