Van Hansis (ex-Luke, AS THE WORLD TURNS) has created a web series called MS. GUIDANCE and has a Kickstarter campaign (bty.link/msguidance) to get it funded. “It is the story of a girl named Jenny Bump who went to a performing arts boarding high school, like myself, and then afterward went to Juilliard,” Hansis begins. "Everything was supposed to be great for her — she’s beautiful, she’s talented — but unfortunately, she has very little work ethic and a huge sense of entitlement. So, 10 years after graduating from college, her career really having gone nowhere, she has a nervous breakdown on the New York stage after she doesn’t get a part that she thinks she was perfect for. So she’s kind of ex-communicated form the theater world and has nowhere to go, so she goes home, back to Loch Hill, the boarding school she attended, to be the guidance counselor. She’s back on campus listening to the dreams of her students, which only stokes the dying embers of her own, and soon she’s back to her old tricks and digging for fame and destroying lives in the process.”
Here, Hansis details his passion project.
Digest: How would you describe the show?
Hansis: Tonally, the show is STRANGERS WITH CANDY meets Anton Chekhov. It's a dark comedy, first and foremost, but as with any serialized storylines, soap elements come creeping in. My co-creator, James Ryan Caldwell, and I were amazed at how quickly story beats that are so common in daytime would present themselves and be so good, we'd have to elaborate on them: love triangles, blackmail and bribery all factor heavily into storylines in MS. GUIDANCE. No secret twins yet, but who knows? Give us a year.
Digest: You co-created, produce and co-direct the series. Are you in it?
Hansis: Yes, I play a classmate of Jenny’s who went to school with her and immediately after school went to Hollywood and got cast in a MARRIED WITH CHILDREN-type TV show called PART OF THE FAMILY. Even though he’s really not incredibly talented, the show did really well, so he’s kind of relying on residuals and he doesn’t realize that he’s kind of a joke in the Hollywood community and that people really don’t think he’s a good actor. He’s back on campus to give a scholarship to a student in his name. So he comes back on her second day of being the guidance counselor and he becomes involved in her hijinks.
Digest: Where are you in the process?
Hansis: We shot three episodes last summer at Walnut Hill School of the Arts, which is my alma mater. They were very gracious in letting us shoot there because it’s such a beautiful campus. Each episode is about 20 minutes long or so, which is long for a web series, but it’s really important for us to have that length because the story we’re telling can’t be told in a short format of 5 or 6 minutes per episode; each episode is kind of structured like a half hour television show. It’s a huge undertaking but it’s something I’m really proud of. The episodes we have look really amazing.
Digest: How can fans get involved?
Hansis: We’ve launched a Kickstarter to help us raise funds for these next three episodes and we are about a third of the way to $35,000, which is what we’re asking for. Within 12 hours of launching, we became a staff pick on Kickstarter, which means that someone who works at Kickstarter goes through all of the projects and proposals looking for funding and they pick favorites, and we were picked almost immediately, which is really exciting. We really want to go back this summer and shoot more at the school. We have scripts ready, we have cast ready and the last bit is securing that funding.
Digest: What is it like to be on the other side of the camera?
Hansis: There is so, so, so much work! But it’s work that I love doing. There are a lot of balls in the air but it’s really rewarding. This is the project I’ve worked on that I feel the most connected to. I mean, obviously because I co-created it, but I have always been interested in directing and moving behind the camera. Of course, I still want to act, but I think it’s important for actors to diversify. As an actor, you’re waiting for someone to pick you. You have your hand in the air like, "I have the answer, I have the answer," and the teacher passes you over. And I think that you really need to take your career in your own hands, especially now with the Internet. It’s easy to make a project for a reasonable budget that looks really good. I’m looking forward to doing more directing and producing in the future, but I first and foremost see myself as an actor.
Digest: Who are you in touch with from AS THE WORLD TURNS?
Hansis: Jake [Silbermann, ex-Noah] and I see each other really regularly. He was over at my apartment the other day. He and I coach each other on auditions, actually. When I was in L.A., I saw Jesse Soffer [ex-Will] and Jen Landon [ex-Gwen] a lot, and I ran into Alex Chando [ex-Maddie] at the gym. Keeping in touch has never been one of my strong points and it’s something I wish I was better at because I have nothing but fond memories for all of those people on the show. They pop up in dreams a lot. I think Kathleen Widdoes [ex-Emma] was in my dream the other night. Follow the actor on Twitter: twitter.com/VanHansis1