Crowdfunding Pick: Fishing the Series
“I think the only way to bring equity to this industry is to lift women up along the way.”
Catfishing. Have you ever been catfished? I was, sort-of, once. I say sort of because it took place over only one evening and had to do with the Moffatts but it’s something I’ve never forgotten because deception is never fun but also falling for it is less fun. And that’s exactly what Fishing the Series tackles, among many—
Sigh. Okay, fine: I made friends with this girl online, way back in the days of ICQ, and she was very much real but she also claimed she was friends with the Moffatts and one night she was “hanging out with them” and I got to “chat with one of them.” Which one? Who cares! Fine! It was Bob! Anyway, moving on.
Fishing is a comedy web series that explores dating, identity, and authenticity in This Modern World and they are currently crowdfunding. Creator Alicia Carroll and her team say they’ve created something for “lovers of romantic comedies, crime shows, and Shakespeare” (!!!!!) and if for some reason you need more of a reason to support this project, we had a chance to chat with Alicia all about Fishing, which you can read below.
Alicia Carroll is a writer-producer from Philadelphia. She currently writes for New Form’s Facebook Watch series Text Stories, and assists Erica Shelton Kodish in her overall deal with CBS Television Studios. Alicia advocates for consent-aware entertainment, which she discussed in her 2016 talk at TEDxBeaconstreet in Boston. In addition to developing her own work, she produces theater with See What Sticks LA., and serves as an ambassador for Ghetto Film School’s Roster program. Alicia is a 2019 Film Independent: Project Involve Fellow and Women In Film: Insight Fellow.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got involved with filmmaking.
Alicia Carroll: I wanted to work in television since I could comprehend the idea that the people on the TV weren’t really in the room with me—so about age 14. Kidding! Four, I was about four years old. I started in theater and dance, and loved anything that involved storytelling and escapism. After I got over the childhood dream of wanting to be in the next Sister Act movie, I was set on working in development.
Even as a child, the idea that gatekeepers were the barrier to content that reflected my life and experience was apparent. I went to school for TV (yes, TV school) and I quickly learned that development is largely a buyers market, and even they aren’t fully in control. You can’t tell a diverse array of stories if those stories aren’t brought to you in the first place. So when I found writing, I switched gears and wanted to tell as many stories as I could think of.
I found filmmaking purely out of impatience. The thought of writing something and having it sit on your laptop for years (quite common in television) drove me nuts. The accessibility and ease of theater (having an idea, and performing it in front of whoever will come to the theater) enticed me. Early on in school, I received the advice to “Not ask permission to create your work.” So now, I don’t! I write TV pilots and features, but I began writing short form content and plays that were more producible, so I could get it out into the world.
Tell us about this project! Where did the idea come from?
AC: Fishing began as a discussion with my interns about how to adapt Shakespeare for the modern age. Mistaken identity, pretending to be someone you’re not for money, for revenge, or for love. The themes and plot screamed catfishing. As a lover of Shakespeare, it’s easy for me to romanticize the situations his comedic characters get into, but when I put things into perspective and realized that things like that still happen today, just online, it sent me into a deeper interrogation of the internet and how it’s affected human connection and morality. There are two things people would do anything to get and protect: love and money. And Fishing explores the conflation of both.
I subscribe to the Bo Burnham school of thought where there are so many facets of the internet and living a life online that are simultaneously beautiful and insidious that we don’t have the language to describe or analyze quite yet. Early in the room, we discussed what it’s like to have relationships (friendships, romantic, etc) that are purely online. To experience what it’s like to feel close and distant to someone at the same time. It’s so pervasive now, that sometimes it can feel that way even when you’re in the same room. Our two catfish victims, Duncan and Casey, come from opposite sides of that spectrum. Duncan thrives on any connection he can establish with another person, online or not. And he has so much love to give, it blinds him a bit to the delicate nature of the relationships he’s formed. Casey may portray the idea that she gives into the “system,” but really she’s a simple gal. She like human interaction, in person and real, that can’t be mistaken for something it’s not. They both soon realize, that they’re both right…and also both wrong. This world is tricky.
What excites you about using crowdfunding?
AC: What I love about crowdfunding, specifically an independent series, is the direct to consumer model. We can finally help produce content that we want to see without just hoping and praying that Netflix or Hulu greenlights it. The audience is in charge. You give x dollars to a campaign, you pay for their set piece, or their crew meal or their sound equipment, you know, tangibly, that you were integral to that project getting made. And when it’s finished, you get to enjoy it knowing that you were a part of their journey as well.
In your campaign video you mention that each episode has a different look. Could you explain why?
AC: The nice thing about web series is that there are no rules! Our writers room was comprised of people who come from traditional TV backgrounds and sketch, so we had a lot of fun establishing kind of what the “traditional” version of this would be, and what we wanted to do with it.
We focused on character and emotional arc, and plotting out the mystery of the show, and then grew the structure from there. Each episode of our show is from the perspective of a different character, while keeping a serialized story.
We are able to add a little surrealism by letting the format of the episode take the shape of what serves that characters story/plot at the time. So earlier episodes, when everything is all fine and dandy are more traditional rom-com, sitcom structure, and as things get darker and their situation gets more dire, the structure breaks down along with the story. When pitching it to our team we reference shows like Atlanta, Legion, Man Seeking Woman, and Search Party to compare for tone, and format. It’s something new and different and that’s why it’s exciting!
Tell us about some/all of the other amazing women who are working on this show!
AC: I love love love our team. I am so lucky to live in a city where I am constantly meeting talented people. Our writers were a combination of people I had worked with before, and people I just met and loved when I read their samples. The project was really just the writers for a while. Once I knew we had a show with legs that could be something larger than what I could feasibly produce on my own, we started attaching more people.
It was important to me to have the producers and key roles be led by women. Some have worked on series before, some share the dark comedic sensibility the show has, some are looking for their chance to challenge themselves in their chosen career path, and some of them are just wicked talented and love the premise of this show and wanted to help. All of them are amazing, and we wouldn’t have made it this far without them. Among them are showrunners assistants, staff writers, production coordinators, business affairs execs, television and animation editors, designers and filmmakers in their own right who came together to make this project happen. Hire them for everything! We put all their bios up on our website.
Tell us about why you are a feminist and why it’s important to your filmmaking.
AC: Oh man, here comes a speech. I think filmmaking without feminism is too one-sided to feel authentic to the world we live in. A film without women represented is just not true. We are a majority of the population. Just like I don’t believe that when two white romantic leads walk down a New York City street they don’t interact with any people of color…it’s just not possible. And the fact that on screen roles aren’t representative is an active choice, and the same goes for behind the scenes.
I think the only way to bring equity to this industry is to lift women up along the way. Make sure they add credits to their resume, find mentors, find more work, good projects with resources to do their best work. In high school and college, a lot of my academic papers involved the psychological and sociological impacts of film and television on audiences—what it does to self esteem, education, acceptance of minority groups, social skills, language. This business is at the core of how we function in this world, and there’s a responsibility that comes with that. By all means, tell the stories you want to tell, but consider the ripple effect that work creates.
I choose to put women and people of color the forefront of my work as well as behind the scenes. The characters can be sweethearts, they can be villains, they can be terrible people, they can be messy. The point is that they are there, and they are as true as possible. Every year another dismal statistics report on the industry gets released and I can’t, in good conscience, claim to be a feminist, or good leader if I contribute to those statistics staying static. That starts at the bottom, creating more opportunities for marginalized people to get started so they can work their way up. A huge barrier to entry is financial, which is why we are crowdfunding enough money to pay our crew. It doesn’t matter that the work i’m doing is independent, or non union, or on the internet, it’s still important, and it’s important that the talented people creating this work for people to enjoy are compensated properly for their time.
Who are your favourite women working in the industry?
AC: There are too many to name! Well first, my boss, Erica Shelton Kodish. I’m also a fan of Issa Rae & Amy Aniobi, Lena Waithe, America Ferrera, Mindy Kaling, Liz Garcia, Effie Brown, Gina Rodriguez, Regina King, Aline Brosh McKenna & Rachel Bloom, Dee Rees, Phoebe Waller Bridge, Gloria Calderon Kellett, Vic Mahoney, Reed Morano, Melissa Rosenberg, Beth Schachter, Jennifer Kent, and Amma Asante. The women in my writers group, fellowships and monthly workshop who are all moving and shaking, working their way up. There are so so many more.
What’s the best advice about filmmaking you’ve ever received?
AC: Don’t ask for permission to create your own work.
If you could hold any Guinness World Record, what would it be?
AC: Consecutive minutes spent watching The West Wing.
What kind of hat best describes your personality?
Recommend one #MUFFApproved film** for our blog readers!
AC: Can I do one film and one show? Show — Pen15, Film — Real Women Have Curves.