How we made Riverdale (sort of…)

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As I returned to work Jan 4, I walked up our studio steps to find a notice of filming for Riverdale, the new Archie Comics-inspired show. I couldn’t help but giggle to myself.

Since then, I’ve received a ton of messages asking if we’re behind the new Archie Comics show Riverdale and if, not, whether we’re planning a lawsuit.

We’re not. Not a litigious bunch. We also never had the rights to the material in the first place. We DID, however, come ever so close to being the show’s creators.

Let’s rewind.

Back in 2011 Jorah and I collaborated with Andrew de Villiers, Rhys Finnick, and Michael Cope to make the viral trailer Riverdale. It was produced working with 100+ volunteer crew and actors working around the clock for 3 days at Templeton high school. If fleas have shoes then this was a shoestring budget. We had never produced something on even one tenth of that scale.

It was an incredible grind. It was exhilarating. It was a little scary. We got through it with 50 pounds of donated ground chicken (thanks, Chris) and much sugar and caffeine. Did the police come when the acting in one of our outdoor scenes got too intense? No comment. Did we have permits of any kind? Can’t confirm or deny. What I can tell you is that nobody was killed or grievously injured and I’m incredibly proud of our Craigslist band of keeners.

The trailer was quickly picked up locally (thanks, Kate Webb!) and then nationally and then in ‘Merica on Mashable & Entertainment Weekly.

It’s release kicked off a wild ride. Media interviews galore, a cross-Canada train tour (don’t ask why we took the damn train), and meetings in NYC with some of our favourite content creators: the good folks at VICE and the Rauch brothers of Storycorps fame. We also won a Canadian Comedy Award for best web video and got to party it up with (who else?), Brett the Hitman Hart. Nate, Rhys, Andrew and Michael

It all culminated in a Hollywood rooftop pitch to this guy … Jon Goldwater, the son of Archie Comics co-founder John L. Goldwater. Is it just me, or is this what Nicolas Cage would look like if he was an Archie character?

Anyway, despite concerns about the intense feud amongst the Archie Comic heirs, we pitched an episodic treatment for Riverdale the TV show (edited on our cross-Canada train trip of course) that we again collaborated with Rhys, Michael and Andrew on.

Jorah and I left that meeting with the California sun on our faces, feeling like we really had a shot at landing the TV show. It helped that the gracious actress Carla Ortiz (a very random connection), put us some very exclusive guest lists.

We incorporated some of Mr. Goldwater’s feedback and suggestions for a second and third draft of the treatment, but, alas, things fizzled over time.

I guess the Archie brain trust felt like a major American media corporation was a better fit than a bunch of Canadian kids whose best-known work to date was a political campaign video.

Are there more than a few passing similarities between the direction the Archie Comics and CW (Warner Bros and CBS) took? Absolutely. Did they watch our trailer before they wrote it? Very likely. However, I feel like some of the shared directions they simply had to take – like making it darker and more dramatic than the comics drama. Calling it Riverdale? That was a gimme.

At the end of the day what does piss me off a bit is that none of the 100+ people who were involved got work on the show even though it was shot in Vancouver. No crew, no actors, no writers. Shawn Seifert, the DOP who shot the Riverdale trailer and has overcome a learning disability, literally learned to read through the Archie Comics (his about dealing with the disappointment here). I guess that’s the way of the world sometimes.

I certainly never saw myself as a film and television producer in the long term. It’s a pretty safe bet that Point Blank is making a bigger difference in the world by producing campaigns around social and environmental issues than by producing teen drama. Still, that brief glimpse into “the biz” … that Hollywood sun on my face … let’s just say the door isn’t closed. And while fans were eagerly awaiting CW’s trailer, apparently ours continued to scratch that Archie itch.

Nathan Lusignan is the Founding Principal of Point Blank Creative.