A Distilled Conversation. PHotos by Eric Beaudry.
It’s a simple setting: a handful of people around a table, a drink or two into happy hour, making conversation about movies, relationships, food. Watching the web TV series Distilled is like sitting in on a bull session, albeit one with Twin Cities personalities and a flow that makes things bump along in small segments like the sit-down of your dreams.
The creator of Distilled, Rob Perez, first came on our radar as writer of the film 40 Days & 40 Nights starring hometown heartthrob Josh Hartnett. Perez is on every panel in the series, nurturing the proceedings with his generous curiosity about what makes people tick, along with an infectious laugh and a combative streak that contributes to dust-ups that feel authentic yet not personal.
In one episode, Brave New Workshop performer Andy Hilbrands offers up the observation that a past including, say, a long run of serious drug abuse, might be best kept to one’s self on a first date. Then the gathering erupts when one participant asks whether anyone at the table is in a real-life “successful relationship.” And musician-writer Dessa at one point executes an unplanned spit take during an exchange about flexibility in relationships that’s like something out of Abbott and Costello.
It’s wildly watchable, and the dialogue that takes place in the online comments after each episode keeps the conversation going (one thread went viral with a debate on the merits of the hockey movie Slap Shot, and ended with enough people protesting its absence on Netflix that the company added it). And it works whether you know who the panelists are, or whether you just see them as people opening up: varyingly skeptical, vulnerable, pugnacious, expansive, or just appropriately refreshed. Perez plans new episodes this summer, and with episodes running around the five-minute mark, you’ve binge-watched the entire series before you know it.
Musician-Writer Dessa participates in a distilled conversation