Andrew De Angelis Explores the Second Coming in His First Series, ‘What Would Sal Do?’
By Cory Angeletti-Szasz ● March 23, 2017 10:30
What’s the easiest part of writing for comedy? According to Andrew De Angelis, it’s creating the funny. Maybe that’s because De Angelis is no stranger to comedy, or to funny.
A 2008 alumnus of CFC’s Prime Time TV Program, De Angelis went on to write for several Canadian series, including 18 To Life, Little Mosque on the Prairie, Mr. D, the Teletoon at Night hit show, Fugget About It, and the Emmy-nominated kids’ show, Odd Squad.
Most recently, he wrapped production on his first comedy series, What Would Sal Do? Set to air on Crave TV tomorrow (Friday, March 24), What Would Sal Do? is an eight-episode modern day parable of an entitled underachiever who, for the first time in his life, is challenged to be a good person when he discovers he’s the Second Coming of Jesus. Fellow CFC alumnus Mark Montefiore is one of the show’s executive producers.
We recently caught up with Andrew to get the scoop on his inspiration for What Would Sal Do? We talked about what it’s like to run your own show, and the challenges of writing comedy. Read the full interview below.
You completed CFC’s Prime Time TV Program in 2009. What were your first few TV gigs out the door?
Andrew De Angelis: My first one right out the door was on 18 to Life and that was directly a result of the [Canadian] Film Centre. Virginia Rankin was supposed to be one of our mentors [in the program], and she had to swap out at the last minute and Karen Troubetzkoy (one of the creators of 18 to Life) came in. So by the time the program finished, we got along well. She liked my writing and basically said, “I have this show that might go. If it does, I’d like to hire you on.” CBC greenlit it, she was true to her word, and she hired me as a script coordinator.
You recently wrapped production on your first series, What Would Sal Do? What inspired you to create it?
Well, it was a few things: One, it was just the simple idea of the Second Coming, and what would it be like if the Second Coming was to happen in the contemporary world. And not to treat it as a joke or a wacky sitcom, but really just to genuinely say ‘What would it be like?'
I wanted to see what it would be like to treat the Second Coming honestly, and I wanted the main character to be an asshole. So, here’s this guy who’s been spoiled his whole life by his mom, because she believes him to be the Second Coming, so he’s got to be a really good person, and he’s an asshole. Also, I think in the world we live in right now, even if you are trying to be nice to someone or nice to people, it’s always viewed with skepticism. So I wanted to compound that all: a guy who has no idea what it means to be a good person [and is] trying to be a good person in a world where people are skeptical of good people. [Laughs]
What’s it like running your own show? What did a typical day look like for you on What Would Sal Do?
This show was interesting because we were on a low budget. From the beginning when we had our writers’ room, we only had four weeks [for Season 1], and then from there, we basically all went off and wrote drafts. And then it was just kind of me on my own doing passes, addressing notes, communicating with writers. Once the scripts got to a certain point and we got into prep, I didn’t have a writers’ room anymore. It was really me kind of having to address it all.
Now the other challenge with this show is that we block-shot the whole season. So the eight episodes were written and pretty much polished before prep even started, because we couldn’t still be writing while we were shooting. On any given day, the first scene might be from episode 1, the second from episode 4, and then to 5, 7. So a typical day in our kind of prep was me alone writing. Then once we got into prep and production, a lot of it was scouting locations and trying to make our locations work with the story, because this was entirely a location show. We were in Sudbury and the locations I had written in weren’t available sometimes, so we would have to figure out how to change the story to make it work for that location. And then once we got into production it was: get up, shoot, try to make the day, make any adjustments on the fly that need to be made.
What are the main differences between writing for someone else’s show versus writing for and running your own show?
Writing for your own show is just that: it’s your own show, it’s your own voice. You get to make the decisions you want to make, and you also have to make decisions you never knew you had to. Things with scripts, story, and casting … dealing with questions with wardrobe, which is definitely not my area of expertise, but I would address that as well. It’s just that ability to help dictate what kind of a show you want it to be. Not just what’s on the screen, but also the culture of the show, how you are going to work with people, how you want this experience to be for the people working with you. That was something that was really important to me, aside from the writing and the craft side of it. I wanted it to be an experience people enjoyed and were glad to work on.
What lessons from your time at the CFC have you taken with you as you’ve worked on What Would Sal Do? and other TV series?
I learned so much from Graeme Manson [who was the Showrunner-in-Residence at the time] [and] how he ran a [story] room. He was open to have everybody’s input, which was great. Here was this guy with so much experience actually listening to [the residents of the Prime Time TV Program]. It really made you feel like you were part of it.
Other than that … it’s all about connections. Treat people well, because you never know when those people are going to come back and be there to help you. Every kind of person that you meet in any project or in any job, they are a potential opportunity for other work, other projects. Take advantage of that and treat people accordingly.
The other key lesson was that hard work trumps all. Talent is absolutely important and you need it, but the thing I think has really helped me is my work ethic – I’m a hard worker. I think that’s what has helped me to keep working, and it’s what I look for in other people. This is a dream job – we all love it, we all got into it because it’s all glamorous. But it’s a job and people are paying you. And the harder you work, the more that will pay off for you.
What is the most challenging thing about creating and/or writing for comedy series?
To me, the most challenging thing is not forgetting about jokes, not forgetting about comedy, but realizing that funny stuff and great jokes come from good drama and good conflict. So, the hardest part, and the way I ran the [What Would Sal Do?] room was, we were really hard on every idea, and we were hard on beating out the story, because it all comes from there. If the story is good and the conflict is good, and the beats are right, and you get all that in order, the funny really is the easiest part. [The funny] just comes if you’ve built a really good dramatic/comedic situation that makes sense and flows from one beat to the next. And also have good characters.
What advice would you give to writers who want to work in comedy and perhaps eventually become a showrunner?
Going back to what I said earlier, first and foremost is: work your ass off. Take whatever job you can get. Because the more experiences you have – good, bad, ugly – it all helps you, it all shapes you. Take everything. Don’t be picky, and don’t be entitled. Sometimes I think there can be some entitlement. Just take the job, work the job, do whatever you need to do. That work also extends to you on your own writing scripts, writing whatever ... Just keep getting better and better at it.
What Would Sal Do? premieres on Crave TV this Friday, March 24. It was created by Andrew De Angelis and produced by New Metric Media, in association with DHX Media. Greg Copeland produced the series, with Mark Montefiore and Patrick O’Sullivan as executive producers.
Learn more about the Bell Media Prime Time TV Program HERE.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length.