This week’s #WebSeriesWednesday tweet-a-long featured a production out of Louisiana. ‘The Struggle’ is a dramatic tail of three women and the day to day challenges they face with substance abuse, single parenthood, men, the law, money and a whole lot of other shit – seriously this drama is so full of drama that it borders on melodrama. Not that melodrama is bad or anything, as Caryn Hayes’ Breaking Point proved to us earlier this year. Here we see enough trouble to last a lifetime but I’m not sure if I am meant to take it all very seriously or just accept it all as an over the top characterization.
With eight episodes planned and four currently available for viewing ‘The Struggle’ is very much still a work in progress with a team still finding its voice, very much in a similar way to a young band still trying to find that ‘sound’ that defines them. The show is a good example of a group of creators learning on the job. The lack of experience is noticeable in the technical issues but felt, perhaps more strongly in the insecurity felt in certain creative choices. During our chat one thing discussed was the opening episode’s ‘introduction’ where each of the three female leads is given a voice over dubbed entrance summing up their character. While the voice over didn’t sound technically up to par the real issue I felt was that the visuals told us just about everything we needed to know about the characters.
As the show goes on creator Kimberly Gail begins to show us her increasingly improving directing chops, highlighted by her competence as a visual storyteller. For an inexperienced creator I’m not too surprised by a handful of nervous over reactions in the editing room. Getting lots of honest feedback is important if only to give yourself a good idea of what your work is achieving and where it misses the mark. Where ‘The Struggle’ really works are in the most honest moments where camera movements, editing choices, sound design and character acting are at their most basic. The heart of all good cinema is the embodiment of a great character in a great acting performance. When, as a director, you are fortunate enough to get such a performance – as Kimberly does on several occasions – I think it’s important to let that moment stand on its own. I tend to subscribe to the philosophy that a scene is done when there is nothing left to take away. The best scene in ‘The Struggle’ might just be the around-the-room sequence at the rehab meeting. We meet six or so characters, learn a ton about who they really are and its accomplished in just a few shots. Simple, subtle, and real.
The biggest hurdle for the group behind ‘The Struggle’ is the slow learning process that comes with figuring out the technical side. So many storytellers these days are learning to do film production on their own and the field is choc-full of mistakes people only make once. Where ‘The Struggle’ really struggled was in learning the hard way about on uncontrolled on location sound, and the troubles caused by using preexisting lighting. As the series goes on the issues are minimized – as they often are – the show reaches a point where the characters can finally over power any problems with the production process, and the viewer can finally immerse themselves in the story.
For budding creatives out there, shows like this one are a good argument to make sure you spend some time practicing before you jump right into production. If not you’ll find yourself in over your head for awhile and a lot of potential fans wont give you the opportunity to dig yourself out three or four episodes into what ultimately could be a very good story. Now that this group seems to know what they’re doing it should be fun to see where this story goes next.
You can find ‘The Struggle’ at their online home http://www.ohthestruggle.com