If you spend your twenties dating in a big city like New York, you know that alongside the televised PSAs about the dangers of smoking, there should be a warning for dating: “Every twenty minutes, someone goes on a bad date. Don’t let it happen to you.” Yes, there are a lot of crazy people out there, and sometimes it feels like they’re all on Tinder.
There is one silver lining: the more cringe-worthy, ridiculous, or shocking a date is, the better story it makes for retelling. Ronit Aranoff, a theater actress who studied at Tisch, took note of this and capitalized. She crowd-sourced real dating horror stories and compiled them into “Seeking,” a web series about a young woman named Ella who goes on a string of hilariously bad dates in New York City. The show is an amped up version of Sunday morning brunch with friends, a comedy of errors that is packed with moments that are especially funny because they’re true.
Aranoff is currently based in L.A., and I spoke with her via email about the unique process of creating her show, the biggest challenge to production, and portraying raunchy women on film.
Carrie Mullins: New York’s dating scene is intense, in part thanks to the sheer number of people in the City, in part thanks to our ability to attract the crazies. When Ella makes a bet with her roommates, she ends up seeing a spectrum of men. What made you decide to make a show about the crazy, ridiculous men of New York?
Ronit Aranoff: I was going through the ringer in the New York dating scene. Instead of leaving dates with that excited “butterflies in my stomach” feeling, I left with absurd stories that people increasingly asked me to tell at parties. The more I told people my stories, the more people, in turn, told me about theirs. And wow, was I not alone! So we asked people to submit their own dating stories. The entire show is based on stories that our audience submitted to me and my writing partner. I figured it was my civic duty to put a comedic spin on a shitty situation.
I figured it was my civic duty to put a comedic spin on a shitty situation
It was also important to me that the show was telling universal stories, so these stories came from people of any and every age range, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, background, etc. And in terms of raunchy? I wanted to make sure to show that women could be as raunchy as men!
CM: Being young and single in New York typically involves having at least one roommate, and I love the portrayal of Ella, Nate, and Isaac’s relationship. How did you decide on these three as the premise, and emotional core, of the show?
RA: I wanted to create characters that I saw around me. I was frustrated about the way that specifically women and gay men were being portrayed in shows that I was watching. It is getting better, but I rarely saw women like me and my friends being raunchy and real and raw and cynical. And the only gay men I saw depicted were super flamboyant men who were the comedic relief. Isaac, Ella’s gay roommate, is the normal one. The guy in a stable relationship. Ella’s rock.
I rarely saw women like me and my friends being raunchy and real and raw and cynical
In terms of Nate, we had a story line we knew wanted to incorporate where Ella and a close friend were *tiny spoiler alert* sleeping together. Many stories that were submitted were about friends with benefits, and we thought that it would be really interesting if they actually lived together, so that they couldn’t ignore each other. They would both date other people but come home to each other — it created a sustained tension that was fun to play with.
CM: You have a background in theater. What make you decide to produce a web series?
RA: It’s such an exciting time to be creating digital content. In creating a web series, I could tell my story in the amount of time it took to tell it without the constraints of the traditional TV model. I could also include more stories by telling the story in a serial form instead of in a play. I wanted this to be for everyone, even if they didn’t live in New York or weren’t able to get out of their homes and go see a show. YouTube is a great common denominator! We have been quite blessed to screen in New York and Los Angeles and be chosen as official selections, nominees, and award winners in eight festivals around the world from Bali to Miami to Los Angeles and beyond. So I feel that we have been able to reach more people then the we could have in a stage play. Putting our show out on the Internet seemed like a logical choice as we were giving the show to the people who gave us their stories.
CM: What were the biggest challenges to producing the show? Do you have a favorite episode?
RA: Getting money!! It’s always the biggest challenge in producing anything. We were very fortunate to have two incredibly successful Indiegogo campaigns — another way in which we could involve our online fan base. There was something cool about crowd sourcing both our funding and our stories that made using Indiegogo seem like the logical platform. One particular challenge came on day three of shooting the second season. A production car was broken into that was carrying a lot of our camera equipment, and much of it was stolen. Due to budget constraints, we had a very tight schedule and that day we were supposed to shoot with two actors who were in two different Broadway shows. We had to get them out before they had to be at their respective theatres….! From 6 am to 11 am that morning I participated in the most incredible showing of team work and dedication I have ever seen. The entire production team scrambled to get what we needed. We started four hours late and accomplished what we needed to while getting our actors to their Broadway calls on time. I’m exhausted just thinking about it! It was all hands on deck in the most beautiful way and I have never felt more like a team. In terms of favorite episode…. picking a favorite episode is like picking your favorite child! I don’t know if I could do that to my babies. There are still moments in every episode that I laugh out loud at even though I’ve watched it so many times. I guess that’s a pretty good thing.
CM: There are two seasons of “Seeking.” Is a third in the works? Is another web series in your future?
RA: There isn’t a current plan for a Season 3. Many people have asked so I know that there is interest, but I would want to make sure that a Season 3 built on what we were able to do with Season 2. So I’m not saying there will never be one, but I would need to partner with the right production company in order to create the Season 3 of my dreams. So if there is a production company out there or anyone who wants to give us money for a Season 3… feel free to get in touch! Right now I am creating sketch comedy for the web. I have a sketch comedy group called Skitches, I’ve produced some viral sketches with Blavity, and am currently in production for another series of sketches that will be coming out this winter. I love episodic story telling though so am not done with creating web series, I’m just busy with these other projects at the moment.
CM: What is your favorite web series to recommend to a friend?
RA: My friend Donna Lazar’s series Awkward Sunrise inspired me to create my own show and it tickles my funny bone because of just how true to life it is. I love Beth and Charly, created by my super talented friend Shauna Goodgold. I’ve met so many great people in the web series world from going to festivals and have enjoyed watching their many talents manifest themselves into incredible work. I love Acting Dead, Method or Madness, and Plant as well. Check them all out!
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December 15, 2016