i can’t even. is the debut web series from twin sisters and Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) graduates Hayley and Alyce Adams that follows two self-proclaimed pop culture nerds, Em and Lex living vicariously through their favourite cult fandoms.
Starring Louise Cox and Tiana Hogben as Em and Lex respectively, i can’t even explores the dynamics of two best friends who could not be more different; with their clashing personalities often leading to unconventional situations featuring an array of their obsessions from Harry Potter to The Hunger Games.
We asked Hayley and Alyce about the web series.
What was the inspiration for I can’t even?
Alyce: We knew for a while that we wanted to make our own web series, but it wasn’t until we went to the OVAs (Open Channel’s Online Video Awards) and saw Chris & Josh, another great Melbourne based web series, that we realised it was something that we could achieve. Their videos were short, normally in one location, and used two actors. Seeing their successful format made us want to try it ourselves.
From there, it was choosing our subject matter, which wasn’t hard. Any excuse to be on Tumblr as a way to ‘research’ the show is a pretty solid subject.
Was the series self-funded?
Alyce: Yes indeed. We wanted to do the episodes at our own expense, so we had complete authority and responsibility for them. Being answerable to people when we were still starting out and moulding the idea would’ve been too complicated. We wanted to prove ourselves and the concept first.
Can you tell us about the timelines; from conception, to scripting, to shooting, editing and uploading online?
Hayley: The idea was conceived around September of 2014 when Alyce started writing the sketches for fun. Alyce was about half way through her Master of Screenwriting and I was similarly completing my Master of Producing at the Victorian College of the Arts. We’ve always wanted to work together, so we started putting things together in our spare time.
Alyce managed to get quite a few ideas on paper pretty fast so that we could start considering casting.
We already knew that Louise would be playing Em but went through auditions and call-backs to find Tiana to play Lex. That process allowed Alyce to refine the scripts very quickly, as we worked with the director of the pilot, Tim Gibson. The pilot is the episode that became “Peeta Bread” and if you watch it now you probably wouldn’t believe how many drafts and bad puns were made to get to the shooting script! We filmed the pilot in early December, but then Alyce and I went to LA for three months for internships, meaning that we took a break in production and just focused on developing the scripts.
Once we got back, we were able to get everything rolling and the next five were shot over about three months. We had a bit of a rotating crew, so it meant that some episodes were being edited while others were still to be shot. Everything was done on weekends to accommodate everyone’s working schedule, so it was a pretty tight production window. We wrapped all of filming in early July and then raced to finish the edits for the first week of August!
Can you tell us about casting – and recruiting crew?
Hayley: Cast wise, we only had to find the two leads. As explained, Em was already cast and Lex was just a general casting call. Crew-wise, we relied a lot on friends and recommendations. There are so many amazingly talented people coming out of film schools, so it wasn’t really a struggle to find crew. Our only criteria with anyone involved was that they had to love some part of the concept and see it as an opportunity to expand their skill set. It could be the fact that they would get the chance to direct or shoot scripted comedy, that they wanted more experience editing sound and composing; that they could choreograph and do special effects for a lightsaber battle or quite simply that they were hard-core fans. We found that people were pretty happy to get on board! All up we had about 30 people work on different elements of the six episodes.
“There are so many amazingly talented people coming out of film schools, so it wasn’t really a struggle to find crew.”
Can you tell us about equipment?
Hayley: We shot some episodes on a Canon 5D and some on Black Magic – it just depended on the DOP and availability. We had a sound recordist and our DOP doubled as a gaffer most of the time. Our various editors used whatever programs they felt comfortable with – Premiere or Final Cut. Everything was pretty malleable and depended on the crew for each episode.
What has been the biggest challenge creating i can’t even?
Alyce: The biggest challenge production wise was finding our cardboard cut out of Edward Cullen. What a nightmare. If you’ve watched the episode, you would know that this prop was key to the plot. We looked everywhere, but the minimum 100 pound shipping fee from Amazon UK was a cost too far. We were as desperate to find Edward as Bella was in New Moon. However, Hayley being the miracle worker she is, was able to find a printing place in our state that made custom cardboard cutouts.
So yes, that was just a long-winded story to tell you that we own a one of a kind Edward Cullen cardboard cut out. It’s not our proudest possession, but it is our most expensive.
“If you’re a writer like me, and therefore genetically lazy, find yourself a producer.”
What is your vision for i can’t even – what’s next?
Alyce: Another web series, festivals, six seasons and a movie – we want it all!
At the moment we are submitting to festivals, so fingers crossed. The potential for a second season is all everyone and our mums keep talking about. We are definitely open to the idea; it just depends on the audience response. We leave that in the digital hands of the Internet gods.
How are you promoting the show and finding an audience?
Hayley: We have an amazing publicist, Wendy Trieu, and she is doing heaps of send outs and getting the word out to fan websites. We’ve also had a bit of luck with a few Tumblr GIF sets! Which was honestly the only reason we made this series.
Did you research and learn from what other web series were doing?
Alyce: Oh yes. A lot. Some may say too much. Some producers may say the writer used ‘research’ as an excuse to spend hours on hours on YouTube. This she adamantly denies; it was all for the craft.
We watched all of Geek & Sundry’s web series because they had the same audience we were hoping for, and also because they’re awesome. Seriously, go check out Space Janitors. Web series like The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, although a looser connection to our own show and could be classed as ‘unnecessary research’ by some, was definitely enjoyed.
I note you like female driven comedy and female focused media; what are your fav web series?
Alyce: We are big fans of literary inspired web series, which is a movement started off by The Lizzie Bennet Diaries where they take classics of books and modernise them as web series. Favourites would be Kiwi made Nothing Much to Do, and Australian Call Me Katie and Words from Wilde. Non-literary wise, The Katering Show has been the best thing we’ve watched online this year.
What’s great about them is that they are predominantly created by and star women in the main roles. Perhaps because web series are a new medium, they are able to break out of the more masculine tradition of film and TV.
“Web series should be recognised as their own separate format, not shorter episodes of TV.”
Would you change anything in hindsight on the web series?
Alyce: Change? Do different? You don’t mess with perfection. We can say that, because we have a completely unbiased opinion.
I suppose if we had a lightsaber to our heads, a small thing we could have done differently was not set an entire episode at a massive and very crowded pop culture convention centre. Talk about stressful. No lighting, terrible sound situation, and a short supply of time to film it all.
However, we’re very happy with how it turned out and is now one of our favourite episodes, so actually we change our minds. We wouldn’t do anything differently.
Can you offer any advice to aspiring web series creators?
Alyce: If you’re a writer like me, and therefore genetically lazy, find yourself a producer. Producers are the ones who get shit done and will turn your pile of words into actually enjoyable visual images. Fortunately for i can’t even., Hayley and I are twin sisters and make a nice producer/writer team. If you had the disadvantage of being a single embryo, then there are a ton of creator/film networking groups online that are a great way of meeting other enthusiasts. Every year it gets easier to create your content; you just have to go for it. And have a producer. Don’t forget that bit. It’s really important.
Know who your target audience is.
I liked your comment on your Tumblr: “Web series should be recognised as their own separate format.”
Alyce: I think at the moment, many people view web series as shorter episodes of TV or as a way to get their show repackaged for TV. However, I think that is a narrow viewpoint and a disservice to the medium. In my opinion, the best and most successful web series are the ones that actually use the format to experiment and do something different. That’s the whole point of the medium. It’s something that wouldn’t work on film or TV. As more money and recognition is given to web series, I think that will either give it its own distinct place, or cause it to merge even more with TV. No one can know yet, but it’s kind of exciting to be at the front of this new medium.