She’s been a radio dynamo, PBS producer, and Ivy League faculty. Her films have screened at Sundance and the American Film Institute. Now the go-go creative force behind Hannah Free and Jamie and Jesse Are Not Together takes on the wild new world of the web series with Easy Abby, a dark comedy and romance about a lesbian libertine who meets her match.
Tell me about your web series, Easy Abby.
Easy Abby is a funny, sexy, smart web series that follows the day-to-day life of 31-year-old Abby Walker, a Chicago lesbian who has never been in love and doesn’t want to be! It’s about seduction, friendship, anxiety, and crappy communication.
You’ve worked with lots of different forms of media. How did you decide to make a web series?
I’ve made many short films and it’s a fun challenge to try and engage viewers and make an impression in seven minutes or less. I met Lisa Cordileone through actress Fawzia Mirza, who plays Bobbie in the series, and there was something about Lisa that inspired the character and the story. I really listen to my gut instincts when casting and developing story ideas, so I asked Lisa if she wanted to work with me on a series and then we just kept sparking each other until it became the romantic dark comedy that it wanted to become.
What challenges and advantages have you discovered working with this new mode of storytelling?
It’s exciting to keep creating Abby‘s story knowing it will be viewed as a television series online, which means having much more distribution options plus immediate international exposure for the show. The format also allows me more creative freedom as a writer than a feature film does, in terms of the timeline logic and the ability to improvise or change elements for future episodes without having to integrate those episode changes into the entire season. I get to write each episode as a stand-alone situation or environment while maintaining the overall emotional mood and theme.
You’ve become an influential figure in filmmaking, even earning praise from fussy film critic Roger Ebert. What has it been like to work in that field as a lesbian?
I think filmmaking as a career and a craft is pretty difficult for most of us who have the passion and skills but don’t have a lot of financial resources or cultural support, and this is regardless of gender or orientation. It sure would be lovely to have the U.S. government support original independent voices [in] places like Australia, Britain and Canada all do. That being said, I think I’m seen as a “woman filmmaker” first and then as a “lesbian filmmaker” when the work features lesbian characters. I have a lot of stories I want to tell that feature women of all ages and class identities. Being seen as a lesbian filmmaker is fine with me and it is very beneficial for marketing to that niche, but I’d rather be seen as a good filmmaker and storyteller. My goal is to mix it up and direct films with straight protagonists that will draw in more mainstream viewers but within the films there will be queer characters and a queer personal perspective.
Can you tell me a bit about your new media literacy project, Chicks Make Flicks?
Chicks Make Flicks was a program I developed for teen women to learn hands-on filmmaking skills, personal storytelling practices and how to watch and analyze mainstream media where representation of gender and objectification is concerned. I’m currently seeking funding so I can bring the program to smaller cities in the country, where it’s even harder for young women to get access to these tools and ideas.