Co-creators Rosemary Rowe and Renee Olbert of the web series Seeking Simone spend some time talking the Internets, dating, Buffy and Emma Caufield.
Seeking Simone, a popular lesbian web series on the Internet, has made a name for itself by honest to god organic comedy. It’s the classic comedy formula, stick an awkward dorky insecure woman into the “new wave” dating scene and follow her disastrous and sometimes sexy dates. If comedy writing were science they’d be Einstein’s sisters. Rosemary Rowe and Renee Olbert are the two co-creators of this incredible web series and Renee also plays the main character of Simone Selkin.
Rosemary Rowe, Writer/Co-Creator/Producer is a playwright and blogger with a BFA in Directing from York University, although I’m told that’s up for debate since she still owes a library fine and can’t see her diploma. Her credits include co-curating and hosting Anne Made Me Gay: When Kindred Spirits Get Naked at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre; writing Session 12 for Solo Collective’s Solo Flights festival; writing The Magic Wang for Workshop West's Loud n' Queer Cabaret; and writing/performing The Diary of Rachel Keyes, Klondyke Nurse for the Hysteria Festival at Buddies.
Renee Olbert was born and raised in Brampton, Ontario and is a graduate of York University, hey what a coincidence, so is Ro! She’s a graduate of their theatre program and moved to Toronto to pursue acting. Renée has worked as a producer, TV presenter and as an actor in TV, theatre and commercials. Recent credits include Anne and Diana were Totally Doing It, Forensic Factor, Paradise Lost and CTV’s upcoming controversial tv movie Pickton, directed by Academy Award winner Malcolm Clarke. Renée has also worked as an assistant director under Nightwood Theatre’s artistic director Kelly Thornton on their critically acclaimed production of Mathilde, starring Martha Burns and Tom McCamus.
Renee’s character Simone is an actress living in Toronto currently working on a show called, CSIS: ForensicSWAT, a cooky take on your typical CSI, Law and Order type shows that you see on almost every channel. While trying to get over her ex, Simone decides to try online dating with the help of her best friend Audrey, who gives her fantastic advice from long distance Skype land. The show follows Simone as she tries to navigate the shark infested waters of lesbian dating with the twist of meeting online. From one awkward clumsy date to the other we see as Simone not only attempts to get over her ex, but learns a lot about herself in the process. And as it says on their site, this show isn’t just for homos, it’s for anyone who’s dared to reenter the dating scene and anyone who’s dared to try something different, like online dating! I had the chance to ask these two lovely women questions about the series, their lives and where they think the show is going. They were both so gracious and kind and as a fan it’s great to know that sometimes people you consider celebrities far exceed your expectations.
Erin: So, my first question is going to be for both of you! How did you two come up with the idea for Seeking Simone? Was it based at least a little on your real lives? Come on, be honest. ;) - Rose & Renee
RO: Renee and I are old friends and collaborators and had been looking for a project to do together for...well, for a loooong time. Because we're dedicated DIYers, a web series seemed like an awesome way to learn about moving pictures and to tell our stories without having to wait for someone to give us the green light. We green-lighted ourselves! And it felt great.
Renee: We DID green-light ourselves! Rose and I bounced around a lot of ideas together before deciding on online dating. We were really drawn to the conflicting feelings that so many people had about it. So many folks were starting to get into online dating, yet were so afraid of it at the same time. We felt that a woman who NEVER wanted to try it but was thrust into that world would be really funny... turns out we were right!
Erin: You were absolutely right ,the show is hilarious! What would you say are each of your main roles in making Seeking Simone happen, do you both write?
RO: As co-creators and co-producers, we share many of the various roles in making Seeking Simone magic. I'd say that I do most of the writing (with feedback and input from Renee and our director, of course - and naturally, on set, there is some hilarious improv that we end up including) and I get to do most of the online stuff as well. As the pretty, persuasive one, Renee is not only the STAR, but she also gets to do the legwork on things like cajoling cheap equipment and finding places willing to let us use them as locations. Suckers!
Erin: Ha! Well, she seems very persuasive. So, I can see her batting those eyelashes and turning on that Canadian charm. Renee, when you were developing Simone's character did you already have a personality type for her in mind or did she evolve as you began creating the story line for the series?
Renee: I think Simone was in large part a creation born out of a lot of discussions with Rose as well as a lot of stewing on my part. I think the great joy of her, as a character, is that she is such a loveable dork. She gets into ridiculous situations but you as an audience member are rooting for her none the less.
Erin: I see a lot of myself in Simone actually, I’ve always been referred to as the loveable dork and I’m always the one with the hilarious, “dates gone wrong” stories. How did you come up with the initial funding for the first season and how hard has it been to keep a series like this running, do you work strictly on donations or do you have financial investors?
RO: The initial funding basically came from the bank of Renee and Rose! A bank made entirely of gold! And by "bank", I mean "credit card". Fortunately, we had our amazing crew and cast volunteer their time, which was a HUGE help. Obviously, we couldn't have done it without them donating their talents to the project. And we were also lucky in that we had some equipment either lent to us or offered at a discount. Even with all of this help, it was a considerable expense - and the money we make from ads on video sites like blip.tv and YouTube doesn't even cover our snack budget! We have a donation button on our site and have been grateful for every donation our fans have sent in - they're the best! Like a lot of other web series out there, we'd LOVE to have financial investors or sponsors - but, like most other web series out there, we're still working on making that happen. But if you KNOW anyone with a lot of cash who loves some lesbian dating comedy...you know where to find us.
Erin: If I had the cash honey you guys would be one of the first to get it! If I lived anywhere near where the series is shot I’d most definitely volunteer my time and services. It’s a great show and I completely believe in what you guys are doing. Where do you pull Simone's date debacles from are they personal experiences of people you know or all made up?
RO: I'd say it's a mix of both. We certainly mined our respective love lives to create some of the most delightful characters and scenarios (cough "emotional crabs" cough). I tend take a lot of artistic license with stories about my real life, so creating Simone's dating adventures give me even more leeway to push the boundaries of "reality". And I'd be lying if I said that some of the stories our readers have shared about their own disastrous dating experiences haven't inspired a few choice moments in the show.
Erin: Oh, I promise I will be sending you some stories now that I know it could inspire a Simone date.
Winning Breakthrough Performance at the 2009 Indie Soap Awards and being the Official Selection of the Toronto 2012 LGBT Film Festival must be exciting, why do you think Seeking Simone has latched on the way it has in the media and with the community as a whole?
Renee: I'm not gonna lie, It IS exciting! It is always so gratifying to be recognized by your peers. To have other folks who are in the same boat as you, who understand the work that is involved, single you out is a pretty great feeling. I think the show has found a place in people's hearts because it is funny. And if I know one thing about people, it's that they love to laugh. And there aren't a lot of comedies that speak directly to our community; that tell stories about us that concern themselves with our lives. I think in our own very small way, we are filling a void. And I'm very proud to do so.
Erin: You are absolutely filling a void. I can only speak for myself obviously, but for me growing up I didn’t have a web series or a show on television I could turn to that would show people like myself. When you are young and you look for something to relate to you turn to television and movies, and to not have that is detrimental to development as far as I’m concerned.
With the popularity of web series like Seeking Simone, Anyone But Me, Venice and Out With Dad, why do you think more money isn't being poured into this new way of broadcasting shows? What do you think still holds companies back from investing money into internet television?
RO: I think that many companies still don't necessarily get web video yet or how it would benefit their brands to be seen as supporting this kind of work. And I think there's the issue of creative control as well - having worked on marketing campaigns for large corporations I understand that the idea of having your brand connected with something that you can't control is pretty scary. I think it will take a few more brands being brave and getting into the space and seeing great results before more companies are ready to get on board with web video. Come on, brave companies! We are cheap to produce and lesbians will love you!! Give us a call!
Erin: Cheap to produce and lesbians, hell I’m on board! LOL Renee, has there ever been a really awkward kissing or sex scene you've had to do either with a friend or just with someone you realized you had no acting chemistry with?
Renee: HAHA! Oh, a Lady doth not kiss and tell! I will say, as actors it is our job to make those scenes look authentic and real. But they are pretty darn awkward no matter how you slice it. The scenes are always highly choreographed and generally, people are more concerned with not having double chins or weird hair than anything else going on.
Erin: I can’t even imagine I’m awkward kissing girls normally, if I was an actress ,oh dear let’s just say you’d have more storylines for your show than you’d know what to do with. Is there any actress on the webosphere right now that you're dying to get in bed with on Seeking Simone?
RO: Well, I know that Renee almost lost her shit when she was nominated in the same category (Best Actress in a Comedy) as Emma Caulfield for the Indie Intertube Awards earlier this year. So naturally, we'd DIE OMG DIE to have Emma Caulfield play one of Simone's tragic dates. Emma hasn't really responded positively to our repeated online stalking, but I feel that we're slowly wearing her down. Hey! The police are here!
Renee: How the hell did the fuzz find us so fast!?! Leave the limited addition Buffy comic behind Rose! Save yourself!
Erin: I am a diehard Buffy fan and let’s just say I shed more than a tear when Anya died in the last and final episode. Emma Caufield is hot hot hot and a wonderful actress, she would be a perfect comedic partner for Simone for sure! Maybe I should participate in the web stalking? BTW, kudos, for having Zoie Palmer aka. Dr. HotPants, Lauren from Lost Girl on Seeking Simone, she’s hot!
Where would you like to take Seeking Simone in the future, do you think there's room for a show like this on a cable channel and would you be open to moving towards a corporate presence?
RO: Absolutely yes! I think it's safe to say that our goal has always been to generate enough interest to make the leap from the Internets to TV. We both believe so strongly in our vision and our concept and I think that we could find a home on cable. As I've said, there really aren't any comedies out there directed towards our audience. I would love to be a part of the movement that helps to change that.
Seeking Simone is one of the web series that I can see being fit for television, its classic comedy style will have you laughing out loud and wishing you could be friends with Simone. You’ll relate to each character and see their personalities in each of your friends. It’s really a show about having fun and being able to laugh at life when it feels like it’s only giving you lemons. Make sure to check it out by visiting their site and tell ‘em Large Marge sent cha. [url=http://www.seekingsimone.com/]http://www.seekingsimone.com/