Film and TV Now Interview: Suzanne Schmidt & Frankie Ingrassia Highlight Strong Female Friendships with “Hey You, It’s Me”
“…I think what we give to each other as women is unique, and interesting, and I wanted to write about how special those friendships have been in my life.”
This might be surprising to you, but women aren’t always catty towards one another. In fact, they don’t usually want to cat fight or ruin their frenemies careers. So, why does Hollywood often portray them this way?
Well, it’s this depiction actress/creator Suzanne Schmidt is out to disprove with her new comedy web series “Hey You, It’s Me.” The 6-episode series is based around the long-distance, unbreakable bond between two besties as they maneuver through their careers, men and life in their struggle to succeed.
Suzanne turned to rising talent Frankie Ingrassia to direct the series which recently launched on the subscription streaming service Seed&Spark. The pilot episode first premiered on the festival circuit, earning numerous awards and nominations all around.
Now that “Hey You, It’s Me” has launched, Suzanne Schmidt and Frankie Ingrassia found time for an interview:
For anyone who hasn’t seen it yet, set the scene for “Hey You, It’s Me”.
SUZANNE: “Hey You, It’s Me” is a comedy that illustrates the power of female friendships. The show is a window into what it’s like to be a single woman in a male dominated, age-obsessed industry. The central characters are two actresses living in entertainment cities 2000 miles apart. During their days they experience frustration, rejection, encouragement, joy and resolve. Their busy lives make it hard to connect so the support of true friendship is given through long-winded, hilarious, and vulnerable voicemails.
FRANKIE: It’s a comedic look at two girlfriends in two different cities both pursuing a similar dream and sharing the trials and tribulations of their plight through voicemails. Each facing a series of their own challenging road blocks based around age, relationship status and financial struggles.
Suzanne, Is it based on your own life experience or where did you come up with the idea?
SUZANNE: This show is based on a real-life long-distance friendship, yes. After spending three years and seemingly 24-7 with Christie Maturo while in grad school, we moved across the country from each other. In an effort to keep that much needed support and connection, we would call each other constantly. However, with our schedules and the time difference, getting an actual person on the other line proved difficult. It was our longwinded, detailed, and emotion-filled voice mails back and forth that were the inspiration for this series.
Why was it important for you to focus on a female friendship?
SUZANNE: All of my friendships are valuable to me. This story in particular is about the strength of the female friendships because I think what we give to each other as women is unique, and interesting, and I wanted to write about how special those friendships have been in my life. I also believe what it’s like to be a woman in this country and in this industry is interesting and oddly comical in a slightly tragic way. I realized I had a unique perspective on a story not being told nearly enough so I started writing. That’s it really.
FRANKIE: As single women, it’s one of the most important relationship in our lives. I would be lost without my friends, they are my support, my love, my play and my creative team mates.
What’s the hardest part about creating something funny?
SUZANNE: I look for the comedy in tragedy so it’s often a fine line. It’s important not to feel pity for the characters, but rather to laugh at their pitiful situations. Like, “Oh man, how do we make this horrible thing funny?” It can be tough.
FRANKIE: Hoping people laugh??
How much improvising was there or did you stick to the script mostly?
SUZANNE: We always took at least one take per angle with the actual script. However, especially when Frankie is directing because she is purposefully slow to yell cut, the actors keep going once the script runs out. It’s so fun to see what awkward thing will happen next.
FRANKIE: A lot, and we stuck to the script, does that make sense? I love to see what the actors would bring on their own and how it adds to the story.
Supporting characters are important for the comedy to work – tell us about your casting process.
SUZANNE: We are lucky to know some amazing actors. I went to USC School of Dramatic Arts for undergrad and Frankie has been acting in this town since she was very young. We think a lot about the casting (and a few roles were written with specific actors in mind) but we have always found what we are looking for within our network. It might be fun to branch out as the series continues. Time will tell.
FRANKIE: Some roles were written specifically for friends and others fit perfectly in after the script was written, no auditions needed. – (yet)
Anything about the project that you wish you could get a ‘do-over’ on?
FRANKIE: A bigger budget would have helped a wee bit, then maybe we could have slept in between episodes. We did just fine without sleep, but a little would have been nice.
SUZANNE: Yes! Sleep. I see myself in those scenes we shot on the last day and I could have written a separate part for the bags under my eyes!
Overall, what’s been the biggest surprise for you in creating this series?
FRANKIE: I wish I could say nothing, but truthfully every time I watch the episodes with an audience and hear the laughter I get so happy. Like “wee it’s working, it’s really working!”
SUZANNE: It’s been such an amazing journey that it’s hard to say what the “biggest” of anything has been. Does it sound cheesy to say I’ve been surprised by my own writing and producing abilities? I’ve learned to trust myself. I’ve also learned what a pleasure it is to watch an audience as they enjoy your creation. Growing up as a theatre actress, I rarely had that unique opportunity. It’s something special.
Watch Season One of “Hey You, It’s Me” online now at Seed&Spark: http://seedandspark.com/watch
or catch Episode One in the media player below:
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