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THANK GOD FOR RED LIGHTS! February 20, 2010

Posted by therealgirlsguide in Blog.
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So, here we are! It’s been approximately a year and a half since Reena Dutt, Jen Weaver, myself and our band of unruly theatre folk began this journey together to do something none of us had done before: produce a relatively high-production-value web series with no cash in the bank …and I thought it was time to start documenting the process (because an experience doesn’t really happen unless one blogs, tweets and facebook-friends the hell out of it. Right? Right.)

So, it was about a year and half ago that I woke up with a chick-flick hangover (or maybe it was the overpriced cocktails I’d drunk to get me through the flick-in-question the night before) and started writing the script.  I was supposed to meet with my “Actors Support Group” for breakfast (yes, it’s like AA only everyone shows up with hangovers and talks too loud). As I drove to meet them, an idea started percolating. I started jotting down notes at red lights. And then when I got to the diner where we met every Sunday I found that EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM BOOZE-LOVIN ACTORS HAD BAILED. And I was pissed… but then secretly glad. And I started driving back home, again jotting down notes along the way. Thank God for red lights.

About a month later I showed the script to my fellow Off-Chance producers (Reena Dutt, Jen Weaver and Luis Reyes) to see if this would be something they’d be interested in taking on. The four of us had started Off-Chance the previous year and produced an original collaborative play together, Anatomy of a Slap, and we all really liked working together. Luckily, they not only said “yes,” they proceeded to throw themselves into pre-production mode with zeal. Pushing me to make the script the best it could be, always challenging me to think on a grander scale then I would have left to my own devices, and to not just settle for the first opportunity that came along.

The production meetings started. We started work-shopping the script with actors. We began our fundraising efforts with the help of Luis’ band Jacaranda and an insanely fun “Live Karaoke Fundraiser”… and we started hitting up everybody we knew for contributions. And in $10-$20 increments we started getting closer to our goal.

And then it was about a year ago that we found our awesome director, Heather de Michele (a seasoned NY theatre director and the queen of physical comedy… who we instantly fell madly in love with)…our brilliant DP Rob Webb (who has a collection of gold statuettes on his mantel but was still willing to work with us for peanuts because he dug the story) …and started on the audition process where we found the fabulous Nikki Brown (Vanna) as well as many other talented folks from LA’s Theatre of Note…and the unbelievably awesome Robin Daléa (Rasha) who randomly responded to a casting notice…walking straight out of my imagination and into the audition room.

Then last June  – we shot it. Thirteen actors, seven days, seven locations, six pairs of hooker heels, five burqas and one part not cast until the night before – later… and we had ourselves a webseries. Or rather lots of raw footage to hand over to our excellent post team, Geeta Malik (editor), Bill Coy (sound editor) and composers Jason Olsen and Ronobir Lahiri. And our co-producer Steven Calcote who joined us last fall, cutting our trailer and helping with a myriad of details from promotions to arranging our screening.

I like to mark my life by looking back and seeing where I was one year ago from the day. Last year today I was totally freaked out.  I didn’t know where the money was going to come from to pull this off, I didn’t know where I was going to find half of these locations (yeah, some delusional writer girl who had spent most of her life writing fiction had set several scenes in Afghanistan), and where on earth would we find a crew that could pull this off with no real budget to speak of? Oh, and all of whom work for a living, which always makes things a bit more tricky.

And now I know…it takes a team. It takes a Reena and Jen and a Luis and Steven, a Heather and a Rob, and about 25 other people who were willing to work for free or cheap because they believed in the story we wanted to tell, because it was THEIR story on some level.  It takes actors who are more than actors…who are also location scouts and PR writers; it takes producers who are also caterers and graphic designers and costume designers and art directors. It takes a director who is willing to a have a film crew in her bedroom and to make tamales with the ingredients that the actors were cutting up in the scene prior that she serves to the crew when we’re done. It takes a male DP who loves feminist theory and a production coordinator that who has already taken care of that totally crucial detail that you totally spaced – that could bring the whole thing down.

And where are we now? Today we launched Episode 2 of The Real Girl’s Guide to Everything Else on Strike.TV. This has been a magical journey for all of us…and we hope that it brings you the same delight and feeling of empowerment… that by changing the kind of stories we tell, maybe just maybe we can also change the world we live in.

xo-Carmen

February 5, 2010

From the Writer/Excutive producer…

The Real Girl’s Guide to Everything Else was born of a classic “Girls Night” out, complete with overpriced cocktails and a chick flick. My friends Reena Dutt (Sydney) and Vivian Nickerson (the inspiration for the character of Vanna) and I had finally succumbed to the hype and ventured out to see the movie version of Sex and the City. Afterwards we got into a discussion about “chick flicks” and “chick-literature” and whether or not this genre really represented us. Where were the women of color? Where were the women who read books (besides self-help and romances)? Where were the women who had better things to do than max out their credit card, trying to find Mr. Right in a mad-quest to procreate before menopause? Where were the women who didn’t fantasize about their wedding day, but rather their first Fresh Air interview with Terry Gross? (Okay, maybe that’s just me…) The common thread in “Chick lit” is the character of “the Modern Day Career Girl.” She’s smart, independent (usually white), and yet ultimately too clever for her own good. A sucker for Mr. Wrong and ridiculously expensive footwear, we see her again and again as she longs for only mildly contemporized Cinderella-Happy-Endings. Reena, Vivian and I were discussing all of this …and I said “well, somebody should write a series for everybody else.” We began brainstorming. It could be a series for women of color, and lesbians, and lesbians of color and lesbians of color who shop at Ross and who don’t shave their armpits! Reena and Vivian turned to me and said, “Well, why don’t YOU write it, Carmen?” I thought about it and replied…”yeah – and maybe I could play the token white girl!” The next morning I got to work.

-Carmen Elena Mitchell

From the Director…

I was drawn to this project because I feel there is a dearth of unapologetic feminist writing and intelligent female characters on TV. I wanted to be involved in directing stories that challenge perceptions of the way women talk, act and feel. Real Girl’s takes the lesbian protagonist, Rasha, on a hilarious journey in a straight girl’s shoes in order to placate an agent who refuses to publish her politically charged feminist writings. However, Rasha is a woman with a mission and she soon finds a way to use her undercover experiences to their fullest advantage. The Real Girl’s Guide to Everything Else is written for the person who wants see stories about women who succeed with their brains not their butts, but who don’t mind making an ass of themselves in the meantime!
– Heather de Michele

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