Creator Spotlight

On Kindred Spirits, the Benefits of Brevity, & the Next Wave of Web Series

On Kindred Spirits, the Benefits of Brevity, & the Next Wave of Web Series

Carrie V Mullins

November 3, 2016

On Kindred Spirits, the Benefits of Brevity, & the Next Wave of Web Series

We all have that friend; the one who helps you decide what outfit to wear at a party, who stops you from getting too wasted, who tells you to quiet down when you complain about looking fat. In Beth and Charly, a six-part web series hosted on Vimeo, that classic best friend scenario gets a Hollywood twist. Charly is a former child star who’s making her comeback with the aid of a stellar hat and plenty of dramatics. Beth is her ever-supportive friend-slash-assistant who may finally have had enough. The series takes place over the course of one action packed day as Charly attempts to regain fame and Beth threatens to quit — for real.

I had the pleasure to speak with Shauna Goodgold (creator, writer, Charly), Elizabeth Seldin (co-writer, Beth), and Meryl Ballew (producer) about running a female production team, child stars, tarot cards, and the genesis of the title’s hilariously lovable duo.

Carrie Mullins: The relationship between Beth and Charly is the heart of the show. Both the emotional engagement with the characters and the comedy stems from their relationship, which can be tender and funny and mildly abusive. Can you talk a little about how this pair came to you?

Shauna Goodgold: It’s an exaggeration of real life, I’d say (sans abuse). Elizabeth and I met in college and always felt like kindred spirits, but it wasn’t until these past few years that we really became close. We realized we had this entertaining dynamic that stemmed from Elizabeth’s love of spiritual healing (she’s also a reiki practitioner/energy healer) and my constant need for advice. I would find myself in her living room every weekend as she read my tarot cards and I ate all her vanilla wafers. Tarot card readings about boys turned into lengthier conversations about career and life paths. Soon enough, we were not only encouraging each other’s creative endeavors, but also consulting the other on basically everything. We know each other’s tastes in all things from shoes to men, can predict what kind of joke the other will laugh at, and know the other’s response to a question before it’s answered. We relish in that kind of “knowing each other.” You’ll see a smile of satisfaction spread across our faces when we’ve accurately predicted what the other will like, how they’ll respond, or who they’ll swipe right on. So, it really came from that — this mutual delight in being so plugged into each other that we can handle things for them. I was also interested in the idea of a power dynamic, how you’re never quite sure who’s really steering the ship.

I was also interested in the idea of a power dynamic, how you’re never quite sure who’s really steering the ship.

Mullins: I love how the show pokes fun at Hollywood. Within the show, you play with a lot of cliches about actors and the media, both embracing and subverting those stereotypes. Can you talk a little about that? Along those lines, what drew you to this storyline of a former child star trying to make a comeback?

Goodgold: I wanted to peak behind the mask and reveal the reality of show business, how it’s wracked with nepotism, ego, and an obsession with how fat you may look on any given day. Lately, however, there are a lot of actors in leading roles that don’t look like Greek Gods or Goddesses and I really appreciate that and wanted to continue the trend of regular people in the limelight. I always joke that all the cop shows on TV are just a bunch of models with guns, so it’s important to me to give us “normales” opportunities. The child star on a comeback storyline was born from my own life — my mother was a child actor who got her start on the Broadway National Tour of “Wait Until Dark” and I, myself, was auditioning for films as a kid. I’ve always been fascinated by children that grew up in the industry and how they’ve handled our society’s addiction to the spotlight. In a world that treats fame as the most valuable currency, it’s interesting to see who embraces it, who shuns it, who chases after it, and who magicians it.

Mullins: This is a show about women, written and produced by women. There’s been a lot of talk lately about the limits and the pressures faced by women in Hollywood, and I’m curious if you have those same concerns creating and distributing a web series.

Elizabeth Seldin: As a woman, there are struggles no matter what industry you’re in. However, it’s occurred to us our responsibility in creating content as women. In writing the script, we wanted to make sure that, though there’s a lot of commentary on the industry, we promoted women that weren’t necessarily the typical “Hollywood look” — that are strong, beautiful, and raw in their own right. Being conscious of what we’re creating, that it’ll be consumed by friends and strangers alike, we realize that we add to the tapestry of how women are viewed. We are incredibly proud of our team of women producers, writers, and lead actors, and hope that more of us start to crop up throughout the industry because it’s important for women’s voices to be heard.

we promoted women that weren’t necessarily the typical “Hollywood look” — that are strong, beautiful, and raw in their own right

The struggle to get a show picked up isn’t necessarily a “woman’s” struggle because it’s challenging no matter what. There are, however, limits and pressures in what people are willing to take a chance on. The trend of having over-sexualized women in Hollywood with less than compelling story-lines is something that a lot of women producers are actively trying to change, and we are no different. That does, however, mean it’s harder to break in when you don’t fit in a traditional box. Then again, that is how change happens and we are proud to be a part of that change.

Mullins: What are the benefits and challenges of producing a web series?

Meryl Ballew: We wanted to find a way to create a piece that is driven by powerful, smart women, since there is not enough of that in the business currently. Producing our own work allowed for that and gave us an amazing creative outlet. We ran into several challenges during the process, financially as well as some learning curves. It’s not always easy to convince people to invest in you, especially when you are a new face, but we were lucky enough to have built a vast network that truly came together to help. So despite the moments when we thought all was lost, we pulled it off (and I’d like to say beautifully).

Working with short episodes was one of those learning curves I mentioned. Since the producing team comes from a theatre background, working in film brought new excitement and challenges. But the best part of keeping everything brief, is that it allowed us to spend time getting it right and re-working moments. It also allows for an easy flow to our story. The entire series takes place in the course of one day, which is such an interesting concept. Plus, with all the technological advances we have these days, most people don’t have the attention span for full-length features. This gives you a perfect brief moment of entertainment in your day.

the best part of keeping everything brief is that it allowed us to spend time getting it right

Mullins: Overall, how do you see web series fitting into, or changing, the conversation about TV?

Goodgold: I think web series have already had an incredible, albeit saturated, impact on the television space. All you have to do is look at “Broad City,” “High Maintenance,” or “Drunk History” to catch wind of a trend. But, if I’m being honest, I think we have to move on from the traditional “internet proper” web series and look out for the next big: series happening on platforms like Instagram and Snapchat. These companies already have development staff in place creating and curating this kind of content. If memory serves me correctly, Steven Spielberg’s daughter had a Snapchat series a year or so back. So, whether it’s traditional web series or the next wave of whatever, I think networks are getting comfortable with the idea of combing platforms for content that isn’t just quality, but also comes with a built in following.

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