November 12, 2014


Talking High Maintenance with
Creators Ben and Katja

In a festering Internet sea of comedic web series about weirdos in New York, Ben Sinclair and Katja Blichfeld are two weirdos who have redefined the form of comedy and set the Indie web series bar extremely, and mind-alteringly high (pun completely intended). The couple are the creators of the critically acclaimed web show High Maintenance, a series of vignettes that follow an unnamed marijuana dealer, played by Sinclair, into the homes and lives of pot smoking New Yorkers. The show, which just released the first three episodes of its second season as Vimeo’s inaugural original series, brings together the structure and visuals of a well produced, professional project with the honest and eccentric spirit of an independent work.

HMedit2Photo by Aviva Rowley

The first season gave us a rarely seen merging of genres, not usually permitted on network television. Standing on a solid comedic plot with surrealist characters so bizarre that they could only be based on real life, High Maintenance isn’t afraid to not always be laugh-out-loud funny. While working for a landscaping company in Manhattan years ago, Sinclair found it fascinating the lives he could peek into when delivering plants to New Yorker’s houses. With a shared love of smoking weed, telling stories and making projects, the couple decided to create the easily digestible 5-15 minute series mostly out of  convenience. They knew they couldn’t afford to pay actors, so they had to call in favors from friends, which meant quick filming times that only lasted one day. When casting, High Maintenance is not about getting the biggest name actor or the actress that can really loose herself in a role; they look for people who can bring their own weirdo selves into each character. The web series form was the perfect way to tell a variety of stories without overwhelming the viewer or the crew, giving a small taste of many people and places. “Many of the characters are based on people we know or have met,” says Blichfeld, “on people we like and don’t like. But most of the time they are us.”

“We balance each other out,” says Sinclair of his wife Blichfeld, who he met through friends while in L.A.. Blichfeld, an Emmy award winning casting director for 30 Rock, among other hit television shows, has a patience and a focus that Sinclair admires. “When I get into something I go kind of crazy, I just want it out there in the world. Katja can wait till it’s perfect,” he says. “It took us a year from filming the first episode of High Maintenance to releasing it, and I’m glad. It took us a long time to figure out the format, the flow.”

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Though she may be the anchor in the project, Blichfeld’s sense of humor is a perfect match with Sinclair’s quick wit and wild ways. “We immediately connected,” says Blichfeld, who tells the story of their first conversation, “He told me he had cancer. He obviously didn’t. But it was funny, because I was actually dating a guy with cancer at the time.”

“She was such a cool lady.” Remembers Sinclair,  who laughs off the cancer prank like it was one of many. “She had a great job and wore a blazer, but carried her own pipe!”

The couple’s bizzaro connection is palpable and romantic without being annoying; they have a way of being hilarious, cutting and genuine all at the same time (much like the show). We have no doubt that the new season will now be able to push those extremes further, flourishing in their new home at Vimeo, who took on Sinclair and Blichfeld as their first original series. High Maintenance is now available for only $8 for the entire season (or $1.99 an episode) which will be released in three episode bundles, toking up with some familiar faces (comedian John Early will be on a boat!) in the new season.

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By giving us a look into the real types of people who smoke weed for a variety of different reasons (from medicinal uses to connecting with a partner to everyday boredom), the real shocking moments of the show are the character’s lives that the dealer sees, not the drug that he is delivering. Sinclair and Blichfeld are pushing the boundaries not only in their experimental methods of television and comedic form, but also in their approachable medium of sharing stories about controversial topics. It’s a refreshing and exciting glance into the future of web series, and the future of this delightful couple of weirdos who we all can’t help but wish we could light up with. No matter the next step, we’re all in for the trip.

Ben and Katja’s WILD Wish:

Ben: I would love a beautiful piece of land.

Katja: It’s a shared wish. To have a compound by the sea.

Ben: By the sea but not in the flood zone! A place where families can live together in separate places but share the big stuff, like barbecues, an industrial kitchen.

Katja: Just own one Dyson vacuum!

Ben: So you can not wrap up your money in shit you don’t use that often. We don’t want to go at it alone. We don’t want to be one of those isolated old couples who get their heat turned off and don’t tell anyone because of pride and then freeze to death in the winter.

Katja: We might not have kids so we want to have people around.

Ben: Really our WILD Wish is to die like that couple in Titanic, frozen together, spooning. That’s how we want to go.

 

text by: Kate Messinger










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