After getting their start as screenwriters in Hollywood, high school pals Mike Bender and Doug Chernack’s careers took a surprising turn with the launch of one small website.
Inspired by their own awkward family photographs, Bender and Chernack created AwkwardFamilyPhotos.com, a celebration of the awkward and uncomfortable photographs that haunt countless families across the globe. After receiving a traffic boost from the Clear Channel radio network, which linked to the new site shortly after its debut, offers began pouring in for a book deal and eventually, a scripted TV show with ABC.
“We started with small hopes,” Bender tells The Hollywood Reporter. “We never expected this to become as time intensive as it has. Since we launched the book we now have greeting cards, calendars, a board game. We kind of started to build the brand.”
Following the 2010 New York Times Bestseller, Awkward Family Photos, the brand has recently expanded into a second book and a development deal with ABC for a scripted show. While the duo envisions fresh faces in the show’s ensemble cast, they hope to achieve a similar quirky tonality to Arrested Development in the script.
“The idea behind the show is basically to have one family that is just the ultimate example of awkward family and all the different awkward relatives,” Bender says.
“There's certainly an Awkward Family Movie idea out there,” he adds. “We're getting so many stories it just feels like there's a natural in there. It's just a matter of time for us right now.”
For now, the writers are focused on their most recent release with Three Rivers Press, Awkward Family Pet Photos. For an exclusive look inside the new book, complete with Bender’s commentary, click through THR’s photo gallery.
“The thing that we keep talking about with this book is that our pets are not awkward, it's us,” Bender explains. “We're the awkward ones because we're the ones that make the relationships awkward. We give them middle names, we throw them these big birthday parties, we bring them to the mall to sit on Santa's lap. We are definitely the awkward ones in this relationship.”
“That’s what this book is about,” he continues. “We love our pets, but love can make us do some crazy things.”
With the holiday season just around the corner, Bender and Chernack hope that their fun and entertaining coffee-table book will make a hot item for gift givers everywhere. The picture book, which is designed to resemble a family photo album, includes commentary from a veterinarian, never-before-seen images, and of course, signature Behind the Awkwardness confessionals.
“As writers, the attraction to this whole thing is the fact that behind every one of these photos is a great story,” Bender says. “That's what keeps us really interested.”
Awkward Family Pet Photos is available now and retails for $15.00. Click here to see a sampling of the hilarious photos inside.