Paranormal investigation show "CONSPIRACY MF"
History of paranormal investigation show "CONSPIRACY MF"
In 2014 director Frank Stamm released the pilot episode of his first web series, “CONSPIRACY MF”. The pilot concerned investigator Nick Whippet (played by actor Del Rivers) getting to the truth behind a sighting of the mysterious beast known as the Chupacabra. Investigator Nick Whippet was as much an attraction as the mysteries he tried to solve: frustrated, hyper-masculine, and, it would eventually be known, a closet virgin.
The pilot episode was initially considered to be a polished piece of work (as much as a no-budget & crew-less film can be), but the director’s view of the pilot changed as the series moved to a slightly higher production standard. The pilot is the first of many episodes to have its "official" status withdrawn. Compared to later Series 2 episodes, the pilot is slower-moving, the narration less energetic, the drawings less developed.
Growing pains and adjustments in Series 1 of the show
The first "official" episode is "CONSPIRACY MF: Series 1 Episode 1: Sinkholes". It contained very little narration -- generally low-energy during this period. The episode concerned investigator Nick Whippet getting to the truth behind a sinkhole, which has mysteriously appeared in the area. Following Series 2 of the show, the "Sinkholes" episode would be remixed and lengthened. The lengthened remix would have added to it "Series 1 Episode 1.1" and "Series 2 Episode 1.2".
“CONSPIRACY MF: Series 1 Episode 2: Caltura” also, along with the pilot episode, had its official status withdrawn, due to the same sort of issues as on the pilot episode. The "Caltura" episode included an interview of a man who channels a gay alien entity. The episode revealed the show’s narrator as more accepting of homosexuals than the hyper-masculine Nick Whippet.
“CONSPIRACY MF: Series 1 Episode 3: Mound Builders” also had its official status withdrawn, due to the same sort of issues as on the pilot episode. "Mound Builders" concerned Nick's investigation of a culture like that of the ancient mound builders, but much smaller in physical stature: the mini-mound builders.
As two of three Series 1 episodes had their official status withdrawn, a supplementary episode to "Sinkholes" was devised -- so that Series 1 might be something more than a single episode. The supplementary episode, "CONSPIRACY MF: Series 1 Episode 1.1: Telescope", followed up on a product mentioned in "Sinkholes".
A masterful Series 2
CONSPIRACY MF began Series 2 with two very political episodes inspired by the show’s cartoonist, Norm Karsh. The two political episodes were finished, but remain unreleased. These were the fourth and fifth episodes to have their official status withdrawn, but for a new reason: because the director didn’t want to alienate both major parties.
A new first episode for Series 2 of the show was created, “CONSPIRACY MF: Series 2 Episode 1: Nick’s Teeth”. It was generally considered the best episode of the show to that point. It concerned various devices hidden in Nick Whippet’s teeth, that might come in handy were he ever kidnapped. This episode was the first official episode to include energetic narration.
To placate cartoonist Norm Karsh, who saw his two politically charged episodes buried, Episode 1 of Series 2 had a supplementary video follow it, “CONSPIRACY MF: Series 2 Episode 1.1: Comic Books”. In episode “1.1”, Norm let his political leanings show, but in a more manic and surreal way than in the previous political videos. This video would be both the beginning and end of political content in the series. The politics expressed in this video are an outgrowth of the original conception for the Nick Whippet character – “Senator Joe McCarthy hosting a paranormal conspiracy program”. While some of McCarthy’s persona remains in Nick, the politics were dropped early on.
An additional supplementary Series 2 episode was released, "CONSPIRACY MF: Series 2 episode 1.2: Plutznick Plumbing”, which introduced a business that has investigator Nick Whippet as its spokesman. "Plutznick Plumbing", in a way, was a follow-up to the final Frank Stamm short film made before the director devoted himself to CONSPIRACY MF. In that earlier film (“Babysitter Lemonade”) actor Del Rivers went head-to-head against children, as he does in the Plutznick Plumbing video. Following the Plutznick Plumbing video, there was discussion about remaking “Babysitter” CONSPIRACY MF-style, with Del Rivers playing the character of Nick Whippet, and speeding up the original film's pace.
"CONSPIRACY MF: Series 2 Episode 2: Bluesy Music Single" was a showcase for the work of CONSPIRACY musicians Tim and Tom Fudalik. In it, investigator Nick Whippet released a music single to raise much needed cash for the production of the show.
The first four episodes and supplementary episodes of Series 2 each showcased a different contributor: “Nick’s Teeth” featured a newly charged narration, “Comic Books” showcased illustrator Norm Karsh’s work, “Plutznick Plumbing” was the first episode to include no narration at all and so showcased actor Del Rivers, and “Bluesy Music Single” highlighted the show’s musicians, Tim & Tom.
The start of a 'CONSPIRACY MF' film?
What might have been the first episode of Series 3 wasn't labeled as an episode of CONSPIRACY MF at all, but was instead labeled part 1 of a possible CONSPIRACY MF film. Minus the cartooning of Norm Karsh, part 1 of the project felt more like a traditional film than any prior episode of the show. In the end, the scene wasn’t considered to be included in a new CONSPIRACY MF film. Instead a pre-existing short film titled “Babysitter Lemonade” was attached to it to create a new short film titled “Damned Lemonade”. Some basic animation was added to "Damned Lemonade" by Norm Karsh. "Damned Lemonade" was accepted into the 2018 Chautauqua International Film Festival.
A short documentary was compiled, titled "Roots of Conspiracy MF". The film described the show's beginnings and included footage from early (unofficial) episodes "Chupacabra" and "Caltura". "Roots" was a direct continuation of an earlier documentary titled "Hidden Gems from Stamm films #1".
CONSPIRACY MF host Nick Whippet made cameos in Norm Karsh's webcomic "Tendril Puppy", such as this one.
An expanded remix of Episode 1 from Series 1 ("Sinkholes") was released containing the ads for Plutznick Plumbing as well as for the Conspiracy MF-brand telescope.
Outdoor filming was undertaken in the summer of 2017 for a CONSPIRACY MF film. A screen test was posted online.
Footage from the early unofficial episode "Mound Builders" appeared in Del Rivers' acting demo reel.
A new direction for Series 3 of the show
It was doubtful that a third series of the show would happen due to the fact that a CONSPIRACY MF film was being shot. An actress in the film playing Nick Whippet’s girlfriend (Susan Steklof) had such natural chemistry with the Nick Whippet character, however, that she was thought to be a natural to play the role of Nick’s cousin Myra in Series 3 of the show. Two dusty scripts for a projected Series 3 were dug out and Series 3 went back into production, concurrent with the production of a CONSPIRACY MF film.
Series 3 was a departure from prior series, because Nick would have another character to share space with (his cousin Myra). A departure also because of the mix of footage types: some footage for Series 3 had been shot early on with a Panasonic camera, before Series 3 was abandoned in favor of a CONSPIRACY MF film. When filming was resumed to complete Series 3, it was with a new Canon digital camera (also being used to shoot the CONSPIRACY MF film). Completed Series 3 episodes contain a hodgepodge of video frame sizes and resolutions, with the letterboxed Panasonic footage looking somewhat “vintage” and the Canon footage looking more like live video.
The first video in Series 3 was labeled Episode #0, as it had a regional focus, and was only a runner-up to Episode 1 which would feature Myra for the first time. Episode #0 was Nick Whippet’s “Guide to Western New York”, featuring some of Nick’s favorite spots for visitors to the area.
Series 3 Episode 1 featured co-host Myra for the first time, and a third actor as a trucker-informant. The episode had to do with Nick’s investigation of trucker ghost stories. A fruitless early search for an actress to play the role of Myra included a petition to actress Colleen Ballinger (known for playing the character of Miranda Sings on the Netflix show “Haters Back Off”). Though Miss Ballinger didn’t contact director Frank Stamm one way or the other about the role, the director’s fondness for the show “Haters Back Off” meant that co-host Myra’s name was changed from Myra Garrison to Myra Singleton (in reference to Ballinger’s character Miranda Sings) and two characters from “Haters Back Off” (Miranda Sings and Uncle Jim) appear as cartoon ghosts in Series 3 Episode 1.
Series 3 Episode 1.1 was a needed addition to the somewhat disconcerting end of Series 3 Episode 1.
Series 3 Episode 1.2 was a supplementary episode in which Nick promoted a new club under the CONSPIRACY MF umbrella, this time a specialized club devoted to the study of Bigfoot. Membership, as usual, only $2.95.
Series 3 Episode 2 again featured Myra, and a third actor as a professor-informant. The episode had to do with Nick’s investigation of possible space-alien infiltration and influence at a local grammar school.
Series 3 Episode 2.1 was a supplementary episode that was a pitch to investors to finance an animated film being helmed by CONSPIRACY MF cartoonist Norm Karsh.
*** Many of the links to videos throughout this essay are for Youtube postings. Many of these Youtube videos are also posted on Vimeo, where they may display better than their Youtube counterparts.