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A Low-Budget Web Series Partially Shot in Laval Makes It onto ICI Television
There was a time, nearly ten years ago, when Videotron
commercials were being filmed in homes in Laval. We’d often see their trucks
stationed outside a lavish new construction.
My mom and I would watch as equipment was carried in, as actors arrived on location and as the homeowners proudly stood aside as if to say, "Isn’t my home gorgeous?" Our facial expressions were always the same: I had stars in my eyes and my mother sported a look of utter contempt, "I would never let a bunch of strangers into my house like that. No matter how much they would pay me."
Today I have to remind my mother to never say never.
On March 21, 2014, a crew of 12 people and another dozen actors invaded my parents’ home for the first day of shooting on Sex & Ethnicity, a web series I had written and was starring in. I told my mother it would be a "small" shoot. We rented the location from her for a grand total of $0. Actually, my parents were running a net deficit because they provided catering for the cast and crew from their St-Leonard deli La Casa del Parmigiano.
As soon as a gaffer started to detach a mirror from her living room wall, my mother looked faint. By the time a dolley was wheeled in over her hardwood floors, I needed to get the smelling salts. I kept promising her it would be worth it. I made my mother aware of this fun fact, "Lena Dunham’s parents let her shoot her first movie in their New York City condo and now it sold for $6 million or something like that." She just glared at me.
Aside from my parents’ home, parts of the show were also shot at BB Bistro in Laval. I was overwhelmed by the number of business-owners who unquestioningly opened their doors to us and were supportive of a virtually unknown young artist and her project. Aside from generous location sponsors, the show also features wonderful actors who agreed to take on the ambitious pilot project. The cast includes Ellen David, Guido Grasso, Patricia Summersett, Chimwemwe Miller, Sehar Bhojani, Stefanie Nakamura, Liana Montoro, Kim Nelson, Russell Yuen, Natalie Tannous, Howard Rosenstein, Mike Payette, Adam Alberts, Daniel Esteban, Emilee Veluz, Mara Lazaris (Laval resident), Oliver Koomsatira (Laval resident) & many more!
The aim of this project was to create a local web series, featuring local talent and calling attention to the underrepresentation or unfair representation of ethnic minorities on mainstream television. The synopsis of the show is as follows:
Anna tries to juggle her boisterous Italian family, her life outside of theatre school, her new job at a zany theatre company and her relationship with a non-ethnic commitment-phobe with the help of her best friends: Margi, Sun & Jenny.
At the beginning of her rise to fame, when Lena Dunham gave interviews about why she created the hit HBO show Girls, she often used to say that the show was her response to Sex & the City. Her mandate was to reveal was girls are really like. She declared that she and her 20-something-year-old friends don’t have their lives figured out like the women on Sex & the City and they don’t always look perfect and wear Manolo Blahniks. While the work Lena has done to deconstruct the mainstream media’s definition of beauty is commendable (however much I feel she may be beating us on the head with it at this point), Lena’s core cast of Girls couldn't be more homogeneous. Four white girls from upper middle class families who attended prestigious American colleges and now find themselves completely lost in a world where they actually have to work (life is so, like, hard right now). Lena has defended herself by saying that she writes what she knows and this is who her friends really are in real life.
So, anyway, I’m watching Girls and I’m thinking: this does not reflect my experience of life or that of my friends. Those of us coming out of specific cultural communities bring a lot more baggage to sex and relationships that these girls simply don’t have to deal with. For some young women, the threat of transgressing what is expected of us is very real and puts a lot of pressure on our sexual development and the decisions we make in life. Also, navigating our society (especially recently in Quebec) as a woman who is not perceived as the majority, who constantly gets spoken to in broken French or English, who is repeatedly asked where she’s from, who is time and again made exotic/erotic under the male gaze—is NOT an experience we get to witness on mainstream television. It became important to me to create a project where women of diverse ethnic backgrounds could make up the core cast of a show. Sex & Ethnicity features the families of four young women who are: Italian-Canadian, Korean-Canadian, Pakistani-Canadian and a blended Jamaican-Québécois family.
While this homegrown project was intended to be a web-series, the show’s ambitious trailer caught the eye of the executives at ICI Television and they eagerly offered Sex & Ethnicity its first run on TV. The entire season has already aired on ICI and is currently available on the show’s Youtube channel. If there is enough of a positive response to the first season on Youtube, there is a good chance we will receive funding for a second season. Please visit our Youtube channel and help spread the word!
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