It’s easy to tell when a television network is truly behind one of their projects. Clearly, CBC is fully supporting Save Me. How could I tell? A half-day of interviews for show creator, writer and director Fab Filippo and producer Lisa Baylin, and a Facebook Live session for the duo plus actors Amy Matysio, Emma Hunter and Suresh John, who co-star in some of the show’s 10 episodes.
Save Me is a web series, but it’s getting the same attention from the network Still Standing or Baroness Von Sketch Show would. There’s a reason: Save Me is damned good.
Now available on CBC’s website, Save Me follows Toronto EMT Goldie (Filippo) and his assorted partners (Matysio and John are two), as they arrive on the scene of 911 calls. The twist? The paramedics are the through line connecting the people making an emergency call rather than being the focus. That’s not to say we don’t get some back story into Goldie and his fellow EMTs lives—we do—but they’re not the focus.
“Lisa called me and said, ‘Do you have anything?'” Filippo recalls during a chat at CBC’s Toronto headquarters. “It wasn’t on HBO yet, but I had been watching High Maintenance and it had the structure of it wasn’t about the pot dealer, it was about the people who bought the pot. I loved that structure because it was an anthology but had the groundedness of wanting to tune in and see the same person every week.” The former Being Erica and Billable Hours actor has a friend—nicknamed Meeps—who is an EMT and Filippo thought that career could fit into a structure like High Maintenance. Baylin agreed. Filippo went on a ridealong with Meeps, made some notes, and bounced ideas around with Baylin. A year and half later and Save Me is online.
“We produce a variety of shows and are known as trailblazers because we’re always testing different models in the digital space,” Baylin, vice-president of content and production for iThentic, says. “I really wanted to do an anthology series and was looking for the right story. When Fab mentioned the paramedics, we thought it had a very natural feel for an anthology show. We could have these great emergencies and opportunities to stunt cast.” Baylin describes fleshing out the stories of people from all walks of life across Toronto, crafting the characters and approaching actors to participate in one or two shoot days for a four to 10-minute episode.
Save Me‘s guest cast is a 46-person who’s who from the television and theatre world. Brent Carver, Michael Healey, Paul Braunstein, Jean Yoon, Sonja Smits, John Bourgeois, Tony Nappo, Mayko Nguyen and Sugith Varughese are just a sampling of the talent who drop by to play instantly memorable characters. A sample: Emma Hunter portrays Cora, a woman in Episode 1, “H.B.D.,” who grows increasing drunk at a birthday brunch and then suffers a grievously hilarious injury. But for every funny moment—and there are many like “Possible Anaphylaxis”—Save Me offers thoughtfulness and hope too; scenes between Goldie and Kevlar (Matysio) are downright romantic.
“The biggest challenge was the time constraint,” Filippo says. “Mixing the genres wasn’t tough for me because that’s what I love the stuff that’s dark and makes me laugh. I was studying short form content because I didn’t want this to be a slice of life where it ends and you don’t get resolution. I wanted to build each moment so, at the end, you went, ‘OK, I just watched a story.'”
Season 1 of Save Me is available on CBC’s website.
Images courtesy of CBC.