Fan to Filmmaker: A Teen Creator's Journey

A lot of web series tend to have very passionate fan bases. But for 18 year old Jules Pigott, a senior in high school from New York City, being a fan of the medium just wasn't enough.

Jules, one of the founders of Quip Modest Productions, has created or co-created four different web series since she was 15, with her most recent project, The Emma Agenda, a vlog adaptation of Jane Austen's Emma, currently wrapping up production. Between ages 15 and 16 she co-wrote, directed, and edited Like, As It Is (based on Shakespeare's As You Like It). From ages 16 and 17 she wrote, directed, and edited Twelfth Grade (or Whatever) (based on Shakespeare's Twelfth Night). And in the past year, she co-wrote, co-directed, and co-edited season 1 of The Uncanny Upshurs (an original urban fantasy series filmed in the US and the UK).

Jules Pigott (left) and actor Julian Hermano representing Twelfth Grade (Or Whatever) at the NYC Web Fest, where the show was an official selection

I met Jules through a mutual fan of ours on Twitter, and ever since, I have been in awe of her tremendous work ethic. For this reason alone, I have mostly forgiven her for making me feel so old. Mostly.

Bri Castellini: When and why did you decide to make your own web series?

Jules Pigott: Bit of a long story. I discovered a public access comedy show called The Chris Gethard Show at the age of 14 and fell in love with the idea of these incredibly creative people making something they're passionate about. I realized I wanted to make some kind of film content of my own, and attended a film class at the New York Film Academy the summer of 2014 when I was 15. I made a friend named Simona who introduced me to the web series Nothing Much To Do. At this point I'd seen The Lizzie Bennet Diaries back when I was obsessed with the Vlogbrothers, but I hadn't really sought out any other web series. I watched Nothing Much To Do and was fascinated by the idea of these young women, not much older than me, creating a web series all on their own, and decided I wanted to do something similar. As You Like It is my favorite Shakespeare play, and when I saw no one had adapted it as a web series yet, I decided to go for it. I posted on Tumblr looking for people to write it with me, and I found Sarah and Julia, who co-wrote with me the series that would become Like, As It Is (LAII). Because I was in NYC, it made sense for me to be the one to film it, as I had access to the most resources, so that was my introduction to directing and editing. The three of us drifted apart a bit after LAII, though they did help develop what would become my second series, Twelfth Grade (or Whatever), based off of Twelfth Night.

Sarah Taylor (left) and Julian Hermano (right) from Twelfth Night (Or Whatever)

BC: Did you ever make films or home movies before web series, or were they your first adventure in filmmaking?

JP: I remember, at about age 9 or so, forcing my friend Maddie to help me with a video series we called "The Pink Monkey and Little Bear Show", starring my puppets. Around age 12, I was trying to make animated music videos for the Warrior Cats book series. So I was always creating videos, but these web series were really my first attempt to make a full, completed project.

BC: In what ways do you think your age has helped you in your filmmaking?

Well, my parents have been very supportive, allowing me to film in our home and paying for some of the things I had no other options for. I got my DSLR as a Christmas/birthday present from them. So I guess I haven't quite yet hit the real-world realities of filmmaking independently.

BC: In what ways do you think it'shurt you?

JP: Fewer ways than you'd think, actually. When my actors have found out my age, they've usually been more impressed than dismissive. Really the major thing I lack is experience and self-confidence. it'shard to take charge on a production and insist actors do certain things when you're the youngest person there.

BC: You wear most of the hats on your productions; are there particular roles you wish you could focus on more or, on the flipside, leave to someone else?

JP: I'd love to try directing something that someone else has written, or writing something for someone else to direct. Besides that, scheduling is a pain, and it would be cool to not have to do that.

BC: you're a full time high school student, and you've been actively applying to colleges- exactly how do you have time for all of this?

JP: Well, I don't do any extracurriculars, so my weekends have always been pretty free. And as for applying for colleges, this has actually been a life-saver, because it'sgiven me something unique to talk about in my essays. Really, if someone with a full-time job can make something on the side, I figure as a full-time high school student, I can do the same.

BC: For your show The Uncanny Upshurs, you co-wrote and co-produced the series with your friend Ingrid Nixie Greep, who lives in the UK. Can you talk about those processes, especially since you two live in different countries?

JP: Ingrid and I met because she was a fan of my show Twelfth Grade (or Whatever), and I was a fan of her show The Grey Tarmac Road. We started talking about things we wanted to see in web series, and realized we both wanted to do some kind of urban fantasy. She came up with the idea for siblings in different countries communicating through vlogs, I came up with the name, and the rest is history! it'sbeen difficult to coordinate, seeing as my late-night ideas come when she's fast asleep and etc., but we're both so in love with the world we've created that working on the series has never been a pain.

Jennifer Catania (left) and B Mast (right) in The Uncanny Upshurs.

BC: Other than Upshurs, all of your shows so far have been literary-inspired vlog web series. Do you see yourself leaning into originals or adaptations more as you move forward?

JP: I have ideas for originals and ideas for literary series. Really, it'sjust gonna come down to what I feel like making and what I have the resources for. My roots are always gonna be in literary vlog series, and I'd definitely love to continue doing them, but I'd love to branch out as well.

BC: Speaking of moving foward, are you considering pursuing film and media production in college?

JP: Definitely! I'm really lucky to have found what I want to do at such a young age, and I figure, if I've found what I love, I should pursue it as much as I can.

Connect with Jules on Twitter, and connect with Quip Modest Productions on their Patreon and website.

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