Last fall, Samuel Schoemann was between jobs at a commercial production company, so he did what seemingly anyone with a car does nowadays if they’re in need of quick cash: he started driving for Uber. Then, he did what probably any Uber driver has thought about doing: film his interactions with passengers.
The 51-year-old has lived in Los Angeles since 1980, and his LinkedIn profile shows the guy has a background in business and the entertainment industry.
A self-described avid car guy by virtue of living in LA, Schoemann has a history of making use of his downtime: in 2013, he published a book called Swimming In Lake Me, described as “one man’s journey of discovery.”
The book, he told Jalopnik, stemmed from a divorce about five years ago that was compounded by losing a job. The blurb on Amazon goes further in detail:
“What do you do when you think you done everything right— then wake up one morning and realize nothing has turned out as planned” You buy a Corvette and take a cross-country trip to try and make sense of it all.”
What I’m trying to make sense of is why I can’t stop watching Schoemann’s newest thing that he sent along to us recently: a web TV show that is essentially a reprisal of Taxicab Confessions, except it involves him and people he picked up during a brief stint while driving for Uber earlier this year. Schoemann said he plopped two GoPros into the car, and just started shooting.
“This is something I did over the summer literally just between jobs,” he told Jalopnik by phone. “I just needed money.”
The end-result, Ride Share Confidential, is weirdly captivating. The set-up and interactions seem contrived, but Schoemann’s adamant that it’s legit. He provided us copies of non-disclosure agreements and release forms signed by the two passengers in the first episodes on YouTube. “It’s not my first rodeo,” he said. Asked when he told riders if they were OK being filmed, and whether anyone said no, Schoemann coyly demurred.
“It’s reality TV for the Web. Don’t want give away the ‘Secret Sauce’ so to speak. :-)” he said with a smile in a later email.
Now, I don’t want to overstate what’s going on. This is a run-of-the-mill voyeuristic reality TV concept, and the concept here isn’t exactly original, beyond the Taxicab Confessions-mime. A couple pilot teasers exist on YouTube of a rideshare confessional-type show, and GQ ran a feature in 2014 by a writer that drove for Uber and conveyed his experience. It’s hard to look away.
The first episode, titled, “Love Me Tinder,” opens with Sam nasally announcing to the camera: “Alright, we’re picking up Allie.”
Allie is going out on a Monday night, because “adults can do that,” she says. She’s a writer, and before moving to Los Angeles, she grew up in Alaska, which is portrayed as a freezing hellhole where something like a few dozen people live and everyone has dated one another.
“Just imagine the coldest, darkest place ever where you cry yourself to sleep every night,” she tells Schoemann, laughing. “No, actually, growing up in Alaska is great, it’s really great — but as an adult. you get tired of hooking up with people you’ve hooked up with since middle school.”
There’s also America’s Favorite Hockey Mom. “We come from the place where Sarah Palin’s from,” Allie says, prompting a groan from everyone from here to Alaska.
“Oh my gosh,” Schoemann sighs.
LA, which is unlike Alaska, is far cooler, according to Allie. You can order booze or food to your door, something apparently the entire U.S. has been equipped to do besides Alaska. There’s also Tinder.
Sam sounds as if the concept of the app is fresh to him.
“So, do you just like, you connect, they come over, and it’s on?” he inquisitively asks.
Allie promptly responds: “I don’t waste time. What happens if i like you so much and then you suck at sex?”
“I would rather just have an awesome time with somebody and if it turns out they suck as a person at least i have something good to remember them by.” The meandering back-and-forth ends on Allie discussing her dating life in LA, and soon enough, the ride’s over.
With episode 2, “The High Seas,” we’re pretty much taken for a ride from the outset, once John gets inside. John needs to get to Pasadena.
“My favorite band, Mile a Sin, is playing a show there tonight,” he says, sporting what appears to be a t-shirt for Mile a Sin, possibly the only band without any presence on the Internet whatsoever, if they’re indeed real. (Are you in Mile A Sin? I need to know.)
John goes on. “Yeah, they’re a heavy metal band. Yeah, I’ve been a head banger for like 30-40 years.”
“Seriously???” Schoemann says.
“I still do mosh pits.”
“Oh, are you kidding?” Schoemann, exasperated, says. “Watch out for flying elbows around John.”
“I’ve had my nose broken.”
The conversation shifts toward the open seas, and Schoemann discloses that he enjoys sailing (“I just love the water.”)
Coolly, John offers with a hint of pride: “Been there done that.” I’ll let them take it from here.
S: Oh, really did you have a boat?
J: I was a captain in the Merchant Marine. I retired after 20 years.
S: Woah, so like big boats?
J: Everything form a 27 ft. rescue boa ... to a 700 ft tanker.
S: Nice. What was it like living out on the high seas?”
J: Well, point A is great, point b is great, and in between is ... dull. Boring. Same thing every single day.
S: I can imagine, I can imagine.”
J: Oh, I found a way to spice it up.
S: Oh, you did? how do you spice that up?
J: Well, if you don’t mind taking the risk of smuggling drugs.
It’s here for the first time that Schoemann comes across somewhat genuinely in his disbelief at what his passengers are relaying. “Shut up!” he says.
“No, absolutely,” John says. “I did that so many damn times.”
Schoemann, curious gumshoe he is, asks whether John ever got in trouble? No, he responds, but a couple once got “busted for marijuana.
“We had frickin’ guns put to your heads and all sorts of stuff,” John says. “Nobody got killed. It’s one of the many times I’ve had a gun pointed in my face.”
“Oh my gosh, I can’t imagine,” Schoemann says, in a way that crystallizes that he really can’t imagine being in a precarious situation to that degree. “That just sounds crazy ... what were you smuggling? Hashish?”
“Hashish, marijuana, cocaine,” he says.
Cocaine from South America?
“So you got, like, the real cocaine,” Sam responds, looking to confirm if this is The Real Deal.
“Oh yeah, oh yeah.”
“Oh, sheesh.” Then, this. An incredulous bit from John:
You know how I got it through customs? Once I became an officer, I got to wear the uniform. Well, when you’re flying back - a lot of time we do a delivery, we take the ship down there and leave it and fly it back. So, I put on the uniform, and when you walk through customs wearing the uniform, they don’t give you a second look; it’s just like OK, no problem. And you got a freakin kilo in your bag. And they would never search once.
There’s another anecdote John offers about how he joined the Mile High Club, and Schoemann comes across like he met one of the most interesting people in his life. When John leaves, Schoemann says aloud:
“That was awesome.”
Schoemann’s goal, he said, would be to “figure out a way to do this kind of work full time.”
“I think I’m the classic creative guy, but figured I’d have to be in business, so all my life I’ve said no you’ve got a family and you’ve got responsibilities ... and I think about 6 months ago I thought to myself, I’ve got to really let this creative part of me out.”
Schoemann said he expects to release more in the near-future. I’ll be watching.