Tony Ahedo kept the first few drafts of Barry Baker: Aspiring Serial Killer in his back pocket until after graduating from the Ringling College of Art and Design.
He created the amateur serial killer character while studying film at the college in Sarasota. About a year after creating the horror comedy TV series, Ahedo, 23, saw his character come to life on screen at the Sunscreen Film Festival and the Orlando Film Festival.
"There's nothing better than writing a joke and hearing an audience laugh at it for the first time when it's on screen," Ahedo said. "It makes all the long hours worth it."
The show also has a fitting premiere on Oct. 31 on Amazon.
Ahedo's six-episode limited series follows the titular character, a lonely office worker who's a bit of an awkward goofball.
Barry Baker is superstitious, and not the brightest bulb in the pack, but deep down he's a good guy.
Well, until he searches for life's answers in a fortune cookie, whose message says Barry's life calling is "to end the lives of other people — as a serial killer."
He pursues a career in serial killing. And he's terrible at it.
Tampa-based theater actor Peter Konowicz brings Barry Baker to life, a middle-aged man following his destiny no matter how grim it is.
"He finds the positive in serial killing and starts to realize he likes it," Ahedo said. "But it was tough to make a likeable character who does terrible things."
The handbook for the show grew out of a class assignment while Ahedo was finishing a degree in digital filmmaking at Ringling. A love of horror, particularly films like John Carpenter's Halloween and Psycho, made creating a horror comedy easy for Ahedo.
The idea to actually pursue creating a show grew after chatting up fellow alums while working on a feature film during the summer of 2015.
He and co-producer Natasha Thornton got the pilot episode off the floor within months, doing all the producing, casting and financing without any help from investors or film companies.
"I financed it purely off my credit cards and what cash I could save," Ahedo said. "I called in a ton of favors and gathered some of my closest Ringling colleagues and we made the pilot episode over five days in October 2015."
By the spring of 2016, Barry Baker: Aspiring Serial Killer was ready for its debut at the Sunscreen Film Festival, where it premiered in April.
Six months later the show's cast and crew has tripled and Ahedo has gained investors for the next few episodes, including a marketing grant from the St. Petersburg Clearwater Film Commission.
"We first saw the pilot when Tony submitted it to the Sunscreen Film Festival," film commissioner Tony Armer said. "We knew he had something good there."
The film commission fosters both local filmmaking and bringing film production to the Tampa Bay area through grants, workshops and providing space for shooting.
"We had just over 200 projects last year — commercials, shows, indie movies," Armer said. "It's all about what we can do to help with crew, locations and space."
With a few thousand-dollar grant from the Film Commission, Ahedo and his team are able to market the show to reach more viewers and to get the show on streaming platforms like Amazon, Netflix and Shudder.
With Amazon Studios, writers and filmmakers submit transcripts, short videos and pilot scripts for evaluation and approval. Amazon is not only a place for producing full-length, full-budget movies and shows, but is also a distributing platform for independently-made projects like Barry Baker.
Fresh out of college, Ahedo has already hit some serious high notes with his first venture in television production. And premiering the pilot on Amazon is only the next big step on the road to a full-fledged season. Ahedo is already working on financing for the final three episodes.
For a longtime horror fan, seeing his brainchild flourish is a dream come true.
"It's going to get bigger, better and bloodier."
Contact Chelsea Tatham at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @chelseatatham.