Words Fail Me

A comedy web series about love and desperation in absurd situations.

Robert Bruce Carter takes us back to the storytelling basics with his web series Words Fail Me. With a jolly soundtrack and quick editing, each pair of characters find themselves in wacky situations under a simple premise: I know something you don’t know. From there, things get delightfully weird. Fans of improv will love it, and the casual addition of absurd plot points gives both the actors and the audience more to chew on than just a simple sketch.

-- Elena Colás, Chicago Literati


About the series

Words Fail Me is a comedy web series about love and desperation in absurd situations. Set in Chicago, each episode features two people struggling to connect in a bizarre situation.

What do you do when your CIA informant spilled secrets to the tamale guy? Or your boyfriend comes home and tells you that the Russian mob is after him? Or your babysitter is having an affair with your wife?

The scenarios are crafted in advance me, Robert (I’m the one writing this About page so we might as well be informal about it), and the dialogue is improvised by actors that I met while taking classes and hanging out at The Artistic Home Theatre.

While in class at the theater, we did a lot of improvised work under circumstances created by the teachers. These setups tended to be very funny and I wanted to use them a way to generate stories and scenes on camera.

Most of the web series that come from Chicago use comedic actors that are steeped in the Chicago improv scene, but I wanted to try working with actors that were more at home doing dramatic work, allowing the comedy to come from absurd circumstances rather than big comedic choices. Not that the actors in the series can’t do comedy–it’s just not their main vocation.


Technical stuff

We use a very lean setup. The main camera is a Canon C100 with Canon lenses. After the first episode, we added a Canon 7D to get close ups to give us more options when editing.

Some directors use improvisation as a way to get the lines down, and then run multiple takes with those lines, once they’re established. I chose not to go this route as a way to keep things organic for the actors, so the dialogue is different in every take.

After shooting the episodes, I revisited the stories and edited them to put together a cohesive story based on the material that was generated.


Special thanks to Red June Cafe for allowing us to film episode 1 there! It’s an awesome little cafe tucked away in Bucktown on Leavitt St, just north of Armitage. Good coffee, good food, and good people.

And thank you to Nansen for allowing us to film episode 2 in their Chicago office!


Episode 1

David Jackson

David is an actor from Cleveland, now living in Chicago. He’s a producer for Big-Little Comedy.

Dayna Shrader

Dayna has been in Chicago for 4 years after graduating from Truman State University. During this time she’s had the privilege of working with The New Colony, Fury Theater, American Theatre Company, Dream Theatre, Brikenbrak Theatre, The Artistic Home, and Modofac Productions. She was also in Big Little Comedy’s pilot episode of Adventures in Failure.


Episode 2

Brendan Murphy

Brendan Murphy is a Chicago based actor. He recently completed the Meisner technique training program at the Artistic Home and the theater program at second City, and has most recently been seen on stage at Halcyon Theatre, Artistic Home and the Redtwist Theatre with the Adapt Theatre company. Brendan met all of his friends during the Cut To the Chase one act play festival at the Artistic Home, and consequently appears alongside almost every one of them in the web series Words Fail Me.


Annie Sauter Annie Sauter is a Chicago-based actor. She is a graduate of the two-year Conservatory at Act One Studios. Her work has appeared at Redtwist Theatre, Stage Left 2014 LeapFest, a web series called MATCHING PURSUIT, and other film and commercial things. Annie loves working with people who adore this work as much as she does.


Episode 3

Flavia Borges Flavia Borges is a Brazilian born actress and writer based in Chicago. She was last seen on stage playing the role of Maid in the Jeff Awarded The Goddess at the Artistic Home Theatre. On the screen she appeared in the feature films Life and Death of an Unhappily Married Man, Serial Daters Anonymous, the web series It’s You, the FOX series The Mob Doctor among other projects. Flavia is always excited to connect and work with those who share her passion for meaningful story telling.

(flaviaborges.com // @flaviaborges)

Russell Stern Russell performed the roles of Munoz in “City of Angels,” Applegate in “Damn Yankees,” Hero in “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum,” the Bishop of Basingstoke in “Jekyll and Hyde,” Dr. Spivey in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” Tony in “You Can’t Take It With You” and Martin in “Social Security” among others.
He was Rocco in the original one act “A Rearrangement of Matter” at The Sande Shurin Theatre in NYC. Russell is also a professional pianist, music director, composer and recording artist with his own CDs “Secrets of the Night” and “Awakening.”

Episode 4

Tyler Collins Tyler Collins is an actor and singer who started calling Chicago home after moving from Denver in 2011. Recently he appeared on stage at Towle Theatre, JPAC, Miners Alley Playhouse and will be with Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts this summer.

His Meisner technique training and being cast in Date Night for the Cut to the Chase one act play festival, all with Artistic Home, has connected him with this passionately talented group. Words Fail Me (er…him) to express his admiration of this new theatre family.


Mike Maggio

Mike is an actor from Chicago, currently living in Los Angeles. He obviously never sent his bio to me but don’t judge him–he’s a really nice guy.

Episode 5

Jae K. Renfrow Jae is one half of the artist duo “Jae et Gail”. In early 2015 they released a video called LEBOWSKI DRIVE that combined Lynch’s ‘Mulholland Dr.’ and the Coen Bros. ‘The Big Lebowski’ into one film. People talked about it in Italy. And Russia.
He also writes about film and is a contributor to Sound on Sight. Recently his dog, a final gift from his late wife, was murdered by the mob and he is currently avenging its death.

(jaeetgail.com // @jaekrenfrow // Vimeo // Sound on Sight)

McKenna Kirchner McKenna moved to Chicago from West Virginia where she received her B.F.A. in Acting from West Virginia University. In Chicago she’s had the opportunity to learn from and work with some wonderful artists at the Artistic Home and Shattered Globe. She is very pleased to be a part of Words Fail Me, and to have worked with such a talented and passionate group of people.

Episode 6

Cole Millette Cole Millette is an up and coming actress out of Chicago. Getting her start at The Artistic Home Theater, where she also trains, Cole has worked on stage and in front of the camera in commercials, television, and film.
She recently portrayed Melanie on NBC’s Chicago Fire (I am the Apocalypse) and is thrilled to be working on another exciting project in Chicago–the home town of her family and the community she considers to be the most collaborative, gracious, & supportive mecca of talented creatives around.

(@colemillette // Instagram // Facebook)

Matt Ciavarella

Matt is a native of South Florida and started doing improv while at the University of Florida with Theatre Strike Force. He moved to Chicago eleven years ago, and has appeared on stage and studied at The Artistic Home and iO Chicago. He’d like to thank Robert Carter for the opportunity and Cole Millette for being such a great scene partner.


Creator, Director, Editor // Robert Bruce Carter

Erin Miller // Producer

Erin is a project manager at a Chicago digital agency, who is exploring video production in her spare time. She graduated from Eastern Illinois University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in journalism. Her love of proper grammar, good communication and extreme organization makes production work an easy transition from project management. She hopes to find any opportunity to help her excel in production work.


Hannah Welever // Director of Photography

Born and raised in Ohio, Hannah recently received a Bachelor of Art degree in cinematography and cultural studies at Columbia College Chicago. Hannah’s early knack for 35mm photography and cinephilia lead her down the winding path of cinematography, which she continues to pursue. After living and working in Chicago for almost four years, Hannah wants to share her talents with those who have a passion for storytelling.

(hannahwelever.com // @hannahwhatevah)

Erin Turney // Sound Mixer Erin Turney is a Chicago-based filmmaker, who specializes in documentary location audio and cinematography. She enjoys traveling and showcasing her travels through ethnographic-style films. She is currently directing + editing a compilation of short documentaries from Les Cayes, Haiti, called “A Tree Is More Than One Branch.” Aside from documentary work, she collaborates with her filmmaking colleagues as Location Sound for short fiction films.

(erinturney.com // @TravelingTurney // A Tree Is More Than One Branch)

Color Grading // Parker Jarvie

Sound Mixing // Periscope Post & Audio

Special thanks to Kim Blackburn and Red June Cafe.