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Web Series Crush-o-the-Week: THE POWER OBJECT July 17, 2011

Posted by therealgirlsguide in Blog, interviews, new media, news, social media, Uncategorized, Web Series.
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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!!!)


RGG: Where did the initial inspiration for the series come from?

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.

RGG: How is working with dolls different from working with people?

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.

Hello Tello! December 22, 2010

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So it’s been a while since my last post, and I thought it was time to get ya up-to-date on all things Real Girls

The latest cool happening is that now our entire 1st season is officially downloadable! TelloFilms, “a venue for films made by for/by/or about lesbians,” just launched the “premium content” section of their site, which means that now you can download Real Girls (and other awesome shows like Brunch With Bridget and 3-Way) directly on to your hard drive! (Check us out in the Tello Store HERE)

BUT WHY (you may ask… in a cheesy announcer voice…)WOULD YOU WANT TO DOWNLOAD SOMETHING YOU CAN GET FOR FREE?

A.) Way better quality! You don’t have worry about things like “buffering” or random attacks of pixilation…which will make your next network board meeting presentation about how smart, sassy feminist web shows are all the rage (and why shows like Real Girls need to be on TV) go MUCH more smoothly.

B) Even if corporate greed destroys our digital our way of life, YOU will have your own copy of Real Girls to pass along to your grandkids as you reminisce about the glory days of the Internet! (Not that we will EVER let that happen, right?)

C) It’s super cheap ($.99 an episode)! Plus, 80% of that will go back to US and will allow us to make more Real Girls (imagine a whole shit-kicking army of fierce, fun-lovin’ feminists)! And the other 20% goes back to Tellofilms, an awesome girl-powered startup, that’s helping to make Lesbian-centric content not only visible, but also viable.

ALSO, Tellofilms has introduced a monthly subscription option for “exclusive content” you can’t see anywhere else and will be launching their original series Cow Girl Up in January.  Lots of cool stuff on there that’s free too, so be sure to check’m out at http://tellofilms.com/.

BUT BACK TO US…and the question of what the hell we’ve been up to…

VIRTUAL LESBIAN LOOKS. Back in October Real Girl Reena Dutt (“Sydney”) spoke at the University of Arizona on a panel featuring Real Girls (alongside Anyone But Me and Girl Trash) about the exciting trend of independent lesbian-centric shows online.

ALHLIVE. In November, the cast of Real Girls was featured on a LIVE video podcast. In this 40 minute interview lead by Seattle-based journalist Lawrence Haskins (which included live Q &A with viewers) we covered everything from the feminist revolution in new media…to farts…. to “junior cougars” (huh? what? Just WATCH IT ALREADY!=)).

MORE INTERVIEWS!  In the “other-web-series-we-love-department,” we have interviews coming up with web pioneer, Yuri Baranovsky (Break a Leg), “Office” writer and web-creator Anthony Farrell (Dwelling), as well as our own Nikki Brown (producer and star of Sheroes) and Kai Soremekun (creator of Chick) about why Female Superheroes are taking over the web! So stay tuned…

OFF-CHANCE PRODUCTIONS. And finally, as to what the hell have we been doing for the last month while you have been blogless?  Our mama company Off-Chance Productions has been busy, busy…

Our critically acclaimed stage play, The Limitations of Genetic Technology, just closed to sold out audiences! And we just wrapped 2 shorts….SAT I (written by and starring Real Girl, Reena Dutt) and Eat, Dream, Play, Shit, Die (written by Luis Arturo Reyes and directed by ME).

Also, we just found out that our play, Shaheed: The Dream and Death of Benazir Bhutto (written by and starring Real Girl Anna Khaja), has been nominated for TWO Ovation awards!

And you thought we were just sitting here braiding our toe hair.

So, have some kickass holidays! And thanks for all your love and support throughout the year!

We seriously could not have done any of this with out you!

WE. LOVE. YOU.

-Carmen

Carmen slutting it up with Santa...some time in the '90s.

REAL GIRLS on ALHLive November 10th! November 3, 2010

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Next Wednesday (11/10) A. Lawrence Haskins from ALHLive will be interviewing Charles Malik Whitefield (The Guardian, The Temptations), Michael Ralph (Bernie Mac, Blow), our friend Don Wallace (Blue, Resurrection Blvd) and, of course…US!

Check out the trailer for the event:

We’ll be live at 10 am PST.  Live Q&A with viewers following the interview. See ALHLive.com for details.

xo-Carmen

The Real Girls Guide to Everything Else – Season 2 is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. Contributions in behalf of The Real Girls Guide to Everything Else – Season 2 are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law. Click HERE to contribute to Season 2!

An Update on Real Girls Season 2… November 2, 2010

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The Real Girls Guide to Everything Else – Season 2 is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization. Contributions in behalf of The Real Girls Guide to Everything Else – Season 2 are tax-deductible to the extent permitted by law. Click HERE to contribute to Season 2!

You make Real Girls a reality. xo-The Real Girls


Drinking the Social Media Kool-Aid October 29, 2010

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Before the launch of Real Girls back in February, Twitter was something I knew relatively little about. Like most “non-users” I regarded it with skepticism, unknowingly bandying about anti-social-media clichés like “do I really want to know every time your dog takes a dump” and “it sounds like a big a waste of time.”

But there was a moment last week when I realized how far out I had ventured into the Twitta-sphere. I was talking to my dad on the phone and heard him repeat some of these now-familiar phrases, which then led to a conversation about invasion of privacy, the culture of self-indulgence and exhibitionism (whadda you want? He’s an English professor, that’s just the way we talk…), and I found myself saying ”yeah, there’s an aspect of that, but there’s a LOT more to it.” And suddenly I realized I had become that person, the one who gives unpaid testimonials about the value of social networking and how it’s being used to “create community” and “level the playing field” and rambling on about hashtags, @replies, direct message and IRL encounters. If this had been a Skype call, I would have seen his eyes glaze over.

The subject came up because a couple of weeks ago I was asked to be on a panel representing at the “140 Character Conference” in Hollywood. So now (despite being a Luddite with an active AOL account and an uneasy relationship with a second hand iPod), I can pretend to be an authority on a tech-related subject. Cool! (And just for the record—and because he’ll probably read this—my Dad has a first-hand iPod and was happily Skyping long before I was).

The conference, created by Twitter seed investor Jeff Pulver, runs for two days in half a dozen cities and features panel discussions on the value and use of social media. The range of panelists is pretty impressive, from marketers to homeless advocates, to street performers, to aid workers in Haiti, to small businesses, to some of the biggest creative forces in Hollywood. I was invited to appear on a panel about “writing and community” along side moderator Debra Eckerling, creator of the writer resource site WriteOnOnline (who did an interview with me a few months ago), and Zac Sanford, creator of the popular #ScriptChat (a twitter based forum for screenwriters). The conference, as a whole, was a thrilling experience. It felt like something truly democratic was taking place. Finally, here was a forum where having a voice had nothing to do with money and prestige and everything with having something to say. Here was a forum where homeless bloggers were given the same respect as pop-culture icons.

For example, in the green room, waiting to go on stage, I ran into Tim Kring (creator of Heroes), Ilene Chaiken (creator of The L-Word)…and Smokey the Bear. Where else could this have possibly happened? (Read another interesting article about the strange menage of Real Girls, Smokey and Tim King HERE.)

Carmen Elena Mitchell, Tim Kring, Debra Eckerling & Zac Sanford

Me & Smokey

And yes, I asked Smokey (recalling a frustrating encounter at Disneyland with Eeyore) if he—like his Disney brethren—was forbidden from actually speaking. He nodded his head “Yes” sadly (but TWEET he does…and yes, the rumors of my brief un-reciprocated twitter-flirtation in the week following the conference are true, but I digress).

So yes, in some respects I have drunk the Kool-Aid. And yet at the same time, I recognize that there’s a dark side to all of this too. One need only look at the recent suicides of gay teens attributed to “cyber-bullying” to see that there’s something else very troubling going on. Through our drunken consumption of social media we’ve carelessly laid open the doors to a world without privacy, a world without boundaries, and—most problematic—a world of self-conscious childhood, where every moment of one’s evolving vulnerable self is potentially captured, exposed and critiqued in front of millions. We’ve created Big Brother and he is US. And no one born before 1990 can truly appreciate what it feels like to grow up in that world.

But then at the same time consider the reaction to such acts, like activist/columnist Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” Project, which started in September as a response to Billy Lucas’ suicide (which has inspired everyone from Ellen DeGeneres to President Obama to create videos directed at LGBT youth letting them know that “it gets better”); and The Trevor Project, which provides 24/7 nationwide suicide prevention hotlines and support.

If you missed it please check out this video by Fort Worth city council member Joel Burns released on October 13th, which already has over 2 million hits.

Consider the NOH8 campaign.

Consider the countless on-line non-profit organizations that act as lifelines to teens in communities where there are no other resources.

Consider independent web series like Anyone But Me that have earned an enormous international audience though normalizing representations of LGBT teens.

Consider that before social media (BSM?!) many LGBT youths still took their own lives because of a lack of community, visibility and access to support.

Consider that in this brave new world the bully is often now exposed, and that there are consequences, whereas before most of this behavior went unreported and unpunished.

In the end social media is just an innovation, like TV, like radio…like the automobile even. And like those innovations it’s going to be regarded with skepticism. There will be people who refuse to utilize it and who claim that it’s impacting the culture in negative ways. And they’re right, it is. But it’s simultaneously changing it for the better. As with all advances in technology, we need to grow as a culture in order to learn how to use social media responsibly, and how to counter abuse so it does not go unchecked. We need to wear seat belts—or more importantly…we need to learn how to drive.

But in order to do that, we all—particularly those of us who are parents—need to be part of the conversation and at least take a sip of the Kool-aid. Right, Dad?

xo – Carmen

Bitchin’ review in BITCH! September 3, 2010

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So today was a BIG day for the Girls! We found out that not only is our NPR interview “Move Over Sex and the City, Hello Real Girls” going to be re-broadcast on Labor Day, but that one of our favorite print magazines, BITCH, had published an awesome review of Real Girl’s in their latest issue.

If you don’t know BITCH, get thee to an independent magazine stand now (yes, they still have them…)! Launched in 1996 by a couple of former Sassy Magazine interns, who “decided that if they wanted to see some smart analysis of feminist pop culture, they could start by writing it themselves,” BITCH has, twelve years later, become something of a phenomenon, with a substantial subscriber base and regular interviews with some of the leading feminist scholars (it’s also EXTREMELY well written, fun, irreverent, delightfully obnoxious and awesome…and I love them and want to be them when I grow up, sigh.)

Here’s Sara Kantner’s review of Real Girl’s (click 2x to make BIG=))

xo-Carmen

To find out how YOU can help the support the cause of creating more awesome girl-powered comedy, please check out our Real Girl’s Season 2 Fundraising site (All donations are tax deductable!)