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The Web is a Great Place for Women

The Web is a Great Place for Women

Leena Pendharkar: I moved to LA in 2005, armed with several
feature-film screenplays like any other aspiring writer. But I learned
something really strange once I got here: Hollywood isn’t always kind to
female protagonists. 

In fact, a couple of agents told me straight out that my
material “wouldn’t sell” because Hollywood doesn’t like to cast women in lead
roles. I took what they had to say to heart, but I wasn’t going to let it get
me down. I went on to make Raspberry Magic, about a bright young girl’s
connection to nature, independently. It played at over 25 festivals and was
sold to Starz, and two of its brightest stars, Alison Brie and Bella Thorne,
have gone on to have prolific careers in Hollywood.

After making that film, I received a development grant to
make a second feature through Tribeca All Access. But that process was slow and could take years. I wanted to keep making, but do something immediate that
didn’t require loads of up-front capital.

Enter the Internet. Prior to making my feature, I made web
videos for clients. But while I was working on my feature, I kind of tuned out
of the web world. When I re-emerged, the web had become this amazing place,
a place where the voices of women were being heard loud and clear. 

I had been writing a number of short stories and sketches
that involved mostly women for years. I had always been a bit nervous to “put
these out,” but I was so inspired by all of the women in Twitter and even the
likes of Internet stars like Issa Rae. They were putting it out there and
people were liking it and listening. And a host of new sites like HelloGiggles and
Comediva were opening up, allowing women in comedy to make a loud noise for a
new generation of women wanting this kind of material.

So I jumped in headfirst and started creating short sketches
for women on a YouTube channel I created called So Natural TV. I began to build
an audience and thought it would be great to find a producing partner who could
help me grow the channel.

Jane and I had met a few years back, and were excited to do
something together. While we were working on features, we loved the idea of doing
something more immediate, tapping into the zeitgeist online, especially around
women in comedy. So, we joined forces.

Jane Kelly Kosek: Leena and I would try to meet up every few months and talk
about our projects with the hope that we would find something to do together. About
a year ago, Leena mentioned that she was creating short sketches for women on a
YouTube channel she had launched. I was immediately intrigued.

For years, I had produced feature-length romantic dramas and
comedies, trying desperately to provide content for the underserved female
market. It was a personal journey, as I was a woman who felt there wasn’t
enough content being made about or for women. I found the studios were not
interested in making romantic comedies or much else for the female market, so I
decided to make them myself. When Leena suggested that we join forces on her
YouTube channel, where we could create funny shows for and about women, I jumped
at the chance. 

I liked the idea of tapping into a younger audience who
could grow with our channel. And while it can take a long time to build a large
audience on the web, it tends to be a loyal and media-savvy group who can help
you spread the word about your entire body of work. And with a web series, you
can continually engage your audience weekly with new videos, which keeps you in
the forefront of their minds and can even entice interest from buyers or other
potential employers.

Leena and I started collaborating by creating one-off comedy
sketches together. They were really fun to make, but we eventually realized that
it was hard to build an audience with standalone videos. And we loved the
characters we were creating in the individual sketches and thought they would
make a great cast of characters for a number of web series. 

We started creating a blueprint for the channel that would
include shows in which our characters could weave in and out. Knowing we had limited
resources, we specifically started with an idea that we could afford by keeping
cast, crew and equipment needs low. We would then build our content and have
proven material to help attract greater funding for new shows with bigger
ideas.  

Our first series, Overly
Attached Andy
, features an earnest guy looking for love. We chose Andy as
our protagonist because we thought it would be fun for our female audience to
look at dating from the guy’s point of view. And for our next web series, which
will be about two urban moms (a large niche audience ideal for a web show),
Andy will play a part.

Our hope is for women to realize that they can find quality
entertainment online on popular video platforms include YouTube, Vimeo, and
Blip.tv. Right now, we’re seeing the lines between traditional TV and web TV
slowly blurring, and in the future we believe there is going to be much more
convergence between the two. 

In the meantime, audiences are supporting online artists who
are taking control of their careers and creating their own opportunities
instead of waiting for a studio or financier to say it’s time to tell their
story.

Writer/director Leena Pendharkar and producer Jane Kelly Kosek are two independent filmmakers who have decided to join hands and jump head first into the wonderful world of making web series. Their first venture is Overly Attached Andy, an eight-episode series about hipster wannabe and hopeless romantic Andy and his failed attempts to get over his ex-girlfriend Taryn. The show will air every Tuesday, starting October 15th, on the So Natural TV YouTube Channel (www.youtube.com/sonaturaltv).

Watch the trailer below:

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