Compost, Vimeo and the Munchies: An Interview With the Creators of High Maintenance

To say that we here at Edible Brooklyn are obsessed with High Maintenance , the web series by Ben Sinclair and Katja Blichfield, would be a gross understatement. I’ve become that annoying television evangelist everyone hates — not the type that evangelizes on TV, but the type that evangelizes about TV, as in “Hey I know we only get fifteen-minute breaks in our eight-hour shifts but you should really watch at least one episode of High Maintenance on your iPhone while you’re gone.”  This tactic actually works well; the episodes range from 6-15 minutes and have the stunning ability to make you feel feelings, laugh out loud and feel less alone in New York City all within the time it takes your morning pour over to percolate.

We got a chance to attend the premiere of the newest cycle of episodes which will be released as the first-ever series from Vimeo on demand today, and Katja and Ben sat down for an interview to dish on Ben’s most recent entrepreneurial endeavor as a bicycle compost collector (the opposite of the weed delivery guy he plays on the show), the episode featuring Edible Brooklyn and what they eat when they have the munchies.

The married couple only releases three episodes at a time, but the episodes are rich enough to merit multiple views. “It’s like the Slow Food of digital media,” they explained after telling me that fans will have access to three new episodes on November 11 followed by another cycle premiering in January.

Ben is one of the founders of New York Compost, a now-defunct bicycle compost pickup service.

Ben Sinclair: We got quite a bit of money to make it happen, and we had these huge trikes, you know, like at Birdbath Bakery, and we were going to pick up compost from businesses and small restaurants and coffee shops, and once we finally got that bike I was riding over the Williamsburg Bridge and I was like “God, I don’t ever want to do this again.”

Katja Blichfield: Not to mention the whisperings of mafia stuff.

BS: Well the Department of Sanitation and labor unions were like, “If you start collecting from households, we’re gonna hurt you”kind of vibes.

KB: And finally we were like, “Goddamnit, the only way that this is going to happen in the city is if it’s municipalized, like in San Francisco.”

BS: We started talking about decentralized anaerobic digesters all over the city and then were like “What, no! Let’s make a web series!”

Edible Brooklyn: I loved the “Elijah” episode, which featured Edible Brooklyn. I was impressed by the way you captured the relationship between the arrogant caterer and the family so vividly, down to the inclusion of pork and the way he refers to Ben’s character as “boss.” Where did that episode come from? Is there some horrible Passover trauma in your past?

BS: During that compost time and even before that, we were very environmentally inclined and Greenmarket-friendly and we kind of dipped into that foodie world, and my mother is a cantor in Scotsdale and we knew we wanted to do a Passover episode.

KB: Theo Stockman, who plays the caterer there, he’s sort of hard to put in a box, but what he does really works and we thought he would be the perfect person to play one of those hot shot caterer guys who maybe was on Top Chef at one point and it’s this weird little claim to fame that he’s clinging to and it gets him laid every now and again and it’s jut kind of gross, and maybe he’s into his hair…

BS: And we’d gone to Stone Barns in January and we shot that in March or April, and it was very inspirational.

EB: One of my favorite things about the show is the way you include lightning-fast shots that speak volumes about the characters. When I watch it, I’m always pausing to check out someone’s book collection or examine a spice rack. I especially love the book collection in the “Heidi” episode. How do you go about designing your sets? 

KB: I have to say, so we shot that episode in a friend’s space… someone who is on our crew… and he lived there, and he is not completely unlike that character at all… he’s also just a handsome man who has success with women and maybe has been unlucky a few times too… same age, and type…. they were taken out of the actual collection. It was like we didn’t have to dig deep. We were lucky enough to be able to almost cast apartments, almost as much as the cast on the show… we were able to find places that people lived in who were similar to the characters, or played the characters even. We had to bring in very minimal props because it was ready to go. And that was partially because of a budgetary constraint and also a choice.

BS: It was nice to see dust on the walls. It’s hard to fabricate a lived-in feeling or a mess. We watched a show recently and the mess looked like it should have squiggly lines coming off of it, and maybe someone would say “Zoinks!”

EB: You’re Vimeo’s first on-demand series. What has it been like?

KB: Seamless, fantastic. The whole point was to make it not too much of a change. It’s almost like people who move from one floor of a building to another and it’s like, “that was easy.” We maybe had to pack a couple of boxes. But look, our view is so much better here!

BS: In terms of freedom, the first time they had seen or read the episode was the other night at the premiere. And part of the deal is that you maintain ownership of your property, and when they sell it (they’ve of course funded it and they need to recoup their costs) the artists retain 90% of the profits, so it’s a sweet deal if it works. So being first, and testing that out, was our pleasure because in the end we still own it, and if it doesn’t even recoup the costs at Vimeo on demand, we’re not in serious debt.

EB: I have to ask. What do you eat when you have the munchies?

BS: I want a gourmet combo.

KB: Oh yeah, Ben has this fantasy.

BS: I want a line of gourmet combos …. a pate sourdough roll… what do we eat though? I like salty things.

KB: I like cake.

BS: I mean, it can really go either way.

KB: We eat a lot of nut butters straight out of the jar with a spoon. We like Justin’s maple flavored, or honey-flavored, almond butter. Also Nutella.

Editor’s note: As .gif evidence of our High Maintenance obsession, Claire and I sandwich Pinky and another actor from the upcoming season:

high maintenance

Even our publisher has a fan selfie:

A photo posted by Brian Halweil (@brianhalweil) on

Featured photo: Facebook/High Maintenance: The Web Series 

No Comments Yet

Leave a Reply