Hey, how about this internet? There sure are lots of maddening things about it, right? But you know one thing I will always appreciate about the ‘net is the way it enables creative folk to network & support each other. I’d like to think that Robert Frost’s Banjo, in its own small way, has contributed to this—& so I’m really excited to let you all know about a project being developed by some close friends of mine!
So let me introduce Jen Ralston, my good pal & a creative dynamo—she has worked in Hollywood for the past 20 years as a sound editor on such successful shows as Treme & The Wire; she won a 2009 Emmy in “Outstanding Sound Editing for a Miniseries, Movie or a Special” for her work on Generation Kill, & also won a Golden Reel Award for her sound editing on the same miniseries. In addition to her noteworthy & extensive television work, Jen has worked on a number of films, including such notables as Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon & O Brother, Where Art Thou? Jen Ralston is also an accomplished writer & contributed the teleplay for the 2012 Treme episode “I Thought I Heard Buddy Bolden Say.” You can find her full resume here at IMDB.
In conjunction with producer Leslie Valentino—whose list of credits include Sin City & two of the Pirates of the Caribbean films—& a host of talented folks (including a few musicians who have appeared on this blog), Jen Ralston is putting together a new webseries called BFF the series. Now that we’re all acquainted, let’s have Jen tell us about the background to this series in her own words:
When widower Mike Brady married the (mysteriously single) Carol and redefined what family looked like for a generation of TV viewers, I was an only child being raised by a single parent in rural Pennsylvania. And while Ellen was coming out of the closet on her sitcom, I was proudly watching in a room full of already-out film school friends in New York City.
As invaluable as these examples of otherness were for me and many others, I have yet to see characters on television that accurately reflect the full range of diversity I experience in my everyday life. Sixteen years after Ellen’s famous “Puppy Episode,” there are many more gay protagonists, but most are shallow, sassy stereotypes. And transpeople are rarely represented as anything other than victims of violence or punchlines to tasteless jokes.
I have had to learn to empathize with, root for, and even love all kinds of characters who, on the surface, bore very little resemblance to me. In my experience, we all have more in common than not. Anyone can be a victim or a punchline. Or beautiful. Or even heroic. By telling stories that remind audiences of that, I hope to help fill this void.
Intrigued? I know I am, & I hope you are too. On the project’s Indiegogo page (use the link here or at the top of the blog’s sidebar) Jen goes on to underline that the success of BFF the series will be one way of demonstrating to the powers that be how many viewers want real stories about real people—characters that reflect the people who populate our everyday lives, not the stereotypes television has so often wheeled out a rotating collection of stock characters. It’s a great thing for the LGBT community & its allies; it's a great thing for tolerance & inclusion in a culture desperately in need of same. Just a while back I blogged a photo of Pete Seeger’s banjo with the motto “This machine surrounds hate & forces it to surrender”—I believe BFF the series has the potential to be the same kind of machine! Here's how Jen encapsulates the storyline:
John and Alex just moved to SF from Pittsburgh. He's in publishing and she's in tech. When the series starts, they're engaged to be married but very quickly those plans change. Alex realizes she is gay. And John needs to move out and move on.
Alex soon discovers that there is more to being gay than coming out of the closet. Her "girl meets girl" quest is compounded by the maze of identity politics that is the SF queer community. Meanwhile, John ends up in an apartment share in the Mission with Hunter (a transman) and Lindsay (his lesbian-identified girlfriend).
As (straight) John and (straight-laced) Alex find equilibrium in their progressive new home, the humor in the show will come from the situations the characters find themselves in, rather than at the expense of the characters differences.
& hey, it’s the internet that makes this possible, not just in terms of facilitating the fund raising, but also in distributing the finished content—which will be free by the way—yay internet! But in reality it's the internet in conjunction with the amazing creativity of people like Jen Ralston, Leslie Valentino & their many friends, including the friends, virtual & otherwise, who lend a hand in any way they can to get this project off the ground! I feel privileged to be counted as one of them, & I encourage you to support this project in any way you can too. Spreading the word helps—you can “like” the project on Facebook, follow on Twitter @SomeOtherJen, blog about it, tweet about it, or just generally spread the word. & of course, if you’d like to join me in making a donation, I know that will be really appreciated too!
Check out the “teaser” trailer below—great fun! & as Jen says: “It’s about time”!
All images link to their source at the BFF the series Facebook page