#MakerSeries: CRAIG FELDMAN On The Creation of Parodybill, New Designs, and What Comes Next
(Craig Feldman Founder/CEO of Parody bill)
In this new feature called #MakerSeries, RyeTheNewsGuy.com will give you a first-hand look at some of the up and coming makers of tomorrow by showcasing some of their products that are making a splash in the industry. These makers are all apart of Broadway Makers' Alliance, which is a collection of creatives who’ve taken their passion for Broadway and created high-quality products and services for the Broadway and theatre community. RyeTheNewsGuy.com is a proud member of Broadway Makers' Alliance.
Craig Feldman talks with RyeTheNewsGuy.com about the creation of Parodybill and what led him to turn our favorite musicals into musical parody mashups. He chats about the launch of Parodybill in 2017, how his background in design and love for theater helped in the creation, and his inspiration for other artist/creators. If you haven't seen any of Parodybill's designs YOU ARE MISSING OUT! Head over to their website, and visit them on Instagram and Facebook to keep up to date on their latest mashups and pieces.
Where did the idea come from to start Parodybill? Parodybill is a graphic design brand that creates original musical mashups and clever Broadway parodies in the form of new poster art. You can actually trace the origins of Parodybill back to my childhood. When I was a kid my older sister and I used to make all these graphical creations as birthday gifts for our grandparents every year. Sometimes they were magazines and sometimes they were videos. And then there were a couple of years that we said 'why don't we make a fake Playbill and put everybody's heads on bodies and you know, attribute it to what's going on in our family life.' But back then, back in the day, there was no design suite where you could actually create graphics easily at home. So as kids we would use photocopiers and cut out heads from photographs and put them on bodies and then rephotograph things. So it was pretty terrible as far as the quality was concerned. It was by today's standards, laughable. But I've always been a graphic designer by trade and particularly love parodies. One day I thought 'you know, this would be really fun to do. I love Broadway, I love logos, I love graphic design. I'm just going to start creating Parodybill for fun.' The idea was born out of wanting to share this passion for Broadway and design with the world, never really thinking that it would become anything else but a hobby. That's actually pretty cool. Just the fact that you took your hobby and kind of infused it with what you love is just incredible. With that being said- how do you come up with the mashups that Parodybill does? So first and foremost, it has to be clever--or at least we have to think it's clever. That's what I always say. You know, at least 50 to 60% of the effort comes from developing the idea so that it's something that works and that people will appreciate. And sometimes you have to be the right person to appreciate it. You know, some of them are a little bit 'it takes me a minute, but then I get it.' And that's by design. We never want to mash anything up that doesn't work. It's got to always make sense, more or less.
One of the first ideas we came up with was “Dear Cady Heron”, which is a mashup of Mean Girls and Dear Evan Hansen, of course. We thought here are two stories about teenagers who are sort of outcasts trying to fit in. They work so well together, so we redesigned the poster art with a hashtag #YouCanSitWithUs and poof, Parodybill was born.
When new musicals premiere, we always try to create new mashups celebrating that show. If there’s something going in pop culture that makes sense to be relevant, we try to jump on top of that. Holidays are also a great time to put new designs out there. We try think about what sort of Broadway parodies can we can create for Halloween and Christmas, for example. In fact, “Les Incompétents”, a mashup of Les Misérables and the movie Home Alone that came out last Christmas is one of our most popular designs.
(One of the mashups from Parodybill)
Interesting. I think it's, I think that's cool that you really try to keep it relevant and not just musical theater but also to pop culture. With that being said- Do you have a favorite Parody you've done that is your favorite?
Choosing a favorite is sort of like choosing your favorite child, right? It’s difficult! I love “Skid Row”, which is the Jurassic Park/ Little Shop of Horrors mashup. That's one of my all-time favorites and it was one of our first concept designs,but we saved it so that we could release it when Jurassic World hit the theaters last summer. It was really exciting when Skid Row went out and there's been great response to it.
The other one that I love is “The Apex Predator”, which is The Lion King/Mean Girls mash up. One of the reasons that I love it is because you really have to know the Mean Girls musical to get the Apex Predator song reference. Since the song is all about how Regina George just like a lion in Africa, it's one of those parodies that almost writes itself!
Yeah for sure- I have seen them both and they are very popular! What has the been response been from people since starting Parodybill?
It's been really fun. It's actually been much broader than I thought it would ever go. You know, to be honest, it was something we wanted to do to share our love for Broadway and design and put it out in a place for the world to consume, and that's really what Parodybill is all about. It's all about just creating new content for a community that's so passionate. And I think people naturally gravitate toward artistic creations where they can be “in on the joke”. It’s been really humbling to see people react as positively as they have.
Yeah and reaction is so important especially if you're a musical theater person and you fit into that niche and you just "get it." So with that- I know that Parodybill has recently expanded to stickers and T-shirts. Where did that idea come from and will you be expanding upon your merchandise more? Honestly our foray into creating merchandise came directly from people asking for it. It was never necessarily the driving force behind Parodybill to create an online store. But as we were putting out more and more content, people were saying, 'I want this on a shirt' 'I want this on a mug, or a sticker, or a print.' And so it really came from giving people exactly what they were asking for.
It was a fun challenge to figure out how to do it from an end-to-end customer experience standpoint, including ecommerce, product creation, product fulfillment, and customer service. The store has been open since July of 2018. It's been successful and we've been really happy to give our fans what they were asking for.
(One of the mashups from Parodybill)
Giving the people what they want is very important. So what is next for Parodybill? Do you have any new concepts or new designs you can tell us about? What's been really great is that because Parodybill has given us this platform to put our graphic design capabilities out there, we've gotten a lot of commissions and work from production companies in the theatrical space who have said 'hey, we'd love to leverage your talents for what we've got going on!' And so one of the first things we did was we design the program for both The Office! A Musical Parody now playing in New York, and FRIENDS! A Musical Parody, which is currently on tour across the US. It's been really cool to have the Parodybill banner supported by these two phenomenal musical parody productions.
We also just finished working on graphic design support for another show that's going to be in New York throughout May and June. It’s called Broadway's Next Hit Musical and it’s sort of a Tony Awards meets Whose Line is it Anyway production. Definitely check it out! That's really exciting. So in closing, what advice do you have for future makers of tomorrow?
They always say when you do what you love, you'll never work a day in your life. And that is sort of true. But you'll also never work harder when you are building something that you absolutely stand behind. And Parodybill truly is an example where we work on it every day all the time. We love it. We want to work on it, and so having the passion behind what you do really helps make work fun and engaging.
So then the other major piece of advice that I often give people is to think about what sets you apart from everyone or everything else. You know, what is that niche or that gimmick you could say that really will allow your product, your creation to be known from somebody else's. It's that perfect line from Gypsy, which says, "You Gotta Get a Gimmick If You Want to Have a Chance." And it's absolutely true- I mean there's gotta be something that makes your product, your brand special. And there are so many people that have put out so many wonderful things that have such great gimmicks, and I truly believe Parodybill is one of them.
We found this niche, this “graphic design musical mashup parody” niche, and we've run with it. We do our best to deliver great ideas with fanatical attention to detail. And I’m so happy that people seem to really love it!
(One of the mashups from Parodybill)