No matter if you’re the CEO of a small company or a worldwide conglomerate, staying at the top of any competitive business is a daily struggle. Out in front of that battle are executives whose personalities are often just as big (if not bigger) as the companies they run. Yet, as the delightfully hysterical comedy/mockumentary series GAZELLE: LE PETIT CHIEN shows, ego, determination and pizazz can prove to be quite a volatile – and funny – combination.
Created and written by Peter Hignett, GAZELLE’s first season of 3 episodes can be viewed on its official web site and Youtube pages (see links below). The series’ second season has been made possible thanks to its recently concluded Kickstarter campaign, which raised over $2,498 for production of 8 new episodes.
The series continues the frenzied adventures of cosmetics maven Gazelle La France (played by Beth Mayoh), a brilliant but outrageous businesswoman who hopes to make a big splash in the industry by launching a new line of designer lipstick. Things get very complicated when Gazelle’s stepdaughter/investigative journalist Samantha Wright (Dana Smit) probes just how her outspoken stepmother clawed her way to the top of the corporate and social ladders, and who she may have “done in” to achieve those statuses.
In season 2, the series’ eponymous lead character discovers that success truly breeds contempt when a brash competitor named Kandace Krane threatens to wrest away Gazelle’s stronghold on the world of cosmetics. At Gazelle’s side is her loyal, yet campy personal assistant Gary Crisps, and her agent, Ron Fiddle (played by famed British comic Jim Davidson).
A huge fan of female-fronted sitcoms like the BBC’s classic ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS, Hignett feels that GAZELLE naturally follows in the tradition of that series and others due to their memorably over-the-top characters. “There are certainly elements of Eddy and Patsy (from ABSOLUTELY FABULOUS) in GAZELLE,” he says. “I think anyone who was a fan of that show would enjoy GAZELLE. Anyone with an odd, off-beat sense of humor (would), too.”
Sometimes, moments of high creativity can strike in unlikely circumstances. As Hignett recalls, the story of how GAZELLE came to fruition is equally improbable and humorous. “The initial idea for the show came around from a drunken improv session with a close friend, a red wig and the line, ‘put the beast on your lips’ – the last line of the first season,” he says. “I edited the improv session into a short, three-minute film. It’s around somewhere; maybe we’ll release it one day if enough people ask to see it – though my friend may need some convincing!”
Initially, Hignett hoped to transform that impromptu short film to the small screen. Once he shifted his focus towards producing it for online viewers, GAZELLE’s story and characters underwent their own evolution. “The final story ended up being quite different, though Gazelle, and the launch of her lipstick range ‘Le Petit Chien’ – along with its secret ingredient – was there from the beginning,” Hignett adds.
After Mayoh and Smit came on board GAZELLE, production of the show’s initial 3 episodes proved to be the most efficient part of Hignett’s efforts to get it off the ground. “We had a very quick turn around on the first season. If I recall, it was all over in about a month. It was the marketing and promotion that took the longest,” he remembers. “Getting the show out there, getting them to watch it, has been the most challenging aspect of the whole thing. Promoting a web series is an (unpaid) full-time job!”
Season 1 of GAZELLE was also enhanced by a series of supplemental video content featuring Smit’s snooping reporter Samantha, who also shared her inside information on Gazelle’s wicked ways on social media through her Twitter presence. While Hignett feels those elements added to GAZELLE’s overall viewing experience, there’s still much room for improvement on the show’s transmedia front.
“We knew that for an audience to stay interested in a (new) web series, there would have to be enough content to warrant their attention and get them coming back. In hindsight, I don’t think there was nearly enough bonus content, but we’ve learnt our lesson for next time,” he explains. “We wanted videos that would compliment the main episodes, and would add additional backstory but were not necessary to understand the main plot. We also wanted to give Samantha more screen time.”
Much to the satisfaction and surprise of Hignett and his team, GAZELLE now finds itself competing for top web series honors at the upcoming Slumberjack Film Festival (set for March 26th and 27th in Widnes, England.) “After we had found out, I watched the other series, and we stuck out like a sore thumb – for better or worse! GAZELLE is unique. I can’t put my finger on why. I’m probably too close to the show,” Hignett adds. “It’s certainly surreal in places, wacky in others and on occasion downright dark.”
Depending on whether or not the show’s Kickstarter drive reaches its goal, Hignett hopes to build upon the wacky characters and storylines introduced in its first season, and to improve the show’s production aesthetics. However, like every great comedic filmmaker, Hignett knows that the ultimate barometer of success is in how well he’s able to keep people watching – and laughing. GAZELLE’s great characters, its humorous moments, and its examination of life in the spotlight, are crucial to that success.
“The show deals with this modern fascination – or obsession – with fame and celebrity, and that some people will do anything to become famous,” says Hignett, describing GAZELLE’s concept. “It doesn’t matter if they have no talent, or no real drive to do anything, other than being in the spotlight, they crave that attention. I think a lot of people can relate to that. As for an overall message we’d like to send? Don’t mess with Gazelle La France.”
(NOTE: Regarding closed-captioning/subtitling of GAZELLE, Hignett says: “The show is not currently closed-captioned/subtitled, but we will add that in the future. We hope to launch the next season with subtitles. We are a very small team, but we are very focused on being as inclusive as possible.”)
ON THE WEB: http://www.gazellelafrance.co.uk/