K&A is the story of Karly and Alex, two best friends from college who are making a bumpy, co-dependant foray into adult life. The comedy mines familiar twenty-something struggles (day drinking, drugs, STD tests) while adding refreshing twists. For example, the show eschews Brooklyn for Boston — it was filmed around the city from Somerville to South Boston to Beacon Hill — and instead of falling into one of television’s common sexuality silos where everyone on a show is either heterosexual or LGBTQ, K&A portrays both. (Karly is straight and Alex is a lesbian.)
I spoke with Katie Shannon, the series creator, and Audrey Claire Johnson, the show producer who also plays Karly, about filming a web series in their hometown, ignoring gender qualifiers, and how to make the most out of crowdfunding.
Carrie Mullins: Your team has done improv, films, theater — why do a web series, and how did you come up with the premise for K&A?
Audrey Claire Johnson: New England and my city of Boston are both home to great talent in front of the camera and behind the scenes. Katie Shannon, Mike Madden, and I each had an enormous number of colleagues we wanted to put together on one project selected from our past experience working in different mediums. Having all of those beautiful people under one umbrella, K&A, we knew we had something that was collaborative, comprehensive, and out there for the Internet/world to see. Thank fuck people think that it’s funny too! Our city itself is a ridiculous and hysterical place to live and work, and K&A is a genuine show relatable to New Englanders, young adults, and anyone looking for a safe place to laugh at friendships and relationships.
Katie Shannon: I think doing this web series was an opportunity to bring all these actors from different walks of life onto one platform. Doing a web series gives you the freedom to put all your ideas out there, no matter what they are, because you are never censored and I think we all love having the opportunity to do that. I always related to the show Sex in they City with its openness about sex and friendships, and I wanted to create something in the same realm. I think the show is an honest portrayal of best friends who don’t hide anything from each other. I also felt the importance of having LGBTQ characters on the show and having them represented in a way that we don’t normally see.
CM: The show is hilarious — it’s also ballsy and unexpected. What’s it like to be females writing that kind of comedy?
ACJ: We are filmmakers and comedians working in the genre of original narrative content, and this question is exactly why we feel so strongly about making the world of K&A. Women writing, directing, performing, and producing comedy is not “unexpected,” but more accurately misunderstood and under-supported in the medium. This show empowers me, our collaborators, and new artists to try their voice without patronizing or minimalizing parameters. What we are doing with K&A in Boston is precisely the same as what male and/or mainstream comedy shows are doing without this qualifier attached about gender. Spoiler alert: female comedy and new comedic voices will only become more magnified as platforms online begin to fund our type of shows.
Spoiler alert: female comedy and new comedic voices will only become more magnified as platforms online begin to fund our type of shows
KS: I don’t think any of us think to ourselves when we are writing that we are female writers writing this kind of comedy. We are just writers that are writing a world that we relate to. I agree with Audrey in the fact that women are more underrepresented in general, not just in front of the camera, but behind as well. I’m very proud of the fact that this show was created by a woman, we have two female leads, three women executive producers, and a supporting cast that is full of women as well. Besides Sex in the City, I love shows like It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia which never apologize for their overt crudeness sometimes. That’s how I view K&A.
CM: What were the biggest challenges or most unexpected aspects of producing the show?
KS: I think with anything in the film world, finances is the most challenging part. We made season 1 on a very small budget, but to me the final product never suffered. The Boston film community may be smaller than some, but it’s very tight knit and we have found very talented people to work on the show. That always helps when there are budget constraints. Producing this show in a sense has been a dream come true because I get to work and direct some of the most talented people out there in comedy. We get to give Boston comedians a voice and show off how talented we are in this city.
We get to give Boston comedians a voice and show off how talented we are in this city
ACJ: Honestly Boston and New England is super supportive and generous to independent filmmakers. The Massachusetts Film Office encourages big budget productions to shoot here. Also all the independent groups in New Hampshire and Vermont offer grants, generous location agreements, and promotional tie-ins. Funding has been an issue to create the nut-busting life for K&A in Season 2, but we did a bang-up job on Season 1 with an extremely low budget. I can’t say enough about the community here; from individuals on our crew who donate their time to local indie companies who support our message. I believe K&A reaches out to viewers online who feel a personal connection to the characters, the story, and the place that they know and love.
CM: We’ve seen a lot of filmmakers use crowd-sourcing to fund their show, and you’re doing an Indiegogo campaign to fund K&A season 2. What has that process been like? Do you have any tips for filmmakers who are looking to fundraise this way?
KS: It’s a full time job! Crowdfunding is a lot work, but for us we found it necessary. Season 1 never would have happened without it, and how it is used keeps evolving. We as the creators get to keep the integrity of the show and will never have any restraints. In return people get to donate to a show they love and care about and get to see these characters evolve. My advice for crowdfunding is to know your audience and who are you targeting….and be very, very annoying on social media!
We as the creators get to keep the integrity of the show and will never have any restraints. In return people get to donate to a show they love and care about and get to see these characters evolve.
ACJ: I think it’s a necessary tool for burgeoning creatives who have a solid foundation of training and network to get their foot in the door, or a step, or realize they have a foot at all. Realistically, it’s going to create many more options to go the crowd-funding route in the next five years with niche-based sites. Moving forward, I hope more credit is given to those first timers who work wonders with relatively little backing and then the happy investors, sponsors, and backers come rolling in. We’re part of a second-wave graduate class who started a “web series” and now are “original content creators,” so I’m looking forward to seeing this medium evolve! Who knows what the hip kids will be calling us when we hit Season 3!
CM: Are there any web series would you recommend?
KS: I was a huge fan of High Maintenance when it was a web series, F to 7th I love as well, and Awkward Black Girl I think is a great example of how you don’t need the biggest budget in the world as long as the content is done well.
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February 16, 2017