In an online comedy world of self-filmed amateur videos and Funny or Die superstar cameos, it's reassuring to know that there still exists something in between: a comedy series on an established Web site, made by professionals whose last name isn't Ferrell. Lauren Schnipper is the producer of the new series from Babelgum, DateaHuman.com. The show is set in the year 2169, when the human race is dying out in favor of aliens and, in a twist, men are obsessed with procreating to save humanity. I caught up with her after the first season ended to discuss sci-fi feminist comedy, working on a budget for the web, and her own craft-services expertise.
The first scene of DateaHuman.com shows your heroine, Allie, denying a marriage proposal from a man (Charlie O'Connell) because it is contingent upon her taking a fertility pill and hatching at least ten babies. Is overturning traditional gender stereotypes as important to the show as the comedy?
First and foremost we wanted to create a funny show. Babelgum asked for a series that had a sci-fi romantic-comedy spin to it, and director/writer Joy Gohring and the other three writers came up with an amazing concept: interspecies interweb dating, which lends itself to so many funny moments. It also happens to subtly bring up issues like the role of women in society and Allie's ability to make her own choices despite pressure from peers and family.
I've never considered myself a feminist; I just believe in equality. So it is not my goal to make female-driven pieces, but it is my goal to produce great work. I absolutely love the fact that DateaHuman.com turns the tables on traditional male/female roles. The problems in the world that Allie lives in are real for her. The human race is dying out. The thought of that is really scary, especially to her traditional mother, but Allie wants a life and career. And she has that right.
And it doesn't hurt that our two leads, Anne Griffin and Brooke Lyons, are total babes.
Where did you find the cast?
I produce now because I know so many talented and funny people from my formative years performing, at places like Upright Citizens Brigade and the Groundlngs, and I couldn't just sit around and watch other people make use of their talents (or not and watch them wasted). Because this was a great script that was attempting something new, it was easy to get people interested. That, and our casting director, Charley Medigovich, was superb.
How have you liked using the Internet as a medium for comedy?
It's an incredibly exciting time to be a filmmaker because it's easier than ever to get your project out there. But the problem is also that it's easier than ever to get your project out there.
The Internet is full of tons of crap. Literally, people taking a crap and posting it to YouTube and getting a ton of hits. And, like anything in this industry, advertisers and distributors want the numbers.
Despite this, we were determined to put something out there that was high-quality filmmaking as well as funny because we felt it would stand out in the world of people taking a crap. Although, if it's in high-def, that can look pretty good.
Are there hopes of moving this series to TV?
The Web series today is what the pilot presentation was in yesteryear. And you have platforms like Babelgum (whose comedy team is headed by the awesome Amber J. Lawson) that are willing to invest in shows like DateaHuman.com so we can have some money to make something great which, ideally, networks will see and want to buy.
The big issue is viewership. If you don't have a huge star attached (and even if you do), today networks want a built-in base before they even look at something online. They barely give shows a chance so there is no room to build. So the Internet can be an excellent place to cultivate that audience. And we can also proudly say this already has high production values, so imagine what we could do with TV money.
The production values are high, yet you did so on a tiny budget. Any tips?
Favors, favors, favors. And I did not do this alone. Kimberly Simpson, my co-producer, is a genius at finding money in budgets where there is no money, I'm really good at asking people to things for free and saving money in craft services--you did not want to see my kitchen during production--and Joy was steadfast and uncompromising in her vision.
Sometimes, especially during postproduction, we wondered if we were in over our heads. The show is incredibly heavy in visual effects, which is costly and laborious.
What's your next project? Two guys sitting on a couch, not in space?
Hopefully another six of DateaHuman.com, but in the meantime, I'm producing a short for the Directing Workshop for Women for AFI called Hold for Laughs. Maybe I am a feminist.
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