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Thursday, Dec. 22, 2016 12:06 am

“The Studio Show” winds down from ambitious season

Not making fun of Springfield, but making Springfield fun

Arlin Peebles and Keil Isham of “The Studio Show.”


Eight months ago, Springfield-based web series “The Studio Show” – which takes a quirky and humorous look at area arts and community – was featured on the cover of IT (“Making Springfield look cool,” April 28, 2016). In the brief time since then, the series has grown into something of a fixture on the city’s overall scene.

The nine-episode second season, which aired its finale Dec. 20, included guests such as Mayor Jim Langfelder (in an interview segment) and outgoing WUIS Statehouse bureau chief Amanda Vinicky (playing a character in a comedy sketch) and even this author (in a musical segment featuring the band Epsom and as the recurring character “Dr. Goldfiend”). The episodes also saw co-creators and cohosts Arlin Peebles and Keil Isham visiting landmarks such as the Dana-Thomas House and the downtown farmers market, all while maintaining the show’s focus on Springfield’s creative community and distinctive physical landscape, rendered with crisp visuals and a snark-free attitude.

According to “Studio Show” co-creator Dave Heinzel, 39, the second season’s ambitious production schedule proved difficult. “It’s been a disaster,” he said evenly. “I mostly view the show from a technical perspective because I do all the editing and tech stuff. We tried to do an episode a week this season and as soon as one show was released online we were immediately behind on the next one. It’s been hard.”

An ambitious run-up to the second season included a full writer’s room, made up of area talent, which generated numerous ideas during weekly sessions over the summer. However, much of this work ended up being scrapped due to time constraints and other technical concerns. “We had all this material but we didn’t actually have time to shoot the stuff,” Heinzel said with a sigh. “That was disappointing. We’ve got a lot of good ideas left over if we ever want to use them. I do feel proud of every episode we put out, despite not being able to include a lot of things that we wanted to.”

Regardless, the show’s second season grew to contain a variety of voices beyond its original threesome of Peebles, Isham and Heinzel. It became commonplace for community members who first appeared as interview subjects or musical guests, such as musician and Bar None owner Bernie Flesch or artist-pomoter-musician Clare Frachey, to return to the show in other capacities, creating what at times can seem like a televised microcosm of Springfieldian artistic types, a kind of supporting cast drawn from the community as a whole.

Perhaps the most significant contributor to season two outside of the founding threesome was poet, blogger and filmmaker Emma Wilson, 26, who progressed from presenting a single, standalone short film in the first season to a role as segment producer, writer and frequent onscreen performer throughout season two (in the process increasing the show’s scope beyond that of, in her words, “a bunch of 30-something dudes”).

One thing the show has maintained over both seasons is a refusal to take the low road and make fun of Springfield. “It’s really easy to disrespect the town you live in, especially when it’s a small town,” said Heinzel. “If Arlin and Keil make fun of themselves instead, I think it’s easier for people to stay on board.” “The show is more of a love letter to the community as opposed to being antagonistic,” said Wilson.

Following season two, the future of “The Studio Show” is up in the air. “We’re taking a long break,” said Heinzel. “When we come back we want to try something else, either in place of the show or as a sideline.”

“I would love to write and draft scripts and make things more polished than having to put out a half-hour show every week allows,” said Wilson. “I know that Dave would like to be able to spend more time on cinematography and editing.”

They imagine the next project as being more scripted and deliberate as well as shorter in length than what came before. “It will hopefully have more universal appeal while definitely still being set in Springfield,” Heinzel said. “We’ll probably make a ton of mistakes along the way but that’s OK.”

Contact Scott Faingold at sfaingold@illinoistimes.com    

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