Makin’ Lemonade Makes the Best Out of Low Production Values


[show=makinlemonade size=large]Cheap is the new expensive these days, and everyone embracing a low-fi style in the online video world has their own aesthetic. The Mortified Shoebox Show plays with childhood dioramas. Jeffery and Cole Casserole goes through pad after pad of yellow legal paper. Makin’ Lemonade, meanwhile, cements its low-budget credentials with judicious use of cardboard for its credits sequence.

And that sort of found object sensibility persists throughout the series, the brainchild of comedy writers Zach Ayers and Ben Bleichman. Framed as an advice podcast for those stuck in an economic rut, the short-form series chronicles one man’s attempts to manage decent hygiene and make a fresh salad without any money, prospects or a roof over his head — because this wannabe Martha Stewart is determined to make the best of his new home-challenged state.

Graduates of Second City, Ayers and Bleichman previously worked together on the web series Good Taste, which was plot-heavy, required a lot of cast and crew, and, oh, yeah, was about a cannibal catering company. The series never took off, so when they paired up with actor Chris Schneider to create a new one, they decided to do something on a much smaller scale that could be enjoyed out of sequence. “Ben and I are writers; Chris is an actor,” Ayers said via phone. “So we wanted to make something that put our writing and acting in the best possible light without having to have a heart attack every time we wanted to shoot something.” According to Ayers, the whole production is just Bleichman and him behind an $80 Flip camera, and for editing ease, each short is one long take, which makes them easy to post quickly.

The team has developed an elaborate backstory for Chris that so far only informs these episodes, but the character still feels fully fleshed out. While Schneider’s resemblance to Chris Elliot is striking — “We’re hoping to get Chris Elliot for a cameo,” Bleichman joked — his unique charm is found in his earnest faith that really, things are going to get better for him soon. And he’s aided and abetted by Ayers and Bleichman’s dry, witty scripts that feature no shortage of laugh lines that often reveal the dark side of Chris’s desperation. For example, while discussing the challenges of DIY health care, Chris samples some pills, remarking, “These are expired, which really just means no one will buy it off you anymore. Also, sometimes when medicine gets old its effects change. One time, I took this really old Theraflu — no more haircuts! That’s a saver.”

Deliberately produced on the cheap, the team is looking to Lemonade as a means of gaining greater exposure rather than making a profit (all are seeking representation). Given how tough it is to monetize web content, especially for the outside creator, it’s not a bad approach. Their only fear moving forward is that times might get a little less tough. “We want to be clear about this — we don’t want the economy to get better,” Bleichman said. “But even if it did, Chris would still be in the same position.”

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