Web Series Crush-o-the-Week: THE POWER OBJECT July 17, 2011Posted by therealgirlsguide in Blog, interviews, new media, news, social media, Uncategorized, Web Series.
Tags: 30 Rock, animation, comedy, female, Firehouse Dog, Girl Trash, interview, Michael Colleary, Mike Werb, new media, Sarah Silverman, The Power Object, Tina Fey, web series, women
Long before Bridesmaids hit the scene there were funny, raunchy chicks doing it DIY-style on the web. Although Claire-Dee Lim’s The Power Object – a new web series about three ladies who discover a magical vibrator — launched just last month, the idea began buzzing years ago.
Originally conceived of as a live-action feature back in 2003, the script peaked the interest of some major studios and led to Lim’s first big feature gig, Firehouse Dog (co-written with Mike Werb and Michael Colleary). Still, at the time, The Power Object was was a “no go” — seen as a bit too “risqué” and “out there.” (Whatever THAT means… what does that mean? And why doesn’t it seem to apply to male writers like Judd Apatow or Trey Parker and Matt Stone?)
But a lot has changed in the last eight years, as evidenced by films like Bridesmaids and female-created TV shows like 30 Rock and The Sarah Silverman Program. And the web is packed with serials that go far beyond the usual dating and retail commiseration comedies. Some of my favorite examples are gritty, girl-centric comedies like Girl Trash, Self Storage, Ylse, that give the viewer a more expansive version of girl culture. Even in the year since Real Girls launched, we’ve gone from being told that we’re too “niche” (aka: not marketable to the coveted 13-34 white male demo) to making the studio circuit as a viable commercial entity.
Still, the fight ain’t over yet. According to a 2010 report by the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State, women account for only 27% of all creators, executive producers, producers, directors, writers, editors, and directors of photography in broadcast television. This is still better than film where women hold down only 16% of these jobs (at least among the 250 top grossing films).
But it does mean that the tide is turning, and that women (and men) are responding favorably to smart, female-centric material (so far Bridesmaids is number 7 in the top grossing films of 2011). My arts-school economic theory is this: first we have to buy it, and then they’ll start to make it. So get out there and support some awesome girl-powered entertainment today! Let’s show’m what sells….
And now for my interview with the awesomely talented Claire-dee Lim… (Oh and did I mention that all the actors are DOLLS? I did not? Eat your heart out Barbie!!!)
CDL: The series came out of my desire to tell a story that blended all my favorite things: the friendship aspect of SEX AND THE CITY, the fun, supernatural bits of BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER and my love for wish fulfillment stories. Having one’s dreams come true is sweet and wonderful but when it all goes pear shaped, that can be so much more interesting. I first wrote the screenplay then later adapted it into the series.
RGG: I love the fact that you not only created custom dolls, but that they interact with regular size objects like cell phones and hamburgers. How did this come about?
CDL: It didn’t start out with dolls. The initial conception was to make a Flash cartoon. Ten years ago, I had made a goofy and barely animated 4-part Flash cartoon called GAMEGIRL—about a hotshit girl gamer who enters a tournament—so I thought I would do something similar in style and longer in length. After I had recorded and edited the voice tracks, I attempted to draw the backgrounds but quickly realized I was in over my head because of my limited drawing skills, so I decided to bring in some real illustrators. That’s when I met the incredibly talented artist Jean Kang. She informed me that drawing and animating 45 minutes of material between the two of us would take forever. We kicked around more simplified ideas like using sock puppets, inspired by the MTV show SIFL & OLLY, which was hilarious by the way, and the doll idea evolved from there.
RGG: Why did you decide to go the web-route with this?
CDL: When the show was conceived a few years ago, the web was exploding again with content and I knew self-distributing on it was an opportunity not to let slip. Plus the series is suited for the web—5-minute episodes which will hopefully appeal to that vast global audience that likes kooky content.
RGG: Can you tell me a little bit about the progression from screenplay to web series?
CDL: Adapting the screenplay into the series involved simplifying the story as much as possible. So after whacking out a few subplots, forty-five minutes of material was left. That was broken up into nine episodes of approximately five minutes with all of them ending on a cliffhanger. Narration was added to help bridge the scenes and add that omniscient character, who also plays off the scene. Even after all the story trimming, I was still left with so many scenes, characters and locations—production seemed daunting at times.
RGG: Do you think movies like Bridesmaids are making room for a new type of “girl comedy?”
CDL: I hope so! BRIDESMAIDS proved that audiences will respond to female-driven stories that are funny, honest, emotional and raunchy—in other words, comedies about real women and the shit they have to deal with. And it paves the way for more.
RGG: Where does something like The Power Object fit into that conversation?
If I had a magic vibrator, I’d wish for THE POWER OBJECT to be perceived in the same vein. The goal was to tell a story which is also about some of the issues–like career, marriage, family, romance–which women go through. I attempted to do that in a funny, heartfelt and wacky way but with dolls.
RGG: What was the most challenging part of this process?
CDL: Learning all the editing and music composing software and overcoming technical hurdles like bit rate compression, and don’t get me started on all the lighting and green tests I had to do! That stuff is hard and as you can see from the show I still haven’t mastered it. Fortunately, there are plenty of 14-year-old geeks who are happy to share their knowledge and tutorials on YouTube. I salute them.
CDL: The best part about working with dolls is that they were so amenable to the most egregious working conditions. I never had to provide call sheets, bathroom breaks or food! I could shoot whenever and however I wanted. They never bitched when I turned them into projectiles. I love that about them.
RGG: Did you have any puppeteering experience before you started?
CDL: None at all. I did however watch lots of puppet shows as a kid and was mad for marionettes. And let’s not forget THE MUPPETS. I did play with dolls and like most girls staged elaborate dramas so I’m sure some of that experience was incorporated into the series.
RGG: Do you feel like you’ve personally experienced any unique challenges that come from being a woman, or a “woman of color” in this industry?
CDL: So far the most unique challenge I had was co-writing FIREHOUSE DOG with Mike Werb and Michael Colleary. For the record, they are dear friends and gifted writers. They’ve also been writing partners for forever so they have their own rhythm and process, which I was enfolded into. Let’s just say that my creative process was a tad different than theirs, which is to gross each other out during every working moment! Now, I like to think I can keep up in the raunchy department but clearly I was outnumbered. It was relentless—we were writing a family movie for god’s sake! Then when I’m all focused, writing an emotional scene where the lead kid character is concerned that his firefighter dad’s been killed in a blaze, unbeknownst to me, they’re putting alligator clips in my hair! I know it was all in good fun and they were just excited to have someone else to torment instead of each other. But sometimes, it was a bit juvenile.
RGG: …if so, how did you handle them?
CDL: I resorted to juvenile girl behavior. I screamed and hit them with my water bottle–the only effective method for teasing boys. Seriously, working with them was a lot of fun and taught me so much about story structure and how to write action mean, lean and clean.
RGG: Was this your first time producing?
CDL: When living in San Francisco, I had worked for an industrial production company so I had production managed and produced many projects. I had also produced my own indie videos and films. It’s highly rewarding putting a project together and getting it done. Getting back into it with the series, reminded me how much I missed doing it. That’s why I’m keeping the producing momentum going with a live-action female revenge thriller called STEALING FACES. My producing partner Jackie Cruz and I are in the talent packaging and funding stage.
RGG: Can you tell us a little bit about your background as a writer?
CDL: My father Paulino Lim, Jr. is a novelist and English professor, and a huge inspiration. When I was young, he always encouraged me to tell my own stories and write them down. So I did. He’d read what I wrote, and besides correcting my grammar, his critical eye taught me how to use the precision of words to convey ideas. He also advocated exploring my own voice and not self-censoring, which can be a mistake for any writer. That early influence is probably why I’ve written some of the things I have.
I really didn’t focus on screenwriting until after film school. And it took a long time and a lot of poorly written scripts till I learned how to write a screenplay that was entertaining and well crafted.
RGG: Do you have any advice for first time web series creators?
CDL: If one can, complete the entire series before releasing it. Everyone says “content is king” on the web, well, in my observation so is consistency. If it takes weeks before another episode is up, viewers can forget you just because there’s so much other stuff to see.
I’d also advise creators to maximize what they’ve got. Make something unique and entertaining out of limited resources rather than attempting something that’s beyond their time and money. Offer a different experience, maybe one you don’t get watching TV. And that’s why I think creating online content is so exciting—one gets the opportunity to innovate.
RGG: What are your future plans for the series?
CDL: Right now I’m focused on how the series is received. Will the cyberuniverse watch it and be entertained? And if they are, then I’ve got a few ideas ready to go. And the dolls, well, they’re always ready for their close-up.