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Spotlight Interview with Kate Wetherhead, Female Co-Creator of “Submissions Only” Part 2

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Screen-Shot-2014-05-11-at-2.19.26-PMSubmissions Only Season 3 Finale Airs, Following Tony Awards

I’m not sure if I made myself clear in last month’s column. You should be watching the amazing web series Submissions Only.

The show airs on BroadwayWorld.com and had a very special premiere of its season finale…with its lead in being The Tony Awards.

This finale episode opens with a fantastic scene featuring Judith Light (you know, Angela Bower). The last episode, which aired two weeks ago, opens with Audra McDonald, who just recently took home a Tony Award. James M. Igleheart, also a winner from the awards show, has also been featured on Submissions Only.

One unique feature of this series is that they often write original songs for the show. The X Factor’s Kimike Glenn delivers a wonderful performance of a nervous auditioner in the final scene and then beautifully sings an original to the series, “Kind of Crazy.” Stick around after the credits. You’ll be pleased you did. Really, these days, we should all always stick around after the credits.

If you still need convincing that you should add this show to your list of must see t.v., here is a quick synopsis to get you started: In the course of three short seasons, we fall in love with Penny Reilly, as we watch her go on auditions, get cast, not get cast, fall in love, get her heart broken, have to work closely with the girlfriend of the guy who broke her heart and then…well, I don’t want to tell you too much. Penny’s best friend is an up and coming casting director. His ex-boyfriend is Penny’s agent. Penny’s agent has a new boyfriend. Oh yeah, the guy she is in love with? Also an actor with the same agent. That should get you started.

Part One of my interview with Kate Wetherhead was posted HERE last month.

Kate plays the lead, Penny Reilly, and also co-created the series with actor friend, Andrew Keenan-Bolger.

In this Part Two of our interview, Kate answers my questions about self-producing great content and gives us tips on how to do it ourselves.

6. Many web series are very short. When I started watching in season one, I was shocked that I was held in such rapt attention for 22 minutes and that when it was over, I wanted more. That doesn’t happen with many web series. What made you decide to do full-length, half hour shows?

We weren’t really interested in making a traditional 5-minute web series, we were interested in making a sitcom. I didn’t have 5-minute stories in my head; mine were longer, more developed. But with no money and no resources (at first), there was no place to put it except the internet. So I guess I like to think of it as a web sitcom.

7. I know in our line of work, we don’t really have typical days. But since taking on the production of Submissions Only and now a YA series(!), how has your day to day life changed? Can you tell us what a “typical”day might be for you?

I really couldn’t! I haven’t had a typical day in about four years. That doesn’t mean I’m busy 24/7. It just means that depending on what priorities or deadlines I’m facing – whether it’s rehearsing a play, or getting an episode ready for airing, or working on our book – I structure my time accordingly. And some days I just procrastinate. It’s really tough to create your own schedule and stick to it.

8. What are your biggest challenges in the production of the show? And how are they overcome? Given that, if you have other ideas, do you think you will continue to write and produce your own work after Submissions Only is completed?      

Organization and management are the greatest challenges, I think. Planning ahead, anticipating problems, trouble-shooting, staffing — making sure your production is running smoothly and efficiently is always more difficult and stressful than you want it to be. Because it’s one thing to be able to check everything off your list – it’s an entirely different thing to check everything off your list while making everyone else feel taken care of, respected and appreciated. I think being a good boss means putting everyone else’s welfare above yours. People will do better work if they enjoy working for you. And yes – Andrew and I are always talking about new projects that we want to pursue. We’ve been bitten by the DIY bug.

8. I read that your first season was created for under $2,000 and that your second season was around $38,000. With the third season’s budget at around $200,000, do you feel that anything has changed about the production and what you can do with those funds? How does it affect your storyline and your characters? For the record, I think your first season quality was just as good as it is now, so congratulations on such great work.

Thank you! The third season actually cost about $120K; not $200K. That being said, it definitely allowed us to make significant changes. We were able to pay our actors more, buy new equipment, expand our staff, and even provide craft services from time to time! As far as the storyline was concerned, we were able to include more locations, which allowed us to get more adventurous with the plot. As a whole, the third season is way more ambitious than the first two seasons put together.

9. Do you have tips for our readers on how to create their own work and do it well? Any tips on creating buzz and building an audience?

Don’t force an idea; let it come to you. Submissions Only came very naturally to us; it was a story we were ready and excited to tell. As soon as you feel pressure to create something, your own creativity will diminish. It seems like everybody’s making their own thing these days, which is great – but don’t make something for the sake of making something. It’s just too much work if you’re not incredibly passionate. Social media is a guerrilla filmmaker’s friend: YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram – all of these platforms are wonderful ways to get your content out in the world. Andrew is a wizard when it comes to self-promotion; look at all of his social media accounts and you’ll see how masterfully he does it. I’m more of a granny.

10. Do you think that being a writer and producer has changed your acting? Do you audition better? Do you connect better with the story?

I don’t know if I audition “better” – but I approach the whole audition process with a different perspective now, plus a deeper appreciation for what’s actually going on in the room. And I think being a writer/producer has certainly changed my acting — I ask different kinds of questions in a rehearsal process, I have more respect for the whole production team, I look at the production more as a whole than just my own contribution. In that sense, I think (or at least hope) that I am better at understanding how I fit into a production.

11. Have you considered creating real life versions of the fake plays, such as Iron Dog? Or maybe as a spin-off! Ha! Or putting out a soundtrack with the original songs from the show? Your fans might enjoy something fun like that.

I’ve thought of all of these things! But there’s only so much time in the day…

12. And just for fun, what are some of your favorite or most memorable moments from set?

I have so many, but off the top of my head:

  1. “Dancing” with ‘DaBoSeRoy’ in Ep. 4, Season 1: I’d recently worked with those guys, who were actually all Pilobolus dancers, in a production at Goodspeed Opera House. They’re all so strong, so handsome, and so fun, and I loved saying, “Now pick me up, spin around and then throw me over to him!”
  1. Watching Santino Fontana and Patrick Heusinger square off in Ep. 5, Season 1: They’re both so insanely talented, and here was this utterly ridiculous scene from “Iron Dog” that they needed to commit to fully. For no money. For people they barely knew (at that time). Yet when we said “Action,” they both started crying and yelling and delivering these tour de force performances. I was floored.
  1. Shooting “Gay Gardens,” Ep. 2, Season 2: Stephen Bienskie and Chris Gattelli graciously offered their home in NJ so we could shoot “on location.” We shot from morning until the middle of the night, and then had a big sleepover. And my husband was there doing the filming because Andrew was in rehearsals for “Newsies” at the time.
  1. Steven and Cameron’s engagement, Ep. 4, Season 3: We were on a deserted street in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, freezing our butts off late at night, but also crying because Stephen Bienskie and Max von Essen were giving such beautiful performances.
  1. Shooting at 54 Below for Ep. 6, Season 3: This was one of our most complicated shoot days, but it was also one of our most successful. Everyone – cast, crew, wardrobe – brought their A-Game, and by the end of the day it felt like we’d come as close to being a “real” TV set as we ever had. I was so proud of everyone. Also, my dad had come down from VT to help out, and it was very meaningful to “work alongside” my father.

I want to thank Kate Wetherhead for sharing so much of her story with all of us. All of Season 3 of Submissions Only is available to watch now on BroadwayWorld.com. Even if you have not seen the show before, you will enjoy each episode on its own. However, I highly suggest catching up with Seasons 1 and 2, which you can do here: http://submissionsonly.com/episodes.php

If you are already a fan of the show, share your favorite moments with me. If you become a fan because of this interview, please let me know. Tweet @SubmissionsOnly and let them know how you found them. Happy viewing.

 

Jessica Leigh Smith

About Jessica Leigh Smith

Jessica Leigh Smith can currently be seen running around town in her yoga pants, toting her two little girls everywhere she goes. Being a mommy has played into Jessica’s latest projects, Mommy Parodies. The first is a parody of a song from the movie Frozen, which has reached almost 40,000 views (and climbing) on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=86FY-AEdizA. Jessica’s most notable acting roles are co-starring roles on One Tree Hill and Drop Dead Diva. Coincidentally, Jessica was toting her daughters in those roles as well, since she was pregnant both times. In addition to acting, Jessica has co-produced an educational series for actors, called The Dinner Project, putting actors and casting directors face to face. Episodes can be found at http://thedinnerprojectshow.com/. For more about Jessica, the actress, please visit her website, http://www.jessicaleighsmith.com/, and follow her on Twitter, @JessiLeighSmith.