Cinema Bandit is devoted to supplying young and new filmmakers with resources, articles, and interviews to help artists develop themselves creatively and professionally. Today, Cinema Bandit sits down to talk to actresses Beth Curry and Marieve Herington about their new web series Pleasant Events.
“Brenda Bleasant (Curry), is a tactless celebrity wedding planner, who returns to the business after fifteen years off the grid. ‘Brenda is back, baby!’…but so is her dated 90’s style. Unaware of the modern world, Brenda discovers the whole ‘wedding biz’ has changed. Luckily, her sweet and more style-savvy niece, Penny (Herington), is in need of an internship to complete her event planning certificate — the perfect fit. Or, is it? As Penny bears witness to her aunt’s outlandish ways, Penny is determined to turn the beat around. But, can she do it?”
Cinema Bandit: I’d like to start off with a self-introduction from the both of you. Who are you as actors, writers, and just in general as artists?
Curry: My name is Beth Curry, I am a writer, actor, singer. I was born and raised in California. I went to school in Dallas Texas, and I’ve spent some time in New York where I did Broadway for five years. I came back to California, and I have been writing, acting, and singing ever since.
Herington: I’m originally from Toronto, Canada. I started acting as a kid, both on camera and voice-over, which has been a big part of my life as well. Then, in the last couple of years, I started dipping my toe in the writing and creating pool. I’ve been hooked ever since.
So what is Pleasant Events about?
Herington: The story centers around the character of Brenda Bleasant and her return to the wedding planner industry. She was formerly a celebrity wedding planner, and after a fifteen-year-long absence, she returns to the business with the help of her niece, Penny.
This is a unique idea for a series. How did you guys come up with this idea?
Curry: Marieve came to me a while back – we had met in a writer’s workshop. She said, “I have this crazy idea for a wedding show where the main character’s name is Brenda Bleasant, and I see a very dated woman.” I agreed and wanted to write it with her. I know this is a site for young creators and I think an important thing when creating is just showing up and doing it. “Let’s meet up, let’s write this, let’s plan this” It was the consistency that allowed it to bloom in to fruition.
Herington: Everyone has a great idea for something in this town, but at the end of the day, you need to make stuff. And making things require consistency. Luckily, I found in Beth a partner ready to commit on that level and push the project forward. We ended up shooting the pilot about a month after we came up with the idea. It was very fast.
In regard to the script, how did that work? Did you just have an outline and most of its improv, or did you have a pretty tight script?
Herington: It’s a weird answer. It started as a scripted show, and a lot of episodes are. But then, we found this whole other unscripted aspect to the show – entirely by accident! We finished shooting our pilot mid-day on a Sunday.
Curry: It was also Marieve’s birthday—
Herington: That’s right! Beth had her fabulous big 80’s hair, she was already done up [in character.] We thought we could use some photos of those characters. So what better way to have a cheesy JC Penney photo shoot. We decided to not only shoot the photos but shoot the shooting of the photos.
Curry: My husband was there, he helped with the technical side of shooting the pilot, and we did it ninja style. It was a lot of fun – putting Brenda Bleasant in public and seeing what happened. The unscripted episodes were all flying by the seat of our pants.
So you just went into JC Penney and did your thing? Guerilla filmmaking style?
Curry: We went in, and I said, in character, “I’m just reuniting with my niece.”
Herington: We just went in character.
Curry: They just looked at us like “What’s going on?” But they didn’t question it.
From idea to publication of the videos, what was the process? Did you have any difficulties or challenges in either pre-production or production or post-production?
Herington: They were completed and then not released right away, for a variety of reasons. I don’t think we had any big snags.
Curry: The benefit of being married to someone who owns a production company, he had every sort of piece of equipment that we needed, and so he helped us facilitate the shoot. It was easy in the process because that means you’re always onto something good.
Herington: We had great people behind the camera, in front of the camera. We did try to involve as many women as we could in the positions possible. We had a female director for most of the episodes; we had a female sound mixer – kind of before it was becoming a thing (we started shooting this is 2015.) We just had great people who were equally as passionate and I think that helped as the project moved forward. We also were pretty strategic about not writing anything with insane locations, working with what we had. We shot all of Brenda’s stuff in my office in my house.
That helps especially for new filmmakers: if you have a crazy idea that you want to do the resources you have and it can end up being such a fun, creative result just like for us in the puppet episode. Which Beth gets full credit for this. We had all this fun back story of Brenda. We knew we wanted her to be away in the woods for twenty years, but at some point, we have to explain that. We had this lavish backstory that we knew we couldn’t shoot, and Beth said, “How about puppets?” And me, being the stick in the mud that I am said, “Absolutely not!”
It took me five minutes to be on board, and we reached out to an artist to make the puppets. For new filmmakers, to work with what you’ve got, and then coming up with fun and creative solutions for what you don’t.
Advice for actors in Hollywood? Something you would have told yourself when you were just starting out?
Curry: This business is tricky. I do think if you have a desire to do anything else, you should do it, because this business can be tough.
One of the best things you can have in the business itself is self-knowledge, and know who you are and what you’re bringing to the table. Making choices that are authentic to you, because there’s only one of you, and those choices are going to be yours. It is important to bring choices that are different. Not just to do it perfectly or right, but to do it authentically. How you see it and how you feel it. Somedays, they don’t want that, and somedays they do. Personally, I feel like you need to have strong ground beneath your feet to be in this business. You can’t believe the ups and you can’t believe the lows. You have to believe somewhere in between.
Herington: I absolutely agree with what Beth is saying, knowing yourself and trusting your instincts, and going with that. Just like anything. The Oscar nominations just came out, “Oh, I hated Three Billboards, I loved Three Billboards.” Everyone’s going to have a different opinion. You have to know yourself, and what your strengths are, and what you can do- then tune out the noise, the “I love it, I hate it.” It will drag you down. In terms of actors, starting today, is much different. When I started it was “Get an agent, go on auditions, book a job.” And I feel like things have changed so much just in ten years. That is not the only way. You don’t need an agent. People are making things on YouTube and getting pilot orders off of YouTube and off of Instagram videos. There’s never been a set path in this business, but I think the path is all that much more unclear now. But! There are all that many more different avenues that you can explore and what sticks for you.
Curry: It’s a really empowering time for young people. If today’s technology had been available in our time, I would have jumped on it. It’s empowering to create something and put it up. It’s amazing.
Herington: For any actor who is saying “Hm, I just want to act, and I don’t have the opportunity to audition for things in Hollywood,” just make creative projects and don’t wait til you have a perfect idea. Just start making it. You’re going to learn so much about who you are as a performer, certainly what you want to say creatively in the doing of it. Act before you’re ready.
What about for filmmakers looking to create their own web-series, what advice do you offer?
Curry: I’ve been writing for about eight years, and I remember when I first started writing, I would get a couple pages in and I would think “this is stupid” and self-edit, and stop. I think you have to go through those times of the self-editing, and the voice that says “you can’t do this.” Once you break through that point, you’ll realize “wow” this is great. With directing as well, direct anything. Just get your feet wet in anything you can, it can only help.
Watch Pleasant Events on YouTube Now. Click below to check out the first episode: