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Last year I wrote about the plight of Wayside Creations. The company formed in 2009/2010. The production company tended to run crowdfunding campaigns for their film projects. Their second-to-last Kickstarter project was a Legend of Grimrock venture in 2013, and their last one was a 2014 project to get funds for continuing their Fallout: Nuka Break series with a spin off titled Tales From the Wasteland. Both campaigns were very successful, but a lot of time passed with no sign of progress.
Zack Finfrock created Nuka Break and co-founded Wayside Creations. He was joined by Tybee Diskin, who would go on to play Scarlett in Nuka Break. Her brother Cameron Diskin joined in 2011, playing Nuka Break‘s Ranger and helping in the project’s creative development. This core group didn’t just act, they also rolled their sleeves up and got to work with the production: prop design & manufacturing, writing, story editing, stunts & fight choreography, production design, gripping, lighting, and directing were just some of the talents they applied in their work here. Becca Hardy came in to the company later in 2014 to overhaul Wayside Creations’ communications strategy, while also serving as a writer, actor, content strategist, and later Creative Director.
Then, in September 2016, an incident came to light. One that alludes to the serious crimes of fraud and possibly embezzlement.
The very definition of it, in fact.
A person is often given access to someone else’s property or money for the purposes of managing, monitoring, and/or using the assets for the owner’s best interests, but then covertly misappropriates the assets for his/her own personal gain and use.
Enter Vince Talenti, stage left. Last year I referred to him as [MAJORITY SHAREHOLDER] out of respect for the four at Wayside.
But now, a year later, it’s time to tell you the whole story.
The self-proclaimed “classically trained” film director, Vince Talenti, and the Wayside Creations company had their biggest claim to fame with the success of their Fallout Nuka Break fan film series. Graduating FSU with a Business major, he thought he could fit his square peg into the round hole of the Film industry. It seems Vince Talenti had this Steve Jobs/Spielberg mentality, with a key difference being he was tone deaf to the specific nuances of the movie making world. To compensate, Vince surrounded himself with talented and creative folks who understood what they were talking about to springboard himself off of that. But simultaneously, Talenti had a habit of pushing his professional acquaintances and friends away once they began asking too many questions about his management practices. As long as things looked good, everything else was negligible in his eyes. This manipulation would rot the core of Wayside Creations, and kill the company’s most valuable asset of all.
Wayside Creations first established themselves in March 2010, after winning Indy Mogul’s competition to be the new Backyard FX hosts. Backyard FX was a subsection of the Indy Mogul channel, which in itself covered various aspects of elements in film and the world of cinema.
Their contest entry they uploaded on the 1st was titled Love Not Included. This short serves as a solid representation of what this group was capable of in their video work. The silly plot of it involves a robot wife who comes home to find her husband cheating with another computer. She begins shooting her laser gun at him as he flees into the kitchen. The robot’s weapon overheats and gives the husband a chance to escape. She pursues him out onto the balcony, where the husband is found hanging off the side.. The robot begins to charge their gun for a final attack, but the batteries die just in time to save the husband’s life. He climbs up from the ledge, picks his wife up, and hits the factory button to make her forget seeing his romantic mechanical encounter.
Zack Finfrock, Julian Higgins, Kevin Brooks, and Aaron Giles are some of the names listed in the credits, and they’d all make up the initial foundation of the Wayside group.
By the end of the month, Wayside made it to the final round of Indy Mogul and got the chance to do a trial-run episode of Backyard FX showing how they made their flying robot they had used in the sketch.
Finfrock’s style of Backyard FX videos showcased his sophistication and talents in making realistic props to use in short films, using household items and a tight budget. Zack acts pretty much like MacGyver in this process: disassembling the various items he buys down to a component level and applying his film experience know-how to recombine them into what he wants to make, all while calmly holding the viewer’s hand by narrating a walk-through, step-by-step.
But that’s not all. Zack made sketches and short video stories that involved the props he’d make that week. To show you how it would look in a formal production. What they called, “A test film.”
There was a segment called “Your FX” done on the side, that included viewer’s own project DIYs that had been sent in. In short, if you ever wanted to learn how to build props like: night vision goggles, Harry Potter wands, a Back to the Future hoverboard, or a Portal gun? The Backyard FX series had your needs covered.
Vince Talenti and Tybee Diskin both showed up in one of the first regular episodes Zack Finfrock did on Backyard FX after getting the job. They’d both be involved for the period that Finfrock’s BFX series was airing, and Tybee directed a test film for the show later on during their run.
This would set the stage for how Vince Talenti and Wayside were able to win the GoDaddy contest later that year.
Vince Talenti first emerged from obscurity in October 2010, as shown in this local article from the Tampa Bay Times in Florida. It’s in this piece we get introduced to who Vince is at his core.
“I have a conflict in my brain,” Talenti said during a phone interview from Burbank, CA. “I have a business side and a creative side, and they are always battling it out.”
It appears he meant this in not just a figurative sense, but literally as well. Vince tried to apply for Florida State University’s film school and faced multiple rejections. In 2008 he found himself graduating with a degree in business instead. Never getting formal schooling in film, the thirty short films Talenti had made up to this point in his life, were all hit-or-miss attempts at “winging” it and learning along the way. According to Vince’s parents, their son was infatuated with moving pictures since his early childhood.
While Vince co-directed the short, he had Tybee Diskin as a co-director. She did a lot of the running around: Not only was there legwork when it came to storyboarding and production management, but actual exercise as she jogged back and forth from “video village” (that’s what you call where the camera, director, dp, and camera team work come from). Zack Finfrock of course is visible in the background of this thirty second commercial. Many of the early Wayside crew were around and came on board with this project.
According to the Tampa Bay Times article, Vince Talenti was able to get his foot in the door by winning a GoDaddy.com commercial creation contest. His thirty second piece tells the story of a student named Russell, who turns his nerdy life around when he creates a GoDaddy.com site to sell his notes for a quick buck. The concept was enough to win over the judge – Go Daddy’s CEO Bob Parsons – netting Talenti $250,000 in prize money. But moreover, Vince’s work got national levels of exposure on ABC and ESPN TV stations.
But every production is supported by a crew at its foundation. Working with actors who helped for free and with donated equipment, Vince’s expenses on this commercial landed at $1,000. The article says he was going to use the prize money to pay union level wages to the actors and crew (which seems to have happened), and stash the rest for a future film production.
“I have a bunch of failures before I make something,” Talenti told the Tampa Bay Times.
That might work for film. Even the failures in that medium amount to a physical end product. But running a business? The same standards don’t exactly apply.
The company name was based out of the house where everyone first lived, upon moving to Los Angeles…kind of. Wayside Drive in Sunland, California. Vince approached Zack and said, “We should enter this GoDaddy contest.”. Zack said it was a cool idea, and eventually Vince came back with the initial proposal for the basic plotline. Finfrock gave feedback that Tybee used and worked into the script, as she wrote the final full version based off Talenti’s concept.
Vince, Zack, and Tybee talked about the experience in an Indy Mogul interview.
The only reason this is relevant is because Vince Talenti tried to take sole credit for the effort of the group’s work. Despite what that Tampa Bay Times article may lead you to believe, Wayside Creations was a team effort from the get-go.
The video was entered on the website under Wayside Creations. The question that was raised after winning was where the money was going – which led Vince to claim Russell’s Notebook wasn’t a Wayside Creations project, but a Vince Talenti project instead. This progressed to being an actual argument, that lead to Zack going over to Godaddy’s website on his computer, and showing Vince proof that he was incorrect about what it was submitted under.
Indeed, according to available internet records from that time, it shows Zack was right. From then on it was agreed that the $250,000 was going to be spent on Wayside projects ($90,000 after taxes and paying everyone involved in the cast/crew of the GoDaddy project).
That was the hope, anyway.
The earliest days of the Wayside Creations production company were full of optimism and high hopes for the future. A group of college age kids had gotten a golden ticket to the Film Industry by winning that contest. The “Hollywood Wasteland” can often be a lifeless and desolate place for newcomers. Wayside Creations had sprung up as an oasis in the desert, given life out of the $250,000 the group won out of a GoDaddy commercial contest. It was a respectable sum, capable of financially supporting whatever film sketches they could come up with. Wayside Creations was a team and support system, a group where these friends could build each other up, spitball ideas back and forth, and make each other laugh until they cried.
But Vince Talenti thought he controlled the money. He said everything had to go through him, as he thought the GoDaddy money was legally his.
This would end up being the governing dynamic that would steer the fate of the company. You have ideas? Good luck getting Vince’s stamp of approval.
According to people who were around in Wayside’s early years, Vince was a different man before money came into the picture. More willing to make mistakes. More supportive and kind. It wasn’t so much the money itself that changed Vince Talenti, but rather the gratification that came with winning. The image of success.
While the problems with money grew more confusing with the dawn of Wayside’s flagship series, Talenti’s hubris gained a crystal clear spotlight.
The initial Nuka Break fan film was Zack Finfrock’s idea (writing it with Brian Clevenger), intended to pay homage to the Fallout universe. As a huge Fallout fan it was his passion project made with the same enthusiasm and atmosphere that the games themselves had. It fit in the same spirit as the shorts they were doing for Backyard FX at that time, even having a DIY episode with Zack showing viewers how to make a PIP-Boy 3000.
Filming took place in the Summer of 2010, only costing $2000 to produce. Finfrock made the props and costumes. It was directed by Julian Higgins. A Wayside founder, and later casualty by Vince.
January 24th 2011. The original Fallout: Nuka Break – Fan Film is released. Again, Talenti didn’t direct here,the fan film was helmed by Julian Higgins. Joining alongside him was Aaron Moorhead as the Director of Photography.
This post-apocalyptic world had a 60-40 mix between serious and funny, and it ended up being an internet hit at the time, within the first few days upon release. That is to say, Wayside Creations was able to make a name for themselves because of Zack’s idea, lead by Julian Higgins, that turned into a very successful project.
Zack’s Backyard FX friend, Aaron Moorhead, came back and helped shoot Season 1, and the gang at Indy Mogul was certainly great at spreading the word on their YouTube channel for this new series. Indy Mogul’s network owners helped get the idea off the ground in the first place, in fact.
The story of Nuka Break is separate from anything directly in the Fallout video game storylines. But it’s still contained within the overall universe, taking place between 2277 (Fallout 3) and 2281 (Fallout New Vegas). Season 1 follows the adventures of Twig, Scarlett, and Ben as they make their way through the desert wasteland. Twig is an ex-vault dweller who came from a place where the entire population was fat, with him being the skinniest fat guy there. Somewhere along the way he met a ghoul named Ben, and they both ran into Scarlett. Now, Scarlett was a slave owned by Leon Swallow, until Ben and Twig helped her escape. Later on, the backstory gets an extra level of depth when a mysterious Ranger shows up to protect Ben. A later spin-off called Red Star, added more character development to who the Ranger was under his mask. Nuka Break Season 2 would serve as the climax and emotional payoff to the plot threads set up beforehand.
Fallout: Nuka Break – Season 2 won two IAWTV Awards for Best Costumes and Best Makeup/Special Effects.
There was supposed to be one more story in the Nuka Break saga. But that one, Tales from the Wasteland, never saw the light of day. Never ever. In place of it, the public got what was called The Wanderer.
It is clearly NOT the same. But why?
What follows is painful and sad, but is is the closest thing to an explanation that I have been able to obtain.
June 2nd 2011. Zack Finfrock takes a bold first step into crowdfunding, using indiegogo to introduce the premise for a Nuka Break series to the internet. He says the fan film’s audience feedback, and their cheers of “Please make more of this!” is what spurred Wayside into making Nuka Break a proper webseries. They wanted $20,000 for the production, so they would have the means of paying for locations, cast, crew, gear, etc. In return the people that donated would get perk rewards like “Special Thanks” credits, a signed DVD, and even show props.
Unfortunately crowdfunding had some downsides. In order to do it in the first place, Wayside Creations needed to file paperwork to become a proper LLC. While Julian Higgins from Zack’s Backyard FX days, was able to direct the original Nuka Break fan-film, Vince and Zack decided to take the top officer positions of Wayside’s company initially without him.
By June 18th 2011 they had already broke through their 20K goal, and had two weeks left in the campaign to spare. Finfrock and Wayside ended up getting $60,000 by the end of their crowdfunding effort. Some of that would end up paying for locations, with the town of Eastwood being the actual set from the 2006 movie, Letters from Iwo Jima. Wayside named the town after the director of that film, Clint Eastwood.
But despite the success and glamour of money, it carried a lot of responsibility as well.
During production, the Indiegogo money was initially connected to Zack Finfrock’s bank account. He and Vince had negotiated with Indiegogo to arrange the campaign so that as money was donated, Wayside Creations could have access to that more immediately (and not have to wait for the end of the campaign to obtain it all). The only downside to that was Indiegogo took 10% of every donation instead of 5%, however you got that cash back if your campaign reached the goal mark.
Ralis Kahn, with the help of Finfrock created the multiple latex appliances for the ghoul masks for the characters of Ben and Larry, played by Aaron Giles and Kevin Brooks, respectively. The money used for the make-up came out of the Indiegogo, of course. The budget covered other aspects, like food. Zack was already uncomfortable with the responsibility of budgeting (even people with a demonstrably wide range of skills can reach one too many), and that pressure peaked when he realized at some point he had been miscalculating the budget, to the sum of a grand or two over what it should’ve been.
Thankfully, pre-production was only around a month and a half of time. Still feeling a guilty conscience, Zack sat down with Vince and the other producer at the time and came clean about what had happened. Finfrock told the both of them he didn’t want to be in charge of the money, so he withdrew all of it from his account and transferred it to Vince.
I’m going to pause here.
From pre-production of Nuka-Break Season 1 (Summer of 2011) onward, Vince Talenti had TOTAL control of Wayside Creations finances.
That’s how it happened.
Tybee’s brother Cameron came along to Wayside after being in a relationship for 7 years, leaving his girlfriend and their apartment in 2011. He needed a place to stay, and ended up at Wayside. Camping out on a futon, to him it felt like a divorce in some bro-mance comedy Cameron was older, and felt out of place among a group of people that liked partying all the time, but he quickly adapted to this new landscape out of social necessity. Before his bad break-up, he worked with wayside a few times on their Backyard FX stuff. Cameron was also the Key Grip in making the Russell’s Notebook GoDaddy commercial. He and a friend of his, had been working on professional sets in multiple capacities for a number of years, and crewed the shoot.
August 29th 2011 was when Episode 1 went live.
Season 1 was a hit, as far as fan-made projects go. Wayside managed to snag a deal with IGN to put the end of Season 1 up on their channel a day earlier than usual at the end of January 2012.
April through June 2012, Wayside Creations had their Nuka Break Season 2 Kickstarter campaign. While the initial goal was $60,000 Wayside ended up making exactly $130,746 at the end of the day. People could pledge anywhere from $10 to $5000. On the lower end, the rewards were things like DVD/BLU-RAY copies of the season (with Behind the Scenes and commentary), movie posters, and t-shirts. By the time you hit $500 and onward, the rewards were signed props, with the $5000 pledge being an Associate Producer credit and a walk on role in the series.
By the next month we’d find out that Wayside hit the ground running and got to work on the writing.
Chris Avellone and Tim Cain helped that along, according to this July 18th post. Also mentioned: SFX makeup was run (again) by Ralis Kahn, while VFX was done by 11:11 Media Works, and Harrison Krix of Volpin Props did some of prop design/manufacturing.
When it comes to Bethesda’s perspective, they themselves often get approached with pitches to do a Fallout film, but the company is extremely protective of their copyright, out of legal necessity. With Nuka Break specifically, Bethesda reportedly enjoyed what Wayside was making so they were very hands-off. They saw no need to get litigious and sue them. The only time they felt obliged to step in was when it came to the Kickstarter DVDs and other Nuka Break merchandise. Wayside was prohibited outright from selling that stuff, although they were allowed to use it as pledge rewards since that money was supposed to all go into funding the production of Nuka Break projects, directly.
However Vince Talenti decided to monetize the Nuka Break videos around the time when Machinima became involved with Wayside projects. Here are examples of that (1, 2, 3, 4).
August 1st 2012, Wayside shared that the story outline was finished and they were currently writing the script.
Tybee Diskin and Zack Finfrock put together the bare bones of Nuka Break Season 2‘s writing. They, along with Tybee’s brother Cameron, had a love for the Fallout games. The lead Nuka Break actors had all played the games, and had a lot of personal say for their overarching story-lines. Tybee gave Scarlett her escaped slave background and rebellious spirit. Zack Finfrock made Twigg’s destiny of romance, despite Vince Talenti’s attempts to shoot the idea down. Zack and Vince also butted heads when it came to the amount of seriousness there’d be in the writing tone. Compared to Season 1, Season 2 of Nuka Break kicked it up a level.
Zack was supposed to finish the script but he got too busy so that’s why Dan Ast got the gig, Vince got too panicked because of the script length. He then turned around and blamed Tybee for not arranging all of that for him.
It had been previously decided that Ben the Ghoul was going to sacrifice himself. But actor Aaron Giles got to decide the story of how his character got there, working with Cameron (and his Ranger character) to fine-tune that journey.
I mention this sort of thing so you understand how soon things were in motion. As well as pointing out how Tybee and everyone else in the cast were the creative input on their own character’s personalities and the story line as a whole.
Put a pin in that.
Although I don’t like to jump around in this type of article, the case of Aperture R&D is unique. While the production process took place before the filming of Nuka Break Season 2, it wasn’t released until after that.
Written by Zack Finfrock & Peter Weidman, and Douglas Sarine (ask a ninja guy), it was designed for Zack and Doug as the main characters, and Peter being one of the lead supporting characters.
It was a Machinima production, done for their Prime programming line-up.
Reportedly, it was better on paper than the final film product. According to sources on the set of Aperture R&D, Vince doesn’t understand humor. He wasn’t capable of getting the jokes or the timing, which was critical to pulling the show off properly (things are written certain ways in comedy for that sort of reason). That, on top of a lack of knowledge for Portal the video game, in addition to his lack of education when it came to directing, made the product a mess.
September 13th 2012, Wayside Creations posts an open casting call for auditions.
Zack read against most of the scientists, as it was fully agreed upon by all that he was going to be playing one of them himself in the show. But then, Michael Greebe came in and blew Tybee away with his audition, causing her and Vince to deliberate on choosing between him and Zack. They ended up having Zack audition for his own, previously determined, role. He did well… but…
The night after auditions, Zack was told by Tybee (Casting Director) and Vince (Director) that Michael Greebe was a better choice than Zack for the character of Nick (the character Zack had written for himself). In response to that, Finfrock accepted their choice on the matter, with the understanding that he presumed it was for the best in regards to the overall production. They had to rewrite the script a bit in response to the casting change, and Zack ended up taking on a lesser role.
But that wasn’t all.
Conversely, Tybee and Zack had gone to Vince in a similar manner. When Zack and Tybee talked about the Grebe casting decision, their debate was about making the best choices for the show itself. This line of conversation made questioning Vince’s directing abilities a natural discussion to also have. They straight up explained to Talenti that he didn’t seem to be capable of understanding the nuances of comedy at this point in his career. Their solution was making Tybee a co-director to cover that aspect, while Vince focused on the visuals. She knew how to direct a comedy (having prior experience), and she also knew the writers’ sense of humor well enough to understand what they were trying to go for in the first place.
Vince refused. “You haven’t given me the chance to show that I can direct this,” he told the both of them. “I think you guys are being unfair,” Vince said.
“You need to sit down and table work with the writers, or else you’re going to be making two separate things,” Tybee had told him.
She kept on Vince to do this in the days leading up to production, but he never did. Maybe he thinks being a director is showing up, dressing nicely, and telling people what to do. Perhaps pride drives him, making constructive criticism is impossible?
Wayside’s Portal series Aperture R&D started filming on October 5th 2012. Shot before season 2 of Nuka Break, Vince Talenti tried his hand at directing. Given how turbulent things were, leading up to that point: Zack, Doug, and Peter all faced the realization that this wasn’t going to go as they had intended. That whatever end result the video footage gave them, it wouldn’t be as good as they thought it would’ve been in the first place.
In the end it was a flop. Vince later confessed he thought “the scripts were awful,” which is an indicator that he’s ultimately responsible for the failure in this case. Talenti had initially used Cameron’s dispassion for the script as covert ammunition against Zack’s script, and Zack himself throughout.
Aperture R&D (Episode 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) eventually came out on Machinima’s YouTube channel. It ended up falling flat and doesn’t capture the same interest the way Nuka Break was capable of doing.
There was also a rap video.
The Wayside folks didn’t get a Nuka Break Season 2 script from Vince until the very last possible minute before filming (Zack Finfrock snapped a picture of it on Instagram on November 6th). Dan Ast had ultimately written the thing, after Tybee Diskin and Zack Finfrock made a skeleton outline of the plot. Ast’s work was expansive, because he had been instructed to not write with the known budget in mind. Money, of course, was something that was Vince’s responsibility. Such a problem could have been mitigated, if Talenti had not lifted the budgetary limit on Ast’s creativity, but at the eleventh hour they had to sprint a re-write, cutting things out they couldn’t do.
Tybee and the Wayside crew still held onto the spirit and vision of making a product that had soul in it. Cameron helped streamline dialogue and story where he could: e.g. giving characters meaningful motivation for their choices, adding support for the plot line, changing something that could be done in two lines rather than ten, ultimately paring down the original script to a slightly more manageable number of pages. This was all done at the request of a director who believed his judgement was unquestionable, but who would place the blame on anyone else, whenever things went wrong, or people got upset. Acting aloof, anything anyone else presented as a potential issue was just gaslighted.
Vince seemed fearful to a few. He did not want to do Nuka Break Season 2, as it seemed like too overwhelming a task. There was a feeling that he was annoyed by it.
November 8th 2012 is when Nuka Break Season 2 filming had finally begun over in Eagle Mountain, California. According to a blog post excerpt it was a crew of forty people working fifteen hour days (union normal is eight, though many productions often do twelve) to get this done. Forty is an estimate overall, depending on the particular day of production. Some actors did double duty: playing not just more prominent characters in the story, but donning different costumes and filling in as background people. Kevin Brooks for example was able to play Larry the Ghoul in the series after playing a completely different humanoid character named Joey in the original fan film, because of the elaborate amount of makeup done for Nuka Break‘s Ghoul characters. It took roughly two and a half hours to put on, and forty-five minutes to remove. Others were not only acting, or performing as background actors, but were handling gear, helping with production end things like loading trucks, driving vehicles, handling food and water, assisting in many capacities that normally are not a thing allowed on a union job. This is just one illustration of the group effort mentality of the cast and crew. Especially, because many of these people, were “volunteers.” …meaning they were knowingly, not paid.
A film crew of forty shouldn’t be conflated with the number of people working on Season 2 overall, which ends up likely totaling over a hundred people at various points in the production process.
(by foretrekker/foreling on deviantart)
By Season 2, Tybee had put her foot down and managed to get a heavier involvement in the post-production aspect of work. She had the college-educated actor background -earning a BFA in theatre, and turning to film later on after realizing she preferred the subtlety of film acting.
In fact, education was a point of dispute in one of the discussions concerning Vince’s “leadership” at some point during this time.
“You guys, this is my dream. I have been making short films since high school. YOU don’t understand,” Vince told the group.
“Vince, I have been acting since I was six. I was in classes at 8. I have a FUCKING DEGREE IN THIS, AND SO DOES CAMERON. Your dream is not bigger than any of ours. You have not worked harder. That is so insulting,” Tybee responded.
Tybee requested of Vince that she and another actress shoot their scenes when the weather was warmer (60’s 70’s) outside, during midday, because their revealing costumes didn’t have the luxury of layering under or adding jackets in a way that everyone else could. Vince shot the idea down, called Tybee a diva, and the two actors had to resort to using chemical thermal packs to stay warm instead.
From the stories I have heard, Vince appears to see and treat actors as an expendable business resource, rather than human beings.
One major problem with filming was that Vince overshot everything. By that, I mean he had gone through the entire phonetic alphabet on his takes for particular scenes (from Alpha to Zulu). Nuka Break Season 2 used a lot of elaborate and fancy equipment (“toys”), and according to multiple people, that caused the shooting process to slow down unnecessarily. Vince refused to adapt, despite this being brought up to him directly, after shooting had wrapped on the third or fourth day. On top of that, he was mixing the scenes around, out of order from the schedule. The problem with that was the timing on that schedule had taken mother nature into account, planning shoots based on the lighting from the sun at particular points in the day, and accounted for required set up time of the other scenes.
The schedule is a giant puzzle. When you start moving pieces around constantly, it becomes exponentially more difficult to finish on time and on budget.
People on set grew confused/frustrated because of this. They weren’t able to keep track of whatever scenes were next, because Vince decided to deviate from the outlined strategy that was prepared beforehand. He failed to follow the standard procedure and protocols that are followed in professional film production. Folks like the assistant director and unit production manager generally help keep things moving along in a timely fashion. But, if the quarterback calls an audible on nearly every play, no one can anticipate what should happen next. Thus, a slow, costly, mess of a production.
They never once completed a day on time. When confronted with this fact, Vince insisted that he he could get more money in. Cameron remembers being approached by a producer that night and being asked, “Does Vince have some kind of ‘slush fund’ set aside that I don’t know about.”
Cameron simply said, “I have no idea. He’s never shown me the books.”
Vince assured everyone that everything would fix itself somehow, in spite of the problems, that in reality, he himself was making. Calling wrap at midway points during the filming of scenes was unusual, as it would’ve been more logical to just power through a scene all the way instead. However, since they were in overtime almost every day/night, they had to wrap and then pick up where they left off on another day, make up for the missing pages. This burned money by doing pickups and reshoots at later times or even separate weeks/months, The mismanagement of time and refusal to adapt, led to that outcome, as an already overworked group of people would create not only a more toxic work environment, but a dangerous one. This added further difficulty, because not only would everyone have to make the effort to get all those variables back in place (people, costumes, gear, props, etc.) at the later date – they would sometimes even have to start from scratch for the half-finished work that was done earlier, for the sake of film composition and continuity.
Talenti didn’t have a functioning chain of command on set when it came to running the production. Often times, most people on a film set barely hear from the director. He is sitting with his DP, his key grip & gaffer, his script supervisor, and perhaps a producer. The director doesn’t actually do any of the jobs, but rather tells the people under him what to do so he/she can capture the performances they want. They focus on the story. The Assistant Director (AD) is usually captaining the show, making sure things run on time, and looks for roadblocks coming ahead. Both the AD and director know everything from the inside and out, roping in the relevant crew for every next step, as necessary.
With Nuka Break Season 2, the AD wasn’t even given the script until 5-10 days before shooting. Folks involved were asking for a completed draft at least a month beforehand, and Vince waived them off with excuses, because they still didn’t have a locked script. The reasons for this fall on many people, but at the end of the day, the responsibility falls on the guy calling himself the leader.
On the 23rd of November, “We just wrapped the first part of filming for ‘Fallout: Nuka Break’ season 2, and we had a BLAST,” was posted on the Wayside Facebook.
“So, we want to share with you a bunch of behind the scenes pictures of the shoot! We went out into the desert again, but since it’s November, it was COLD. Like “brace yourself, winter is coming” kind of cold. But, we dealt with it and still had a great time. It was like summer camp. We spent 9 days at the location, cast and crew all together in a few little houses. And to think, we’ve still got a bunch of filming left to do.”
“The tools we had for this shoot were incredible. You’ll see some good shots of the kinds of things we were able to rent for the shoot (thanks again) and the incredible footage that comes with it. I can tell you that you have not seen something this epic looking on the internet before.”
What people don’t know is that Wayside Creations ran out of money during Nuka Break Season 2 production, nice days into filming. They had realized this five or six days into the process, and cut it off at nine thereafter.
But it wasn’t all doom and gloom, of course. If you wanted to see what behind the scenes stuff actually looked like, there’s a plethora of videos and photos of that.
According to an update post made on February 15th 2013 (two and a half months after the wrap of the first part of shooting), they still had more filming left to do. Remember… costly.
The next day Tybee and Zack did a livestream. One of the questions asked was whether or not Nuka Break was part of their future plans for the long-term.
“Once season 2 is out there and it’s airing, we’re going to be focusing on other stuff. We aren’t leaving fallout behind but we have got a bunch of awesome other stuff in the works,” was their answer.
They also revealed the group didn’t make any money off of Nuka Break, meaning while they were eventually paid standard rates for only one of the multiple jobs the did for the production, most of them held second jobs on the side to help make ends meet.
What many people don’t fully know is that Fallout: Red Star and Fallout: Nuka Break Season 2 were shot concurrently. Due to the production being behind and out of money, Vince went to Machinima to cut a deal: for $50,000, Machinima wanted the rights to air Season 2 on their Prime channel, in addition , they wanted a standalone short, based on the already established series. This led to the creation of Red Star. Sources say that Talenti mislead Machinima by implying that Season 2 was completed as far as shooting.
Red Star was completed at a budget of roughly $18,000, with the remainder of the money supposedly going to finishing filming Nuka Break Season 2. However, with both being shot at the same time in the same place, it is hard to say where the money went exactly, without access to the actual ledgers, books, accounting, etc.
Red Star was what Cameron and Vince wanted from the Nuka Break series, compared to Finfrock’s tone in writing. Whereas the original fan film and Season 1 had more of a comedy element to them, Red Star leaned toward the darker side of the FALLOUT franchise.
October 28th 2013 is when Episode 1 of Nuka Break Season 2 came out on Machinima’s YouTube channel. The rest of the season (2, 3, 4, 5, 6) came out on a weekly basis after that, with the finale arriving on December 2nd.
The abrupt stop to filming was unexpected as a great amount of careful effort went into planning the budget for that process. Things weren’t exactly tight about it, all that was necessary was timing the filming of certain shots with mother nature taken into consideration and when to prep what gear for each coming scene, to make it go along smoothly.
One of the most effective days of filming was one where Vince Talenti showed up two and a half hours late. It happened at some point in mid-2013 when Red Star and the rest of Nuka Break Season 2 was happening. All the actors and crew showed up on time (early), and got ready to go at a pretty timely pace. Matt Ryan asked around about whether or not they were going to wait on Vince. The overall consensus was it just made more sense for Matt to start directing instead, since he was basically doing all the work Vince was supposed to do anyway, and the project behind schedule. There was no time to waste.
When Vince finally arrived, he was surprised and upset that everyone else had proceeded filming without him.
Apparently, to end his fussing, someone said, “Everyone else was here. Where were you?”
There’s a difference between being driven to work with your friends on projects, versus standing on their shoulders to elevate yourself to fame or success. In the case of Nuka Break, Vince didn’t even originally direct it. Julian Higgins did. Vince only had a job opportunity because Zack Finfrock and Backyard FX helped get the Nuka Break idea off the ground. The only specialty Vince had, it seems, was convincing people to donate to Wayside’s Kickstarters. As he himself stated, it was a full-time job in his eyes.
After only two years of living out west, Vince became more selective in who he worked with in the Film Industry based on what appears to be superficial reasons. This extended to his own friends. Vince was able to envision what he wanted his life and thus his final products to look like, and he had decent editing skills. But his lack of understanding, not just of the numerous baseline dynamics of film production overall, but also his ignorance of respect being a two-way street, was a system of self-sabotage and inevitable personal failure.
As you can imagine, Nuka Break Season 2 was a smashing success in terms of public reception. But by this point, one could see the trail of bodies Vince was leaving in his wake. It reads as a sad cycle of only seeing people as a means to an end, then disposing of them when they no longer serve any convenient use.
Cameron hasn’t been “in the loop” since 2012/2013. Previously a right-hand man that helped Vince solve his problems, to the extent that Vince manipulated information and people to corner Zack into signing over all but 5% of his ownership of Wayside. That gave Talenti total control.
It was after Cameron started asking questions when the exile process started. People tended to do that…ask questions. Cameron happened to be a more vocal member of that group. Cameron would ask Vince where the money had gone. Vince would just shrug it off as “debts” from Season 2. Cameron would press the issue, asking who they owed money to.
“Just debts,” Vince replied.
“The only thing he ever presented was a piece of printer paper with hand-written names and numbers. Even then, the numbers still didn’t add up.”
This is Cameron’s memory of one of several conversations on the matter, and of the post-season 2 era.
Vince it seems was terrible at lying, so he tended to manipulate other people to get rid of opposition against him. He played a long game.
One afternoon the group held a meeting at the house, and the conversation between Cameron, Tybee, and Vince had turned to the handling of the crowdfunded money and when they could expect to be paid for their work as actors. People have to pay rent and eat after all.
“What’s with transferring the money from paypal to personal accounts? You really shouldn’t control it like that, why is it bouncing from account to account?” Cameron asked. He followed up by asking how much Vince paid himself, to which Vince replied that he didn’t know.
“What do you mean? You don’t remember how much you paid yourself?”
“WHAT?!?” replied the rest of the group in the room.
“Do you remember how much you’ve been paid for every job?” Vince fired back in an attempt deflect.
“YES!!” was the unanimous response from all.
While the rest of the Wayside gang held second jobs on the side, Vince did not. He was briefly a hotel valet with a few of his buddies, but that didn’t last long. Now, calling himself the “Mayor of Well Town,” Vince acted as the gatekeeper and sole handler of the company’s cash. His unwillingness to disclose what he had paid himself, was a huge red flag. Something was VERY wrong in Well Town.
Cameron was pushed out slowly, made more isolated by the day. When Vince and their mutual friends went anywhere, Vince made it pretty clear that Cameron wasn’t welcome. …as in he literally sat down with Cameron and told him they weren’t going to socialize anymore. There never is any sort of ultimatum with Vince, inclusion and the flow of information just stops.
So much so, that emails sent out concerning Wayside projects didn’t even include Cameron, and he would receive calls from his other mates saying “Hey man where are you? We’re at the shoot.”
To which he could only reply, “What shoot? No one told me anything.”
Things became tense in the house that some of the group were still living in.
Vince’s social and emotional manipulation of Cameron climaxed in a conversation between the two in their backyard. Cameron was told that Vince had taken offense at an incident that occurred at a party for Fallout: Red Star. He was allegedly blackout drunk and made inappropriate comments towards Wayside’s newest member, a writer and actress by the name of Becca Hardy–who, incidentally, Cameron had been friends with before she got involved with Wayside. Looking back on it, Cameron realizes he was sober and aware enough of his surroundings to remember, at the moment the incident allegedly happened, that he was talking with another actor who was almost falling down drunk, trying to take care of them and keep them from making a scene. That’s when Cameron remembers Becca joining the two men outside. It was the only time the two could have talked in relative private. I present this to show that Cameron’s memory seems to be very well intact, which is why he refuted the accusation, telling Vince: “That doesn’t sound like something I would say, drunk or otherwise. I have nothing but respect for her, but I have no reason to think her a liar, so… if she says I did that… then, I’m sorry.”
It was at this point, that Vince announced his intention to cut off their social relationship.
This was the coffin nail. Vince had shamed and embarrassed Cameron into submission, conveniently just as he started to connect the dots and make noise about unethical (and possibly illegal) activity, afraid it would ruin everyone’s reputations and possibly get them into real trouble with the law. Cameron was put into the final corner.
As a counterpart to that maneuver, Vince told Becca something completely different. He warned her to stay away from Cameron, alleging that Cameron drank too much and that he befriends girls as a means of “sexual sport hunting.” When she protested, pointing out that she’d been friends with Cameron for some time, Vince drove his point home by telling her that he’d seen it before and that her friendship with Cameron “wasn’t real.”
The ousting process had begun …again.
It even escalated to the extent to which Vince made an amendment to company guidelines that said shareholders were subject to forfeiting their shares if they did no work for a year. Mind you, he was hardly speaking to Zack, Tybee, or Cameron at the time. Cameron had played into Vince’s hand – pushed into a position where he would be too ashamed to say anything about the matter. Becca Hardy was too new to Wayside to know what to think, and was working closer with Vince than with any of the others at the time. Divide and conquer. A pretty unfortunate strategy to apply to PEOPLE.
It’s easy to control a narrative when the people involved are discouraged or not allowed to talk to one another. This, it seems would be Vince’s true super power. Manipulation. Tell someone something that has even one slightly believable line, with enough conviction, and the people that already trust you will buy the whole story.
The Wayside Creations group had stuck together for years at this point. Right on the heels of completing Nuka Break Season 2, Vince pulled out his next proposition.
He wanted to make a Legend of Grimrock film (consisting of a six episode web series that told the game’s story). Most of Wayside’s core was not enthusiastic about this project it seems, not that it mattered. Their initial reaction was that there wasn’t any sort of story to tell here, nor much of a fan base to cater to. It is not a popular game. Talenti had to spend more than a few days pushing it on the group in order to convince them it was a good idea.
By 2017, the only progress this project would make is Almost Human’s licensing agreement with Wayside expiring.
It’s not entirely clear if the game developers at Almost Human got in touch with Vince first, or the other way around. It would be a profit driven venture for sure, but it could have given the chance for Wayside to branch out. So Vince’s pitch came down to selling the potential to do something amazing, even if the universe itself didn’t exactly spark interest in the group’s eyes.
Finfrock came around to the idea because of the proposed acting cast. They wanted to get Doug Jones (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy) back after having him involved in Nuka Break Season 1. But they also had eyes on other noteworthy actors and actresses as potential cast: Jeffery Dean Morgan (The Losers, Watchmen), Ali Larter (Heroes, Final Destination), and Shane West (Nikita, The League of Extraordinary Gentleman) to name a few.
Legend of Grimrock tells of a mythical mountain named Grimrock where prisoners are dumped into a hole and their crimes are absolved. In terms of gameplay it’s a Dungeons & Dragons style RPG dungeon crawler. Wayside felt like they could tell a story that explored that concept, in addition to adding character backstory with flashbacks and parallel storytelling. Their aim was to make an authentic sort of fantasy world that didn’t conform to the usual stereotypes within a high fantasy setting. They acknowledged such an effort was going to be costly.
The Legend of Grimrock Kickstarter ran from December 18th 2013, through the end of January 2014. The perks were slated to be delivered at the end of the 2014 year. The perks on offer included the full range of usual shtick: “Special Thanks” credits, PDF downloads of scripts, digital and physical copies of the film in HD, t-shirts, soundtracks, etc. However in an unusual move Wayside had beefed up the pledge rewards with Nuka Break merchandise. It’s possible they were worried that the custom Grimrock dice and cloth map of the film’s world wouldn’t be enough. Rounding things off in the Grimrock perks were rewards that played into the theme of community involvement Wayside was gunning for. The folks who pledged would have a basic level of creative input in the form of polling opportunities, in addition to allowing generous backers ($5000) a chance to go all out and design a dungeon room for the cast to encounter in the Grimrock film itself.
Tybee, Zack, Aaron, Cameron, and Becca were all supposedly going to be involved in the development of Grimrock. It was going to certainly be a change of pace from Fallout, aiming for melee based fight sequences rather than using guns. Combat would potentially get interesting in a different way with the factor of magic spells. The potential for that in the special effects department was massive.
As it was the case with any Talenti production however, everybody else at Wayside was going to call their own favors and friends to try and help achieve Vince’s goals for the lowest costs possible. Talenti’s mindset was becoming less of “here’s what I want you to do based on your strengths,” and more “if you can’t do this you’re out of the company.” Vince tried to enforce his own vision of Wayside as a business, jamming the “prove yourself to earn your place” mentality down everyone else’s throats.
The Kickstarter page itself touts Chris Avellone as one of the main writers for the project. In a (now unlisted) video from the 14th of that January, Mr. Avellone expresses his full motion of support for Wayside’s endeavor here. You can see a light of optimistic youthfulness radiate off this guy’s face, as he goes into a passionate explanation as to why Wayside Creations was capable of portraying amazing depictions of video game universes in their live-action fan-films. By the time we reach a segment of the video showing Avellone and Tim Cain on the Nuka Break Season 2 set, it’s like watching a kid run around a candy store.
Chris Avellone held a strong belief in the potential good that could come from the Kickstarter system, and he rounded off his Wayside Legend of Grimrock project endorsement with a similar sentiment.
“So what I like about crowdfunding is that you cut out the middleman, and you simply answer to the people who are receiving your product in the first place,” Chris explained.
Unlike Nuka Break, in which Wayside had to be careful to not monetize anything, which Vince did anyway via youtube, the Legend of Grimrock project had more direct approval from the game’s developers over at Almost Human, meaning Wayside had the license.
From the introductory video:
“Hello everyone. I’m Antti Tiihonen from Almost Human, the Finnish indie game studio behind Legend of Grimrock. The idea of a live-action Legend of Grimrock series was actually something that we’d never even dare to dream about. However just a while ago we were introduced to the folks at Wayside Creations, who are looking into creating a web series set in the world of Grimrock, and we instantly sold. We knew what a great job they did with the Fallout Nuka Break series, and we knew that our game and its universe would be a perfect match for them. It really goes without saying, but we are super excited to see how the world of Grimrock would look like in the flesh. Here at Almost Human we hold our work to a very high standard and that of course extends to this project as well.”
Almost Human had an extensive partnership with Wayside when it came to the amount of creative inside access they had. They had access to privileged information from the developer about Grimrock‘s lore and universe. Under the terms of their arrangement, Wayside Creations was allowed to profit off of the web series they were going to make.
The developer’s next remarks would echo their impact all these years later.
“Luckily though it’s Wayside Creations that we’re talking about here, so we can be very confident that the results will blow us away. This confidence we have towards them is of course even more important because we are a small indie studio, and while they have our full support throughout the project, we can’t spend all of our time holding their hand since we’re hard at work on the sequel to Legend of Grimrock.”
It could’ve worked. Wayside could’ve made this film and sold it through the game company in order to make a solid profit off of it.
January 18th 2014. Wayside’s zero hour for their Grimrock Kickstarter campaign. They needed $38,000 to reach their $100K mark. A pretty wide gap. One best filled by a 24 livestream telethon of sorts. Ryan Helliquist and Tybee Diskin MC’d the event. But it was also a team effort. Hour by hour, they talked to people in the comments (for better or worse), and laid their hearts out to them about this passion project. Vince Talenti is in the background, nowhere to be seen. Minute by minute the Wayside community got to learn more about the people behind the group: Tybee was too quiet for theater, so she switched to film, Cameron liked stage combat and period pieces, Becca was the type of geek that played the Oblivion soundtrack in her car, and Zack Finfrock was an amazing artist. Where was Vince?
Second by second, we see folks genuinely enthusiastic about Grimrock, about creating. All the potential for the soundtrack and dungeon environments, their ambitions and hopes were one and the same with the Wayside community they interacted with.
Pre-production wasn’t going to begin until they funded it. Wayside had no idea of when (or more importantly as you’ll see later, where) they were going to be shooting Grimrock at this point. No actual script was officially underway yet. They had some sense of how to film: using a green-screen for some of the environment, plus location scouting potential sets and studios, and using a mix of practical effects for the environment together with computer generated creatures lurking about among the Grimrock scenes. Zack said since Grimrock took place in a dungeon it would’ve been simple enough building a single set and moving the walls around.
Their plan was waiting until the Kickstarter was over and then budgeting around whatever finances they had available to work with. At the most, their plans at this point were possibilities like crossing over a Nuka Break character into Legend of Grimrock as a joke.
The backer community themselves would’ve been a part of the process of building the film’s world (voting in polls for things like character names). This interactive production process was another reason they held off on setting ideas in stone too early on. Generally speaking, ideas tended to evolve during the course of production. Their mindset being “what pieces do we want to incorporate,” and then solving how do they get the money and people to do that.
January 27th 2014. Wayside Creations releases a (now unlisted) video commemorating reaching the goal with Grimrock.
But it’s a pyrrhic victory. I’ve seen the loan documents that Vince Talenti himself signed in the days prior to reaching the Kickstarter goal.
Vince didn’t consult anyone else when he made the loan deals for Grimrock’s Kickstarter. He just did it on his own accord and told everyone else after the fact (because they’d realize pretty quickly that they didn’t have $120,000 to make the film).
At some point in early 2014, Vince approached Zack about doing the Tales from the Wasteland film. Which meant doing another Kickstarter. Zack couldn’t understand why Vince Talenti wanted to do a second Kickstarter when virtually no progress had been made on the Grimrock stuff. Tybee and Zack said they’d agree to that, under the terms that Vince showed Grimrock progress to the backers. Making a timeline, hitting goals. Vince agreed. Below are some of the updates he shared.
On April 16th 2014 (two and a half months after the Kickstarter concluded), Wayside announced Chris Avellone finished his Grimrock treatment writing. Next was the screenplay, and the Grimrock backers would be giving input throughout the script drafting process.
Right on schedule, the next Kickstarter update (posted on May 14th) introduced us to screenplay writer Adam Ganse. He’s a writer in TV and film who graduated the Florida State University writing program after snagging a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Georgia. Adam was going to go with a Game of Thrones/The Descent mix for the overall atmosphere.
“And that’s where we are right now: Adam putting the finishing touches on the first draft,” Wayside wrote on June 25th.
In that same announcement, the company shared their intentions to do another Nuka Break project.
“As many of you know, pre-production can be a slow business. We believe in making only the highest quality film products possible, and all the prep time up front has a lot to do with that. This puts us in a very advantageous position. The window of screenplay review process is perfectly-sized for us to shoot something else. MORE NUKA BREAK.”
They shared a link to a website that was going to be where they intended to make a campaign happen.
In that introductory video for the Kickstarter (see it here on the main page) filmed at Wayside’s brand new Executive Producer and Vince’s new right-hand man Matt Munson’s apartment balcony: Zack Finfrock did what he was led to believe was a Q&A video about the production of Nuka Break, and how without the fan’s support Wayside’s endeavors wouldn’t have been possible.
Zack is the only one talking about past stuff. His segment was filmed separately. Zack was unaware most of this footage was going to be lumped together into the Tales from the Wasteland introductory Kickstarter video.
This deception is what led Zack Finfrock to part ways and distance himself from Vince Talenti’s Wayside. Any further contact was pretty much non-existent.
The audience wanted more Nuka Break was the only reason Talenti needed to go through with it.
After Legend of Grimrock‘s campaign had happened, backers were still asking about their Nuka Break Season 2 perks that hadn’t been delivered. Vince enlisted his mother to resolve this, sending them what was presumably Grimrock Kickstarter money to make it happen. From the backer’s point of view, Becca Hardy was in charge. But the reality is Vince’s mother did the actual physical Kickstarter perk shipping while Becca communicated between backers and Mrs. Talenti.
Roger Nall and Cameron had written the Red Star standalone together. Cameron believed it could’ve been better if they had more money and time, but was proud of the result nonetheless. Back in 2014 Nall ended up getting tasked with Tales From the Wasteland (or at least that was the original plan). Cameron and Nall made ambitious plot drafts and story arcs that more fully explored the extent of the Ranger’s background and who his family was.
But everything came to a halt when Vince decided to fire Roger for being “late,” and replacing him with Matt Munson. At the meeting where that was decided, Vince made a seemingly compelling argument for Nall’s tendencies to miss deadlines and not deliver on time. Becca and Tybee were not made aware of the amount of effort and time Roger had already invested into fleshing his draft out.
In contrast to Nall, a professional, Matt Munson appears to be a big, happy, 40-something year old fanboy brought in because he had money and Vince wanted to use him as a means of wiggling Cameron out of Wayside. The Tales From the Wasteland draft that Munson wrote was “misogynistic shit” where women were depicted as “talking furniture for James to screw,” reportedly.
So now we have two projects going on simultaneously, sloshing around at the same time, both with very uncertain futures.
With the Grimrock and Tales From the Wasteland back-to-back Kickstarters it became clear to Wayside folks that Vince was crossing a line. This company that was founded on a bedrock of friendship, trust, and teamwork had become a dictatorship train with Talenti as the conductor. He set these things up without coming to an agreement with everyone else first, ultimately snapping the overly strained ties of interpersonal support that was left. People were already concerned about Wayside’s finances and Vince had kicked the heat up a notch with this stunt. It was easier to walk away from the countless hours of hard work that had gone into this portfolio of projects, than to stay in a pit of untenable legal quicksand.
There was no movement on Grimrock. For long stretches of time. Scripts for Grimrock exist, though.
Wayside Creations created a new video series called Wayside Weekly, intended as a means of keeping their community in the loop with what was going on at the company. The first episode was with Tybee Diskin on August 8th 2014.
Tybee had insisted for several years to Vince that Wayside needed to do regular updates. Vince shot the idea down. When Becca recommended the idea as part of a new communication strategy she was spearheading, Vince jumped on it. He bought an old Macbook off of Craigslist and told Tybee the updates were her job, but offered nothing in the way of support beyond that.
Vince switched the idea off between Becca and Tybee (and never told either of them that the other person had the same idea), driving his first wedge between the two.
“We specialize in live action video game adaptations,” the video message displayed in big letters. This was the company’s new stated mission focus.
It was something that everyone at Wayside wanted to do, as they had realized at that point their expertise was making fun stories in universes created by someone else. Tybee didn’t have any Grimrock info to share immediately at the time, but there was an announcement pertaining to the project’s latest development at the end of the month.
Adam Ganse finished his screenplay on August 28th, according to Wayside’s update post they published that day. But this is where things start to go awry. Back in April they immediately told everyone the next step of the project process. But by August 2014 all Wayside had to give people to look forward to was a backer poll for creatures.
The following month (on September 25th), Wayside announced the first official project delay. The update post explains the company had three ongoing projects they were working on, but then followed that up by claiming they wanted Legend of Grimrock to be a high quality product and not rush it.
That was their non-specific reason.
At the end of 2014 (December 16th), Wayside came back to the Grimrock Kickstarter to share another update…
… about a separate project.
Loadout: Going in Hot came out and was trying to be in the same sort of spirit as the rest of Wayside’s video game movies. As told in this announcement video they collaborated with the Loadout game developers to make this project, with the star Captain being played by Battlestar Galactica‘s Richard Hatch. Matt Munson and Vince Talenti were the two Wayside members in charge of the production. You can see them here touring the various Loadout sets in the weeks prior to filming.
Loadout was Vince’s big attempt at getting away from Nuka Break, while still keeping the video game fan base.
Matt Munson had a brief time in a position of authority at Wayside, when he became involved with a few productions. But in reality Vince brought him on because Munson had a ton of money and Vince assumed he was good with that sort of thing. As the Executive Producer, that was his job: find more investors to rope in and handle the business side of Wayside. While he had done behind the scenes stuff for Nuka Break, the rest of Wayside was confused as to why Vince gave that BTS guy a huge amount of power. Vince was advised by multiple Waysiders to start things off more slowly with Matt. But Vince went 0 to 60 in a week’s time, and he demanded everyone’s support to get behind his decision.
“Technically, I own 51% of the company. I can have a meeting of a thousand clowns if I want,” Talenti reportedly said at the time of hiring him. This was in response to the backlash of his unilateral decisions concerning Munson.
This is what Munson would be saying a few months later about Vince’s decisions to lie about the amount of money Wayside had on hand.
As someone who gave the impression as a big, goofy, nerd from the outset, over time it became painfully clear to others that he wanted to have a creative role. Trying his hand at writing, it was revealed that his storytelling was inexperienced at best. To make matters worse, Munson ignored any advice given to him–and Vince didn’t bother either, throwing the both of them into the thick of film production with the Loadout project.
Matt was involved in the Machinima negotiations, with the end result being a $15,000 budget and total ownership of the final product. Naturally Vince went over that budget, and reportedly ended up throwing $10,000 of Wayside’s cash as well.
Let me elaborate on that a bit.
Sources say Vince never intended to make the Legend of Grimrock film for $100,000. The reason he did the Kickstarter to raise those funds was to show public interest to whatever bigger investors Talenti tried to shop his project to. Out of the approximately $43,000 remaining after all the loan deals and transaction fees being paid off, Talenti put $10,000 of that into Loadout: Going in Hot. The Tales From the Wasteland Kickstarter was meant to get enough dough for Grimrock in addition to a short Nuka Break video of some kind.
Around this time, sources say Matt Munson and Becca Hardy didn’t see eye to eye. After Loadout, Vince told Becca to review Matt’s Tales From the Wasteland script and be as critical as possible. Becca gave Matt constructive notes. It’s not clear if Vince told Matt he had asked Becca to do that. What is clear is that Matt started to get ticked off by Becca’s notes. She couldn’t attend meetings at Machinima, which were happening frequently around that time, because she had a day job. Matt’s reaction to her remote note-giving was telling Vince to “handle” Becca and he proposed that she should only be allowed to give notes if she was in the room for script writing. Per Vince’s request, Becca continued to make an effort to review Matt’s scripts anyway, believing fresh eyes are always good for a script.
Becca Hardy was shoehorned into the Loadout production a few days before shooting when Vince had last-minute concerns about whether the story was clear enough (by this point, multiple people had told him it was not), and wanted to use her as an audience surrogate–a ditzy character who’d ask questions all the time to help bring the audience up to speed on plot points. Reportedly, Matt wasn’t too keen on the idea, apparently telling Becca to name the character herself and later leaving her out of the BTS footage he shot.
Despite advice from many colleagues, Vince didn’t understand that Matt’s script wasn’t strong enough and backed it blindly. But after the release of the Loadout short and its subsequent flop, Vince saw things in a new light and blamed Matt for the entirety of the project’s shortcomings. Some would say the short failed because that’s what happens when character development is confined to a line or two of dialogue in scenes. Much like he did with Cameron, Vince sat Matt down–this time telling the guy he was pushing out that he wouldn’t be allowed to do creative work anymore for Wayside, and that his job would be confined to Executive Producer to nothing more than getting more money for the company. Matt left Wayside shortly after.
From the outside, things were looking pretty busy for Wayside. By the end of the year, Becca Hardy was put in front of backers explaining that Grimrock fell towards the bottom of the schedule totem pole because of the pre-production necessary. In response to emails sent in about physical perks, she reassured the community that they were still happening–but not shipping out until after the Grimrock film was completed.
By 2015 Vince’s plan ended up being to make Legend of Grimrock in Minnesota on some sort of $4 million dollar budget.
Where would that have come from?
Enter Jerry Seppala.
Jerry Seppala was going to bring a slice of Hollywood to Minnesota’s Iron Range, intending to launch Ironbound Movie Studios in an old hockey rink in the basement of Chisholm City Hall. He wanted to take advantage of Minnesota’s snowbate program that offered a 25 percent tax rebate to movies shot in the state, plus the additional 20 percent rebate to movies shot in the Iron Range.
Last year Seppala and two other men were arrested for defrauding people out of $12 million, via false bank statements, fraudulent representations, and forged letters. According to the PACER records available for the proceedings thus far: Gerald Seppala, Steven Brown, and James David Williams are accused of scheming investors out of millions of dollars to finance various film projects under false pretenses. Instead of the money going where it was intended to in the first place, it was used to line the pockets for personal expenses with these three gentlemen. Their schemes involved introducing several third-party companies into their con, and feeding their victims concocted stories in order to get them to back it.
You can read the full briefing of it here. I’ve looked into Victim-3 in particular, as it had factors in common with aspects of Vince Talenti and Legend of Grimrock I’ve come to learn in the past few weeks.
At some point, Vince contacted Seppala in Minnesota. His goal was to try and secure a deal for investors to help back Grimrock‘s $4 million budget, by taking advantage of the tax incentives in the area. Similar and cheaper options were on the table, with suggestions like Utah. By the time that he did this, Vince had spent all, of the Grimrock budget, or so he said, and couldn’t pay Becca Hardy for the script she had written. When it comes to spending, the only Wayside money transaction Becca was aware of was $5K to hire LA casting directors (with the intent of attaching a name to the project and courting investors).
According to the report, GERALD (Jerry) SEPPALA approached Victim-3 about possibly investing in Movie-2. The money never went to that movie of course, it allegedly went into Seppala’s and his cohort’s pockets. They were able to carry out this scheme by reportedly falsely claiming to Victim-3 that Seppala and his partners had raised $13.5 million already for Movie-2, and only needed another $500,000. Seppala told Victim-3 that’d he get his money back plus 18% interest a few months after Movie-2’s September 2014 release. Victim-3 agreed to loan $100,000 under the false pretenses Seppala had him believe, transferring it on July 16th 2014. Victim-3 didn’t hear back about his investment for a whole year, and in the Summer of 2015 he asked Seppala for his money back. The exchanges back and forth lasted a few months, in which Jerry told Victim-3 some story about looking for an investor to buy out Victim-3’s loan. The truth of the matter is, according to bank records, the only money actually in this bank account was the $100,000 from Victim-3, along with another $100,000 from one of Victim-3’s friends. Reportedly, Seppala and his partner had no actual connection to Movie-2 in the first place, nor did they have the means of finding “additional investors” to pay Victim-3’s money back.
However at this time I cannot fully confirm nor deny that Talenti is Victim-3, it would require accounting paperwork that is beyond my reach. But Seppala and Talenti were in contact with each other at the same time period cited within this report (December 2015), and $100,000 in investment money would fit within Vince’s range of investment potential.
From what I was told by another source about this process, Vince Talenti put forward at least $10,000 of money up front. Jerry’s rationale for this sort of thing was show funds within the account for investors, and getting “legal to start doing presales.”
In the end, Vince tried to swing it by heavily implying Jerry took his money. Vince dropped the ball on multiple occasions and was supposed to be helping produce it. He failed to make deliveries on time. When asked, Vince claimed that money went to research.
But that’s a bald-faced lie according to some.
“I can only assume that money went into Vince’s bills and pocket,” says one source.
This could have come from the Tales From the Wasteland funds. It could’ve come from somewhere else. Vince had the power over Wayside’s finances but wanted none of the transparency or responsibilities when it came to fiscal management and accounting.
He was already contacting other networks like Machinima to try and get funding for Grimrock, when news of Seppala’s fraud came out. Talenti, via a unsigned update letter to backers, did allude that Wayside was defrauded by the people in Minnesota. To Becca, it seemed like Vince used the opportunity as an excuse to absolve the company (himself) from Kickstarter responsibilities. A smokescreen.
Without a subpoena, it is impossible to know if Talenti is Victim-3. If he is, and Kickstarter funds were used to invest in what appears to be a ponzi scheme, then that is fraud. Plain and simple.
If Talenti is not Victim-3, then where did the money he said was gone, go?
It boils down to the confusion of how much cash on hand Vince Talenti threw into investments via Wayside. A shell game that shuffled funds around between what was in Vince’s pocket and what he put into the company’s projects. Kickstarter investors, angel investors, and company backing all mushed together into the same pit, controlled by one single person.
But unbeknownst to fans and backers, Tybee had officially parted ways with Wayside by this particular point. She was fed up at being gaslighted by Vince and his complaints about “not holding up her end of the bargain” when it came to Wayside work. He would tell Tybee she didn’t understand how companies worked and she was lazy, in spite of her offering to do anything within the array of her film production skillset. Tybee lasted until March of 2015 after realizing something was wrong with the company and didn’t want to be linked to potentially illegal activity. Vince continued to shoot down requests to show anyone the financial records, and Tybee felt the creative side of the company was lost when Munson made some seemingly random, off-brand casting decisions for the then upcoming Nuka Break project.
We wouldn’t hear from Wayside Creations again until March 6th 2015. The update details a writing reshuffle that took place behind the scenes in the previous months. Becca Hardy took on the role of screenwriter after Vince decided to switch direction (in terms of tone) on the Grimrock project. By now, this new screenplay had been: completed, read and internally approved by Wayside, and got the thumbs-up from Chris Avellone. Next, this screenplay was on its way over to Almost Human for a review (to make sure everything in the script checked out with Grimrock universe lore).
Meanwhile, with Zack and Cameron all but gone, Vince continued to drive a wedge between Tybee and Becca. He skewed both parties’ perspectives in such a way that artificially invoked friction. He fed Becca the idea that Tybee was selfish and manipulative. He fed Tybee the idea that Becca was condescending and wanted her gone from the company. But the reality was Vince wanted Tybee gone and made that argument to Becca on numerous occasions. Slowly he tried to wear Tybee down by slamming her work performances, accusing her of failing to deliver, and cutting her out of the communication loop.
This reached a boiling point while Becca was writing Tales From The Wasteland. Vince wanted Tybee to help Becca write it so Tybee’s name would be on the script–which would give Talenti some leeway if Tybee tried to drop the bombshell that she wasn’t involved with Wayside anymore. Becca thought it was a good idea to collaborate with Tybee, considering she wasn’t around for earlier installments of Nuka Break and thought Tybee’s knowledge would be invaluable. In return for her help, Becca offered to help Tybee make a pitch package for a show she wanted to do. Vince helped with the design aspect of it, but then he stubbornly refused to give Tybee the raw design files, calling them a trade secret. This meant Tybee had to call Vince every time she wanted to make a change.
Becca tried to mediate and make it as painless as possible for everyone, but it was clear to her that the best course of action was Vince giving Tybee the raw files. Since he refused, she tried to work with Tybee whenever she had edits so all Vince would have to do is point and click to update the package. Eventually, this stopped being a functional process. Tybee called Vince repeatedly. He ignored her calls.. Becca and Vince were roommates at the time, and she strongly encouraged Vince to talk to Tybee rather than ignoring her. So he did, but he put Tybee on speaker phone.
So Tybee, who believed she was having a private conversation, expressed to Vince that Becca seemed to be talking down to her and she didn’t like it–while Becca herself was in the room, listening to this unfold. Vince led the conversation down that path and milked Tybee’s anger as much as possible.
Finally the tension boiled over.
Becca interjected, letting Tybee know she heard the things she said, and the two had a falling out. Becca and Tybee would later make amends; but at the time, the narratives that Vince had cultivated in each woman’s mind had cemented into a false reality for them. The poisoned seeds had taken root. The damage was done.
After all of that, things were allegedly going to pick up speed.
On May 21st 2015, Vince Talenti did an interview with The Video Ink. He says the sole reason that Wayside kept doing Fallout films was because the fans reacted positively to it and wanted more.
“Wayside could potentially become a vehicle for the creatives working with us,” contradicts the overall theme of Vince’s aims of being in complete charge at the company.
“Running an efficient Kickstarter project is a full-time job. Hours are spent strategizing, organizing, and developing a campaign. We felt confident that we would reach our initial goal, or possibly surpass it by just a little bit, but we never imagined it would double,” Vince says.
Becca tried to coordinate filming for a scene with the “fathers of Fallout” (Chris Avellone and Brian Fargo). But eventually she had to release them from their holding dates because Vince wouldn’t commit to any plan. According to her, that was the first time she realized there was no money: “We were talking about a half-day day in the desert, minimal everything. There wasn’t money for that? Where did it all go? Vince’s explanation ‘debts from Nuka Break’ just didn’t make sense. Even if you include the 15k spent on Loadout it doesn’t come close to the total Kickstarter money we should have had.”
I reached out to Brian Fargo directly on the matter; his response follows.
“Unfortunately, I don’t have much to add to the story as I only had a few brief email exchanges with Vince. I was asked to be an on-camera guest along with Chris Avellone, Leonard Boyarsky, and Tim Cain, which I agreed to. There were no business/financial arrangements and ultimately no involvement at all since the filming never took place. I haven’t heard from Mr. Talenti since July 2016.”
– Brian Fargo, CEO, inXile Entertainment.
The licensing agreement with the developers of Grimrock (Almost Human) ended up being terminated. This was either manually done, or automatically expired based on the terms of the paperwork.
Becca Hardy lasted until February 2016, by then she had left her role as a Creative Director at Wayside. It was the lack of financial transparency (sound familiar?) that led her to leave. She couldn’t continue to interact with the backers suspecting what she did about the mismanagement of the money.
Following her departure, Kickstarter communications fell into disarray. Becca told Vince that he needed to maintain the Kickstarters himself, or Becca would send a final message to the backers announcing her departure. She was concerned about how the Kickstarter neglect would impact on her professional reputation. She didn’t want to seem irresponsible to the public, and she genuinely cared about the backers–which made her adamant to find a solution of some kind.
This persisted well into March 2016. Vince had apparently promised to maintain the Kickstarters himself, but by the end of March it became apparent that he wasn’t going to hold up his end of the bargain. Again, Becca considered sending out an email. Vince said that wouldn’t be necessary. Becca insisted on it. Vince said he’d need to personally approve whatever she planned. Becca made it clear that it would be from her personal email and not via the Kickstarter.
I do not need your permission to communicate my departure to a group of people with whom I have communicated for more than 2 years. Consider the daily damage control, perk coordination, and general communication I provided you (for free!) — I did this work because no one else wanted to and because it needed to be done. I did it long before I was recognized as “creative director” or any kind of official anything in Wayside. Contacts are a by-product of work, and you were perfectly happy to let me do 2+ years of free work.
Whether or not to inform the backers has always been my call to make. The only reason I didn’t send out an email immediately after stepping down is because I agree with you — tensions are already high and finding out I’m not there for them anymore may cause more of a stir. I was content to say nothing so long as you kept up communication. If no one noticed a difference, why rock the boat? But communication has not been maintained in my absence, and people have noticed a difference. I’m not sure there’s any fix for me now except to make it clear that I stopped handling communication for Wayside several months ago.
With the exception of a few comments and messages you responded to at my request (essentially a few hours of Kickstarter work over a month ago), I’ve seen a consistent lack of attention to the fans and backers’ inquiries. I’m not willing to let my reputation suffer as a result. Please level with me: Are you really prepared to maintain the Wayside’s Kickstarters and social media in such a way that people stop noticing the glaring difference? Because if the answer is no, that’s fine. But if that’s the case, I’m uncomfortable letting the backers believe that I stopped giving a fuck. And if someone is going to tell them, it’s going to be me — not a mention in an update that’s been designed to try and sweep it under the rug. I will speak to them personally, honestly, and directly. Just as I always have.
Although Becca left her communications position, she still made it clear (both to Vince and to backers) that she intended to see Grimrock and Tales From the Wasteland thru to the end. But after a few weeks of ignoring her emails and requests for project information, Vince called her up and told he could not trust her anymore, and that he’d be barring her from any further involvement in Wayside projects altogether.
She got kicked out of the sandbox that same way Cameron, Tybee, and Zack all did.
This would eventually lead to the September 2016 video from four of Wayside’s creators.
The September 2016 video from the Wayside Four was intended to be a formal distancing from the company. Either intentionally or out of laziness, Vince failed to communicate to backers that he was the sole leadership left at Wayside.
Cameron remembers being told that Wayside had no money in a meeting between Kickstarters. Reportedly, Vince told his colleages that Grimrock‘s money went to pay Chris Avellone for writing a story treatment and debts for Season 2 of Nuka Break, out of the roughly $40,000 they had to play with.
Remember? “What debts? Who do we owe?”
Wayside’s shareholders were tired of the lack of financial transparency. When they realized they all had the same concerns, they decided to bring those concerns to Vince formally.
There was some lead-up in the months beforehand.
- Shareholder Meeting Minutes June 23rd 2016: Wayside Creations shareholder meeting between Zack Finfrock, Cameron Diskin, and Becca Hardy. They had the meeting to discuss the already years old Kickstarter projects that were still left unfulfilled by that point in time. They note that since Vince is the LLC’s Tax Matters Partner, he was pretty compelled to comply with the request from the group to forward all correspondence with the IRS to shareholders. He did not respond. They state clearly that Wayside’s operating agreement disallows involuntary termination of shareholders, and reaffirm Zack Finfrock’s active position within the company at that point in time. “Vince has had sole access to these funds, and has on multiple occasions intimated that 1) the money is gone, 2) money has been spent of non-related expenses (Loadout, Nuka Break Season 2 perk shipping, etc.), and 3) that he intentionally ran the Kickstarters speciﬁcally to pay off old debts. However, without access to the account or records, we can’t really conﬁrm or deny this; despite many requests, we have no way of knowing where or how Vince has spent the Kickstarter funds,” the document says. They reveal their knowledge that the Legend of Grimrock campaign was padded by loan investments, and that Fallout: Nuka Break – Tales From the Wasteland was moving forward without key people that were promised to be involved in the first place. They finish by stating that given the loose definition of confidential information, the shareholders can interpret that in a way that allows them to make a video relaying their knowledge of Wayside’s situation to backers.
- Wayside Creations Operating Agreement Amendment July 12th 2016: Vince Talenti’s response to the shareholder meeting was changing the operating agreement with an amendment. “Effective immediately” it read on top. He wanted to make a manager position which essentially would have given himself complete power over the company. Manager powers would grant him full control over money, hiring, documentation and the sharing of such, plus anything in-between. More importantly, Vince stripped the rights of the rest of the people in Wayside’s company, and redefined what extent the term “confidential information” meant in their guidelines. The basic way to describe it is an all-out power grab and a gag order.
- Wayside Member Letter July 16th 2016: Becca, Cameron, and Zack responded to Vince’s attempt to amend the operating agreement. In response to Talenti, the group’s swiftly declined. ”
- “To be clear: The language in section 8.1 of our Operating Agreement (Amendment of Operating Agreement ) is an error as it is contrary to the governing laws of Florida, which state an amendment to a Florida LLC operating agreement is not effective unless all members affirmatively consent,(Florida Revised Limited Liability Company Act 605.04073(1)(d)).”
The original operating agreement was going to continue.
It was a time-sensitive situation, as Vince had decided to have a Fallout: Nuka Break Comic-Con panel without the permission of the Nuka Break creators themselves. In the last portion of their response, the Wayside group laid down the legal obligation (in compliance with LLC law) Vince had to comply with their request for tax documents and financial records.
He never did.
It’s unclear if the shares they gave up ever existed in the first place, seeing as the paperwork required for the distribution of shares to Tybee, Cameron, and Becca was never filed. Zack’s were legit, since he and Vince were 50/50 when Wayside Creations was founded.
Tybee spoke to Vince just before they made their final video, around the time legal letters demanding financial documents were appearing in Vince’s mailbox.
“You’re going to be a part of this coup?” he asked.
“I already left the company, I can’t be a part of the coup.” Tybee said back.
Sources say Vince was unwilling to help Tybee in any way during their time working together, and made her a scapegoat for any mistakes that happened. Tybee wanted him to apologize for the years of what sound like emotional abuse and disgusting behavior.
He reportedly has a habit of not treating women as equals.
Vince wouldn’t introduce Tybee properly at networking events, with one such instance being a Vidcon party they attended at the House of Blues. After passing thru security to get in (they were invited, but the staff up front on door duty didn’t recognize this immediately, so Tybee had to explain things to them so they’d make their meeting on time): Vince, Kevin, and Tybee made their way over to a YouTube MCN network associate that they were going to potentially partner with. Vince introduced both Kevin and Tybee by name, but managed to sideline Tybee into the background of the conversation when this network person started asking about Wayside’s work.
It’s a professional courtesy sort of thing. In business, you introduce not just your colleagues by name, but by their position.
That, along with the rest of the history mentioned here, shows the parting between Tybee and Vince’s Wayside was less than amicable. Tybee had put all of her time and energy into Wayside’s works, with the hopes that someday it’d pay off. The wagon she hitched her star to decided to ride off without her.
Cameron and Becca were able to reconcile over the fabricated drunken encounter story that Vince had used to divide them. When Cameron finally broached the subject (on the day they were filming the final video, ironically), Becca’s “What are you talking about?” response led to Cameron’s immediate realization that Vince had manipulated him. And Becca. And everyone. Ruminating on the situation after the fact showed the writing on the wall was pretty obvious, but it was harder for him to see that, given his involvement in Wayside’s earliest days. Becca came in later than everyone else, which may have helped break the cycle. Her take on the situation was fresh, seeing more of Wayside’s decline than of it’s hopeful early days, made her more able quickly see something was really wrong with Wayside Creations.
Sources say everything was great until money got involved. Vince seemed to be in it for the cash more than for the love of the thing. They made other content to make money since they couldn’t profit off of Nuka Break.
Vince had flopped there as well. In the case of projects like his In the Black short film, Tybee had warned him that the lead actress’s accent was, at times, a bit difficult to understand and Vince needed to remind her to articulate more clearly for the sake of better diction.
“Hey, I don’t want to overstep my bounds, but you may want to ask her to slow down and enunciate. We are losing some of her lines.” Tybee said.
Vince brushed her off initially. She persisted.
“Vince. You have to tell her. We will have to reshoot all of this if you don’t.”
It turned out Tybee was right, and the project ended up having to go through reshoots.
“Today didn’t go well and I don’t know why,” he lamented to everyone on a reshoot day.
Vince couldn’t properly direct. As shown earlier, Talenti’s inability at addressing actors on their wavelength was a routinely gauche sort of sight. On top of that, everyone else at Wayside held other jobs in addition to the time commitments they had to the company. But Vince during these years: ate out three times a day, still paid rent, and reportedly dumped a lot of money into a BMW car.
You never know when someone is going to get a taste for power and go crazy with it.
The video itself had the four speaking about Wayside Creations moving away from the spirit of being a creative production company, and becoming some a financial money pit none of them intended it to be. Three out of the four of them were still shareholders at that point, or so they believed. Actually, it was only ever Finfrock–though the others all had paperwork, signed by Vince, stating that they owned shares of Wayside Creations, it appears Vince never actually filed the paperwork that would have given them shares officially. Surprise! Despite that fact, not even Finfrock was allowed access to Wayside Creations accounting records.
Which would come into play, when a July 2016 update to the Legend of Grimrock project Kickstarter implied fraudulent behavior.
We’ve taken time to thoroughly evaluate the health of our project since our last update. And, we’ve come to the conclusion that filming in Minnesota is no longer a viable option. This is truly unfortunate as we’ve exhausted an incredible amount of time and resources. We built many bridges, worked with skilled individuals, and believed this was the correct path. The gorgeous locations, newly renovated sound stage, trusted connections, and tax incentives were just a few reasons why this made sense.However, we believe that the current state of the Chisholm, Minnesota film industry will prevent us from completing our project. Although we won’t comment on the events transpiring in the Iron Range, information is available online.This realization is undoubtedly heavy for us. We’ve certainly experienced delays and fought in the trenches before, but we have never encountered anything like this. We’ve been proudly producing crowdfunded content since 2011, and our inability to complete the project by this date was unforeseen.With all of this being said, we believe two options exist. Our immediate action is to forge a new path that allows us to complete the project in a reasonable amount of time from this point. We will work quickly to determine how to accomplish this as we want to see Grimrock finished. We also recognize that time has passed and many of the components of this project will inevitably change. Given this, if we can produce a quality product — the product you signed up for — we’ll proceed. If not, we’ll inform you and return the donations to our backers.We have a tremendous amount of respect for this property and our backers. As always, your patience has been appreciated more than we can express and we’re hoping to reward it.
According to Zack, Tybee, Cameron and Becca’s final video, The Kickstarter money was already gone before Minnesota production even began. In fact, the producers involved were willing to front their own money to make the idea happen–not the other way around. Becca Hardy wrote a film script for the Legend of Grimrock project, but never got paid for it because she was told there was no money.
It came to the remaining members’ attention that investors were putting money into the Legend of Grimrock campaign with the promise of their cash back plus interest. This makes the $121,649 of raised funds come down to a grand total of $49,724. Even further reduced to between $30,000 and $40,000 after transaction fees and backer dropouts are taken into consideration.
None of them knew what the Kickstarter money was spent on. Production on Tales From the Wasteland moved on without them – Geek & Sundry was assumed to be picking up the slack when they partnered with Wayside Creations.
According to the publicly available evidence of the deal:
Geek & Sundry is proud to partner with Wayside Creations to air Fallout Nuka Break: Tales from the Wasteland later this year (ok, so maybe not quite as fast as an excited Dogmeat). These three brand new episodes will first air as part of Alpha – Legendary Digital Network’s brand new membership service launching later in 2016. And don’t worry if you backed Nuka Break: Tales from the Wasteland on Kickstarter; your rewards will be received as normal.
Sources familiar with the situation say the Geek & Sundry arrangement fell through as a result of the allegations brought forward by this video. While it was intended in the first place to help fund the production budget for Tales From the Wasteland, G&S wanted their money back after this came to light.
The four of them didn’t blame Geek & Sundry in the least according to the statement they gave me. Nor did they blame any of the investors who put their cash into this Kickstarter looking to make money back afterward. They were worried that it was against Kickstarter’s rules however (it is), thus the onus to come clean to the backers about it.
Vince clearly wasn’t able to prove the four of them wrong, as there was no attempt to refute the facts stated. Even though the group was cordial enough to leave his name out of their September 2016 video, “Wayside” turned around and named each of them in his rebuttal, laced with easily disproven falsehoods.
From “Regarding Wayside Creators” on September 4th, 2016:
We’re writing to address the recent video created by a few former creatives of Wayside. Their decision to spread false information and paint an incomplete picture is an attempt to disrupt our progress and to hurt Wayside’s reputation. Each person has a unique history with the production company and it’s unfortunate that this is their course of action. Here’s information we feel is important to share:
Zack has not been involved with Wayside since late 2014 and relinquished the majority of his shares he had in the company following the release of the second season of Nuka Break. He was also not a creative on Red Star, the film that inspired this Kickstarter project. He has been working full-time as a creative producer for Loot Crate, a subscription box service. Last September, Zack stated that he was interested in signing his remaining Wayside shares away as he was a part of another company’s production team and had not been a part of Wayside since around the time he started working at Loot Crate. Cameron has only briefly been a part of Wayside’s projects since late 2014, and his role in Nuka Break was recast after he was unresponsive to several messages sent regarding his involvement. Becca was recently attached as a creative on an unannounced Wayside project until her agreement was ended in June for creative differences. Tybee left Wayside on cordial terms in May of 2015.
It’s clear, and unfortunate, that these individuals are upset over irreconcilable differences and recent Nuka Break announcements prompted the creation of their video. Regardless of the internal changes, the show must go on. Wayside has managed multiple crowd-funding campaigns in the past and released work that we hoped exceeded the expectations of backers. We believe the resolution is to continue doing the work we’ve always done. Wayside’s brand was not founded solely on four people. The look, feel, and quality of our work has been crafted by several talents — various actors, writers, cinematographers, producers, production designers, directors, costumers — and the support of our backers, partners, and other companies. Simply put, we ask that you judge us based on our product.
Zack had requested that he be allowed to make a formal departure video from Wayside, since the content he made helped the company get started in the first place. Becca met with him privately, and she encouraged him to stay until after Grimrock and Tales from the Wasteland were made, considering the latter was his original characters and the former could mean a real paycheck. Zack hadn’t been formally involved in the company since the Tales from the Wasteland Kickstarter fiasco in May/June 2014, and he had secured more reliable work over at Loot Crate in February of that year as their Lead Illustrator. Even so, freelancing paid better than Wayside did for Zack. But he wasn’t exactly in it for the dough. Today, he’s one of the heads of a new company, ZAP Entertainment Productions, running it alongside his friend Peter (here’s one of their YouTube channels).
As for the update’s other claims: Cameron stated in the video that he was never contacted regarding filming Tales from the Wasteland. Given what we’ve learned about Tybee’s treatment at Wayside, “cordial” is a mild term for the way she left. In addition to writing both Legend of Grimrock and Tales from the Wasteland, anyone who backed the Kickstarter(s) knew Becca had been their point of contact long enough for “recently attached” to be a bald-faced lie.
Finfrock reflects on his time at Wayside as bittersweet. He’s proud of what the company accomplished despite all the ups and downs that happened on the way. To him in retrospect everything might’ve looked organized at the time, but looking back years later it’s clear to him that the whole operation was dysfunctional.
That September 4th update tried to distance Wayside Creations from the group of 4. [MAJORITY SHAREHOLDER] (Vince Talenti) was the only one who handled the funds. The three others who had shares in the company were denied access to financial docs when requested. This is because [MAJORITY SHAREHOLDER] (Vince Talenti) wanted it that way.
So now you’re caught up.
My final line in that piece was “If any new developments on this story occur, you’ll be the first to know.”
Finally, we’re at a point where there is.
You’ve read about it here. Vince vs. the scorched Earth trail of bodies he left in his wake. Talenti was able to run a business like this for as long as he did because it’s not obvious at first or second glance that there was something wrong. He knew how to play things off positively. But he couldn’t put his personal ego aside and take the time to learn the craft of film and theater.
So while everyone else was learning from their mistakes and growing as people, Talenti threw Wayside into a deeper and more dangerous hole.
The remains of this company can be seen in what became of Tales From the Wasteland, the latest series, The Wanderer. Both that and the original Tales from the Wasteland, are stories based off an aside in Nuka Break Season 2 that tells the story of how the Scorpion first met James Eldridge.
In the Tales… script crafted by Becca and Tybee…
After digging up an old lock box from a vault, James gets taken hostage by a Ranger named Duncan who mistakes him for a run-of-the-mill looter. They travel together and eventually come across a bar in a desolate Wasteland town, run by a cowardly bartender. Duncan and James cross paths with the infamous Scorpion and his gang of neer-do-wells who run roughshod over the establishment. Scorpion challenges Duncan to a game of Caravan and loses, spurring James to give the card game a go and putting his lockbox on wager. Spilled drinks, some broken glass, and a bar fight later, Scorpion loses his hand after James cuts it off. Duncan is killed, and James uses his clothing to make his exit from the crime scene as the nearby townsfolk come around to see what the commotion is about.
As James is escaping the town, the bartender rushes up to him to give Eldridge his card game winnings. James declines and tells the bartender to use it to rebuild his business. The bartender asks what was in the lockbox, and James shows him.
Nothing but a bunch of old family photos and momentos.
James looks at the bartender’s face. “What?” he asks.
“I thought… I just thought it would be something, you know, valuable,” bartender replies.
“Value is a funny thing,” The Ranger says as he walks into the sunset.
A fair portion of The Wanderer ripped off the Tales from the Wasteland screenplay by Becca Hardy and Tybee Diskin. If you don’t believe me, feel free to compare for yourself. Here’s a link to the screenplay. Here’s Part 1, 2, and 3 of The Wanderer. Compare. Contrast.
Despite the fact that the Kickstarter page promised the original Ranger and Scorpion actors would return, they did not.
Cameron found out about the shoot when one of the actors texted Cameron saying “HEY MAN SUPER EXCITED TO BE WORKING WITH YOU AGAIN,” seemingly unaware of the drama that had previously unfolded. After looping that actor into the state of affairs, he backed out. “F&%$ MAN I DON’T WANT TO DO IT.”
Cameron watched the first episode of The Wanderer. In Cameron’s eyes, the end result is soulless compared to the original vision. Cameron spoke to someone from the original “slave labor” crew that was on the Wanderer set. According to the person he spoke with, almost every one of the folks on that side of the fence had been replaced. Perhaps, they too, started asking questions.
When it comes to what is the same between the two stories, The Wanderer borrows heavily off of Tales from the Wasteland: Main location of events takes place in a bar, bartender is a pushover personality that lets Scorpion walk all over him, Scorpion has a dark lady-friend, climax happens centered around a Caravan game of some kind, which turns into a bar fight where people die and Scorpion gets his hand cut off, bartender rushes up to the Ranger while he’s leaving town to give him his card game winnings, while the item of interest isn’t a lockbox full of family memorabilia itself, it’s a vault map leading directly to that, and said vault has a fire gecko jump James Eldridge by surprise.
Instead of a voiceover from Ben’s wife Clementine, The Wanderer did something different. The Wanderer ends with Ben turning around and looking straight into the camera.
But that’s not the end of our story.
Aaron got Vince to finally respond to the Wayside controversy.
I just got off the phone with Vince about an hour ago. Given that he thought I was disconnected from the entire situation, he told me his side of what I can only describe as the downfall of the company. Leading up to this, he claims that tensions were running high but he did not explain why.
He claims that everything began shortly after I left in August 2013. The first stop on our discussion dealt with Cameron and his apparent drinking problem. He cited an incident on set where a piece of equipment fell and nearly injured somebody, as well as an event that I personally witnessed in which Cameron ran a red light and struck another vehicle. Combining this with reports that others would approach him and tell him that Cameron was being insufferable when he was drunk led Vince to have a sit-down discussion with Cameron near the end of 2013. And as a part of this discussion, Vince also told Cameron that he, while he was blackout drunk, made inappropriate comments to Becca. Becca has since refuted this, saying it never happened. After the discussion, Cameron began ignoring Vince and allegedly left the company.
The discussion then moved on to Tybee, whom he says he wanted to be the “face” of Wayside. He said that he wanted to give her the tools to be successful, and I am paraphrasing because I don’t recall exactly what he said. He claimed that after this, Tybee was lazy and uninterested and drifted away from the company to focus on her own things. According to him, there has been no further contact between the two.
He then discussed Zack and his departure from the company. He had said that Zack was the one that “we all” complained about over the course of our time working together. In my defense, I do not recall anything beyond constructive criticism in regards to Zack. He said that Zack was fizzling out and was no longer interested in working with the company. Zack, like Tybee, drifted away. According to Vince, Zack was more interested in working for Lootcrate and on other projects than on his own show.
Vince then admitted to me that his greatest mistake and greatest regret was giving Becca the power that he did and that doing this was the biggest catalyst for the for the problems that followed. He said that she was diagnosed with bipolarism or depression, I can’t recall exactly which. After she left, she was apparently the ringleader in creating the video tearing down wayside and attempting to turn the backers and investors against the company.
At no time did we discuss finances or any future projects. Vince said that he was going to shut down the company and start anew elsewhere. He also mentioned his partnership with Machinima and his good relationship with those working there.
These notes were taken to the best of my ability and my recollection while serving in capacity as a driver for Schneider National on this date August 9, 2017 at 11:30 PM central time.
Aaron Giles has given me his express consent to share that exchange.
Giles himself would take the time to refute the very points mentioned by Vince in this conversation. Being familiar with Cameron’s work ethic and knowing him for as long as Vince has, if such an equipment injury were to have happened on set, Cameron would’ve owned up to that.
Aaron argued against the notion that people would’ve ever complained to Vince about Cameron’s drunken behavior.
“Again, bullshit. Cameron’s the type whose friends would go to him directly if there was a problem. They know he hates gossip. They care about him, not the company. They would only go to Vince if they cared about the image of the company, but they don’t. If Cameron was being “destructive” or whatever, they would have gone to him. It makes no sense to go to Vince.“
Giles remarked he was already gone from Wayside by the time things went south between the company and Tybee. But he did comment that he never found her to be lazy, and said it was actually the opposite when it came to her creative jobs. From Aaron’s perspective, Tybee was being set up to fail.
He says that was the case for Julian Higgins and Zack Finfrock too. Aaron said Zack was the “driving force” behind what a lot of Wayside accomplished. Vince was able to push Julian Higgins out and take over that director void, because Zack couldn’t direct. But Zack had a story he wanted to tell, and according to Giles, Vince used the process of assisting with that aspect to make Finfrock feel terrible about his ideas.
“Looking back, the pattern is pretty obvious. Julian, Moorehead, Zack, Tybee, Becca…he would chip away at them by always disparaging their work or work ethic to the others, or impose impossible goals on them, and then blame them, until finally they give up. And then they were immediately replaced, as though the next person was already waiting in the wings, as it were. Except for myself, because I left, but I expect the same would have happened to me.
Cameron was the one he couldn’t bully professionally, so he committed a character assassination instead, crafted by lies, gaslighting, and manipulation.
Thinking about all this now, I’m just sad, because I remember how excited, and hopeful, and close we all were in the beginning.”
Cameron responded to Vince’s claims by stating nobody remembers any equipment falling and injuring someone, and the incident involving running a red light was NOT alcohol related as Vince implied. Cameron wasn’t even ticketed by the officer. Rather, Cameron’s boot got caught under his car’s brake pedal and by the time he got it out, it was too late for him to stop his vehicle. Making the fully conscious decision (because he was sober, Giles was behind Cameron in a passenger van and can confirm this) he tried to aim for the other vehicle’s engine to prevent as much injury to the other driver and passengers as possible.
He also sort of laughed at the statements. “It’s the same weaponized lies that he’s always relied on. I’m not surprised, but I do think it’s interesting that the money stuff has STILL never been addressed. Instead, he goes after people on a petty personal level. Good people, who are deserving of respect and they all certainly have mine. It is simply disappointing.”
Becca Hardy provided the following rebuttal:
“Throughout this process, Zack, Tybee, Cameron and I have been pretty strong in our FACTS > ATTACKS mindset. We knew this was something that could get personal and ugly very quickly. Each of us were close friends with Vince at one point. In fact, each of us have been roommates with Vince at some point or another. Beyond business, we’ve each shared our hopes and dreams and fears and weaknesses with this person we called friend. We didn’t want to make that video last September—we tried everything we could think of to avoid it. We didn’t jump ship the second we had concerns about Wayside’s financial health (i.e. where the Kickstarter money went) because in our minds we were a team. When we finally did make the video, we spent a great deal of time making sure we didn’t present anything that wasn’t rooted in fact and left our personal feelings about Vince by the wayside, as it were.
I came into Wayside much later than Zack, Cameron, and Tybee—when they were on their way out, really. Vince once had me convinced of things very similar to what he said about them to Giles. Because of that, I feel compelled to respond. We’re not perfect. If we were, perhaps we could have saved Wayside Creations. But Vince’s explanation of us to Giles reduces us to black-and-white, two-dimensional caricatures of ourselves, to our weaknesses without our strengths. I’d like to color those pictures in, if you’ll let me:
Cameron IS James Eldridge. He’s a tall, dark, charismatic, whiskey-sipping gunslinger (I think he actually owns an Indiana Jones whip) and I imagine he inspires a great deal of competition and insecurity (through no fault of his own). Since leaving Wayside, he’s starred in and worked crew on award-winning film projects AND become a (wonderful) father—all without any complaints of being a drunken liability.
Tybee is a stunning and savagely talented actress. And she doesn’t stop there—at any given time, she’s working on original ideas for comics and children’s books, hosting podcasts that showcase her uniquely compassionate wit, and starring in any number of film projects with non-Wayside groups that are beyond thrilled to have her. My point is Tybee has always has lots of irons in the fire. If that means she “drifted away from the company to focus on her own things,” I don’t agree but I can see the breadcrumb trail Vince used to get there.
Zack is the definition of an artist, with so much natural, cross-discipline talent, it’s a wonder to me that he has any room left to remember passwords, (maybe he just saves them and never clears his cookies). He dreams up these incredible projects with genuine passion. From my perspective, he continued what he wanted to do at Wayside at Lootcrate, working as an artist and building up the film department there. Vince cites Zack’s business ineptitude as the reason Zack left, but Zack never said he had a business degree. He picked up non-creative slack wherever necessary, but his ideas and creativity were his true contributions to Wayside Creations and I hate to see them minimized like this.
For my part, I’m a writer. I’m idealistic and sarcastic by turns. As an introvert, I often feel somewhat disconnected in social settings. Knowing this, Vince reduced me to a useless headcase, just as he reduced Cameron to a useless drunk, Tybee to a useless lazybones, and Zack to a useless screw-up. Though I am neither “diagnosed with bipolarism [nor] depression” I resent the implication that an individual with bipolar disorder or clinical depression can’t do a damn good job. I mean, he didn’t even say I did anything wrong–apparently saying I’m bipolar/depressed is explanation enough. Are we really still perpetuating a stigma surrounding mental health?
After our video came out, “Wayside” released a Kickstarter update attempting to personally discredit each of us rather than responding to any of the facts we put forth. A year later, and it’s still nothing but personal attacks. I didn’t think it was possible to be more disappointed, but here we are.”
Tybee had this to say about Becca:
“Her feet are planted more firmly on the ground than anyone I have ever met, her knife for cutting through bullshit is the sharpest (her burns are the sickest), and her willingness to stand up for what’s right knows no bounds. Her ability to keep laser focus on both the details and the big picture of a situation ASTOUNDS me. She’s also hilarious, and a damn fine writer. There is just not another person like her on this planet.”
The story of Wayside has different levels of complexity to it.
On one hand you have the story about money and power shaping the fate of the company. Vince Talenti was in charge of Wayside Creations finances from the very beginning. A combination of successes happened when he won that GoDaddy contest and the Nuka Break series had a skyrocketing amount of popularity upon release. But when Vince had his chance to actually solidify his film career momentum – he failed to act responsibly with finances. Nuka Break Season 2 had a haphazard production schedule, and that happened because Talenti didn’t understand the limitations of money. By the grace of God, Vince ebbed his way to the finish line after making a few deals with Machinima behind closed doors.
Did he learn his lesson from that experience? No.
With The Legend of Grimrock Kickstarter, Vince Talenti doubled down on the “everything will work itself out” strategy that he thought he knew. Misrepresenting the financial backing he had, Talenti hoped everything would work itself out after he set up some loan agreements to pad his campaign. Which Vince himself has publicly taken ownership of for being in charge of, as seen in that VideoInk interview. But Talenti’s luck had run out. Adding Tales from the Wasteland into the mix, he juggled too many things at once. Dual façades were in play, coming in from both sides: Vince’s months of negotiations with alleged fraudster Jerry Seppala got him nowhere but in more debt, and his last ditch effort to sell Tales from the Wasteland to the Geek & Sundry went south after that media company woke up and realized something was very wrong at Wayside.
And that’s the other element of this story.
On the other hand, you have a tale of how a company built on the power of teamwork and friendship is fractured asunder by ego. Vince let the GoDaddy contest victory cloud his vision, and he wasn’t able to fathom that the only reason he truly won was by getting help and support from his friends. Nuka Break only came to exist in the first place because of Zack Finfrock and Backyard FX making it so. Yet Vince took a ride on those coattails and positioned himself as the big boss calling all the shots. Nuka Break Season 2 came around, with months of preparation and effort undertaken by Vince’s friends to getting all the pieces into place for shooting the film. When time came to actually do that, Talenti didn’t come through as the leader he touted himself to be. Undermining months worth of work in a matter of days, he had to scramble his shambles across the finish line.
It was “all for one” without the “one for all.”
Vince failed to grasp that his company was filled with people, instead of peons he could order around. The respect that Talenti demanded, but hadn’t earned, was expected to be given to him nonetheless. Everyone was supposed to go along with Vince’s ideas and they were supposed to like it. No matter what. One by one, the Waysiders that he once called friends, left. The wallpaper of hope and optimism that was put up early on, had begun peeling back. That’s what happens after people are pitted against each other under false pretenses. People whose only real crime was asking for transparency. However, the punishment was an emotional nightmare.
By the time The Wanderer came out, Vince had what he wanted. But he lost what made Wayside Creations a successful company in the first place.
Vince Talenti did not respond to requests for comment.
8 Replies to “Falling Down Vince Talenti’s Wayside Creation”
Thank you so much for putting all this together…now to wait for Vince’s cries of “Lies! ALL LIES!”.
This was an absurdly long read and entirely worth it.
It breaks my heart seeing this happen to a company I once loved. I miss watching their old videos too, too bad they’re all unlisted. :/
Thank you for shedding some light on this whole mess. Great, journalistic work.
Wow! I met Tybee a few months back at SDCC. Wonderful Human being and this even puts everything I thought about into a MUCH bigger context. thank you so much for doing this!!!
After seeing the magnificent Fallout episodes on Youtube, i had hoped that Wayside would make it big and maybe releasing more content soon. It seems like Vince wanted to be a Director and a boss to make Wayside a successful company, but failed miserably at these tasks and instead of learning from everyone around him and appreciating their work, his “business side” took over. I mean, he failed at some tasks – which is not a problem, it can happen – but blaming everyone else, while it’s obvious from the article that he is a pathological liar, is the worst possible way to handle things. Thanks for that very long, but very interesting article.
I’m glad you enjoyed it. I’m happy people still like my oldies even now.
I only recently watched Nuka Break and it awakened some sort of excitement in me that I hadn’t felt in a long time. I found it extremely entertaining (especially Zacks portrayal of Twig) and it got me googling to find out more about wayside and it’s people and projects. I ended up heartbroken. As excited and happy as I was, it all came crushing down reading this article. It explains what tragedy had occured in detail, and I can’t believe I am actually sad and angry over something that is well in the past now, and didn’t involve me at all. This is just such a sad story with so much lost potential. Fuck Vince honestly.