Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Happy Cancer Chick - The Women Behind the Web Series - Part 3 of 3

We activists are fond of saying, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem, and when it comes to the representation of Latinos in popular entertainment, the problem remains huge in 2013. 

Look no further than this past Sunday’s Oscar telecast.  In addition to overlooking prolific and gifted actress Lupe Ontiveros in the memoriam segment, Seth McFarlane’s “joke” about no one understanding nor caring what Javier Bardem, Penelope Cruz or Salma Hayek says because they’re so hot had a dissertation full of fail. For example, Zoe Saldana – who co-presented earlier a technical award with former co-star Chris Pine a technical award doesn’t count as a Latina because… what exactly? She’s Black? She’s not hot? She doesn’t have an accent?  Or is she not hot because she’s Black? Because she’s doesn't have an accent? Or because she's Black and doesn't have an accent? 

See… layers upon layers of failure.  And let’s not forget the enduring and complex politics of casting most recently exemplified and further complicated by this year’s Best Picture ARGO.  These are only three examples of how little Latinos have come in fourteen years since the so-called Latin Pop Explosion. 

Lupe Ontiveros, 1942 - 2012

One way to be part of the solution is to seize control of our own images and independently produce media with whatever technology, capital, talent and other resources we have available. For two seasons, producers Jenny L. Saldaña and Linda Nieves-Powell did that with the web series Happy Cancer Chick. Read on in this third of three installments to discover how they exemplified another saying by inspirational writer Orison Swett Marden: Don't wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize common occasions and make them great!"

SQ: Before HCC, Linda, you were well-known for theater and your novel Freestyle. What made you decide to realize this concept as a web series instead of, for example, a play such as YO SOY LATINA?

LNP:  I love writing.  Period.  I don't stay in one place for too long.  My first short story, The Fly Ass Puerto Rican Girl from the Stapleton Projects was just published in the Akashic Books anthology, Staten Island Noir.   I love to try new things and I'm not afraid of the learning curve when doing so.  I really wanted to try this out and now that I have, I think I'll produce more

SQ:  With two seasons under your belt, what advice do you have to others who may have an idea for a web series?

LNP:  Writing, whether it's on the web or TV or the stage is still key to a successful show.  Writing is the blueprint.  If it doesn't work on paper, it won't work at all. Season 2 I actually got hung up on this a lot.  I threw out a lot of ideas before finally feeling that the current format would be the best format to use.  I watch a variety of different webseries, some feature great actors, great writing, most have great intentions, but a lot are trying to mimic TV.  My favorite webseries is THE GUILD.  It's done really well and the content is perfect for the medium and demographic.  There are other series like THE MISADVENTURES OF AWKWARD BLACK GIRL, that are about funny moments and less about story arc.   I think ABG structure is a great format for the web.  This isn't always easy. I'm story driven.   So for me, I have to learn to keep it shorter and sweeter but still have a great beginning, middle, and end.   I find that the ABG series is more about that moment.  I like that.  But I can't write like that.  My brain doesn't function in moments.  I need connect ideas and themes.  Stories have to be bigger for me.  So fitting my writing sensibilities into this tiny, quick format, requires me to build new skills and create ideas that will fit this format.  My overall advice is do it.  Just do it.  You won't know until you try.   And don't be afraid of  the unions like SAG/AFTRA or WGA.  Jenny and I were able to become members of the Writer's Guild Of America because of this series and several of our actors were able to join SAG through our little project.

SQ:  So what is next for you? HHC Season 3? Something else?  

JLS:  I think we've said all we've wanted to say with HCC. For right now the HCC is going to bed. I'm working on a book of short stories, and am really enjoying that process of reliving some of my college antics.

LNP:  Yes, we decided that we said everything we wanted to say about HCC for now.  If someone came along with an idea for future episodes, I'd think about it. For now, I've been developing a few projects the last few months, one for the stage and a few screenplays.  As for the web, I have a couple of ideas I'm developing.  One is very close to being finished. Now that I know the medium a little better I want to try a few things.  I find that I can now play in two worlds instead of one.  The web (new format) and the real world (traditional format).

Here are Parts I and II of my Q & A with the fierce women behind Happy Cancer Chick. In the meantime, you can check out all five webisodes here and on Facebook. And by all means, comment and share! 

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