Writer

Down to Business

With Birch, Anne and Andi having agreed to come along on this ride, I decided we needed to have a kickoff meeting, similar to what I do when starting a new web project at work.

I decided to invite them over for brunch to celebrate the launch of the project and discuss the vision, characters and ideas. With Anne being gluten-free and my vegan diet, I think I put some undue pressure on myself there, but whether they liked the food or not, we got some great work done at that first meeting.

I started by talking to the group about the concept for the show, these situations where women were reckoning with expectations they couldn’t meet. They had all already heard this from me before, but it helped launch us into a discussion about how their characters fit into this group dynamic. We started with Anne, who had impressively given much thought to her character.

Fictionalized version of Anne is single and very career-oriented, though no one in the party of friends has a clear sense of what she does. When asked, she would reply, “I maximize synergy and business culture.” She is confused about why she isn’t further along on her career path in middle management, knowing that she has put everything in place to move forward. She thinks similarly about her past relationships, where she has been confused about why anyone wouldn’t want to be with her. She is the type of person who goes to church to network, and I see her as a forceful personality who wouldn’t get why anyone wouldn’t want to do the things she wants to do. This makes her a ringleader of the group.

Andi’s character is the resident pessimist. She is an artist at heart, and has a cynical view of the world. She’s sarcastic, often an antagonist, and forceful in her beliefs, especially those regarding feminism. And Pinterest.

Birch’s character, on the other hand, is an optimist, and I see her as the antithesis of Andi’s character. I think she would often be polite rather than speak her mind in social situations, but she has distinct opinions that come out at certain times. She has a family and tries lots of endeavors to have a creative outlet, including trying to start a lifestyle blog.

I was embarrassed that I hadn’t thought about my character all that much, but that was done rather intentionally. In the discussion, I kind of built a character based around what I had heard from the others. Anne and Andi’s characters are pushy, so I thought we needed Birch and I to be more flexible for balance. I think my character is clueless like Anne, but in a different way – Anne’s cluelessness is informed by lots of confidence, and my character is very devoid of self-confidence and not very street-smart. I think this will make her lovable in a way, because she’ll be picked on, and be used to this kind of treatment, making audiences a bit sorry for her. She’ll also be quite book smart (good at coding and quite knowledgeable at times) which will contrast well with her lack of street-smarts.

All of the characters are very untrusting of one another, which will come out in different ways throughout the show. They also don’t really like each other all that much.

Which brings me to the last character. We were trying to come up with a reason why these four would be brought together for each episode, and I was a bit hard-pressed to come up with why they would choose to torture themselves by getting together. Anne had the great idea of adding a fifth character that would never be there, someone that we all worshipped, and each individual wanted to spend time with this person and none of the others. This person would be coming to each gathering, and never show up, or she would be talked about frequently.

We’ve decided to name her Jennifer. But Anne calls her J. And Andi calls her Jen. And Birch calls her Jenny. Because all of us love her, but none of us really know her. Jennifer is gorgeous, fit, feminine, popular with other women and men, and everything we think we are supposed to be. She is someone we idolize, but we secretly hate her at the same time because her life just seems too perfect. She is too good at being a woman.

With all of that being hashed out, we talked through the ideas for the first episode, which I had outlined scene by scene. That got the ball rolling, and everyone piped in with a new idea to add to the scene, or a different angle to take. I said I would take all of this data and give the screenplay a shot, produce it within the next week so that they could review to see if their characters were doing things they thought were appropriate/saying the right things.

Then we talked a bit about logistics. I suggested that we try and produce 6 episodes before releasing anything so that we had some banked up in order to give us time to produce a season (the goal for a season would be 10 episodes). That way we can release them weekly, and have time to produce the last 4. I expected everyone, including extras, to sign releases allowing their persons to be filmed. I wanted to do this on the lowest budget possible, produce a single episode, and start writing grants or submitting to fundraising options to give ourselves a budget. Any funds would be put into production, and this would not be a profitable endeavor unless there was money leftover, in which case it would be split evenly amongst the cast and crew.

And surprisingly, everyone was still on board at the end of this long list of stipulations.

We set some calendar dates for future shoots, viewing sessions and goals, and then went about our Sundays. I cleaned up the breakfast and took a nap because I was so exhausted from the excitement of the day.

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