Exclusive: Writer-Director Rachael Holder Talks About SXSW‘s First Digital Episodic – I Love Bekka & LucyPosted by Wilson Morales
March 16, 2017
Recently shown as SXSW 2017 was “I Love Bekka & Lucy,” the first digital series to ever be featured in the Episodic category. Written and directed by Rachael Holder, I LOVE BEKKA & LUCY takes an honest and comedic look into the friendship of two best friends who face the evolution of their relationship when one of them gets engaged.
The cast includes Jessica Parker Kennedy (‘Black Sails’) as Bekka, Tanisha Long (‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’) as Lucy, Alexis Denisof (‘How I Met Your Mother,’ ‘Buffy’) as Glen, and Christopher Nicholas Smith (‘Paranormal Activity 3’)as Harry
Initially, Holder created this as a digital short that was on YouTube, over a million views, and starred Golden Globe Winner Gina Rodriguez (Jane the Virgin) and Kristolyn Lloyd (The Bold and the Beautiful). That led her to do a pilot that the Stage 13 (Warner Bros’ digital studio) team saw, green lit and developed.
An MFA alumni from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, Rachael has writing away for years and had her play, Dead Fish, shown at HERE Arts in Soho. She’s also been a finalist in NBCUniversal’s Emerging Writer’s Fellowship, Hedgebrook’s Screenwriters Lab and Sundance’s Episodic Storytelling Lab.
Blackfilm.com spoke with Holder about taking this project to another level and the next goal for it.
Can you talk about taking this project from Kickstarter to YouTube to Stage 13?
Rachael Holder: The web series that I made with the Kickstarter fundraiser was the beginning of my creative process with these girls. I wanted to create a web series about two girls who got along. That was just the premise. You meet them in the Web series and it’s just a slither of their characters. Warner Bros. saw the web series, bought it and gave me a development deal to create a digital series for them and their new platform called Stage 13. With this generation you can see the lives of the girls and I was able to fill the texture of their friendship and make them fuller with a flushed out story.
Was the YouTube format more like a two minute commercial when you look back now?
Rachael Holder: Absolutely. That’s a really great way of thinking about it. I wrote the Web series just to have a walking resume. Basically I wanted people to click on something fast and hear my voice and my point of view. I made these girls, who are regular black women.
Where did the inspiration come from in creating these characters?
Rachael Holder: The idea for the premise came when my best friend got engaged and married when we were still in our 20s and I was sort of mortified and annoyed with her and had a period of mourning that was dramatic and unnecessary. With time and perspective, it became a funny and endearing story and eventually inspired this Web series about friendship.
It sounds like a scene from Bridesmaids.
Rachael Holder: Yes. I know what you talking about. It’s that moment when Maya Rudolph tells Kristen Wiig that she’s engaged. It’s the saddest moment of the movie but also the most hilarious because she’s sweating and so upset. I think so many women go through that, where your best friend is about to do this life change and you can’t do it at the same time. It’s not like graduation. It’s not like having babies at the same time. Meeting someone and getting married, there is no way to do that at the same time. It’s sort of sad and tragic and hilarious.
With the YouTube version, you had a great start with Gina Rodriguez and Kristolyn Lloyd. Can you talk about your latest cast?
Rachael Holder: We had a whole casting process and Gina and Kristolyn’s schedule did not allow for them to film with us this past summer. Although they were great to work with, I didn’t want to lose momentum and wanted to continue on. I’m really, really excited about having good Jessica and Tanisha in these roles. Jessica was actually the first actress that I spoke to over Skype. She was on our Offer Only list and she took herself off and asked her reps to connect with my reps and talk to me. Jessica is a true artist. She talked to me about the craft and about the story and character. She followed up with the script. With Tanisha, I had seen a High Maintenance episode on HBO with her in it. This was months before we started casting. I remembered looking up her IMDB page and taking a snapshot of it with my phone so I could remember her. When she came in to audition, it was a no brainer.
What’s interesting is that with the exception of seeing them on screen, none of the dialogue indicates race or nationality.
Rachael Holder: Yes. I wanted people to watch the show and see black girls as beings and not have the show be about their blackness. I also want to be clear in that this not about promoting color blindness. There’s a nuance and subtlety in the exchanges between the girls and the men because they are black and because they are white.
Where can folks locate Stage 13?
Rachael Holder: The series will be digitally distributed, launching this summer. And you can find more info on stage13.com.
How far are you looking to take this project?
Rachael Holder: This is definitely an episode story. I’m excited to continue the episodic story in another season. This is the project I’m most excited about. I’m a writer too, so I’m always writing. I’m writing a play right now and I’m working on a movie, but this is the first thing of mine that’s been produced by a studio and a production company like Haven. I was a fan of all of their movies before working with them. It was such a pleasure working with them.
Where did the biggest challenge come from while putting this together?
Rachael Holder: I think the biggest challenge for me was waiting so long to put my own work out. I was a writer that would just write pages and pages and pages. I wrote this script or I have this teleplay and no one was reading me. I just decided to not wait for permission and to produce myself. The first thing I produced got picked up by a studio. The biggest challenge was all the years prior to doing that where I was working days and writing and no one was reading me.
My biggest advice to writers is to write and that you should always be working on something. You don’t want to talk about the script you wrote five years ago. You want to talk about the script that you are working on now. If you find that to be annoying and you hate writing, then do something else because it’s an activity that you do alone, so you have to love it and really be patient with it.