It doesn’t take much for something unexpected to go viral on the web. It truly doesn’t require a lot of effort on anyone’s part to create something that’ll be watched and shared by millions of people. Even people who try to become the next PewDiePie, Grace Helbig or Jake Paul can have epic fails at times.
The personal repercussions of our ongoing connections to online social media, though, are unavoidable. Those impacts are humorously and profoundly illustrated in the new comedy GRACE-LESS, created by Dorrie Lipman, David Vendette and Lena Buda. In addition to co-starring in the series, Buda and Lipman also co-wrote GRACE-LESS.
On March 19th, GRACE-LESS premiered its first 2 episodes on the new female-centered comedy video hub WhoHaHa, co-founded by acclaimed actor/producer/director Elizabeth Banks (PITCH PERFECT, THE HUNGER GAMES franchises). 5 more episodes will follow at a date to be determined.
Formerly titled F*CK YOU, MARK ZUCKERBERG, GRACE-LESS brings back the same characters – and actors – featured in the 2013 pilot episode. Buda returns in the title role of Grace, who unwittingly becomes an overnight celebrity after an unplanned wardrobe malfunction disrupts a live YouTube webcast hosted by her best friend Sparrow (Dorrie Lipman).
With Sparrow losing her Asian food art channel as a result of the incident, Grace gradually basks in the glow of her unexpected good fortune. Unfortunately, Grace’s success comes at the cost of her friendship with Sparrow. Now, they’re both forced to reflect on how the Internet can cruelly divide as many people as it tries to unite – including the closest of friends.
Also starring in GRACE-LESS is Max Wilbur as the modest yet impossibly handsome Liam, and Meghann Kurth as Grace’s boy-obsessed roommate Charlie. Giving GRACE-LESS additional comic heft is an outrageous new character who exemplifies the superficiality of social media and its personalities: the sexy yet intellectually dense Russell Alexander (played by Chris Pipkin). Russell, like even the biggest online influencers and reality TV stars, is famous solely for being famous.
“Russell is a social media God,” Buda, Vendette and Lipman say of the character. “He is charming, good looking, manipulative and cocky. He realized his looks early on in life and decided to not cultivate any type of depth or decent personality. He is an incredibly successful social media star, known for his inspirational quotes, selfies, and his abs. In fact, no one is sure what Russell actually does. He is kind of like a Kardashian, in that sense.”
As they aspired to create a hilarious yet relatable portrait of how social media wreaks real havoc on real lives, two important creative factors drove Buda and Lipman to make GRACE-LESS. “We wanted to create a show with strong female leads; characters that were funny and flawed,” We wanted viewers to be rooting for Grace, while also cringing at as you watched what she did on screen. “What inspired us to create GRACE-LESS was the strong desire to create an opportunity for ourselves that we weren’t getting otherwise.”
In many respects, GRACE-LESS shares the same core components – social media obsessed characters, humorous commentary on the real life consequences of online events – that its original incarnation, F*CK YOU, MARK ZUCKERBERG, had possessed. The differences between both shows, as Buda and Lipman indicate, are more profound than a mere title change.
“While our characters in GRACE-LESS share the same names as our characters in 2013’s FUMZ, that’s where the similarities mostly end,“ the show’s creators say. “During those days, we were mostly concentrating on developing our voice and writing style. You can see that in our one-note characters, but that has all changed. The characters evolved and became these 3-dimensional and layered souls.”
Knowing how writing is one of the most crucial parts of any web series production, Buda and Lipman carefully guided themselves through the process of strengthening GRACE-LESS’ protagonists. “We took a lot of time to carefully craft the arc of the storyline and characters. We wanted Grace to start out getting a taste of validation from social media, only to find herself completely lost in it,” GRACE-LESS’ creators explain. “She (Grace) is the perfect mirror into our society’s addiction of social media,” Vendette adds.
Though Buda’s title character is hopelessly befuddled, the name of her character deceptively indicates the complete opposite of ineptitude. “While it doesn’t have a direct connection to social media, we loved the idea that Grace, our lead, is nothing like her name,” Buda and Lipman reply. “Her name embodies refinement, elegance and poise and the first thing we see our character ‘Grace’ do in the pilot is vomit into a bowl while exposing her breast to the world and yes, it’s just one breast. She is the epitome of GRACE-LESS.”
Having now been totally redeveloped as GRACE-LESS, Buda, Lipman, and Vendette next set their sights on completely retooling every written and filmed portion of their past work on FUMZ. After the rewrites of FUMZ’s original 8 episodes, the toughest part of making GRACE-LESS lay ahead. “Casting and production was challenging. We had a 6 day shoot and one of those days we had over 20 extras. We were incredibly lucky to work with people who were able to help us organize and execute a really tight schedule.”
The goal of making a successful, sustainable web series isn’t accomplished after the credits roll. In that sense, WhoHaHa’s team continues to support actors and filmmakers like Buda and Lipman. “They (WhoHaHa) have been great mentors and supportive of the comedic community. They helped us find a way to get our project seen by a wider audience while giving us feedback on how to proceed with the series.”
GRACE-LESS is a comedy about how people try – and often fail – to tread the turbulent waters of sites like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
In contrast to other web series where social media is sometimes an occasional plot device, GRACE-LESS fully tackles how the digital world can cause incredible problems in the real world. “We haven’t seen many (shows) that deal with the ups and downs of social media as much as ours,” Buda, Lipman and Vendette say. “We feel like the tone of the series is very unique to what else is on digital platforms.”
Like many who use social media, Buda and Lipman know how discouraging it can feel to not live up to the supposedly “ideal” image that many people shamelessly present to the world online. GRACE-LESS illustrates the complexities of that issue through moments that its viewers will quickly identify with.
“We feel like this is something a lot of us can relate to: feeling inadequate every time you scroll through your feed, comparing yourself to your peers through an artificial filter,” they add. “These very common pressures (that we all feel) inspired us to create interesting storylines throughout GRACE-LESS; dealing with situations like that while trying to bring humor and expose the absurdity of it.”
Before you get overly consumed by the social media universe, and before you decide to try your hand at being the next viral sensation, watching GRACE-LESS will give you a lot to ponder. Thanks to its characters and unique kind of humor, it’ll also give you plenty to giggle about. according to Buda and Lipman.
“GRACE-LESS shines light on the ethos of social media and its ability to create and destroy simultaneously, but more importantly, it’s a series that showcases female characters that are strong, funny and flawed. We feel like GRACE-LESS is a show that anyone who uses social media can relate to as it’s filled with social media f*ck-ups that everyone has experienced.”
(NOTE: Regarding closed-captioning of GRACE-LESS, Buda and Lipman say: “The show is currently not closed-captioned, but we plan to utilize captioning in the future.”)