When some people find that their over-the-counter medications are ineffective in treating their physical and/or mental ailments, they ultimately rely on so-called “alternative medicine” sources (medical marijuana, herbs, vitamins, liquids, etc.) that claim to have stronger healing effects than traditional brand-name medicines like Tylenol or Prozac.
Falling under the umbrella of this popular form of treatment is “holistic medicine”, which uses psychic powered-energy embedded in multi-colored quartz crystals to instantly rejuvenate whatever malady attacks one’s body or mind. Yet while many real-life psychics carefully assist those who swear by healing crystals as a pain remedy, the manic mystic portrayed in writer/director Jay Reyna’s comedy web series Quartz is anything but careful…or trustworthy.
That character, Violet Grace-Belle (played by Gemma Garcia) runs a successful if not entirely safe holistic medicine business out of her apartment. In the pre-COVID, three-episode first season of Quartz (streaming on the show’s YouTube channel, linked to below), Violet’s customers – or potential victims – flocked to her doorstep in search of the perfect healing crystal for their problems.
During season 1, the legitimacy of Violet’s enterprise was investigated by college newspaper reporter Marcus Palladino, played by Dustin Simington), and challenged by Violet’s grating nemesis/fellow psychic healer Calliope (Gina Livorsi), while a feuding couple (Parker, played by Corey Shaw, and Ethan, played by Christopher Gonzalez) tried to boost their failing relationship through Violet’s psychic abilities – with hair-raising results.
In Quartz‘s second season, the now Los Angeles-based Violet works virtually with a new set of clients – or again, potential victims – including her ex-fiance Jackson (Zack David), who will do anything to reclaim his engagement ring; an irreplaceable piece of jewelry handed down to generations of his family.
With Violet’s new hometown also doubling as the entertainment capital of the world, it’s a given that some of her latest patrons will also come from showbiz. Two of them – aspiring yet apprehensive wannabe reality TV star assistant Collin (Stefan Newman) and has-been starlet/social media personality Lily (Hannah Brown, in an as yet un-produced episode of Quartz) – seek Violet’s unconventional medicine to get as many good vibes for their careers as they need for their consciousness.
Though Quartz has, as of this writing, completed five episodes over its two season run, neither Reyna nor his cast and crew originally envisioned it going anywhere beyond where it began: as an experiment in high-quality, high-pressure filmmaking that would test the abilities and talents of Reyna and his friends during their college years.
“It was never intended to be a short comedy web series,” recalls Reyna. “The first episode was a school project. I was taking film classes in Austin and the final project for this class was to write, produce, and direct a 5-6 page script as if it were a professionally run film set. We had to come up with an idea and literally self-produce it, put it on camera, edit, and present it to the class.”
With the assignment having proved to be a successful one, Reyna decided to bring his team back to produce more of Quartz‘s holistic hijinks. The series is not only a showcase for Reyna’s hilarious lead actor and her supporting players, but it also spotlights one of Reyna’s biggest creative strengths: his skill for putting effective comedy on the page.
“I am a comedy writer and went to school to study film with an emphasis on screenwriting/creative writing. I want to work in television as a writer so I saw the perfect opportunity to start writing in episodes. So, we ended up doing three 5-6 minute episodes written as sketch comedy which was really fun. My first episode was even featured at SXSW (South By Southwest) 2019 at a local filmmaker showcase!”
Although Reyna says he’s got only a passing interest in holistic medicine, his first-hand experiences with that subject have given him a significant degree of familiarity with that popular but often-misunderstood form of “alternative medicine”. Thus, Reyna took his deep knowledge of holistic medicine and adeptly applied it to the comedic scenarios he developed for Quartz.
“My house isn’t decked with crystals or anything, but it is something I have read and studied about. Many of my friends are also heavily into the holistic scene while I just dabble in it. Every crystal referenced and everything that is mentioned that they do on the show is based in reality. They really are meant to do what Violet says they do!”
The end result? A funny yet true-to-life look at how psychic healing really operates in Quartz. “I wanted to create a comedy in a world that I know that’s easy to make fun of,” says Reyna. “I think to poke fun at a specific subject, you must know a lot about said subject. The whole ‘write what you know’ thing really comes into play here. The entire crystal healing universe is something that gets scoffed at a lot, so I figured why not have some fun with a world I already know all about? That’s what makes it so fun. It’s not ignorant writing.”
While Quartz filmed its first three episodes inside the small confines of a residential apartment, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic forced Reyna and his collaborators to adapt to the necessities of social distancing.
Though Quartz is one of countless series that have used video conferencing software like Zoom to arrange and produce their content, Reyna wanted this depiction of the show’s Zoom calls to look and sound more polished than the rest.
“During the pandemic, we decided to bring it back and do a virtual season again consisting of three short episodes. It’s all made to look like a Zoom call in the edit but we took the time to shoot it with heavy-duty DSLR cameras and professionally audio record the dialogue. It was a challenge but super fun for us to do.”
Quartz isn’t the only bite-sized laugher that Reyna’s working on. While his biggest creative goal is to take his sketches to network television a la his favorite skitcom Portlandia, Reyna is already using Quartz as the launching pad for one of Violet’s season 2 patients to make his bold arrival into the glitzy though totally fabricated world of reality TV on Reyna’s upcoming parody series The Real Rich Wives of Some City in Texas. With its first sketch having recently debuted on YouTube, the show is referred to in episode 2 of Quartz‘s sophomore run.
“My friend Stefan Newman, who plays Collin, is seeking Violet’s help because of a job interview to be an assistant to one of the ‘Real Rich Wives of Texas’ (on Quartz). Later this year, I’ll move Collin over that universe as the assistant for all future sketches. This is the first time I’m branching out and creating my own universe and it’s been so much bridging everyone together.”
Like Rich Wives, Quartz is one of the building blocks of Reyna’s comedic vision: that of a world where laughter can come from places unusual and unexpected. “My favorite genre of comedy is the stuff that you know doesn’t take place on the Earth we live on, but maybe a more exaggerated surreal version of where we live. I continue to write Quartz with that in mind and I try to push the boundary of just how over-the-top we can go with it. I think people who are a fan of those types of fast-paced and insane comedies will like this. At least, I hope!”
NOTE: Reyna says that Quartz is not currently closed-captioned or subtitled.