A man leans his bike against the wall and starts up the stairs of a New York City walk-up, sporting a fluffy beard with a black backpack slung over his shoulders. He is not just a guy, he is The Guy. The Guy who delivers marijuana to New Yorkers who cannot seem to get enough of it.
So goes the premise of HBO’s recently launched series, “High Maintenance.” The show started out as a web series on Vimeo, created by husband-wife duo Ben Sinclair, an editor and actor who has been in “Sisters,” “Law & Order: SVU” and “30 Rock” and Katja Blichfeld, a casting professional who has worked for several NBC pilots and “30 Rock,” both continue to write, direct, edit and produce the show.
Sinclair and Blichfeld visited NYU on Sept. 28 to screen the second and third episodes of the first season for HBO, which has already announced a second season of the show. After the screening, the duo arrived for a Q&A with the audience.
Commenting on their unique personal/professional relationship, Blichfeld said, “It’s actually really cool to work together. There’s a lot of shortcuts to our communication. We don’t have to explain ourselves much to each other, we already know what reference point we’re each coming from … it’s really cool that we get to be sharing the success together.”
Sinclair also features in the show as The Guy, who ties into his deliveries the stories of all the New Yorkers — mostly in Brooklyn and a bit of Manhattan — acquiring his product. Their tales make up the essence of “High Maintenance.”
“In the very beginning … a lot of the actors playing the characters were our actual friends, so a lot of them were literally playing versions of themselves,” Blichfeld said, replying to an inquiry about their early characters in the web series version of the show. She continued, “Then I think we started being like ‘we can write characters, we can dig deeper,’ and I think we got more confidence as we went along. That being said, we are always getting inspiration on the subway or eavesdropping on someone at a restaurant. We are still taking inspiration from life. You hear all kinds of things when you’re quiet and listening.”
Filmmakers sometimes get inspiration from other media, and the duo finds theirs in art that makes an effort to be thought-provoking — such as “Transparent” — as well as documentaries and the realities they depict.
NYU’s aspiring student filmmakers were eager to know more about how this couple managed to make it in such a cutthroat industry.
After discussing how they started at the bottom of the ladder, bringing coffee and getting paid next to nothing, Sinclair noted, “A lot of times you just do your job and then when you go away, your job isn’t being done anymore and someone’s like ‘hey, why isn’t that job happening?’ and it’s because so-and-so left and it’s like ‘wow, that person did that and didn’t say anything? Where did they go, I want to hire that person.’”
Staying humble seems to be a key in achieving success, and this team seems to have found it with their quirky look at the unique and diverse people who smoke The Guy’s pot.
Email Anubhuti Kumar at [email protected]