By Michael Varrati
For anyone who has ever put the hard work into bringing a production from concept to screen, a premiere is a truly joyous occasion. A culmination of grueling commitment and countless hours of blood, sweat, and tears, it’s an event that allows the artist to showcase everything for which they’ve been striving. On some occasions, when such an evening’s festivities can also be leveraged to bring awareness to an emerging talent and medium, the proceedings transcend from merely deserved celebration to a situation of artistic significance.
Such was the case this past Thursday, February 19, at Busby’s in Hollywood, CA, which served as the site of the world premiere of “The Other Client List,” a whip smart new comedy web series by Briana Hansen and Aryè Rapini. The show, which also shared the evening with a screening of “Assistants” (recent winner of “Best Series” at the LA Independent Film Festival Awards), was followed by a summit hosted by Women in Film, centering around the next phase of web series evolution.
That such a discussion took place after the screening of these two series is no small coincidence. In their own ways, each property addresses the issues of living in Hollywood and fighting to stay afloat in a city besieged by industry traditions. “The Other Client List” portrays two friends attempting to step out on their own and utilize their contacts to open their own fitness club, while “Assistants” highlights the plights of those destined to be the lackeys for the super famous. Each series, both in content and execution, portrays the struggle for identity and lack of compromise in a system that is so often stacked against you.
According to “The Other Client List” creator/writer/star Briana Hansen, that the show, with its can-do spirit, works in the digital space is just an added bonus.
“One of the best things I heard about a digital project is someone say ‘I didn’t even know I could do it, but I can do it! Anyone can do it!’” Hansen tells me. “The hope is that maybe some people will look at this and not only be inspired by the quality, but also be inspired to try and make something themselves.”
The sense of creative encouragement that the digital space allows is a sentiment echoed by “Assistants” star/producer Natasha Pearl Hansen, who suggests it’s not only a medium that should inspire artists, but also encourage them to not settle for compromises to their vision.
“When you find a place to house your project in the digital space, you have all creative control,” Pearl Hansen says. “When you’re trying to sell to a network, you always have to change a lot, you have to recast…you have to do this and that to please so many other people. We love being able to have that control, and that was very important to us to be able to do what we wanted with this project. And then we figured if that initial episode garners notoriety and someone wants to take it from there and turn it into a show…we’ve already established what we want it to be.”
The discussion of the digital world’s impact on the projects only intensified during the Women in Film panel following the screening, allowing the creators to further comment on how the cyber world helped them achieve their vision.
For “Assistants” creator and star Courtney Arnett, it was not only a matter of flexibility, but also one of representation. Speaking to the oft-discussed, but still slow-to-be-corrected lack of quality roles for women in television and film, Arnett said, “Sometimes it’s hard to find a spot in traditional media, and the digital realm provides the possibility to say, ‘You know what? If you’re not going to represent me, I still have a way to make my voice be heard.’”
For Aryè Rapini, co-creator and star of “The Other Client List,” it’s also about reach.
“To make something and spread it across the world is so much easier today than it was even five years ago,” Rapini told the room. “To tell the story we wanted to tell for a small budget, but still have it look a certain way and maintain creative control…it’s life changing…and it’s changing the way the entertainment community is being seen right now.”
Beyond reach, Briana Hansen also suggested it’s about resources that aren’t available to struggling artists in a traditional system. Sharing how “The Other Client List” engaged the online community during production, Hansen revealed that the show wasn’t just made for the digital realm, it was also made by the digital realm.
“The digital space helped get this made in many ways, not just as a platform for delivery,” she said. “Not
only were we able to fund most of this through Indiegogo, I actually found most of our post-production team online. Without the digital world, we’d still be fundraising…or the show would be a play. A really fun play.”
Having seen both series first hand, and the audience response to each, it’s safe to say this commitment to creativity over medium has paid off in spades for the creators of “The Other Client List” and “Assistants.” Earning honest laughs and just praise, shows like this serve as examples of a new era of web series that isn’t so concerned about making the leap to TV as it is with making quality content.
Yet, when I put this question of trailblazing status to Briana Hansen, questioning her hopes for the shows future, she smiles and tells me, “Hey, I just hope it makes people laugh.”
Photos by Oscar Torres