Why I Love the Web Series World

by Cindy Marie Jenkins

About a year and a half ago I started getting really involved in the web series world, then created a site to connect potential audience with shows they might like.

I recently even went so far as to voluntarily watch every single show nominated for an IAWTV Award. From there I found even more shows that I love. Like anything independent, there is a ton of crap and a few that don’t quite make it to their potential. But wow, was I surprised at the gems that I found.

Here are a few great female helmed shows, coincidentally all with a lesbian bent. That is why I love the web series world. How often will you find so many incredibly different shows created by talented women showing their struggles – except perhaps in a play festival? The web series world is very akin to intimate theatre, especially in Los Angeles. Kiss a lot of frogs, you find a prince(ss) or two.

I hope you’ll give some of these shows a chance and let the creators know what you think. Share the ones you really like. Audience voice matters if indie artists are to rise above the mainstream.

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little horriblesMy favorite is Little Horribles. It took me a minute to get it. By it, I mean that it took me a second to sync – or perhaps sink –  into Amy York Rubin’s brain. Once there, it was such a delicious train wreck that I couldn’t stop. When caller i.d. adds “Be Cautious” to the caller’s name, and Rubin still picks up the phone, you know there is drama.

Rubin’s specific brand of comedy makes each episode feel like really great improv, or incredibly relaxed banter. This could be a documentary, the conversations feel so real. Jokes tend to hit from the inside out, sometimes trailing your guts along for the ride.

Take a look. You’ll know within the first two episodes if this is a show for you. And if it is, I guarantee you’ll be a fan for life like me.

Little Horribles (http://LittleHorribles.com) is a Barnacle Studios (http://Barnacle.is) production in collaboration with Issa Rae.
http://LittleHorribles.com
http://twitter.com/LittleHorribles
http://facebook.com/LittleHorribles

Created + Written by Amy York Rubin @ayrubin
Executive Producer: Issa Rae @issarae

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producing julietProducing Juliet is by the same team I discovered last year with their pretty wonderful teen drama Anyone But Me. As its name suggests, many stories circulate around theatre artists. The fact that most of the main relationships are lesbian is just a fact, not a plot point or the butt of jokes like in most mainstream stories (vastly generalizing here). Writer Ward has developed a great craft out of writing for the web. With episodes lasting an average of nine minutes, she wields her ensemble well. We follow certain characters and in the next episode could be taken through the same time frame from a different vantage point which quite literally made me gasp once.

New series from Tina Cesa Ward Executive Producer/Writer/Director of “Anyone But Me” and star of “Anyone But Me” Rachael Hip-Flores.
Visit the website: http://producingjuliet.com/
twitter @ProducingJuliet
facebook: https://www.facebook.com/producingjuliet
tumblr: http://producingjuliet.tumblr.com/
instagram: http://instagram.com/producingjuliet#

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the better half

The Better Half is absolutely delightful. Everyone can relate to these woes and triumphs of being in a relationship, even if you’ve never had to have the “stop instagramming your poop” conversation.

http://thebetterhalfseries.com

https://www.facebook.com/TheBetterHalfWebSeries

https://twitter.com/betterhalfshow

http://instagram.com/thebetterhalfseries

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single never marriedLauren Hamilton pitched me her show as ” a web show about a dating expert who sucks at dating, for your consideration to be reviewed. It stars myself, Lauren Hamilton, and my dog Violet (pic attached)” so I automatically love her.

Watch the first episode of Single, Never Married. I double dog dare you not to love her more.

 

Re-visiting Childhood Love

by Cindy Marie Jenkins

Last Friday was rough. For a lot of reasons. Just a rough day.

And then, surprise! A package came in the mail and it was the Disney dvd of Cinderella, a longtime desire for me to own. Being named cinderella-240-0737dbCindy, Cinderella was an obvious nickname (even though it was longer than my name, so probably doesn’t qualify within the strictest of definitions). I was Cinderella for Halloween, fiercely desired her to be brunette, and the default gifts when no one knew what to get me – Cinderella swag.

My parents even went so far as to commission a Cinderella travelling up the hill to the Prince’s castle cake for their version of my wedding reception. It was a pretty good rendition, even if a little crooked, causing us to speed up dinner so the castle wouldn’t fall before we cut it.

I’d also become really interested in the Cinderella story with recent re-watches of Jim Henson’s The Storyteller, where her name is Sapsorrow. More on that later, but let’s just say I understand why the father is usually minimal if ever in the stories we hear more recently, since they’re almost made to commit incest.

It’s no secret I am stocking up on my movie collection to show my future son or daughter. But now….not so sure.

It’s a perfectly fun little tale as told by Disney, and certainly in line with the time it was made. I remembered of course, that it wasn’t as dark as Sapsorrow, who is almost forced to marry her father, runs away to become a scullery maid in the palace (undercover as an incredibly hairy ‘thing’), meets the Prince first as this creature and teaches him some lessons in true beauty before revealing herself to also be the woman he’s adored these last three nights at the ball.

Sapsorrow below stairs

Sapsorrow below stairs

The Prince in Sapsorrow actually has an arc. As opposed to what’s-his-name-but-yeah-he’s-a-good-dancer. As a viewer of Sapsorrow, I didn’t really like this Prince at first, and

Sapsorrow above stairs

Sapsorrow above stairs

changed my mind as his character changed. That’s brilliant storytelling.

Disney struggled with both the animation and characters of princes in their first movies (Snow White commentary captures this beautifully), and choosing to fluff the story with mice and cats and dogs certainly worked for me as a child. As short as her back-story is in Once Upon a Time, that Cinderella’s motive was more out of the desire to leave her horrid life than love. Disney has the fairy godmother, Sapsorrow has no such thing in Jim Henson’s version, and in OUAT, Ella’s fairy godmother is snuffed out by Rumplestiltskin, causing her to make an oath it seems she never really plans to keep. At that point, she doesn’t even know the Prince will fall in love with her; Ella just thinks one night at a ball will make her feel better about her dreary life.

I just come out of the whole thing much more a Sapsorrow fan than any other. I haven’t even begun to dig into all the versions that Once Upon a Blog details, and for some reason, the Cinderella in Into the Woods didn’t really factor into my thinking on her character. I know that I thoroughly approved of her giving her Prince the door once she heard of his cheating. I never liked stories where someone takes back a cheater, male or female.

I don’t plan on not showing my future child the Disney movie. I just think s/he will see Sapsorrow soon after, or even before watching Disney’s. I remember being scared out of my mind by some of those Jim Henson’s The Storyteller episodes, and also know how they enriched my feelings on fairy tales and telling stories.

Since I love hearing different versions of the same story, I’ll open these variations for discussion if s/he has questions, and encourage us to find more and even write our own stories. I guess it’s never too early to learn that you change the story based on your own point-of-view or audience, or that you have control over stories you want to tell, just by speaking them out loud or picking up a pen.

Inspiration Playlists

by Cindy Marie Jenkins

Hello! It’s been a while. After an incredibly life changing August (turns out I was pregnant the whole summer and didn’t know it – surprise!), and hustling for audience to attend three very different shows (What Kind of God?, Pato, Muerte y Tulipan and Lagrimas de Agua Dulce), I see the light.

So instead of writing once a week, I’m back to waking up early and writing with as little editing as I can humanly handle, until my official work day begins (around 9am). I’m lucky that I created this flexibility for myself, and turns out a proto-person inside you makes you wake up early anyway. That is, when you don’t stay up until 2a.m. re-reading Mists of Avalon. 

Even though working from home provides the ultimate in productivity – the ability to shut email and social media tabs you just can’t handle, or that only serve to make you mad right now – I still need to create the space to write. Usually this involves four important steps:

1. Leaving my phone in the bedroom, on silent.

2. Turning my old school desk calendar over or removing it from writing area entirely.

3. Using headphones even if I am the only one home.

4. My Inspiration Playlists.

I thought I’d share some of the Inspiration Playlists. They are incredibly specific to me and my projects, and meant to be background (once you’ve already watched it). This especially works for me because although I tend to force myself into a writing focused frenzy, I still need a short break once in a while. These specifically curated Inspirations are meant to be there when I need a distraction, then inspire, and drive me into the next phase of the writing cycle.

Please share yours in the comments.

I’ll add more Michael Wood soon, but he’s incredible. Check his varied netflix selection out as well and you’ll see why he was quite the intellectual British heart-throb.

Ursula K. Le Guin. Just magical.

Neil Gaiman. Because Neil Gaiman.

Storyboard is Hit or Miss, but Sooo interesting when it hits. Mary Robinette-Koval is also a puppeteer, so she references playwrights and theatre frequently.

The By Appointment live streams at East LA Rep in this playlist capture some golden artistic kicks in the butt. I’m looking at you, Luis Alfaro and Adelina Anthony.

Art (& Empathy) in a Time of Terror II

Continued from yesterday’s post:

Of course, we know that art matters. Especially – and mostly – those of us who work within it.

Still, it’s difficult to conceive of why I should bust my butt to get people to see a play while Watertown is locked down.

Short-term, all I need to remember are the happy faces of kids who think going to the theatre is fun, and parents relieved to find a place that welcomes families. Not only do they not have to find a babysitter, they can enjoy an experience together.

So that helps. It really does.

Even then, my conflicts usually come to the surface because there has to be something else – bigger, better, that reaches more people – there has to be some faster way to spend my time to create a better world. Right?

Maybe there is. Maybe there isn’t. Maybe I’m in the exact right place to introduce more people to more stories that create empathy in their lives. Marketing has such a bad connotation to it, when in fact I should be called an Audience Ambassador. My job(s) is to find a way to bridge the vast gap between quality family programming and the elusive where the parents are.

(It’s not really so elusive. We know where they are: in schools, in parks, at work, visiting ill family members, volunteering at their school fund-raisers, writing blogs to tell their own stories.)

Last Friday, I had to go to 24th ST Theatre. I had two guests taking photographs of the guest clown rehearsing his performance. As the staff transitioned from a performance space to an arts education/after school space, I worked in the lobby. There something happened which is not unique to this space, but which always manages to get me.

A young kid – 9-11 years-old at the most – saw my MSL (Mars Science Laboratory) sticker on my laptop and asked me about space.

So we talked about it. We talked about robots on Mars and what that teaches us about our own world. We talked about what life means, and why alien life forms may not be anywhere close to human form. Maybe they are. We don’t know yet, and we could find more information in his lifetime.

Then he had to go to After Cool, where the main parts of drama they teach include: expression, public speaking, story-telling and empathy.

Part of my job is to then tell their great stories from class to increase the program’s exposure and maybe funding down the line.

Back after the Newtown shootings, I also had a reason I had to go to work that day. It turned out to save me. I had to go, even though all I wanted to was crawl into my cave and cuddle with my dog.

We had a Parents Night for After Cool. This being my first time, I had no idea what to expect. Students of all ages packed their parents into our space and showed them vignettes of their greatest fears and their greatest hopes.

100_7205

 

The best part: their parents heard them.

Back to last week.

It is incredibly difficult to simultaneously look at to-do list and live stream of a bombing close to where a high school boyfriend told you he loved you. It is difficult to call your parents and want to know they’re okay, want to just hear their voices as you look at this horror, and they need to discuss something else entirely with you.

How can you bug me about calling my grandfather *again* and not being excited enough about good news form the family when THIS IS HAPPENING RIGHT NOW?

That is what I want to scream.

But they don’t know that I just needed to hear their voices over the police scanners and the twitter rumors.

They don’t know that because I don’t tell them.

And what matters to them when they hear from me is to figure out how to ask me to make two phone calls (even when they know I will get mad at the messenger).

And when all I want to do is figure out how to make a better world, I can actually start with my own family.

2 phone calls.

Maybe adults could use a Parents Night just as often as kids lucky enough to be in an after school program.

If I had to tell my parents my greatest fears:

That Dad returned to the Marathon because he missed quality time with his girls and as a result, got caught in the bombings.

My greatest wish:

That I could have the life I love without being 3,000 miles away from the folks who helped me create it.

Empathy has to start somewhere, often closer to home.

Maybe I should start with why I had time to write this blog post but not enough time to make two phone calls.

Next: Clowns and Hope

Art in a Time of Terror

It’s hard for me to justify plodding along with all of my work on a day like last Monday. The Boston Marathon was an annual trip with my father and sister, walkman buds in our little years, switching radio stations between the race and our latest music tastes.

Then of course remembering that attacks like this happen all over the world every day and this one just happened to be in my hometown.

snoopy

 

Life moves on, and “Tragedy Social Media Plan” was implemented among my clients. The fact that I even have such a thing depressed me.

Yet there was still work to do.

There always is.

[to be continued….]

The Suits

Whenever I need to refer to those on high with the money and power to make business decisions in a creative industry, they are THE SUITS.

I’m sure you can think of a few.

Last week for my monthly Bechdel Test Talk (which originated on this blog), we took the SAG Award nominees, the Independent Spirit Awards nominees for Best Picture, and the IAWTV (International Academy of Web TV) Winners to see how they stacked up against the Bechdel Test.

When I have more energy, I’ll update this with the score for the SAG Winners.

Normally, we don’t ‘score’ based on the Bechdel Test; we use it as a starting point for deeper discussions on how it affects our audiences and thus society.

For this Broadcast, however, scores seemed appropriate:

YES – MAYBE/DUBIOUS – NO

SAG AWARDS

SCORE: 2-7-5

 

INDEPENDENT SPIRIT AWARDS (Best Picture Nominees only)

SCORE: 1-2-2

 

IAWTV Winners

SCORE: # of shows 7-1-4
# of awards 12-2-6

See full lists below.

Shocker, as Co-Host Etta Devine stated. When there’s a lower barrier to entry (Whether The Suits, or the numerous people in -between, or society itself), Where most entertainment (web TV) is self-produced, The Bechdel Test flies high above the rest.

Methinks it’s time to show The Suits why creativity breeds quality.

There is far more diversity in the Web Series World as well, and not just in neat little boxes easily consumed by any audience. Some suggestions: My Gimpy LifeOut With DadThe Unwritten RulesBreaking Point and there are so many more but I can’t think of them past midnight. Follow Web Series Watch’s blog for news and recommendations (yes, that is my own web series and I’m too tired to disguise self-promotion either – besides, frick it. I’m proud of it.).

Watch our nifty 30-minute Broadcast to hear why some of the movies are dubious. Silver Lining Playbook, anyone? Full list and links we mention after the video.

Special special I love you forever thanks to Etta Devine & Caroline Sharp who join me on this adventure every month.

 

LA Times Story: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/envelope/moviesnow/la-et-mn-sundance-2013-women-lag-men-even-in-independent-film-study-finds-20130120,0,712589.story
Ted Hope’s Blog: http://hopeforfilm.com/?p=8838

SAG AWARDS

SCORE: 2-7-5
yes:
The Paperboy
Les Miserables

dubious:
Flight
Argo
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Zero Dark Thirty
Skyfall

trouble seeing film:
Rust and Bone
The Impossible

no:
Lincoln
Hitchcock
Silver Linings Playbook
The Master
The Sessions

INDEPENDENT SPIRIT AWARDS

SCORE: 1-2-2
yes
Moonrise Kingdom

dubious
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Keep the Lights On

no
Bernie
Silver Linings Playbook

IAWTV Winners

SCORE: # of shows 7-1-4
# of awards 12-2-6

yes
Best Comedy Series – Squaresville
Best Ensemble Performance – Squaresville

Best Drama Series – Leap Year
Best Writing (Comedy) – Squaresville – Matt Enlow
Best Costume Design – The League of S.T.E.A.M. – The League of S.T.E.A.M.
Best Makeup/Special Effects – The League of S.T.E.A.M. – The League of S.T.E.A.M.
Best Design (Art Direction/Production) – Continuum – Eric Whitney – computer voice
Best Editing – Continuum – Blake Calhoun
Best Directing (Comedy) – My Gimpy Life – Sean Becker
Best Female Performance (Comedy) – My Gimpy Life – Teal Sherer Teal
Best Directing (Drama) – Anyone But Me – Tina Cesa Ward (but it’s complicated in a good way)
Best Interactive/Social Media Experience – The Lizzie Bennet Diaries

maybe
Best Original Music – Cost of Capital – Rob Gokee
Best Male Performance (Comedy) – The Jeff Lewis 5-Minute Comedy Hour – Jeff Lewis – Poker Episode ?
Best Visual Effects (Digital) – H+ The Digital Series – Faction Creative and The Sequence Group: VFX Supervisor Ian Kirby; Digital Effects Supervisor Chris van Dyck; VFX Producer Caleb Bouchard

no
Best Animated Series – Red vs. Blue
Best Cinematography – H+ The Digital Series – Brett Pawlak – up to Episode 12. silent conversation probably about work between two women in Episode 13.
Best Female Performance (Drama) – Blue – Julia Stiles – Blue
Best Male Performance (Drama) – The Booth at the End, Season 2 – Xander Berkeley – Lead
Best Writing (Drama) – The Booth at the End, Season 2 – Christopher Kubasik
Best Supplemental Content – Red vs. Blue

Alpha Beta

I just read this article, through a tweet from Etta Devine. It is truly not to be believed.

“I don’t want to publish reviews of films where women are alpha and men are beta.

where women are heroes and villains and men are just lesser versions or shadows of females. 

i believe in manliness.” 

Read in full:

http://blogs.suntimes.com/foreignc/2012/11/post-2.html

Video interview w/ Jen Bloom: Dramatizing the Complexities of an Abusive Relationship

Talk with Santa Monica Rep’s Director & Actor

“Love Story, Tragedy or Epic Tale of Survival?:
Dramatizing the Complexities of an Abusive Relationship

Mid-run of How I Learned to Drive, there will be a post show talk back with Gail Myers, MFT, a therapist panel and director Jen Bloom
Should this story be onstage? In 1997, Paula Vogel’s play How I Learned to Drive showed us how empathy and pedophilia can exist in the same conversation, and that storytelling as a form of reclaiming memories can be a tool towards self-empowerment. Ms. Vogel stated that she didn’t want her audiences to know before coming to the theater what the story was about, that she wanted them to “take a ride they didn’t know they were taking.” This Saturday, Santa Monica Rep will host an all female panel of three child and family therapists who work with sexual abuse trauma cases to facilitate an audience talk-back after the play. Join a discussion around the actual facts and gray areas of child sexual abuse and PTSD. Weigh in on whether or not you think this kind of story should be on stage and why or why not, and what are the responsibilities of the audience and the theater maker about supporting, producing or attending this type of potentially dangerous traumatic content. This should be a fascinating and provocative evening of theater and discussion. The conversations around the show have already been illuminating; audiences have stayed in the theater and spoken in small informal groups about their reactions and artistic/therapeutic concerns every night for almost an hour. Read more about the panel discussion after the performance on Nov 17 at 8pm.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=alFtPqYKvjU]

The Bechdel Test Talks continued

The Bechdel Test Talks began HERE, on LA FPI, in June.

Now a monthly series where my co-hosts and I look at various types of entertainment through the lens of The Bechdel Test. Etta Devine & Caroline Sharp join me every month!

The Bechdel Test asks 3 basic questions for every story (originally applied to film):

1. Is there more than 1 female character (with a name)?

2. Do they talk to each other?

3. About anything besides men?

These perimeters are not meant to be judgement calls, but simply starting points for discussion.

Today at 4pm PT, we’ll discuss Fantasy & Science Fiction!

[Video link available at 3:55pmPT]

Watch Bechdel Test Talk Ep3: Children’s Stories

Watch Bechdel Test Talk Ep4: Who’s Breaking the Gender Glass Ceiling?

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See the full schedule

Subscribe to YouTube
http://bit.ly/theCMJstoriesBLOG

Facebook.com/theCMJstories

Don’t miss a segment @CindyMarieJ

Fringing With Form 3: Silken Veils

the poster we mention in first video

Leila Ghazvani has infectious energy. In the really awesome way.

I met her last May (also at Indy Convergence, which may be a coincidence or just proof at how awesome it is) and was sad to hear she didn’t still live in Los Angeles. She worked until the wee hours, waiting until the very last minute, literally, sometimes prying her work away from hands while staff had to lock the doors.

She explores stories and form with puppets. Don’t be fooled by the puppets that look familiar in this screenshot. She demos how materials and hands alone act out her stories.

 

 

 

 

 

Here is a check-in I had with her last Monday on Silken Veils, which she’ll present at the Philly Fringe Festival in September.

Follow her in Facebook and at her website.

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