My Roommate The – 17 Tough Questions

Meet Lu Louis...

Lu Louis is on the way up. With a successful YouTube series under his belt and a partnership with Google, he's got the moxie and street cred to call his shots. Here are 17 questions for Lu about how he got started and how he sees the future.Enter Lu...

What was your background before you started working on Roommate?

Lu Louis and Byrne Owens

Lu Louis and Byrne Owens

I was born in Miami, Florida but grew up in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, I always knew that I would someday attend university in the US. Now, when I was in elementary, middle school, and even high school, I was the class . So for me acting was a natural progression. Upon graduating from high school I went to the University of San Diego where I majored in Theatre Arts. And after I graduated from there, I made the necessary move to Hollywood to follow my dream. My first year out in LA I worked retail at Best Buy and also DJ’ed for an event company. I eventually quit both those jobs to work full time for an event photography company. I primarily now make my income from production work.

What brought you to LA?

Honestly? The image of gorgeous girls rollerblading down the beach boardwalk in denim cut-offs and a bikini top, lol! Actually, that’s what brought me to San Diego. What brought me to LA was Hollywood. Los Angeles is home of thee most successful film industry in the world. So like everyone else, I figured that the best place to pursue the Entertainment Industry was in it’s birthplace.

How did you get involved with Roommate?

The idea for roommate came about from my desire to do something while I waited for things to happen with my acting career. I always wanted to be involved with something that incapsulated my Los Angeles living experience, but I didn’t want it to be another story about what it was like being an actor in LA. I had seen too many of those. At the time, I had just moved in with  Owens (co-producer of “my roommate the”), and he would do a hilarious impersonation of the emo kids he had seen and were familiar with.

My Roommate The Gleek

My Roommate The Gleek

I thought it would be hilarious to shoot something where I had to live with that character. So I put together a script, a crew, ne developed his character, and also wrote the insanely funny yet poignant poem that is in the sketch. We shot the sketch with a few friends and I called it “my roommate the Emo”. At the time it was only meant to be a one off sketch. But then I started thinking about my past living situations and so many more ideas came to mind.

I thought about, when I first moved to LA, was very interested in doing stand up. I had written some material that I always wanted to perform. One of the bits I had come up with was about my first real life LA roommate. She was a girl and was sweet as could be, but I would always joke that she was a racist and would do super racist things to me like leave cotton balls on the apartment floor for me to pick up.

With that joke in mind, I started working on the next script, “my roommate the Racist”. Unlike the first script I wrote, this time I gave my character a name. And because of sheer laziness and also my love for Jackie Chan, I decided to use my own name (Jackie Chan used his real name as his character name in his first couple of US movies). And I’m glad I did because “Lu” turned out to be the perfect name for this character.

We shot the new sketch and it had a beginning bit and a middle bit. After we wrapped shooting later on that night, I got one more idea for a bit that I wanted to add to the sketch. So we called Chris Mollica back (the actor playing the Racist roommate) and we tagged on an ending bit after the credits. And that format of a beginning bit, middle bit, and ending bit, became the format for the show and hence “my roommate the” was created.

What made you decide to “go for it” and use Roommate as your claim to fame?

Lu Reserved

Lu Reserved

What made me decide to go for it was the fact that I noticed how much fun we all had filming those first couple episodes. I had never laughed harder or had more fun filming anything else like when we were doing the show. And the episodes just kept pouring right out of me, out of us. Since day one  picked up the idea of the show and ran with it. I really liked what he was writing, so I decided to executive produce his episodes as well as mine. Which I am glad that I did because since then, he has helped me develop the tone of the show to what it is today. And once we saw how people responded so positively to the idea, we decided to keep it going.

Tell me about Roommate.  How is it different from other web series and TV shows?

The magical thing about roommate is the fact that the character “Lu” is a very relatable guy. He’s a lovable loser of sorts and has an everyman quality that allows the audience to experience the show through his “unfiltered” eyes. Lu does have an opinion and does take stances on issues, but he is never married to any perspective and his willingness to accept and understand others allows us as the audience to share in his experiences.

The biggest difference I see between our web series and others is that “my roommate the” doesn’t cater to just one demographic, genre, or social group. Because Lu is the constant and the roommates change, it allows the possibility for numerous interactions. Had Lu’s roommate always been the Racist or the Emo, then each episode would have only catered to those kind of jokes or living situations.

But since Lu’s roommate is always changing, it allows the audience the chance to be taken on a roller-coaster ride every time. And unlike most web shows or TV shows, “my roommate the” is not serial. Meaning that each episode is not contingent on the other. You don’t have to watch the first episode to get the show.

Matter of fact almost all of the episodes are stand alone episodes. Now over the years we’ve connected a few of the episodes together, for our own fun, by having a multi-episode arc with one character as the common thread (i.e. my roommate the Homophobe – my roommate the Queen – my roommate the Girlfriend, or my roommate the Southern Belle – my roommate the Thespian – my roommate the Bank Robber). We also cross genres. Some episodes are sci-fi (my roommate the Time Traveler), where as others are horror (my roommate the Ghost), or social satire (my roommate the Artist). We always keep the comedic overtone, but as far a story goes, the show is whatever we want it to be.

What do the viewers get out of Roommate?

Viewers get to watch a great story unfold right before their very eyes. With “my roommate the” we do our best to infuse our own personal life experiences into the episodes so as to give people insight into a social group they might not be familiar with, or we connect with them on a shared life experiences platform. We also take the viewer on an adventure into a world of that which is both familiar and unfamiliar. But most importantly, viewers get to laugh their asses off as they partake in “Mr. Lu’s Wild Ride”.

What do you get out of Roommate?

For me, roommate is an escape. A chance to relive certain stories from my childhood that impacted me and also and opportunity to live out the realities of my adulthood. I get to both see what its like to live with a “Desperado” in one episode and a Girlfriend in the next.

I also get to have my own show! How cool is that?! Any time I feel like getting something off of my chest or want to play around with an idea, I can just write an episode about it and then shoot it. Best-thing-ever!

What did you do to start Roommate?

The first thing I did was I started with a desire. I wanted something, and from that want came an idea. I wanted to tell stories and from that came the creation of an outlet to do so with. Once I had the desire and the idea, I put together a skeleton crew that included a camera guy, 1st AD and other actors and I wrote a script for us to shoot. Once we shot the script, I had it edited into a cohesive story and then we posted it on Youtube so as to share it with others.

I also registered my scripts with the WGA (Writer’s Guild of America) so as to protect my work. And the final step I took was that I made the show into a SAG Signatory show, meaning that it would adhere to the Screen Actor’s Guild guidelines and also grant us access to SAG actors. While all of this was happening, my neighbor helped develop a website for us to house our show on which added legitimacy to what we were doing.

Is Roommate profitable?

Lu on set

Lu on set

Yes and no. Since its conception, “my roommate the” has been immensely educationally profitable but never been monetarily profitable. The reason that I make the distinction educationally profitable and monetarily profitable is because while the experiences and knowledge we’ve gained from producing the show are invaluable, we have yet to make any money from the show. Matter of fact, the show has cost me a lot of money to produce. How much you ask? Well, a gentleman never tells, but let’s just say more than one year’s tuition at any private southern California university. But like I said before, the wisdom, new found skill set, and business savvy I’ve gained from producing the show totally make it worth it.

Did you partner with anyone to grow the show?

Since the beginning I’ve been partnered with Byrne. He shares in the writing, directing, acting, and editing aspects in the show. He writes half of the episodes and produces all the episodes that he writes. Our styles are able to blend and co-exist in the “my roommate the” world and he’s helped me expand the universe of the show beyond what I could have ever imagined on my own.

The 3rd season of the show is sponsored by a production company and they’ve helped us reach a new audience. They also gave us a loan to produce the episodes for season 3.

When you started, did you have the vision in mind of where you are now?

I had never really put pressure on the show to be more than what it always has been; a creative outlet. Sure it would be nice to see it make the leap from the web onto TV and Film but I’m very proud of how far it’s already come. At the end of this season we will have done 57 episodes. 57. That’s more than most TV shows. I’ve been blessed to have had something so sustainable fall into my lap and I can’t wait to see how much more it will continue to grow.

How much does social media play in your business?

As of now, social media doesn’t play too big of a part in my business. Sure it helps spread the word about the show, but I don’t yet have the social media following that it takes to really make a difference. We are kind of flying under the radar right now which is good because it’s giving us a chance to hone our skills so that when we do get a big opportunity, we’ll be ready.

How will you continue to grow the show?

We have plans to continue growing the show by reaching out to subscribers and seeing if they’ll support us in a Kickstarter campaign to fund two more super epic episodes. And from there, hopefully also find funding for the feature length script Byrne has written of the show for a movie. In conjunction to all that, we’ll also be packaging the other 57 episodes we’ve already completed and shopping those around to see if we can spark any interest in any other sponsors.

What’s your best advice for anyone who is pursuing their dreams?

Double Vision

Double Vision

Never lose sight of who you are and what it is you originally wanted. If your pursuit is something in the realm of the Entertainment Industry, then get ready because dark days are ahead. Every thing you think you know about yourself and what you believe is going to be put to the test in ways you can’t even begin to imagine. My experience is specific to LA, so I can only speak on that; This city will come after not your weaknesses, but your strengths. It will attack you in the areas you are most sure of and confident about so that once it takes them from you, you’ll have nothing but your weaknesses to fall back on. And that’s when the real mindf*ck will begin.

Unfortunately there in no avoiding this, and you can’t really prepare for it. All you can do is trust in yourself. Trust that no matter what is thrown at you, you’ll adapt and evolve so as to survive. You can’t have a back up plan because it’ll prevent you from being present. And from being bold. You can’t hold back. If you want to catch up to your dream then you have to chase it with all you’ve got. And when you’re done and feel like you have nothing left to give, that’s when you’ll have to dig even deeper and reach into the depths of your soul to find the strength to pick yourself up and keep fighting.

What is the very best advice you would give anyone who wants to “make it”?

To anyone who wants to make it I would advise that you actually “make it”. Meaning that an idea is only an idea until there is action put behind it. If you have a great idea or any idea for that matter that you want to see come to life, then you’ll actually have to take steps towards accomplishing it. Active steps. A lot of people talk about what they’d like to do, but until you actually start taking initiative and putting your money where your mouth is, then that’s all it’ll ever be. Talk.

If you were to start again, with all of the experience you have now, what would you do differently and why?  What would be “The Steps”

There isn’t any series of things that I’ve learned that I can simplify into steps. But I will say that the most important thing that I’ve learned throughout this entire experience is, “Know your worth”. Know-what-you-are-worth. I’ve rushed into a lot of things in life and have made bad decisions because I was scared and didn’t know what I was worth. For me specifically, I’ve said yes to things that my gut told me to think twice about, but I never listen to my gut (it’s actually something I’m working on currently and will probably struggle with for a long time).

There is a very difficult juggling act that takes place between staying motivated while  simultaneously  not rushing in and making careless decisions. Where the show is presently is a perfect example. Season 3 is about to wrap and already people are asking us about season 4. Now, there’s a part of me that is embarrassed and even afraid to admit that I have no idea when season 4 will happen. Particularly because I don’t want to see that look on people’s faces or hear their tone change when THEY come to THEIR own conclusion that my uncertainty on a specific date for season 4 means that I’ve given up.

It’s like they can’t wait for me to throw in the towel and join them on the sidelines, because after all, we know that misery enjoys company. But as I said earlier, I now know what I’m worth. Whether it takes me 5 days, 5 weeks, or 5 years…as long as I’m alive I’ll always be producing. So there is no end in sight for me. The world is stuck with me 🙂

With that being said, there is no rush for me to jump into the next thing. I’ve earned the right to take my time and weigh out all my options before making a decision.

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