Park City-based comedy series hits YouTube
Ryan Summerlin October 4, 2013
The Internet is a wonderful supplement to local and cable TV, said actress and producer Toni Naples.
"We are very fortunate to have all these channels, which, of course includes YouTube," the Francis resident told The Park Record. "All of them need content and it fits well with our budget and what we’re doing."
Naples produces and stars in "Cougar Cab," a Park City-based series that can be seen on YouTube.com.
So far, Naples, who plays the cab driver Rosie, and her crew have posted five episodes that showcase Park City and the surrounding area.
These four- to five-minute vignettes were originally inspired by the life of one of Naples’ friend.
"She lost her condo during the economic bust in 2008 and survived by driving a cab in Park City on Main Street, basically everywhere else," said Naples, who worked on many productions with the late Bob Hope and Honorary Academy Award-winning director Roger Corman. "I would hear these stories coming out of her mouth and decided people needed to hear them, too."
Naples’ first idea was to create a reality show.
"I worked on a couple of reality shows over the years, and knew how to do them," she said. "But since they are now all over the cable stations and overdone, I decided to do something a little different.
"We evolved the idea into doing what we call ‘lightly scripted reality’ and decided to write our own stories in these different locations," Naples said. "We’re not doing reality from the back seat of a cab anymore, but that’s OK, because we’re doing more slapstick stuff."
The process is simple, she said.
"We start with an outline of a script and let the actors improvise along the context of the storyline and let them run with it," Naples explained. "It helps because when you’re shooting something within a two- to four-minute time frame, actors don’t have time to memorize lines.
"It’s much easier to let the actors use their own dialogue and it’s more fun, because it’s spontaneous," she said.
Naples also wanted to tap into the local community to help with production.
"We found Rotate Films Group that had the camera we needed to film the episodes, which meant that I didn’t have to rent any cameras from Salt Lake," she said. "Also, we don’t need fancy stuff. We just turn on a camera, and we’re rolling."
So far, "Cougar Cab" has been filmed at the demolition derby in Kamas, at the Notch Pub in Samak, the No Name Saloon on Main Street, the Mill Hollow Fishing Reservoir in the Uinta Mountains and at Canyons Resort.
"In October, we are going to do an episode about Park City dogs in Halloween costumes, because we’re all about dogs in this area," Naples said with a knowing grin. "At the end of the film, we’ll ask for donations that will benefit Canines with a Cause."
Canines with a Cause is a nonprofit organization that helps shelter dogs find homes by training them to work as companions.
"The stories are also infinite, because we have so many international visitors, and Park City has a very interesting past," Naples said. "Who knows, maybe we’ll even have an episode about a ghost that needs a cab ride."
Over time, "Cougar Cab" will introduce more characters.
"We are also bringing in younger actors, because we want to appeal to all demographics," she said. "My niece, Jessi Lynn, plays a young character named Lauren, and I would like to bring in more youth."
Naples, who is also a visual artist, began her filmmaking career after her family entered her into a beauty contest while she lived in Pasadena, Calif.
"That was something that I would have never done in a million years or ever do again," she said. "But I won and Bob Hope had sent a talent scout looking around and, I guess, that’s how I was discovered."
Naples was awarded a couple of scholarships and attended film school and worked with Hope on a few of his TV specials.
"That’s how I got my SAG (Screen Actors Guild) card," she said. "Then I began working a lot with Roger Corman."
In 1994, Corman produced the film "Dinosaur Island," and Naples played Queen Morganna.
"We shot it on David Carradine’s ranch in East L.A. and it was so much fun," she said. "It became one of Roger’s better-selling projects."
Naples also served as executive producer to the 1995 film "Sorceress" that starred Linda Blair.
When Naples decided to start up "Cougar Cab," she was able to utilize all the training she has received for the past 25 years and hooked up with director Jim Wyn and editors Tony Randel and Lily Talmy.
"The show is in its infant stages and anything is possible at this point, but we’re taking it one step at a time," she said. "I do know there will be more of a cast as we go along. Otherwise where Rosie and her cab go, I will follow."
"Cougar Cab" can be seen on YouTube.com.