I know that it is 2015, and that original web content is being produced regularly and all sorts of levels of budget, quality and style, but for me the phrase “web series” still evokes the era of LonelyGirl13 and the original “vlogs”.
I immediately jump to the ruse, the gotcha. Aha! You thought you were just watching a dumb video on the internet, but you were wrong. WRONG. The truth is (and you know this, because you are on a website about web series, so why am I even telling you this) people really dig watching TV on the internet now. If for no other reason, we like it because it saves us a trip to the living room. We like being able to pick and choose what we watch and when. We like the freedom to discover new shows beyond the constraints of scheduling and what channels we can afford. We can afford all the internet!
The web format also opens up a world of opportunities that were not previously available to us as filmmakers. We can make our show however long we want to make it. That’s right, friends and family, I made a web series and each episode is four hours. If you love me you will watch it. Enjoy, dear ones.
These latter points were not on my mind when Marla Pachter asked me to join her on the untitled adventure that came to be known as “That Reminds Me…”. So, needless to say, the words, “I have some actor friends who would like to produce and act in a web series” painted a picture of two faceless ladies standing against the whitest wall in their shared apartment, every lamp they owned trained on their faces, saying things like, “He’ll come around. You’ll see. Now let’s go do the dishes,” and “Don’t make me take you out with the trash!” Luckily or unluckily, that did not turn out to be the case. As it turns out, “That Reminds Me…” has become a project of extreme passion for our three stars and producers, Jenny Paul, Chelsea Roach and Monica Cangero and our head writer, Marla Pachter. They have poured their lives and souls into the show, and it shows.
To give you a little background on how I got involved in the TRM adventure, I knew Marla from when we used work together as hostesses at a restaurant. Upon discovering that we were both writing chicks, we embarked on a quest to create a hilaaarious play and submit it to the NY Fringe festival and get discovered just like Mindy Kaling did. The play was pretty weird and we never finished it. We actually decided pretty early on that it would work better as a… you guessed it… web series! But, again, we never finished, so that, my friends, is a web series you will never ever see. Sorry. Months after the accidental abandonment of our previous baby, I got a call from Marla. “…web series…actors…” Me: “Okay (white wall in apartment, dishes, etc.).” And so we started meeting and talking.
Soon Lizz and Ricardo got involved. We began to brainstorm. We knew from the start that the show would follow half-sisters, Janie (Jenny Paul) and Kelsey (Chelsea Roach) and their mother, Elaine (Monica Cangero). It was eventually decided that the season would take place over the course of one day. The frame for the series became the women’s day spent preparing for a fancy event that night. As Janie, Kelsey and Elaine get ready (primping, gabbing, picking clothes and day drinking, of course), they reminisce about the crazy twists and turns their lives have taken over the past few years. The formula is simple and charming. It gave us writers the ease of forward motion combined with the opportunity to let our imaginations run wild as we invented past adventures for these characters.
One of the most exciting parts of writing with this team for this show was watching the world we were creating develop around us. Each new story added a level of detail and wackiness that made this family more and more familiar until we all felt knew each member of it on a very personal level. Mind you, all of the writing for TRM happened back in Winter and Spring of 2014. Once the episodes were in, there was some shuffling of plot lines and cutting of episodes to consolidate the season and give it a more concise flow. Then we had a read through. This was the most involved I as a writer got to be with the production crew.
We sat around a table of bagels and candy (I think it was Easter) in Monica’s apartment. That was the moment when I realized the show was real – it was really, truly happening. And then as quickly as I’d entered the world of production on the show, I walked out the door that night and made my exit from it. The agony of dramatic writing is that you must bow out early and wait for finished product with crossed fingers.
I have experience with this as a playwright, but, having never written for a web series before, I was unprepared for the experience of waiting while an entire production crew is assembled, episodes are filmed, video is edited, marketing and fundraising campaigns are launched, and so on.
I was sadly unable to make the TRM premiere, so my first viewing of episode 1 occurred late on the night of October 6, 2015, in bed, on a laptop, after a long day of work. I sat with my curser hovering over the “play” icon trying desperately to remember what we had written a year and a half prior.
Then I clicked and I was both reminded and surprised. The feeling, the essence of what we were going for was there right off the bat. The character of the family that we had envisioned from the start was there. The dynamic between the characters was there. On the other hand, I had always imagined that when I got involved in a web series it would be that poorly lit monstrosity I described earlier. I could not fathom that something I was involved in so early in my career as a writer could actually look that good, that it would actually be professional. So I sat in shock in that bed as I was thrown into a world with which I was both intimately familiar and completely unacquainted at the same time. And I enjoyed it.