Elijah and Steve
Steve Sivulka is an idea guy with a lot of "why not?" thrown in. In the year 2000 Steve created and launched one of the first online video websites, StupidVideos.com. At the time Steve considered this to be just another dumb idea — something fun to try out. The idea was to collect all the funny viral video clips that people were passing around over email and create a website that would make them available to play right within the website. Sounds simple now, but back then it was ground breaking. (This was years before sites like YouTube or Facebook even existed.) Sold in 2005, StupidVideos had become one of the most popular websites on the Internet, streaming over 2,000,000 videos with over 200,000 visitors per day.
In 2006, Steve woke up with another idea in his head, told his wife Dianne about it, bought a domain name and then promptly forgot about it.
Elijah and LeviFast forward ten years later to 2016. Steve and Dianne's son Elijah had become friends with Levi Sierra at school while working on a project in the form of a music video. The Sivulkas, always interested in connecting with families that their sons were friends with, invited the Sierras over for dinner. That evening's dinner would revive the idea that Steve had pretty much long since forgotten about.
Talking to Levi's father, Lon Sierra, Steve asked the usual round of getting-to-know-you questions, "Where'd you grow up?", "How'd you two meet?", "What do you do for work?", and so on. Lon told Steve that he owned a construction business that moved a lot of dirt around. "Yeah, but that's not really my passion," explained Lon. "I really love acting and my wife, Jill, and I produce independent films."
After Lon told Steve and Dianne about some of their productions, Steve explained to Lon and Jill that he had an idea for a production years ago, but just never followed through with it or took the time to pursue it. The idea was to create a scripted teen-based drama that would follow a group of high schoolers' lives inside and outside of their high school — a show that would deal with the issues that they face in a respectful, real, and sober way.
"I really hate the way that TV and movies portray the intense issues that kids deal with," Steve said. "Take for example a teenage girl finding out she's pregnant. Imagine the stress and anxiety of having to tell her parents. Imagine the response and ridicule from her classmates. Not to mention the confusion, disappointment and questions she would have about love. There will probably never be a more intensely dramatic time that she'll face in her life, yet most TV shows and movies would treat it like a joke — something to laugh about."
Jill and Lon Sierra
"There are just too many important issues that high schoolers deal with these days. They're making decisions that are going to impact the rest of their lives and the entertainment that they're consuming is not informing or helping them. A lot of kids are drowning in a sea of confusion and networks like MTV are handing them bricks."
"I think every generation has its show. For mine, it was probably Beverly Hills, 90210. Maybe Dawson's Creek for those a little younger than me. We latched onto those characters because we could relate to them and we were influenced (for better or worse) by what we were watching." Steve continued.
"I'd love to create a show that honestly portrays the issues that high schoolers are facing with today: peer pressure, bullying, drugs, sex, self-harm, body image, gender identity, abuse, abandonment, pornography, divorce, etc. Why not just lay it all out there and bring these issues to light in a show? Why not portray them in a way they can relate to and appreciate?"
"We don't need permission from a network or studio anymore to release a show, now that we have the Internet. I'd call the show HR805. That's the domain name I bought years ago. The show would revolve around a group of high school students' homeroom class that starts at 8:05 in the morning." And with that, Steve calmed down and moved on to dessert.
A few days later Steve received an email from Lon and Jill thanking him and Dianne for dinner. The email went on to explain how Jill couldn't stop thinking about HR805. Characters and story lines were starting to come to life in her mind as a result of the conversation that evening. Attached to the email were some script ideas. That email was followed by another one a few days later with even more script and character ideas. A few days after that, another email. Jill had caught the vision and was on fire with great ideas.
Steve thought, "Okay, enough ideas, let's get to work."
After a few meetings with Lon and Jill it was decided, HR805 was going to happen.
Since their initial meetings, they have finalized the script for the pilot episode, auditioned hundreds of people, selected a talent-loaded cast, scouted shoot locations, hired a top-notch crew, filed permits and are now set to start filming the first episode HR805 this July on 7/17/17.
HR805 Cast and Crew
Note: Since we started working on HR805, a show called "13 Reasons Why" has debuted on Netflix. The huge success of this show comes as no surprise to us. We get it. The show portrays the dark realities and pressures that high schoolers are exposed to. Young people are drawn into it because they can relate. They see the issues they deal with in a well-produced, well-acted story. We understand the producers are making an effort to communicate that deadly consequences are a result of evil within our society. However, HR805 stands opposed to targeting vulnerable young people with such a dark and dire message without offering hope. The light at the end of the tunnel in "13 Reasons Why" is death. The light within HR805 shines in the darkness, and the darkness will never overtake it.