***The Thursday Interview is a showcase for creators, innovators, troublemakers, business owners to share news and insight about the creative impetus and inspirations behind their latest project, launch or business.
A Twitter like on a round-up post on web series created by women introduced me to Jessica Henderson and Growing Down. The friendship chemistry between the characters hooked me from the first episode. At the time, I added Jessica to the Thursday Interview invite list. I’m glad she said yes. Enjoy!
Name: Jessica Henderson
Company: Growing Down
Launch Date: Summer 2016
Motto: “Grab Life by the struggle”
Every production has a team — how did the Growing Down team come together?
The idea of Growing Down sprung from a failed web series that we tried to launch the previous year. The project failed honestly because I didn’t know what I was doing and I, Jessica Henderson must learn all lessons the hard way. But Arielle (co-creator) and I weren’t willing to give up on the idea of creating something. So we bought the script, and assembled a whole new team. The script was strong, but it needed to be edited. So Jeff Davis came on as our writer. Mind you the inception of this series was over 5 years ago now! While we loved the scripts, we had no idea how to bring it to life. As it happens Jeff is also apart of a production company here in New York, so with the funds of a humble Indiegogo campaign we began to look for a crew which was mostly influenced by Flash Films (the production company) and friends! We brought many people on set who were simply willing to help.
What’s the story behind the show’s tagline “Grab life by the struggle”?
Well first see above, the start of this project was a struggle that we decided to turn around. Also isn’t it how you existed in your 20s? I think the idea of the series is pushing to explore; and this is unintended. In life we push to create, earn, be, whatever, but many times we push and find out we pushed in the wrong direction. We didn’t like the idea of a series where you magically got it right on the first try. Our characters are not caricatures, they’re closer to real life. And in “real life” one does not always succeed on the first try. But the women in our series are not just sitting around complaining about their situations, they’re fighting against them and thru them. That’s where the humor comes from, the fight against the struggle. I guess to bring this analogy full-circle, the “situation” of the motto is our bull’s horns…. Like a joke, it’s never quite as fun when you spell it out…
The production process for the show from idea to YouTube was…..
Girl……….BYYYYYEEE……ROUGH. Like most zero-sum-budget productions, money is always our enemy. We found out quickly that this is not everyone’s passion project, i.e. not everyone was willing to work for free. The first season we pushed to shoot our 3 episodes in one weekend and then took an excruciating amount of time to bring it together.
There were a lot of key learnings there for us, so season 2 (while still a growing phase) is in a better place. We know where some of the hurdles will be, and we know how to get our videos finalized quicker! Those past struggles and those that are inevitably in our future will help us as we tackle this season, three, four, and beyond.
What advice would you share for anyone who wants to produce and market a web series? Don’t sugarcoat.
Why would I sugarcoat?! You can’t! The most important thing to remember while producing a web series is to do it out of love! (I know that sounds like a quote off Pinterest) but I say this because more often than not, a web series also implies low-budget, and low-budget work is HARD. So you have to love what is hard to do. Also, PLEASE have something to say! Find a topic you’re passionate about, and start!
It doesn’t have to be as technically proficient as our work (or perfect), just start putting your thoughts out there. The most important thing we learned is consistency. We’re having to correct this mistake now and learn from it in a very hard way.
Fast forward to a year from now, what do you want to be sharing about Growing Down and your career?
I have to laugh at this question because my career is Growing Down. I have dove in and fallen head over heels in LOVE with this project. Meanwhile my parents are asking when I’m going to settle down and get married! …I digress. A partial reason I began this project was to crush a few stereotypes. As a black woman in the arts, I can not indulge another underdeveloped stereotypical role; you know the ones. By early 2017, I want this web series to help other women, people of color, and young artists to find the courage to create, and if you have something to say FUCKING say it. Don’t wait for someone to offer an opportunity – create it! I believe that a web series is a tool to create your own brand and ultimately gives you more control and access to a career. Also I’d like to have filmed a third season by that time and have our viewership tripled if not more. Right now my goal is to keep this train moving and bring those inspired on board!
This is your chance to shout out to crew, collaborators and supporters
O my! So many people. Where do I start?
- My family
- Arielle Yoder (co-star/Creator)for grabbing my hand and jumping of the cliff with me. Also telling me I’m funny.
- Jeff Davis (writer/director) for introducing me to Flash, developing the script of season one, directing,writing season two, and occasionally telling me I’m pretty.
- James Monahan (co-producer) for collecting all my thoughts, dreams, hopes,and plans then putting them in a google doc.
- Hannah Suesy (Production Coordinator) for staying on the phone till early hours in the morning, talking me thru EVERYTHING
- Alex Nader (AD)- for being the boss bitch that she is.
- Peter Westervelt (DP) for believing in us enough to donate his time and expertise.
- Lauryn Hamel (co-star) for agreeing to be a part of this crazy process and her friendship. Also telling me I’m funny.
- Alex Rose for living with me thru season ONE
- Malloree Hill, Zach Nelson, and Eric Lommel for talking photos for us on a billions separate occasions.
As I sit here and write all this…. I think about how grateful I am to be able to write this many people’s names down!
The rest of the crew of season one, that got paid pennies but still helped (Alec, Diana, Adam Deen, Roxanne, Ariel, and Eric). The rest of the cast of season one (Alexandra and Adam). THANK YOU!
Lastly my friends: Jophie, Libby, Channing, Katie, Kim, Chris, Alex Nader, Frankie, Jordan, Josh, Emily, Bree, Grace, Hannah Driscol, Sebastian, Tash and Nicole.