For many college students, the summer months are dedicated to toiling at internships, garnering job experience, enrolling in extra classes and maybe taking a much-deserved break. For Medill senior Emilia Barrosse and Communication junior Maggie Fish, it meant starting their own video production company that allowed them to write, direct and film original comedic sketches. What had initially started out as an outlet for their constant flow of ideas soon turned into an opportunity for recognition. On Nov. 4, their sketch "Hoarders - Lost Footage" was screened at the Chicago Comedy Film Festival.
Concocting Snickerdoodlin’ Productions
The motivation to create Snickerdoodlin' Productions came while Barrosse and Fish lived together over the summer. They had already been friends and members of the same improv comedy troupe for a year, One Group Mind, which is based in downtown Chicago. To address their flow of "constant [comedic] ideas" they devised a process in which they "called ideas" (taking responsibility for writing a sketch). When talking about ideas for a sketch, whoever says "I call it" first gets to write and direct it. Although they treat it as more of a game sometimes, it's a system to designate who is in charge of the idea. After reviewing and finalizing the script, they recruit their friend, Tim Sage, to film the product. Once they started repeating the process, Snickerdoodlin' Productions was born.
Barrosse, who was a part of Northwestern Sketch Television (NSTV), said that the NSTV process for producing a sketch involved a great deal of "red tape." With just the two of them – and Sage as the filmer – Snickerdoodlin' Productions was a way to pitch, write and film a sketch within a time frame as short as a week. For both Maggie and Barrosse, their partnership also meant mutual encouragement and support. Barrosse was usually the "speedy one to get [sketches] done" while Fish acted as "quality control."
Baking a sketch
The development of a Snickerdoodlin' sketch from writing to filming usually begins as a conversation on the El to their improv rehearsal. Then it becomes a matter of fleshing out ideas and making them into sketches. After the idea is called, the sketch is written, run by the other, cast, filmed and edited. The Snickerdoodlin' crew consists of Barrosse, Fish, cameraman Sage and a freshman assistant. Their friends are frequently cast and assist in the process. "Most times it just turns into a hangout session," Barrosse admits.
Sketches are finished in anywhere from one day to two weeks, depending on how quickly each of the aforementioned steps takes. They aim for two sketches a week, one of which is shorter and the other is "more involved." To balance the Northwestern course load with Snickerdoodlin' Productions' own schedule, both said, "Homework is optional." Their course work is overall manageable, agreeing, "If you love it, you'll make time for it." The two have weekly meetings, involving "two hours and a coffee shop," with their ultimate motivation being their passion for comedy.
"We keep on giving it to the people," Barrosse said. "Even if they don't want it!"
Making it in the Second City
While Snickerdoodlin' Productions initially started out as fun, it quickly became much more. Fish's mentor and director of the Chicago Film Festival, Jessica Hardy, saw their sketches and commended them on their efforts. Their sketch "Hoarders - Lost Footage," in which an episode of Hoarders goes awry when the host is forced to interview an "air hoarder" instead of a "hair hoarder," was selected to be placed in in the category Laugh Out Loud: Chicago Filmmaker Series of the Chicago Comedy Film Festival.
Hardy told them that what they were doing was "not just conventional fun." Two women producing and writing their own comedic sketches is still considered a rarity. Barrosse and Fish "didn't even realize it" until they showed up at the festival, where it was evident that they were two of the only women filmmakers.
The actual red carpet experience was "surreal." They received artist passes, had access to the VIP artist green room and were interviewed with press photos. "We're just two people living together who film sketches because they have nothing to do," Barrosse said. Ultimately, the greatest impact of the festival on Snickerdoodlin' Productions was "being reassured that what we are doing is funny and to keep doing it," explained Fish.
Out of the pan and into the fryer
Looking ahead, Snickerdoodlin' Productions will continue to do what they do best: serve up laughs. "There's really nothing stopping us from making these sketches," Fish said. They will be hosting a screening on campus, consisting of a selection of their shorts as well as free food and fun.
Barrosse borrowed a wise tweet from comedian Louis C.K. as advice for aspiring comedians: "Get on stage and repeat." Though hard work and dedication were important, above all they agreed that you should "hold onto the person you want to work with."
The Snickerdoodlin' Screening Party will be held the Tuesday of reading week (Dec. 4).