Monday 16th October 2017,
Televisual

“Anyone But Me” Creators On Web Series, Coming Out and Being The “Un-Gossip Girl”

Original at Ronebreak!

When Sylar orders you to do something, you better do it.

Starting its second season this week, Anyone But Me, probably America’s first full lesbian teen series, has gained its share of fans, including Zachary Quinto (Heroes, Star Trek), through is intimate, nuanced storytelling.

“Life at sixteen is fraught and fertile for drama,” said writer Susan Miller, a veteran of The L Word and thirtysomething, who wrote the show with director Tina Cesa Ward. “Anyone But Me shines a light on identity – coming to terms with who we are as gays, African Americans, women, and citizens of the world.”

The show has carved a niche for itself in a relatively crowded field. The web has been home to dozens of series about gays and lesbians. People of color have shows like Drama Queenz and the Lovers and Friends Show. Shows aimed at gay men like In the Moment are equally diverse, and lesbian series have devised interesting and addictive gimmicks, like the HBO-funded web series Time Travelling Lesbian and B.J. Fletcher: Private Eye.

Anyone But Me started on Strike.tv, which premiered two years ago during the writer’s strike to give then out-of-work creative professionals a chance to create their stories for the web.

“They’re the perfect example of what is possible,” said Strike.tv CEO Peter Hyoguchi of Anyone But Me. “There’s a quality that differentiates itself from your average YouTube web series.”

With no marketing budget, Miller called up friends like comedienne Kate Clinton and publications like the Windy City Times to get write-ups in newsletters and in print. Miller spread the word on online and offline in spaces like the NAACP 100-year anniversary convention. With write-ups on blogs like AfterEllen, Tubefilter and Salon, the show took off.

“I’m actually very excited to be on the web.  The creative freedom we have to tell the stories we want to tell the way we want to tell them cannot be matched by television, especially because of our subject matter,” Ward said.

Season two began this week, with ten episodes released monthly on Blip.tv (with whom they have a revenue-sharing agreement), Hulu, and Koldcast.tv. A DVD of season one is forthcoming. Past and current episodes can be seen  at anyonebutmeseries.com.

What was the inspiration for Anyone But Me?

TINA: The effects of 9/11 had an impact on my thoughts for the series.  I realized that today’s New York teens have very little sense of New York before the attacks.  Life is different now but to them it’s the only world they know. There were other things I wanted to explore, one being a more relevant take on the coming out story. I always felt that you don’t just have one coming out story, you actually have many.

Season one focused on the relationship between protagonists Vivian and Aster. What’s in store for them in the second season? What other storylines can viewers expect?

TINA: As it is we only have about 80 minutes per season to tell the best stories to the fullest extent.  We don’t like to cheapen moments just because of time restraints so we have to be very thoughtful in the storylines we choose for the season.  But we’re excited about going deeper into the characters this season, and it’s also great to explore other characters to see how they impact the lives of Vivian and Aster.

SUSAN:  We do have a surprise guest star who takes us into new territory.

The series has an interesting take on teenage gay identity. The characters appear comfortable with who they are, yet are very careful about who knows and who doesn’t. What’s your take on how teenagers are dealing with sexuality today?

SUSAN: The thing is, no matter how accepting modern urban teenagers may be of “difference”, there’s such a deep ambivalence they feel about themselves on so many levels, that each time they think they know who they are or who other people are, it’s going to change in the next instant. So it’s tough to come out about anything. Not just sexuality.

Both of you have backgrounds in theater. What similarities do web series have to theater production, particularly independent theater production? A number of independent series, like Kindred, have producers with links to theater.

SUSAN: Theatre respects the word. It revels in that space between artifice and reality. We take stylistic chances with Anyone But Me, but it’s not a play, it’s not a film, it’s not exactly a television show. It is its own creature. And we’re always trying to figure it out.

TINA:  As a producer and as a director I think they are very different animals.  Directing a web series is a whole new adventure.  I have to suppress some of my cinematic tendencies while cultivating my television direction skills.  But the web series is a great amalgamation of film and television. And although you’re often on set getting what you need, not what you want, the creative freedom is still pretty nice to have.

What do fans of the show say they like about it?

SUSAN: That we’re the “unGossip Girl.”

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About The Author

Aymar Jean Christian is assistant professor of communication at Northwestern University. He writes about media and society for a number of publications. For more information, click the "About" tab at the top of the page.

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