“Life,” as John Lennon once said, “is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.” Quite often, as indicated by that famous quote, life itself can get in the way of our dreams and hopes. How we deal with that unpleasant reality can make a huge difference in whether or not our lives will be the better for it. In the new comedy series YOU’RE THE PEST, two young women try their hardest to rebuild their lives, while trying to repair their broken friendship.
Created by and co-starring Taylor Coriell, and co-written by Coriell and Jasmine Romero, YOU’RE THE PEST’s first episode (out of 8) can be seen on its official Youtube channel (see link below). At present, the series is seeking to fund production of its next 7 episodes through multiple avenues, including through tax deductible donations via its page on the Fractured Atlas platform (link also below).
YOU’RE THE PEST introduces viewers to Alex O’Malley (played by Coriell), an aspiring police officer whose longtime ambition of joining New York’s finest is dashed following a series of disastrous training mishaps. Her former friend/one-time beauty pageant queen Marissa Morales (played by series co-producer Adriana Digirolami) continues to bask in whatever glow remains from her victory.
Marissa’s no-nonsense attitude is matched only by her love and care for younger brother Max (Jeffrey Salce). When Alex and Marissa’s dads unexpectedly die, they leave behind their fledgling pest control company; a business that the two reunited ex-childhood pals now find themselves running.
YOU’RE THE PEST also co-stars Kevin Sebastian (PRODUCING JULIET) as Derek Finkelstein, and Aaron Gold as Derek’s fellow trainee Stuart. Meanwhile, Alex and Marissa’s friend/bartender Rye (Chantal Maurice) provides them with good advice and good spirits in equal measure.
Many great ideas can often blossom out of nowhere, and many can come from seemingly random encounters. The idea for YOU’RE THE PEST began to flourish during one such meeting. “I was at brunch one day memorizing lines for a scene study class. and my friend Jasmine (Romero) came to meet me because we were neighbors,” Coriell recalls. “She sat down with me and the guys at the table next to us asked if we were actresses, and so we started up a conversation with them.”
When the subject of career came up, that otherwise casual chat became more than a mere get-together for Coriell. “One of them (the guys) was an exterminator which we thought was kind of funny, especially since you don’t normally imagine exterminators to be really attractive young men,” she adds. “So then, I asked him if he knew any lady exterminators and he said no. Jas and I just looked at each other, and the idea was born out of that.”
The dynamic between YOU’RE THE PEST’s two protagonists is a critical component of the series’ comedy and storytelling. With accurate representation of females in movies, TV and web series a major priority in the entertainment industry, Coriell and Romero took into account the significance of presenting realistic characters in equally realistic situations.
“The idea to make sure the script passed the Bechdel test (named for illustrator Alison Bechdel, and created to determine if two female characters can discuss topics not involving men in a scene), and to be sure it wasn’t just a bunch of straight white dudes working on the show came after when we were trying to decide what kind of work was important to us,” the show’s co-writers say. “YOU’RE THE PEST is our first project together, and just as writers in general.”
During the writing process, Coriell and Romero took time to examine the journeys of YOU’RE THE PEST’s main leads (Alex and Marissa). “Basically, we started with ‘who are Alex and Marissa?’ Then, we started filling in their world with ‘what kind of things would they get up to, how do they feel about each other, and what kind of people would they surround themselves with?’ After that, a storyline just sort of surfaced,” they explain. “So, we decided on a point A and a point B, and (we) were like, ‘how do we get them from there to there?”
That question was answered when YOU’RE THE PEST’s second co-star joined the series. “Once we signed Adri (Adriana DeGirolami, co-star/co-producer) onto the project, the relationship between the two girls got even more specific and rich as we tailored the role more specifically for her,” Coriell and Romero respond.
While YOU’RE THE PEST’s episodes are short, the relationship between Alex and Marissa will be explored in-depth over the course of its first season. Adds Coriell: “I will say, we had to trim out a lot of antics because of the time constraints of web series, but I think it has seriously served to make their personalities richer to flesh out all the possibilities! So, I’d say the process has been mostly character driven.”
Seeing that YOU’RE THE PEST marks Coriell and Romero’s collaborative debut, it’s also understandable that there were many stumbling blocks encountered by its cast and crew. “We’ve only shot the pilot so far, and leading up to shooting that was a bit of a roller coaster,” says Coriell.
Despite the rough patches, Coriell feels that the total experience of making a web series was equally educational and enlightening. “I was so new and so green to the whole process, so throwing myself in as show runner was interesting to say the least,” she remarks. “I made a lot of good decisions, (and) a lot of mistakes, but mostly I’ve learned a ton so far.”
That experience is made all the more beneficial because of YOU’RE THE PEST’s commitment to championing diversity in all aspects of its production. It’s a commitment that begins with what viewers see on-screen.
“Jasmine and I worked really hard to be sure that the script reflected the people that we see in our world,” Coriell explains. “We created a world where women are viewed through a truly female lens (because, well, that’s all we have), where our lives aren’t only about dating, or motherhood, or divorce, or children (because, well, they’re not).”
While creating characters and stories that realistically spotlight our society and its people is important, Coriell and other talented filmmakers know that achieving diversity on-camera and off is just as paramount. YOU’RE THE PEST’s cast and crew demonstrate the importance of that mission.
“When women do manage to make their way to the top, they like being there, and they should! They earned it. But, it’s hard to send the elevator back down when you’re the token woman in the room,” Coriell adds. “So with YOU’RE THE PEST, I’m going out of my way to try to find women who want and need more projects under their belts, especially in college, to join me in the elevator on the way up, so that we can send it back down for the next generation.”
Another benefit of working with YOU’RE THE PEST’s cast and crew comes through sharing and experiencing multiple perspectives during production. “In creating such a diverse team, we have a variety of lenses to look through besides just our own, but also, we are able to find commonality too,” responds Coriell. “In the world we are currently living in, I don’t think anything could be as important as that.”
Thanks to web series, women and other under-represented groups are able to tell their stories, their way. For female actors and filmmakers who aspire to make shows of their own, Coriell encourages them to work with people who share their commitment to making quality content, while stressing the importance of teamwork.
“I’d say, find your tribe, even if it takes time. Be patient. Know when to let go and when to hold on,” she says. “Stick to your guns. Find out what collaborate really means before you say you want to do it, because I think a lot of creative types say they like collaboration because it’s a great buzzword, but they don’t. Embrace the opportunity to be really creative to get the job done.”
YOU’RE THE PEST’s comedy and characters are both giggle worthy and compelling. Yet, they’re also a reflection of how quickly the goals we once thought were within our reach can be cast aside, and how challenging it can be for people to successfully adjust to life’s sudden changes. Combined with its mission to boost the efforts and careers of female filmmakers and actors, Coriell hopes that the series will equally boost the spirits of its viewers.
“What happens to success after your great success, as in Marissa’s situation? Or what about a failed dream, like Alex’s of being in the police force? Can you find happiness and success in something you never thought about doing, like running a slightly decrepit extermination company in Queens? I hope that’s something that everyone can find in common with Alex and Marissa, and I hope it makes them want to keep watching for many, many seasons to come.”
(NOTE: Coriell says that YOU’RE THE PEST will be closed-captioned once the show’s complete first season begins streaming.)
To give to YOU’RE THE PEST’s crowd funding campaign, visit its Fractured Atlas page here: