The Corporate Brother
by Candace C. Smith
met Todd Inman at the Double Shots Espresso Bar in downtown
Philly earlier this year, after answering a casting call for
his brilliant web series, The Corporate Brother. I
was the actress in search of a comedic acting role and Todd
was the executive producer-director-writer in search of
passionate actors who could fit the looks and personalities
for his scripts. In this interview, Todd and I have come
back full circle at Double Shots to talk about the evolution
of his web series and how the journey of being a content
creator for the web all started out for him.
Hi Todd! Thank you for coming out and being a part of this
interview with me for Urban/Suburban! How did you
first get started with The Corporate Brother and how
did the idea come to you to make a web series of this
Corporate Brother is actually the first web series/show with
an African-American set in a business environment, as the
central character. There have been a lot of shows like The
Office where theyíve had African-American characters, but it
hasnít been told in his or her voice. So, when I decided on
Corporate Brother because of my own corporate
experience, you know there were a lot of things that took
place that I thought at the time were really troubling even,
but I thought there could be a comedic spin placed on it. I
came from a stand-up comedy world before I got into filming
and so forth, and so I just thought that some of these
things that a lot of African-Americans could relate to.
There hadnít really been a show set like that and I thought
that there was a market for it. Thereís a lot of us in
Corporate America wearing different hats and roles and
thereís a lot of experiences that we all can relate to, and
I thought that if you put a comedic spin on it weíd all kind
of get a laugh over it, you know? So, thatís what gave me my
initial thought about it, and then it was like, ďOk, how do
I bring this to life?Ē Some of my jokes when I was on stage
were about Corporate America, so thatís where it was
birthed. Then I thought, ďWell maybe this could be a
series!Ē So [in order to bring The Corporate Brother
to life], I had to teach myself how to use a camera, how to
use editing software, how to cast people, how to get
locations and so forth, and I said, ďWhy not try it?Ē
Could you please explain some of the main characters of
The Corporate Brother, so that new and potential viewers
of the web series can get an idea of whatís in store for
The Corporate Brother centers on Bill, who is primarily
the only African-American in the office. Heís the marketing
director. Bill is in a situation where heís the minority and
there are [borderline racist] things said to him, but he has
to swallow his tongueÖ he has to keep his job! He has to
maintain his career. A lot of inappropriate, borderline
racist things are said, and itís not so much that theyíre
malicious; itís just that the people just donít know.
Theyíve never worked with an African-American or socialized
with an African-American, so theyíre just saying what they
think, and they donít think that it bothers Bill. But Billís
character is one in that he just kind of rolls with it. He
doesnít fly off the handle. Heís able to accept things for
what they are and sort of compartmentalize whatís taking
have the CEO [actor Val Uff] who is like the airhead CEO.
have Greg [actor Paul Oreal]; at the start of the series he
was supposed to be the racist. That was the way it started.
But with his look and the way that he comes across people
thought that he just wanted to be Black. So we kind of just
rolled with that.
Do you mean from the first episode aired and the audience
feedback that folks watching the show thought that he didnít
look racist, but he just wanted to be Black? Thatís
is interesting because that wasnít his character. But thatís
what the audience accepted him asÖ with his look and the way
he said things. A lot of us can identify with knowing that
character, that White guy who wanted to be Black.
There is a world of casting out here and itís says a lot
that Greg was written as a flat-out racist in the web
series, but that, due to audience perception and ultimately,
in a way, participation, that the character was fashioned in
following episodes to be a White guy playing Black. What
have you taken from that specific experience, as you were
the sole casting director for your series?
Iíve learned is that with some web series, youíre relying on
people to work for free. You can only do so much
auditioning. You have to question if people are reliable, if
they are passionate about what they are doing. You have to
learn how to develop your character around that person-
their look, their personality. Whereas, in this case, I just
had a vision for who I wanted that person to be, and then
Greg came along and I thought it was a good match. But then
people didnít look at the episode in the way that I
How did the core cast of The Corporate Brother come
reached out to people who either had some type of dream of
being in comedy, not necessarily acting, but just maybe
stand-up, or people who wanted to be models in the past and
I said, ďListen, this is what Iím trying to do and I want
you to be a part of it.Ē So that was how the core cast was
brought together [for The Corporate Brother.] Then I
met Val [Uff, who is one of the most professional and
dedicated actors of the cast, as the character of the
ignorant and racially insensitive CEO in The Corporate
Brother] at an MPEG function, [Metropolitan Philadelphia
Entertainment Group], and I told him what I was trying to do
and would he join, and he said sure, and he became the CEO.
So then I did one episode to see where it goes. I did the
first episode and got a lot of good responses. A lot of
people thought it was unique; they hadnít seen anything like
this before. So I decided to ride the wave and turn it into
a series. I started writing a few episodes. I was fortunate
to get an office in Paoli, PA that was willing to let us
film there, to give it that authentic look as if it were a
real corporate environment. Theyíve been really great to us,
allowing us to come in every so often and film. Then it was
just trying to be creative on a very low budget. We try to
keep each episode under a budget of $250.
Are you influenced and inspired by the current wave of
popular web series which feature Black protagonists, such as
Issa Raeís The Mis-adventures of Awkward Black Girl
or Brothers With No Game?
A: I do
admire Issa Rae and a lot of those folks, and they do give
me inspiration to keep going. But I also recognize that my
content is a lot different than theirs. Not everybody is
going to understand Corporate America. We are the minorities
in Corporate America, so not everybody is going to get the
jokes. So sometimes I catch myself wanting to get the
numbers, views that they have, ďsheís got [Issa Rae] a
million views I want to be there! But I also recognize that
sheís reaching a broader audience with her web series, as
mine is more of a niche. Also, sheís been to film school,
sheís out in LA, she has a lot of advantages that I have to
remind myself that Iím not going be there right now. I have
to continue to grow, continue to refine my skills, and then
maybe other projects to reach a broader audience, depending
on the content.
Itís interesting that you mention that, because there are
people who are trying to be filmmakers, web series producers
and, just as in other industries, these creative content
makers want things now, they donít want to take the time to
cultivate their talents and their art. So I find it amazing
that you recognize that it takes time to make art and to
refine and define your skills as an artist. Even while you
have help with your actors and the crew that you
collaborated with on The Corporate Brother, it
appears that you are doing a lot of things on your own. How
hard has it been to realize this web series from its
inception, as a person who hasnít gone to film school or
lives in LA/New York?
sort of like peaks and valleys. Itís certainly not a steady
or linear progression, where you keep going and going. There
are periods where weíre fortunate to get some press. Thatís
been helpful and encouraging. We get spikes of views, like
on another website that will carry us for weeks. Thatíll
give us a spike in views for a week or so. But then there
will be periods where you might only get two or three in the
course of a month, and youíre thinking, ďWow, whatís going
think many people still believe that if you put a video up
on YouTube youíre just going to automatically receive one
million views that same day, but they donít realize that it
takes time to gain views, especially if you arenít already
famous or really making a complete fool out of yourself.
Thereís magic in the marketing. You have had success with,
in particular the third and fourth episode viewership of
The Corporate Brother. [Episode 3 of the first season
of The Corporate Brother has amassed 37,399 views to
date; episode 4 has gained 11,269 views.] What do you do to
market The Corporate Brother?
Definitely reaching out to established blogs that already
have an audience. One, in particular, Fox Brown Fox (www.foxbrownfox.net).
I also try to reach out to blogs that specifically cater to
the Professional African-American audience, such as the
Young Black Professionals network (www.youngblackprofessionals.org).
They carried episode 3 and they also have a blog radio show
that I was on to talk about minorities and corporate
America. So that helped to give me a spike in views. I
reached out to a local newspaper in my area, and they
carried a story on us. I then obviously I reached out to
Urban/Suburban magazine. George put up an episode on the
Urban/Suburban website. So Iíve just been trying to
get as much exposure for the web series as possible. I was
naÔve and thought that all your Facebook friends would look
at it and share it with their friends and all of a sudden it
would just go viral. Thatís what I thought! But, thatís not
the case! [Laughter]
It doesnít happen like that at all! Very rarely.
Iím like, ďDo these people like me?Ē [laughter]
Were there any screenplays that you read or movies that you
saw, especially in your childhood, that sparked the fire in
you to want to pursue a career in writing and in film and
HmmmÖ thatís a good question. Well, I am inspired by shows
like Seinfeld. [Laughter] I just feel like the
writing is so clever. I still watch Seinfeld and
other shows like it to this day. Also, comedians like Chris
Rock. He inspires me. Heíll talk about a lot of topical
issues, some issues that you donít expect comedians to
really talk about, in terms of race relations. Iíve always
admired that, so that was kind of the inspiration, to see if
I could put a comedic spin on serious issues that we deal
with in the Corporate World [as Black Americans], or just
race relations period. How can I put a comedic spin on that
and try to straddle the line between funny and un-offensive?
Itís a real delicate line to walk.
Now that the first season of The Corporate Brother is
wrapped, do you have any other projects lined up at the
want to make a short film out of The Corporate Brother
and shop that around to film festivals, and then weíll see
where we go. I have a screenplay, itís a love story. Iím a
big fan of Love Jones.
of the best movies ever! People are still waiting for
Love Jones 2.
Right?! I know. I wrote a love story- itís probably about
three quarters of the way finished. I still need to go back
through it and refine and revise it. But I want to bring
that to life one day.
How have you grown as a filmmaker, artist, and person,
starting as a stand-up comedian to creator of The
my goodness, to wear all those hats, you canít help but to
develop in all those areas. Iíve gotten better as an editor,
a casting director, producer, doing the press releases and
marketing, contacting all these different organizations and
blogs, and just staying hungry in that area and
understanding that you have to be aggressiveÖ. all the hats
that the people wear in production, Iíve learned. I wouldnít
say Iím a pro at anything, but Iím more evolved since the
first time I ever thought about it.
Is there one role that you prefer to do more than any of the
Number one, writer, and number two, I would say, overall,
No love for directing?
[laughter] I did like the directing! I think I am a control
freak anyway. [Laughter]
Youíve passionately expressed that you love writing and itís
the number one form of art that you prefer to do above all.
For those who are thinking of creating their own web series,
what advice can you give?
do it. Donít delay. Donít let the fact that you donít know
how to do something stop you. Just go out there and do it.
Donít worry about people being critical of the lighting.
Just produce your first one, and take it from there. Youíll
learn things as you go along. I believe that where thereís a
will, there will be a way. Donít make your perfection your
goal. Donít look at Issa Raeís series and let that be your
standard where youíre thinking, ďIíll never match thatĒ.
Donít worry about that. Just produce what you have in your
heart and grow from there.
What youíve achieved with The Corporate Brother is
inspiring and Iím so excited to see what the future has in
store for you, as Iím sure many of your fans are as well.
Thank you for your wisdom and good luck to you Todd!