"We're too old for ingenues, too fat for L.A., and too ambitious to remain on the sidelines." ...that's a cast I'm willing to have a bit of faith in. A group out of Chicago is trying to crowdfund a scifi comedy webseries with actual women, and I think it's worth a gamble.
Space janitor promoted to captain, hijacked government spaceship, mysterious cargo, and an all-female cast except for one token guy. The self-described slash fic between feminism and science fiction just might be my new favourite concept for a comedy webseries.
Space Happens is a webseries-in-potential, a Kickstarter project in its last few days to reach funding targets. Why Kickstarter instead of the usual pitch-and-pilot approach?
Frankly, no one is ever going to cast us ever cast any one of us as a starring role in a mainstream scifi show. We're too old for ingenues, too fat for L.A. (who isn't!?), and too ambitious to remain on the sidelines.
And that, right there, sounds like a spaceship crew I could grow to love.
The cast headed out on a bitterly cold winter day in Chicago with lots of ideas but no money. After eight hours with a volunteer cameraman and uncounted hours swearing at iMovie, they put together a two and a half minute pitch, a trailer to pull you into their universe and hope for a chance to make it real.
The trailer is alright — they're new to this format and have a lot to learn — but the worldbuilding outside the trailer is what got me hooked. The Quality Control Division are the secret police, informing hapless citizenry, "This assassination may be recorded for quality assurance," before efficiently completing their task.
Janitor-now-Captain Joy is determined to improve herself in any way possible. Her reading list includes Tilt Back by Carol Spaceberg, Seven Habits of Highly Effective Janitors; Men Are from Mars, Women are from Gynothrax Prime; and A Brief History of Doing Your Best in the Office. She even picks up a brochure on how to complete the hero's journey, a self-referential tribute to genre tropes.
The token male on the crew is Wayne, who dedicated years of his life to the Monastery of Bartender and Restauranteur (BAR) Association subsiding on garnishes while learning the art of his craft. I get the feeling he takes his cocktails very seriously. No word on if he'll go full Hawkeye-initiative, or manage to maintain his self-respect while on the run.
Communications officer Barbara may have misunderstood the hiring process, gushing about her enthusiasm of munitions spurred by her grandfather's gift of a grenade for her first birthday. If this was a not-so-subtle attempt to blow the babbling lass to smithereens, or the doting affections of a proud grandparent, is something we'd hopefully explore in the webseries.
Plus, the MS Paint storyboard for the opening sequence is pure chaotic, low-budget gold:
This ensemble-driven project imagines retrofuture universe backed by a female-dominated cast,writers room, and production team. Why? As the project page explains:
[W]e think men and women should be given the same opportunities.
In many Hollywood and New York writers rooms, the male voice is the most often heard. Sometimes it is the only voice in the room. With Space Happens, Fake Geek Girl wanted to create a show where women's voices are heard: we are the producers, we are the writers, we are the crew.
Feminism does not mean we exclude men from our show as cast members, as crew members, as writers... the list goes on! But we don't have to answer to an Executive Producer who is a wealthy white male, and therefore our team—both the men and the women—are free to create honest characters that break archetypes and stereotypes regardless of gender.
It helps that these ladies (and men — check out the list of names on description page to play guess-the-gender) aren't just comedians with a good idea. They're actors and writers with combined decades of experience in film and theater, but they're also well-versed in science fiction. They've trained in vaudeville, busking, slapstick, commedia dell'arte, and burlesque, and know all the themes that pop up in my favourite shows well enough to tease each and every one.
The lethal weapon of an assassin trying to figure out polite society. The mechanic who is a little overly-fond of her machines. The doctor who's so perfect you want to hate her but you can't. And, of course, the over-promoted janitor who is trying so hard to rise to expectations... (Why, of course they have a quiz to determine which character you are! I'm pretty sure that's mandatory.)
When I asked Nicole Keating about what shows are inspiring the series, she exuded her fondness for any story focused around a crew trapped in a spaceship together. "The potential for conflict and camaraderie is limitless. ...[M]y favorite shows are ones with vibrant and memorable crews: Firefly, Bucky O'Hare and the Toad Wars, Star Trek, BSG, Farscape, Red Dwarf, even Armageddon..." If the Kickstarter succeeds, the webseries this fall will be full of familiar ideas with references both blatant and subtle, yet have the unique twist of a universe that actually has women for once.
It also looks like this project will be an ode to physical effects. The higher-level backer levels include the construction of an alien avatar, a puppet built in your honour to populate the universe. This is partly a nod to the theater experience of the crew — a puppet dragon is far more tractable to live stage performances than a computer graphics creation — but as Keating explains, "Live effects still breathe with the magic of creativity." And if those live effects happen to be a bit more kitsch than realistic, then it's just a homage to the original Star Trek, where tying a horn to a puppy's head was a feasible way of imagining alien pets.
A more accessible backer reward is a pinup calendar of the show's characters. The photoshoot already took place, and they gave us a peek behind the scenes:
MLDRD-42-B221 (Codename: Mildred), a lethal assassin on the run, helping dear Doctor Janet Mongfree fix her hair.
Barbara Oglethorpe was hired as the Communications Officer, unless she's actually the Munitions Officer. Either way, she's far too rich to work for a living.
Captain Joy Jones checking on the android-mechanic Pauline.
Pilot Scarlet Swingline, a reckless, brash young woman running from a tortured past.
Follow the project on Facebook or Twitter, and if you're as optimistic as I am that this could be something cool, help them fund their Kickstarter and get filming. Members of the ensemble are active in the discussion, so feel free to ask them questions or give constructive feedback. You are their target audience for pop-culture rich satire, so this can be a focus group on what works, what doesn't, and what you'd love to see in the final project. Please play nicely; this is project created by real humans who are trying to do something difficult.