Out of the frustration surrounding the lack of women of color in front and behind the camera in the film industry, New Yorker best friends Lynnese Page and Victoria Miller made the decision to create a monologue series filmed called CharacterBased and go crowdfunding.
Their aim is twofold: to showcase Lynnese’s dynamic range and confront inequality in film by creating their own content.
Indeed, diversity in the film industry is still a big issue which needs to be fixed. According to the latest study from Dr. Stacy Smith and the Annenberg Inclusion Initiative, which analyzed the top 100 movies each year from 2007 through 2017, “no meaningful change” had occurred in the percentage of characters of color who appeared on screen during the years studied. And the percentage of females on screen in 2017 was only 1.9 percent higher than the percentage in 2007, Lynnese and Victoria claim in their campaign page on crowdfunding platform Indiegogo.
Working in the film industry within different capacities for over twelve years, Victoria and Lynnese aim to raise $6,000 to produce three more films.
We caught up with co-producer Victoria Miller to find out more about the project.
Oliver*: Where does the name CharacterBased come from?
Victoria Miller: The name CharacterBased is fairly simple: it derives from the idea that each monologue performance is based on a specific character from either television, theater, novels, and films.
O*: Why crowdfunding, what do you expect to achieve by using it apart from fundraising your project?
VM: It was a difficult decision to choose crowdfunding. The first three films we produced, we invested our own money, and asked for free favors from crew members. However, we really wanted this to be an ongoing series, something we could work on apart from our jobs, that fulfilled a creative void. We had never done crowdfunding before, and a few people suggested we try it. We figured we might as well see if we could raise money to produce three more films, rather than use our savings, which felt unrealistic in the long-run. Additionally, crowdfunding is a great way to gain more visibility, and I think we’ve connected with a small community of people who resonate with this project. It’s important that we bring awareness to the inequality that still pervades the film and televisions industries. We really want to bring visibility to potential solutions to work around the boundaries, and deep disparities in many parts of the entertainment world.
O*: How crowdfunding is helping you in shaping your voice?
VM: Crowdfunding has helped us learn how to take a clear stance on something we feel passionate about: there’s a deeper understanding of how to take both support and criticism in stride.
O*: What actionable steps to confront an industry model that no longer works will you be taking? How will you inspire other people to follow?
VM: The ‘actionable steps’ is about personal empowerment: If you’re an actor that isn’t happy with the way your reel looks, because you’re frequently cast in stereotypical roles, or roles that don’t showcase your range, we hope the CharacterBased model can inspire others to follow the same structure, and create a portfolio that truly reflects who they are as an actor/actress.