Husband-and-wife team Gary and Julie Auerbach bring varied backgrounds to Go Go Luckey, their production company that is carving out its niche with distinctive series like Laguna Beach.
Gary started out as an off-Broadway actor, then spent 15 years in production, working on shows like MTV's Punk'd and Singled Out.
Julie, meanwhile, wrote for dramas like The WB's Charmed and Fox's Dark Angel. Luckey, named for the Auerbachs' young daughter, Lucia, draws on the film background of its small staff to create movie-quality production values for television.
Laguna, Luckey's soapy “dramality” program (as it's sometimes called) about high school kids in Southern California, fast became a smash hit for MTV and has just been greenlighted for a third season.
Their new effort, Rollergirls, a “docu-soap” about roller-derby queens, debuts on A&E Jan. 2. With names like Miss Conduct and Punky Bruiser, the show's real-life stars use rough-and-tumble roller derby to find relief from their jobs and relationships.
When Women Become Superheroes
“These women are like superheroes,” says Gary, who got the idea after reading an article about the sport's resurgence. “They have everyday jobs, but once a week, they put on these costumes and do this amazing sport. The emotion that goes into that is extraordinary.”
Though formed just three years ago, Luckey has developed a trademark production style. On Laguna, the Auerbachs used Panasonic DVX-900 cameras, which can be adjusted to shoot at the same speed as movies, to make the reality show look like a scripted drama.
That feel has spawned countless online discussions about whether the stars are actual people and not fictional characters (the Auerbachs swear they're real). Featuring bright, bold visuals and what Gary calls a '70s-movie style of shooting, Rollergirls looks striking as well.
With abundant action and a rich ensemble cast, Rollergirls was a natural fit for A&E, says the network's Executive VP/General Manager Bob DeBitetto. The network calls its new reality shows “real-life programming,” and the shows—such as Growing Up Gotti and Airline—follow real people, not contestants competing in contrived contests or schemes. DeBitetto says A&E execs, fans of Laguna, quickly greenlighted Rollergirls.
“It wasn't lost on us just how much Laguna came on the scene and changed reality. It's gorgeous: It has fantastic production values,” he says. “Sometimes when something comes in, you kick the tires and sweat it, but with [Rollergirls], it was very much love at first sight.”
The Auerbachs, who hope to branch into broadcast soon, are eyeing several more projects for the Luckey shingle. Gary, a Brooklyn native, is also directing and executive-producing Bound, a pilot in development at Fox, and No Place Like Home, a feature film from New Line starring Vince Vaughn.
His TV favorites include all things HBO, particularly Deadwood and Curb Your Enthusiasm. He recently discovered Current TV—the Al Gore-helmed network that programs short-form, viewer-contributed content—and thinks it's a game-changer.
“That you can be a 15-year-old kid and actually make a movie is the greatest thing that's happened to our industry,” Gary says. “That's what the business is supposed to be: a forum for people to express their opinions in an interesting way.”