Describe how you got into making web series.
Julie and I started making web series about five years ago, when tellofilms approached us to make short-form content specifically for online distribution. Prior to that, we’d been making independent shorts and features, which we’d self-funded and crowdfunded. tello, because it was a subscription-based site, had a model that provided production funds and then also paid filmmakers residuals based on overall views. We liked the model so much that we made several shows for tello and eventually took tello on as a major client, producing, writing, and directing over fifteen series over the course of five years.
You've been making web series in Chicago perhaps longer than anyone else. What has kept you making work here?
Here in Chicago, we have an excellent crew: they’re like a small extended family, and there is such a wealth of talent in terms of actors, comedians, and dancers. We also like that, at least in terms of independent projects, there are more open ways of doing things here than in other cities.
We once hosted a group of L.A. actors for a shoot, and they were completely flummoxed by the way we worked, from our small yet effective crews, to the fact that everyone on set was considered (and treated) equally. In more rigidly codified environments, it’s harder to alter the system. Though, I hear Jill Soloway is dismantling the way things are done quite a bit on the set of Transparent, and we hope to see more of that: sets that are inclusive and supportive, making the most of each person’s true skills rather than labeling them and keeping them in a certain role.
How was making Full Out different from your earlier series?
Similarly, I had to believe in Kaitlin’s skills as a choreographer completely. I had seen her work and enjoyed her style, so I was hopeful. But if Kaitlin had fallen short in directing the dance, I wouldn’t have been able to step in and compensate. My trust in her had to be complete, and I was not let down. In the middle of the shoot, when we shot the dance-off scene for Episode 2, Kaitlin and I worked closely, making sure that the dancing and interactions on the dance floor reflected very particular emotional trials of the characters, and that process was exhilarating.
How was it working with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine’s Nana Visitor? How was it working with web star Kaitlyn Alexander?
Both Nana and Kaitlyn were delightful to work with.
Nana was incredibly graceful and kind, immediately putting the dancers, who were so nervous to work with an actor of her caliber, at ease. She was open to playing and was so receptive and intelligent. Julie and I told her that we’d write a million shows with her at the center, and we meant it. She’s fantastic.
Kaitlyn is a dream. They came to film with us for one day, the very last day of the shoot, which is a tough day for anyone to come in, as so much camaraderie has already been established. But they were charming, sweet, and immediately able to tune in to their scene partner, Jess Duffy, in order to flesh out the character of Max.