An interview with Kallie Tenney & Sarah Soderquist, creators of GAL PALS. Links to the show at the end of the interview.
Tell us a little about where you’re from.
S: I grew up in a small town in southwest Michigan. VERY small in size and mindedness. I went to Columbia College in Chicago which was a big change from a small town.
K: I also grew up in a smaller town but in Illinois and went to Columbia College Chicago.
What got you started making movies?
S: I’ve always been interested in writing stories since I was young. I’ve always had a creative mind, so that paired with a handful of video classes and a Sony Handicam, had me on that path. When I realized that I could do that as a career, I ran with it.
K: When I was a kid, my grandma had this fancy-to-me digital camcorder that I became obsessed with, making dramas starring my Barbies and simple stop motions with hot wheels. I forced my younger brother and cousins to act out a script I wrote that was some kind of forensic files satire with Spongebob Squarepants? That was weird but the most fun I’d ever had. But it wasn’t until I paid attention to the credits and realized that people wrote movies and tv that I realized it was something you could do.
S: Mean Girls--It’s a fucking classic. The script is tight, Rachel McAdams is a QUEEN and it’s a teen movie that is now a cult classic. Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl--Again, tight script. Absolutely amazing story they came up with based on a theme park ride. While it is technically not “original,” the story, I would say, is very original. Titanic--If you’d told me this movie was made in present day, I’d probably believe you. The production value is INCREDIBLE for the time period. Way ahead of its time. Grease and The Parent Trap (Lindsay Lohan version, obviously)--I grew up watching them and I will watch them every time I see them on somewhere.
K: I also love Mean Girls. From a writing standpoint, the script is so perfect and funny. My other favorites are 13 Going on 30, Goodfellas, and Marie Antoinette--I think because I love the characters. I come at a lot of my own writing through characters first.
Favorite artists and influencers from other mediums
K: Truman Capote, Barbara Kruger, Jenny Lewis
Do you think of cinema in political terms?
S: Not really. I do think of what kind of stories need to be heard especially in our ever-changing world.
K: I think all art is political. Toni Morrison has this great quote about all good art being inevitably political.
Tell us the story of how GAL PALS came to be
We were in a creative rut, freelancing and not working jobs we loved so we thought, “Why not? We can make something.” We had the tools to do so, so we did. We wanted to make a story with LGBT characters that was comedic, not tragic like much of the LGBT stories that do exist are. We wanted a rom-com for the gays. We knew there was an audience out there for it and as long as we had a tight story and a strategy to reach that audience, then we knew we’d be able to find at least a handful of people to watch our content.
Idea, writing, casting, crewing, pre-production, photography, post production.
● Writing - We wrote all of season one and season two together.
● Casting - We cast through Actors Access and had a pretty good turn out. We were fortunate enough to have contacts from a former job on the Raleigh lot so we held our auditions there.
● Crew - We reached out to a friend from college, Remsen Allard, to see if he’d be interested in shooting our web series. He was totally down and was pretty much our only crew member for season one. We were very minimal. Season two we did have a dedicated sound person, thankfully, a scripty, and an AD.
● Production - Season one took place over the course of about four months only because we were shooting on limited time (weekends only, and for only about seven to eight hours a day), plus the holidays were around that time making schedules difficult. Season two we shot in eleven consecutive days, with one pick-up day.
● Post - A good friend of ours edited our first season after a handful of mishaps. Season two is being handled by two editors, a post sound editor/mixer, and music supervisor.
Talk a little bit about the marketing / release / distribution of the show
We didn’t put much money into the marketing/distribution of the show. We knew our platform of choice was going to be YouTube from the start. Our biggest strength was we knew exactly who our audience was from the get go and we knew how to market towards that audience, young LGBT or questioning girls, using social mediums like Tumblr.
What does this show mean to you?
S: The show means a lot to us. It’s our first project that we’ve actually seen through that has had an impact on a group of people, in this case a younger LGBT audience that needs to see representation in media.
K: It means everything to me to see young people relate to these characters or see themselves on screen. I wanted to make something that I know I would have liked to watch when I was figuring out who I was.
What has your work leading up to this been like? How has your filmmaking changed?
We’re just at the start of our careers. If anything, it’s gotten better and more refined since the material we did as class projects or theses in college.
How has technology helped you make films?
Being able to shoot good quality video on equipment that isn’t going to break the bank has been extremely important, as well as the accessibility to that equipment and a platform to broadcast it on.
What do you think of the future of film/shows? What do you think about the current state of television / streaming shows?
We are in an era of television and that’s amazing. There are some incredible stories to be told that are too big for a film and the amount of platforms for television allow those stories to be told.
Thoughts on digital versus celluloid?
S: We had to shoot a short on film in one of our first film classes at Columbia. Sure film looks rustic and cool, but I can’t imagine having to shoot an entire film or show on it alone.
K: Being more interested in television, I don’t see myself ever using celluloid but I love the history of it.
What are some themes and topics you’d like to see covered in film? (i.e; social inequality, the internet, global warming, domestic abuse, religion)
LGBTQ themes. We’ve come a long way but still have a ways to go. LGBT characters should be just as normal as hetero characters and relationships so why does there have to be only one or two LGBT characters per show or film? No LGBT person we know has only straight friends so why does TV make us think that’s how it goes, haha.
We are developing and writing a handful of pilots and shows.
Major goals / benchmarks
Sell a show/projects. Make more GAL PALS but with a production company and some outside financing behind it. Showrun.
What is the worst advice you see or hear being given to filmmakers?
K: I think the best AND worst advice is to write what you know. I think better advice would be to write about what you are interested in and incorporate parts of yourself into it.
S: Agreed. A lot of people have some interesting and unique stories to tell but sometimes people take “write what you know” a little too literally.
What obsessions do you explore in the weekends and evenings?
Keeping up with TV shows and indulging in good food!