I read a lot of Internet and recently came across a little blurb about a new web series called Squaresville. There are so many great web series out there right now that discovering an awesome new one is like winning the lottery, but you know without actually getting any of those millions and you don’t really care cause your odds of winning were so bad anyway. Squaresville tells the story of two teenage girls, Zelda and Esther and their struggle to remain best friends in a town full of squares. It’s a classic coming of age story that definitely shows it’s influences in all the best ways, yet still remains fresh and original.
I sat down at my computer while Matt Enlow, the creator of Squaresville, sat down at his and we chatted about the web series.
I love the series so far. It’s smart and funny and refreshing. How and when did you come up with the idea for the story?
Thanks Steven! It means a lot that people are finding it fresh. Whenever you’re doing a best friends/slice of life story, you’re running the risk of making something familiar and universal stale, so keeping things fun and different is one of my main priorities. The storylines always seem to evolve out of experiences with specific characters I knew growing up. If the girls are the foundation for the story, then asking the question “what would happen if Zelda and Esther got mixed up with… the kid who always vandalizes school property, or… the kid who got too drunk at that one party… or the kid who wanted to play obscure Japanese board games all the time” normally yielded solid story options.
What was the inspiration for doing Squaresville?
For Squareville, I knew I wanted to distill an experience that would speak to me as a young person. There are a lot of high concept dramas for teens out there, but I could never relate to anyone on any of those shows. I understand that people want aspirational story telling, but as a teen I never aspired to be a cutthroat lawyer or fashion editor or whatever those teen shows are about. I dunno. I never got them. So with Squaresville I wanted to make something a kid like me would’ve been excited by. The internet is filled with disposable entertainment, but that’s not why anyone ever wants to make art, right? We want it to be for keeps, and the art that resonates with you as a young adult stays with you (even if you outgrow it) forever.
How important was Kickstarter in helping this project along?
Kickstarter was essential in making the show a reality. We’re entirely fan-funded, so without our fans, there would be no show.
The cast is great. How did you go about finding such great actors to join your project?
The cast took a long time to find. As an indie project, we were casting on weekends for MONTHS, but my wife Christine Weatherup is an actor, (who also worked as a producer on the show) so she brought in some great people – Kylie aka Esther was someone she knew for instance. A lot of the supporting cast came in from our community of friends. The challenge was in the teenagers, so we just had to read a ton of people, and trust our instincts.
What are some of the positives and negatives of launching your own web series?
The biggest upside to indie web video is the creative freedom. It’s an opportunity to stay precisely true to the voice of the show, whether it’s a popular decision or not. The trick, and this is also the downside, is that you need to make sure that you have the proper checks and balances (in producers you trust like Jasmine Daghigian or Christine Weatherup) who you can bounce things off of. Unchecked creative control can lead you down the wrong path. Surrounding yourself with other artists you trust – and listening to them – is essential.
How long has the series been in the works?
We have been working on it for nearly two years now, but there was a long fund raising period in between the very beginning of the show and the actual launch.
Who are some of the people you look up to in this industry and what TV shows inspired Squaresville?
I feel like the TV show inspirations are pretty obvious (my critics would say too obvious) Daria, Freaks and Geeks, My So-Called Life. I love those shows and certainly owe Freaks and Geeks for opening my mind up to serialized story telling in a sense. The main inspiration for the show, besides real world experience, is actually in independent comics and graphic novels. I found storytelling and structural inspiration in the way that comics deal with short form story telling. Comics’ artists have been dealing with the same hurdles web video has been dealing with for years. Guys like Chester Brown, The Hernandez Brothers, Jillian Tamaki and Dan Clowes (of course).
How many episodes of the series will there be? Can you drop any hints as to what sort of things we’re going to see in future episodes?
We’re running new videos every Friday through September guaranteed. We meet a ton of new characters, old friends, new love interests, sisters, brothers, weird classmates. This season is about bringing you into the world. We’d like to start shooting again in the next few months, but that depends on the growth of the show.
What is the process of an episode from idea to script, to shooting to posting on the web? How long does each step take for you?
We shoot it out movie block style. So we shoot a handful of episodes over a long weekend. Then we take it into post for a few weeks, do color and sound, then throw it up online. The whole thing takes a while since we’re all working nights and weekends. The QandHey episodes and Behind The Scenes episodes take considerably less time – a week or so.
The QandHEY! segment is great! Why did you decided to answer fan questions, address YouTube comments, etc. using the video format?
Our fans are really fantastic and supportive. They’re the key to our show growing, so interacting with them on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr didn’t seem like enough. The internet is a visual medium, and we’re best at making videos – so why not?
Are there any little known facts about the series that you can share with us?
I’m married to Christine Weatherup, producer and also Zelda’s older sister Sarah in the show. Also, Mary Kate and Kylie were friends before they were both cast – the majority of the cast and crew went to USC within a few years of one another.
What for you has been the most rewarding aspect so far of creating this series?
The fans have really been incredible. That’s the biggest reward for sure. Seeing comments that confirm what an entire cast and crew of my best friends was hoping – that people love this show and are touched by it- that’s really incredible.
What other web series do you think people should be watching?
Oh man, there are so many I’m sure I’ll miss someone important. To name a few: I Hate Being Single, Husbands, Whole Day Down, Checked Out, The Vlog Brothers/The Lizzy Bennet Diaries, Sandbox, and The Untitled Webseries that Morgan Evans is doing are all very strong. That’s a big spread and they’re all doing something very different.
What advice would you give other writers/actors/directors interested in creating a web series? Something you wish you had known before starting or after working on it for a little while?
The biggest thing with making a web series is remembering that the process is a marathon, not a sprint. You can’t just post your show and hope for the best. I’ve had a lot of help from BigFrame and Brian Rodda Constulting to help me out, so in that way I’m very lucky. Asking for help from smart people, and helping them in return never hurts.
Check out Squaresville’s YouTube channel for new episodes every Friday. Follow them on Twitter, Tumblr, and like them on Facebook. Ask them questions and you may end up on one of their QandHey! videos.