A couple of dudes endeavor to make a living out of quick lyrics and slick beats. They barter with the local community for whatever they can get. Their methods are questionable, their clients are near homeless, but their enthusiasm is unrelenting. This is the premise for a homegrown web series, Jingle Boyz, hitting the information superhighway this month. It’s also the story of Dave Davis and Owen Legendre, of the Bare Handed Bear Handlers, and their experience putting together a completely DIY show, relying on an economy of favors in a city teeming with talented players.
In the beginning, there was a name. The Jingle Boyz. They write jingles for businesses. The concept would allow Dave and Owen to take full advantage of what they each do best. Dave is a New Orleans native and up-and-coming actor (True Detective, The Walking Dead) with a penchant for rap and an instinct for comedy. Owen is a musician and natural comedian himself who, though born in the city, spent most of his formative years in Florida before moving back after high school. The two met at Tulane, where Dave challenged Owen to lay down some rhymes, and a beautiful friendship was born. After releasing a number of short videos, one of which premiered at the New Orleans Film Festival last year, the Bare Handed Bear Handlers were ready for something bigger and better.
Inspired by local artists Ballzack and Odoms, Dave and Owen sought out director Mike Kennedy, whose work with the rap duo includes such greats as “Rainbow in Marrero” and “Talk Like A Snake.” They pitched their idea to Kennedy in June of 2014. Galvanized by their creative energy, Kennedy dove headlong into the project, writing the episodes and undertaking the rigorous planning required to shoot something on a nonexistent budget. He also assembled a team of industry professionals. “A movie is a collaborative effort, no matter how Vincent Gallo you get with it,” he explained, “You have to have a crew.”
Team Kennedy shot the entire five- episode series on weekends in locations around the city. You’re not going to see the typical side of New Orleans, like the French Quarter and Jackson Square. You’re more likely to see the gritty, industrial side, where the nutria have space to wander and the pho is perfectly spiced. Much of it was recorded guerilla-style, renting a tennis court and waiting until the martini shot to shower it with confectioner’s sugar. They captured an entire music sequence over the course of a single trip on the Algiers Ferry. The ferry operators wanted to shut them down until the DP, Nathan Tape, confused them with the logic that a movie is merely a collection of still photographs, and they allow people to take photos on the ferry, don’t they?
Talking with Kennedy, Dave, and Owen over a free keg of beer leftover from a New Year’s Eve party, they assured me that shooting a series of videos this way is not as glamorous as it might seem. It requires long hours and a lot of labor. When you’re starting from the bottom, it takes the kind of determination that transcends exhaustion. “You don’t have money, you don’t have a network, you don’t have resources. The only thing you have is you, and you can outwork people.” This kind of work ethic has allowed Kennedy to build his own network of skilled friends over the years. Dave and Owen brought in many of their contacts as well. The music for the series was produced by their college friend Miles Felix, who has since moved on to great heights in the hip-hop world.
You can expect to see a lot of familiar faces in Season One. The first episode, which will be released Monday, January 5th, takes place at the New Orleans Music Exchange, with cameos by David Shaw of The Revivalists and DJ Quickie Mart. Subsequent episodes will be released throughout the week, with special appearances by Ballzack, MUSA, Joey Buttons, and the Tsunami Dance Company. The episodes are brief—about the time it takes to make toast—catering to the increasingly short attention spans of the viewing public and their tireless desire for immediate gratification, what Kennedy calls the “New era of disposable entertainment.”
Episodes of “JINGLE BOYZ” can be viewed on JingleBoyz.com