We need more original content from queer creators! I hear that a lot around the interwebs, well, the places where I hang out at least. The popularity of #ownvoice in the publishing industry speaks to this trend. Since big name corporations and franchises tend to do us queer fans dirty in visual media, looking to queer creators to fill that gap makes sense. Bringing attention to these creators is part of my goal as both a media critic and an original content creator myself.
For this edition of Creator Corner, I bring you the creative team behind the up and coming new web series BIFL: writer Kelsey O’Regan, director Daren Taylor, and creative producer Amber Rivera. Their crowdfunding campaign officially begins today, so I (metaphorically) sat down with them to talk about the series—where it came from, what it means, and what’s up next.
Gretchen: So, tell me about where BIFL came from. How did each of you get involved? Was one of you the instigator?
Kelsey: I started writing it way back in 2015 with no plan of action aside from getting the story down—I just kept revising and rewriting and editing, showing it to friends, and ruining everyone’s life with feelings. Then one day I got a text from Amber that she wanted to show her creative friends the script, and suddenly things were in motion.
Amber: Middle of last year I was part of a group email from Kelsey and it asked if we would be able to give her feedback on her script. It was basically her final draft, and when I read it, I couldn’t put it down. My wife literally heard me laugh out loud numerous times. After that, I contacted Kelsey and asked what she wanted to do with it. She said: anything. I just want to put something out there. So, I contacted my friend Daren Taylor, who’s the director of our series, and asked his thoughts. I think it’s safe to say he liked it!
Daren: Amber and I had been working on developing new projects after we finished working on a short film about a year and a half ago. I encouraged her to find a story that was close to her heart that she felt like she could commit to long term, because independently producing something can take time. And then she remembered Kelsey and BIFL, got me a script and I fell in love.
G: This very much feels like a labor of love. Where did the story come from? What was the inspiration?
Daren: That’s all Kelsey. She’s been working on this for years and it shows. The characters are so deep and rich and unique that all you can do is gush over them and want to spend more time with them. When the writing and characters are this good, it makes producing and directing that much easier.
Kelsey: It very, very, very much is a labor of love. The story kind of came out of nowhere—I’d accidentally written this 25,000 word fanfic that hyperfocused on a particular supporting character and the really specific struggle I decided to give her (anxiety). I got a handful of comments from people who connected strongly with that arc and appreciated the representation. NaNoWriMo came around shortly afterward, so I took the bare-bones plot of the fic (which was already far removed from its canon) and changed the context, fleshed out the characters, and adjusted things here and there until I had a very cool and very different kind of story. What’s hilarious is I didn’t actually follow through with NaNoWriMo that year, but my filmmaker friend Karyn Ben Singer invited me to script-supervise for her feature Probable Robot, and I came home obsessed with scripts; between that new itch and my obsession with Carmilla at the time, the web series concept started brewing.
G: With all the storytelling possibilities out there, what made you all want to make a webseries?
Daren: We had a lot of discussion about what’s the best method of sharing this story, and Kelsey had webseries in mind from the beginning. She’s written over 180 pages of BIFL, and we are only shooting about 60 pages of it. We did contemplate doing it as a single pilot, but we miss out on spending time with these characters over time. It’s that repetition of coming over multiple episodes that we think that that affinity for Jill, Chloe, Sarah, Taylor, Oliver and Kyle, will really stick. People will get hooked, and then clamor for the rest of the story.
Kelsey: For me, it’s a combination of opportunity and accessibility. It’s not like I can just walk up to MTV or HBO and hand them the script, but I also love that we don’t need TV’s or cable subscriptions to consume our favorite media. In general, web series also feel more grassroots to me and give us a thousand times more creative control. I’m into that.
Amber: Exactly! For the sake of wanting to keep the heart and soul of the project intact throughout the process of creation, we wanted to do this ourselves. We wanted to be the ones creating the representation we deserve and do to that, we felt that creating a web series to start was the best way.
G: What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced thus far in trying to create an original, inclusive web series?
Amber: For me personally, it’s the waiting game we played for a little bit. At least for Daren and I, we each were working on different projects and wanted to make sure we allowed for time to do this project the right way and not half-assed. Besides that, I think going through the casting process has been slightly difficult for me because there are so many great auditions! You can’t have everyone though, unfortunately.
Daren: So far, I’d say the biggest challenge for me has been working on how best to talk about the show. With any project, there’s what it means to you as a creator, then it’s about how to communicate that with your audience. What’s going to get people engaged in the same way we are. Thankfully, we have a wonderful producing team and I feel like we’ve worked really well together to find creative and exciting ways to bring people on board to BIFL, a comedy with a LOT of drama.
Kelsey: I mean, I am but a white cis bi female, so any story I tell outside of those identities runs the risk of being either Too Much or lacking depth. Throughout the writing process, I’ve made a point to seek out close friends with those experiences and perspectives so they can tell me what works, what doesn’t, and how to make everything better and more authentic. The last thing I want is to sell my story as inclusive and then find out that I totally messed up a particular identity or conversation, so this whole process has been largely about acknowledging my good intentions while also understanding and dealing with my limitations.
G: What have been the greatest ‘aha!’ or otherwise exciting moments thus far?
Daren: It really been people’s enthusiasm about what BIFL means. It’s not just a web series, but a gathering point for a number of individuals. We are creating community around this project. We get to actually commit to making a difference, and that’s been a bigger lighting rod than I previously expected. Seeing how responsive friends and family have been to us taking control of the stories we want to tell, and inviting people to feel like they not only have a voice, but a group of artists that are dedicated to more diversity and inclusion has been really uplifting and energizing.
Kelsey: Without a doubt, watching the table read footage. My friends at TGIFemslash helped me arrange a reading years ago when the story was in its very early stages, and that was amazing, but this was professional actors reading off a much better version of the script. They may have just been sitting around Daren’s living room together, but they were performing my words I wrote, and that was the best feeling.
Amber: Finding our “Sarah.” My wife and I were at ClexaCon this year, and we were watching the “LGBTQ Actresses in Media” panel, and we saw an actor named Mandahla Rose. It just hit us. She was the one. Her look, her attitude, and because she’s a queer actress who wanted to continue to play a queer character, she was perfect. We looked at her reel and other projects she’d been in, and it all fell into place after that. We were able to contact her, talk about the project, and she was in. It was so great and satisfying to see how excited she was to be a part of the project.
G: Speaking of what BIFL means, I have to ask, what does the name BIFL actually mean? Is it an acronym or…?
Amber: You’ll have to wait and see! We’ll actually be putting out a video on our campaign page as well as on social media that will be a fun little game of people guessing what BIFL stands for. Maybe someone will guess it! 🙂
Kelsey: [Redacted for Spoilers].
Daren: Oh, we can’t give that away yet. What do you think BIFL stands for?
G: Well, I didn’t have any idea until Kelsey told me for her part of the interview, but I won’t give it away, I promise. All I can say is, I wouldn’t have guessed it, and I’m looking forward to seeing what other people guess!
Moving on, I know at least one of you is a part of the queer community, how has your experience being a part of that community shaped the story you wanted to tell with BIFL?
Kelsey: Oh, it’s been everything. I started writing in 2015 because I wanted to, but then in March of 2016 I realized I needed to—either the shows I love didn’t have enough or quality rep, or the shows that did have great rep weren’t telling the stories I was interested in, and I was honestly just sick of being expected to choose between those categories. And the great thing about femslash fandom and wlw viewers in general is we spell out our expectations quite clearly—all you have to do is pay attention.
Amber: It’s truly been amazing. The biggest thing for me at first was making sure that I had someone who could help Kelsey and I tell this story. And that person was Daren. He has such a way of telling stories for the underrepresented, and he’s one of the only ones I trust to tell that kind of story. Like the Carmilla series, Wynonna Earp, and Black Lightning, Kelsey and I wanted BIFL to be the thing where people say, “Hey look, this is what quality representation looks like.”
Daren: I’ve worked in the arts my entire life, and while I’m not queer myself, I have always been an ally. Inclusion matters and it has always been important for me to communicate that. Early on in the process when we discussed what BIFL meant to us, it was important for me to advocate for an expansive audience reach. If we only targeted the queer community with our story and message, then we limit the amount of change we can have. What’s beautiful about what Kelsey wrote is that it’s a story about people. Period. And any group or individual can access BIFL, and be surprised that characters like this exist, and the artificial separation we create between those that are “different” from is arbitrary and meaningless. We all love and we all are flawed.
G: On the lighter side, I have a challenge for each of you: summarize why people should watch BIFL in one sentence of no more than 20 words.
Daren: If you want to laugh your face off, melt your heart, and support quality queer content, then watch BIFL.
Kelsey: It’s my love letter to femslash fandom, and damn good storytelling that happens to also be diverse AF.
Amber: People should watch BIFL because representation matters, and we have lots of it.
G: Tell our readers how best they can support BIFL. You’re doing a crowdfunding campaign right? Any other ways they can get involved?
Kelsey: Yes to both! Financial support is great, but sharing the project is equally important. Talk it up on social media, text your friends, tell people in the street—we want our audience to extend as far and wide as possible.
Amber: Absolutely. We are encouraging people to follow us on all social media—Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and to share with their friends and anyone they think might like our series. Also, keep an eye out on what we post during the campaign on social media because there may be a few posts where people can get directly involved as well.
Daren: The biggest way to help is to spread the word. Again, BIFL is about building a greater community. Go to our crowdfunding website, donate if you can, then share, share, share! Follow us on social media and stay up to date on everything we have going on. We’re blast to be around because we love the story, each other, and the work we are doing. JOIN THE PARTY!!!
G: What happens next? If you reach your goals, when can people expect to start watching?
Amber: Well, ideally we would want to shoot as soon as possible once the campaign ends, but that really depends on schedule availability for cast and crew.
Daren: Making something of this scope will take some time. We’ll likely go into production late summer/early fall, so people will start getting teasers later this fall. But we promise to give everyone something to watch along the way as we plan to include everyone in our journey of making BIFL.
Kelsey: As they’ve both said, we want to start filming as soon as the funds become available. As of right now, the plan is to release the episodes on New Year’s 2019.
G: That’s soon! I’m excited. Anything else you want to share with us before we go?
Kelsey: Vote in every single election.
Daren: Looking forward to sharing BIFL with everyone. Thanks!
Amber: I just want to say thank you to those who have already reached out and offered to go on this journey with up, and also thank you to those who are going to join the journey during the campaign. We can’t wait to share this amazing project with you and hope you all enjoy!
Oh, if you need any further reason to support the series and watch it when it comes out, check out this video from Chyler Leigh, the first person (and a celebrity at that!) to officially endorse BIFL:
First official endorsement for our series from an Extremely. Reliable. Grownup.
— BIFL: The Series ? (@BIFLseries) June 10, 2018