"Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions."
-- Albert Einstein
So, we’re sitting in our office, my business partner and I, when out of the blue, a loud burst of laughter comes prancing down the hall. Yes, prancing. Things come to a halt for a second. Then, a familiar plaintive cry, “Heeeeelp!”
This is not unusual. It’s Fubble Entertainment
or, more specifically, Teresa Thome and Patrick Ziegler, the brains behind Fubble. It is Ziegler who has cried for help.
Full disclosure: I work just down the hall from these two, as our offices are in the same building. Fubble has been in the news frequently of late, so you may be familiar with their current and very successful project, a web series called "Backstage Drama"
. For $9.99, you get a year-long subscription to the web series -- which boasts high production values and top-notch local talent -- and 30% is donated to the community theatre of your choice. The subscription fee goes toward creating more episodes, which means more jobs for local artists. So far, more than 200 subscribers have signed up, and views are expanding. In just over three months, more than $500 in donations has been made to community theatres, with no marketing except word of mouth on Facebook.
Thome and Ziegler are particularly spunky today as they are still running on a high from their recent trip to Los Angeles.
A few of the things that happened in LA: They were escorted from a limo to the green room for "Hot in Cleveland" ahead of throngs of people waiting on the sidewalk. They watched the taping of the sitcom, Mike and Molly’s last episode. They met, schmoozed, and shared macadamia nuts with Ed Asner ("Lou Grant," "Mary Tyler Moore Show"). Asner recorded a video on what community theatre means to him, and this will be posted on Backstage Drama’s website.
“We continue to be amazed at the generosity of the people we meet,” says Thome. “They want us to be successful.”
So, the trip to LA was kind of a big deal.
Lately, it seems, there are a lot of big deals going on in the world of Fubble. This comes as no surprise, because although they didn’t meet until the 1990s when they studied theatre at Grand Rapids Junior College, Thome and Ziegler have been working since childhood for this moment in time. More on that later.
Team Fubble surround themselves with really smart people. “We know what we know, and we know what we don’t know,” says Ziegler. Their council of advisors includes television industry execs and business-savvy people from L.A., New York, and West Michigan. One such exec is John Schwartz, director of finance at 20th Century Fox Television. Local business investor Jeff Gietzen helped with the business model. Danny Salles, a seasoned industry player, helps with scriptwriting. Salles is presently working on the WEtv show "Joan & Melissa: Joan Knows Best."
Without apology, Thome and Ziegler allow their ids to run freely and fall where they may. This practice fosters creativity that would otherwise be stifled. The story of how the name “Fubble” came to be is a case in point.
Ziegler, who is dyslexic, sometimes makes words up. “Kind of like George Bush, I mispronounce things,” he says. After their first meeting with William Morris Endeavor in New York City, Thome said, “That went so well. You did great in that meeting.”
“And I said ‘Thanks so much. I’m just so glad that I didn’t fubble,’” says Ziegler. “She said ‘Fubble? I think you just did.’”
Building relationships is crucial, and many of their friendships span decades. “Sean Hayes (“Jack” of "Will & Grace") used to babysit my dog,” says Ziegler. “You just never know where people will be in three, five, 10 years. When I walk into an office, I’m nice to everyone. The office assistant might be a future benefactor. The relationships we’ve built in the past are helping us now in a very big way.”
Ziegler, 46, is a native of Grand Rapids and has lived in New York and L.A. Currently, he divides his time between Douglas, Michigan and Chicago, where he lives with his partner of 16 years, Mark Anthony Lord, a minister at the Bodhi Spiritual Center in Chicago.
“I love having the best of both worlds,” Ziegler says. “Grand Rapids feels a lot like L.A., only smaller.”
Ziegler credits his vivid imagination and love of sitcoms for setting him on his current path. “As a kid, my favorite show was "Lost in Space,” he says. “My friends and I played our version of it, and I was always the robot. I memorized commercials and always knew that I wanted to work in this medium.”
Besides frequent sparring with his older brother over a Fisher Price toy named “Joe,” Ziegler wrote and put on plays in his backyard. Well, only one episode of "Gilligan’s Island" actually made it to the stage. “Every time we tried to put something together, everyone would argue, and we wouldn’t get anything done,” says Ziegler.
Thome is married to Fred Stella. They’ve been together 22 years, married for 18, and have two cats. Stella has a singing telegram business, narrates books on tape and is a Hindu minister and speaker on interfaith dialog.
As a child, Thome fancied herself as “Kitty” in "Gunsmoke" and envisioned that she’d be in the television show "MASH" as a general’s daughter, wounded and in a wheelchair.
For now, Fubble is in entrepreneur mode, using their relationships to get recommendations and feedback for their projects and to get their work in front of more people in New York and Hollywood. They also have individual pursuits -- in the near future, Thome will perform her one-woman show, "Warm Cheese and Dead Meat", which was well-received at LaughFest.
“Anything is possible,” says Thome. “We don’t put a value on specific goals. We go into a meeting with a vision, a goal and no expectations. We stay down-to-earth and focus on the positive.”
Despite rumors to the contrary, Victoria Mullen will not become a cat lady any time soon. In addition to writing for RGM, she acts, paints, acts up, does lawyerly stuff, and co-owns MP Talent Management Group.
Teresa L. Thome and Patrick W. Ziegler of Fubble Entertainment, hanging out at the Spectrum Theater. Photo by Adam Bird
Photography by ADAM BIRD