(Ed: this is an e-mail recreation of a really awesome – but sadly lost – conversation between Keidra and Nicole about the show, Orange is The New Black, feminism, and other stuff.)
Describe Space Happens in a sentence or two for TLF readers.
“A Gynocentric Space Comedy of Mostly Epic Proportions.” Space Happens tells the story of Joy Jones, an earnest-yet-clumsy stoner chick who knows she’s born to do Something Extraordinary and who has no idea that makes her sound like an asshole. When she steals a seemingly mundane and kinda shitty government ship, she ends up among our fave sci-fi tropes — aliens, androids, plots to destroy the universe … She is in way over her head.
Tell me a little about where the idea came from, what stories or TV shows inspire your scripts?
This premise for the show has been percolating in my brain since 2007. Late last year, I was lucky enough to join forces with my co-producers Deborah Craft, Melissa Fox, and Alyson Grauer, who were all as excited by the idea of a nerdy comedy featuring an all-female crew. Everyone was also incredibly jazzed by the webseries format. The Chicago film and acting communities recently fell in love with web-based entertainment. Everyone wants to broadcast their work online! Among all of these shows, Space Happens is one-of-a-kind: highbrow and lowbrow, sci fi and comedy, visual and verbal. On top of all that, we’re dedicated to showcasing talented women on and behind the camera.
We’ve been inspired by all the usual suspects — Firefly, Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica–as well as more conceptual inspirations for our structure and humor — Edgar Wright, Archer, and Broad City come up quite often.
Who’s on the writing staff? How do you work together to develop the scripts?
We have a team of seven writers: myself, Deborah and Melissa, Justin Lieber, Laura Nash, Elizabeth Rodriguez, and Nathan Thompson.
Since January, we’ve been meeting 1-4 times per month for a formal “writers room.” We explore style, develop the world, outline episodes, and write dialogue collaboratively. We also write when we’re not together — dividing up episodes to be written, then reading and discussing them when we’re together.
Since January, we’ve gone through many drafts and many changes, with multiple people getting a pass at each episode. We also keep a shared Google Doc as a reservoir for jokes, dialogue, shots, et cetera that we’ve cut over the months. At this point, each episode is written with a combo of all of our voices, and our last couple months’ of work will be smoothing those into one collective voice.
Is there a specific character that you especially enjoy writing for?
Ummm, all of them? All of the characters have a really unique way of speaking, so they’re all really challenging. And because I’m a horrible masochist, challenging = fun.
How long is your initial season? How many scripts have you written already?
For the first season, we have 10 episodes. (It’s actually 11, because as TV is wont to do, the finale is an epic two-part finale. The title of the episode is actually ‘Epic Two-Part Finale.’) At this point in the process, we have at least one draft of every episode. We’re researching, revamping, and revising throughout the rest of the summer to create a master shooting script as well as a show bible.
It’s notable that you explicitly refer to Space Happens as “a slash fic between feminism and science fiction” (I love that the ship is named the HMS Janeway!) How do you think mainstream sci-fi TV/Film is doing these days when it comes to female characters and feminist perspectives?
TV/film as a whole is pretty dismal when it comes to us ladies’ perspectives. The gender gap in Hollywood is insane; read Jezebel for like a day, and I’m sure you’ll see at least one article lamenting the prejudice against hiring women. Producers, directors, writers, and actresses all have a hard time getting hired and staying employed. Of course, entertainment is difficult for men, too, but there is no prejudice based on their gender. When a woman pitches her script, the response from production companies is overwhelmingly and notoriously “yes, but it’s about women.”
Science fiction is particularly rough on women. My Space Happens character is loosely based on Black Widow, who even in the capable hands of Joss Whedon couldn’t escape a close up on her ass. More recently, look at the reaction to Thor’s next incarnation being a gal:
I don’t even wanna talk about how Wonder Woman keeps getting pushed to the back burner in favor of male heroes.
Okay, maybe Wonder Woman is just waiting for me to become famous so I can direct it.
Space Happens is looking more towards smaller-studio produced shows like Orange Is the New Black. Obviously we’ll be drawing our humor from very different places, but OITNB places a similar emphasis on showcasing the female experience as well as incorporating women behind the camera as producers, writers, and showrunnerrs (my dream job).
Space Happens is a Chicago based show with a lot of local comedy and theatre talent, in what ways do you see a Chicago influence (as opposed to Hollywood) possibly weaving its way into the tone and writing of the show?
Chicago is a town that focuses on process and craft. There’s a perfectionist tendency inherent in all artists–I want my piece to be the absolute best that it can be before I show it to audiences — but instead of pushing for a perfect product, Chicago practitioners push for an intense process. I see this in our writers room already. We start with questions and work collaboratively to develop the answers. Our Space Happens team also places a lot of emphasis on intelligence. Regardless of whether the comedy is highbrow or lowbrow or unibrow–which is how my high school English teacher described my sense of humor–we want the show to come from an informed place.
Chicago is also a hub of exciting theatrical productions, which rely on visual storytelling and sophisticated direction in addition to high-level acting. This is the school of thought that I was born and bred in: framing is part of the storytelling. On top of this, we layer wit, visual jokes, slapstick, and plenty of references.
What are your plans for distribution for Space Happens?
We’ll primarily broadcast on YouTube and our own website, with plans to release the entire series on DVD once the show is complete. We’ve also struck up a partnership with another Kickstarter-funded Chicago nerd project, Geek Bar, who will be able to show our episodes on their screens alongside other popular webseries.