“Don’t Wait to Make Your Art!” – Interview with Writer/Producer Bridget McManus Part 1

by Kathryn Graham

We here at TVWriter™  particularly love all of the amazing independent creators out there and the shows they produce. Bridget McManus is the cream of the crop, and she’s got some awesome advice for newbies.

Writer, producer, actor, and director Bridget McManus is a tried and true content creation veteran. With ten years of experience under her belt, she produced and starred in the series Happy Wife, Happy Life, McManusLand, We Have Issues, and Buyer Beware. Plus, she won a Best Actor nomination at London’s Raindance Web Fest for her starring role in Maybelle, which she penned and co-produced.

You may have seen her in her recurring cameo on season 4 of the Emmy-Award winning series Transparent. She was featured in Universal’s blockbuster film Wanted, MTV’s sketch series Acting Out, the romantic comedy November Rule, and she was Queen Latifah’s sidekick on CBS’s The Queen Latifah Show.

Here’s what she’s up to lately and how you can get into the game!


There are a lot of people who want to create their own content, but don’t know how to start. Would you be able to give an idea of how to do that?

Bridget: What’s great about the internet is that you can shoot your own things and put it online. You don’t have to wait for a studio to greenlight you. So back in 2008, I started a show called Brunch with Bridget that was on afterellen.com which is a lesbian website. It got so popular it ended up getting picked up and put on Logo television, so I had a show on TV for two years from an internet show.

So what I always tell people is: if you have an idea, don’t wait for someone to give you money. Don’t wait for someone to tell you ‘yes’. Do it yourself. You can do it with your phone. You can borrow cameras. You can shoot it in your house. I always write series with whatever I have.

For Brunch with Bridget it was a show in my studio apartment. I did not have a couch. All I had was a bed that doubled as a couch. So I went: Okay, all I have is a bed, how can I make a show? I made a show where I was in bed with different female celebrities like Lena Heady and Kate McKinnon. I made it work.

Don’t worry about having to raise one hundred million dollars to make an Avengers-style movie. Just figure out what you want to do, and do the best job you can. It’s okay if it’s not perfect. People are going to criticize you. That’s fine. Don’t criticize yourself. Let something lead to something else.

For me, because I’ve always had low budgets, I just learned to do things myself. I edit my own shows. My wife does the music. She’s our music director. I did a romantic lesbian series called Maybelle, and she did all the music for that. So it’s all about trying to do the best you can and letting one thing lead to something else.

Don’t worry about making it perfect. Just make your art. After that make better art. And after that make even better art.

Let’s say somebody wanted to make a show that ordinarily would cost a lot to produce. Most of us won’t have that kind of budget. What’s your advice for that?

Bridget: My friend Stacie Ponder is amazing. She is a horror film director. When she lived in LA, we used to shoot B-grade horror movies, and we had a great time. She moved to Maine, so she had no money. So I said: I love you, and I believe in you. So I gave her a budget of 300 dollars, and she made a whole series using Barbie dolls. That’s it.

My wife and I and another friend of ours did voice over. It’s obviously not what she wanted to do, but it was a good launching point. From that little series, it has developed into something else. She had no actors in her area. She had no sets. She was like: What can I do?

I’m not saying everybody needs to make things out of dolls. But rather than making a big tent-pole movie, you can say: I’m going to raise 5,000 dollars. (That’s a lot of money. Let’s keep it real.) But you can make an amazing teaser trailer.

You can spend the money on getting the stage for a day, a green screen, a great editor, and a costume designer, and I will have a writer sit down and really go through the script, and then have it be a one minute clip of something. Make it so dynamic, thought out, and stylized, that people can see its potential. One actor on one green screen shooting one day is an example of what you can do with the money you had.

Now you can take it to investors. People can raise money on kickstarter. People can do anything these days. Work on your vision, and don’t worry about having no money. Don’t let that stop you.

You see all those movies like the Blair Witch Project, they go buy equipment and then return it 90 days later. If you have an idea, push for it. Just keep going.

Now there’s all these indie film festivals. You can put things online. It doesn’t cost anything to put something on YouTube. I make music videos. I’m a terrible singer, and I don’t know how to make music videos. I do them because they make me laugh. Just keep doing it.

We can make anything.

I love that confidence.

Bridget: My wife (Karman Kregloe) and I always talk about this. My wife was always very smart and did well in school. I was a fuck-up. I didn’t have glasses until I was fifteen. I couldn’t read. I used to get migraines. I didn’t know why. It was because I couldn’t see. I ended up being a good student, I had this idea that I was stupid my whole life.

People always said ‘no’ to me. I was heavy. People were mean to me. Because everybody always said ‘no’ to me, and nobody believed in me, I never worried about failing because I felt like I was already a failure.

My wife has always been really successful and always got good grades. When she tries to do things now, she’s too scared to do it because she’s going to fail, where I don’t worry about failing because I’ve already failed. So it doesn’t matter.


More of Kate’s convo with Ms. McManus in Part II HERE!

Kathryn Graham sees ‘Happy Wife, Happy Life’ & Talks About it with Co-showrunner Bridget McManus

by Kathryn Graham

Happy Wife, Happy Life is a streaming variety show that showcases how marriage is anything but the ‘old ball and chain’.

Happily married couples Bridget McManus Karman Kregloe (formerly of afterellen.com) and Cat Davis & Kristen Smith encourage you to play along as they share their opinions on everything from keeping old sex tapes with your exes to how to tell your wife she’s had a little too much to drink.

It’s kind of like The View, but a lot gayer, and it’s thoroughly enjoyable to spend time with each of these four women. It’s snappy, clever, and I laughed out loud during every episode.

Season 3 comes out on June 3rd, but in the meantime…

Check out Happy Wife, Happy Life Season 2 on YouTube.

Then you can find season 1 on Tello Films.

Happy Wife, Happy Life has been submitted for the “Outstanding Short Form Variety Series” category, and I was graciously invited to attend their For Your Consideration: Emmy Event.

I had a chat with screenwriter, producer, director and award-winning performer: Bridget McManus, and she had a lot to say about the universality of relationship quandaries — and whether or not you should argue with your in-laws on facebook.

What kind of writing is involved in Happy Wife, Happy Life? Do you have some idea of what’s going on beforehand or is it all off the cuff?

Bridget: Totally off the cuff. We have a submission e-mail account people send stuff to, so I go and vet them to make sure there’s no topic we covered before. Then I print them out, glue them to a card – I’m the one who does all the props – and then we put them in the bowl.

We don’t know what we’re going to pull. We haven’t talked about them beforehand. None of the spouses have talked about it. The only thing checked out beforehand is to make sure nothing is inappropriate or we haven’t done it already. Some things can be risqué, that’s why in season one we had safe words.

What’s your favorite thing about Happy Wife, Happy Life?

Bridget: I like that my family watches it. I’ve done a lot of series, but my family – they’re amazing – they pick and choose what they watch. I have comedy specials. I have a romantic series: Maybelle. My parents did not enjoy me rolling around in bed with somebody.

Cat’s cousins, a bunch of straight women, they drink wine, watch the show together, and debate along with us. It’s funny because it doesn’t matter if you’re gay or straight, relationships are relationships. So people in our families who are straight or however they identify, they can give their opinions too. If you’re in a relationship with somebody, can you have sex when you’re visiting your in-laws?

Karman and I were like: Hell no. Kristen and Cat were like: Sure, if you’re in the mood. And we’re like: Are you kidding me?

We debated over whether you have to throw your sex toys away when you get into a new relationship. I was like: Absolutely. Cat was like: No, they’re expensive! I’m like: What are you talking about? You have to get new stuff! Everybody has a different opinion.

If your in-laws say something offensive on facebook, do you defend them? Or do you call them out? It’s like: Ugh, I don’t want to curse out my in-laws, but I also don’t want them to write something negative that’s going to affect other people.

What do you do? Do you make your wife deal with them? Do you have the kind of relationship with your in-laws where you can talk to them yourself? These are things that you deal with in any relationship.

Happy Wife, Happy Life recently filmed a session in front of a live audience at ClexaCon in Las Vegas. It sounded like a lot of fun. How was it being in front of a live audience instead of shooting it in the studio?

Bridget: Cat Davis and I have been friends for many years. Her wife and her have been married for two and a half years. Karman and I are celebrating ten years this year, and even though we’re similar, we’re so different in how we look at things.

On the show, we have paddle questions that say “Yes” or “No”, so we gave everybody heart shaped paddles so they could play with us. Everybody has different opinions. So to see an audience full of people that identify differently – bisexual, queer, trans, pansexual, lesbian – some of them are in long term relationships vs. short term relationships, some of them are dating casually, and to see how they all relate and then give their answers, it was very eye-opening. I loved it.

The way we shoot when it’s just us, we’re just talking. We’re not performing. But when we were there in front of an audience we found ourselves playing to the audience more. So it’s a different feel.

So here’s my question for the Merstery bowl: What is your superpower? What is your wife’s superpower?

Bridget: My wife is so magical. I call her ‘Snow White’. Woodland creatures and animals come up to her and just want to be with her because she’s so calming and loving. We joke, but it’s totally true. At night, we have two dogs and a cat, and we all lay on top of my wife, and she doesn’t move. I’m on top bear-hugging her, one dog is between her legs, the other is at her head, and the cat lays on her neck. We’re all magnetized to her.

She is the most calm, wonderful, loving person ever. I recommend her highly to everyone. If you want to borrow my wife for while, she will make your life better.

I’m the opposite. I’m a mama-bear. I’m someone who, if I hear a fire alarm, I run towards it. I’m ready to defend people and protect people, which is very different. She’s a caregiver, and I’m the fighter in the family.

Nice Xena and Gabrielle dynamic going on here.

Bridget: I mean, it’s exactly like Xena and Gabrielle. Ohmygod, I’m so gay. Yay!

My masterpiece: Karman/Gabrielle and Bridget/Xena. I’m with Kate McKinnon on this one. Bridget does look a lot like Lucy Lawless!

 

Kathryn Graham: WhedonCon is Coming to Los Angeles May 18th – 20th!

by Kathryn Graham

Hey fans of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Marvel’s Avengers, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, Dollhouse, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog, and other fun Whedon-creations like Cabin in the Woods, if you’re in Los Angeles or you can get your butt over here by May 18th – 20th, then WhedonCon is the place for you.

A con run by fans for fans, Fandom Charities Inc. have taken their love of the affectionately named ‘Whedonverse’ and combined it with some truly fantastic humanitarian causes.

In memory of Ron Glass (Shepherd Book on Firefly), part of the proceeds will be going to the Lupus Foundation of America, an organization dedicated to solving the mystery of lupus, a chronic autoimmune disease that adversely affects millions of people throughout the world.

The con also supports a cause dear to Ron Glass’s heart: the Al Wooten Jr. Heritage Center. This youth center provides free after school and low-cost summer programs for boys and girls in grades 3 – 12 in order to prep them for college.

Guest of Honor Sean Maher (Simon on Firefly/Serenity) will be joined by James Marsters (Spike on Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, Victor Stein on Runaways), Steven Sears (who produced a ton of my favorite Xena: Warrior Princess episodes), and a host of other talented actors and creators.

It’ll surprise exactly no one that I was a big Buffy fan back in the day, and I’ve been known to roleplay ‘The Man They Call Jayne’ in a tabletop roleplaying game from time to time. I’ll be there filming to help out the other hard-working volunteers.

So join me. Come play at WhedonCon for two worthy causes, and if you see someone with a video camera, say hi. It might be me. Or a demon. It’s probably a demon.

via GIPHY

 

Kathryn Graham: What Makes ClexaCon Special?

Wynonna Earp’s Dominique Provost-Chalkley (Waverly Earp) and Kat Barrell (Nicole Haught) having a laugh 

by Kathryn Graham

ClexaCon is an inclusive convention held in Las Vegas and London celebrating queer women on screen and behind the scenes. It’s the first of its kind, and that makes it unique in and of itself, but much more than that, here is what I found special:

Genuine human connection, a celebratory spirit, and powerful support.

From Kat Barrell (Nicole Haught on Wynonna Earp) crying about the isolation that older queer women suffered growing up without easy access to their community to Vanessa Piazza (Producer of Lost Girl and Dark Matter) stating outright that when you climb the ladder, you help others up; it’s an atmosphere that’s truly like nothing else I’ve ever experienced.

I’m out here in Hollywood, which isn’t as cutthroat as people make it out to be, but which isn’t exactly the most welcoming space. We have gatekeepers who are always looking at the bottom line (aka “The Business”). People who have firm beliefs that only certain types of characters can sell (prejudiced chicanery). You have to prove, hundreds of times over to many different people, that you’re ‘worth it’, i.e. that you can make everyone a lot of money.

It’s ultra competitive. It’s isolating, even among friends, as you’re always pitted against each other. Even people who enjoy your company can be so busy that you have to ask nine times if they want to have lunch. And it’s fine. It’s the way it is. This industry is demanding. People have other priorities. You have no control over who wins a contest or gets an agent or get staffed. At least not at my level. But that means that sometimes it can seem like no one cares all that much about you except you. You’re a drop in the ocean.

Not so at ClexaCon.

There, people see you. People care about you. They want you to tell your stories, and they want to help you make it happen.

That’s revolutionary.

As a writer, I always thought that queer female characters were a non-starter. Why wouldn’t I think that? For most of my life, we could barely get good roles for women on television (and feature films are worse), let alone main storylines for queer characters.

I expected that if I was ever lucky and dogged enough to get my original work sold, I’d be in long, drawn out battles to keep my main character and her love interest female. Because I knew I’d never compromise.

I believed that no matter how hard I tried, no matter how much I improved my craft, no matter how the story came out, it wouldn’t matter because nobody wants to see queer women on television.

Then last year, ClexaCon changed all of that.

Last ClexaCon, Emily Andras (Showrunner for Wynonna Earp) told us that if we ever doubted there was an audience for our stories, then we should take a look around that packed room, and then never doubt again. This year, she reiterated that, and it was more poignant than ever. Because that room was three times the size and packed to overflowing.

Last year, in ClexaCon’s premiere year, I wrote a lot about the ethics of storytelling from panels led by Dr. Elizabeth Bridges and Gretchen Ellis.  A huge number of queer female characters had been killed off on television that season, and it was a depressing subject.

This year, as the panelists noted, there is more and more content – Black Lightning, Everything Sucks, Runaways – whose creators don’t even need to be told how to write queer stories ethically: they already know.

Last ClexaCon, for the first time in my life, I could look around and definitively say: here are my people. They get me, and I get them. This year, I was touched by creators and actresses who aren’t queer but who are as invested in these stories as we are.

I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to have hope that I can reach so many others like me. How heartening it is to see people like my straight, male friend welcomed with open arms and to see his sincere interest in everything ClexaCon stands for. Just a few years ago, I would never have believed that there were so many queer women looking for content representing them. I would definitely have scoffed at the idea that so many people who don’t identify as queer would want the same thing.

So even if the world outside ClexaCon has so much further to go, at ClexaCon you can see where we should be. Because, in a world that can seem so uncaring and disconnected, ClexaCon is genuine love.

Also, bonus: no ‘con funk’ (a haze of body odor at… pretty much every other convention ever).

Photo Credit: Kathryn Graham

Check out more photos from ClexaCon on:

Flickr: Kate Graham’s ClexaCon Flickr Album

Instagram: KateGrahamTV


Kathryn Graham is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor and award winning writer. Learn more about Kate HERE

Kathryn Graham Sees Netflix’s ‘Everything Sucks’ (And Loves It)

 

by Kate Graham

All I knew about Netflix’s Everything Sucks going in was that it contained a hefty dose of 90’s nostalgia. And boy does Everything Sucks love the 90’s. Especially its music.

Anything after that was a surprise for me, and I love that, as it’s increasingly harder to walk into a show and not have a good idea of what’s going on. So let me give you the vague review first.

If you love: the 90’s, heart-warming content, sincere storytelling, humor, fun characters with good hearts, adorable actors, and queer stories, then put Everything Sucks at the top of your queue.

Want a little more? Here’s the basic start:

It takes place in Boring, Oregon, which is, this is true, a sister city to Dull, Scotland. World’s cutest high school freshman, Luke O’Neill, develops a crush on the principal’s daughter: Kate Messner, and he pursues her with the help of his mad A/V skills.

Now let’s get into **spoilers!**

—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—SPOILER ALERT—

Turns out that Kate’s a lesbian, and navigating this, and her friendship with Luke forms the backbone of the first season. Both Luke and Kate are a breath of fresh air in the high school dramedy scene in just how realistic they both are, as well as the fact that Luke is a nerdy black boy and Kate is unapologetically gay.

Luke, Kate, and Luke’s friends Tyler and McQuaid team up with drama king and queen Oliver and Emaline to produce Romeo and Juliet in space. Which is exactly as amazing as it sounds. Kate’s dweeby sweetheart of a father, Mr. Messner, gets closer to Luke’s mother, Ms. O’Neill, and Luke, aspiring director, deals with the fact that his father abandoned him so many years ago to chase a Hollywood dream.

When it comes to the supporting cast, there’s so much to love. Like the fact that Tyler is a nerd who has trouble in school. Yes, that’s right, not all nerds are super smart! Leslie, Kate’s sort-of-friend, is an especially realistic kind of awkward and judgemental. McQuaid’s confusion about social cues is played with greater depth than is most often seen. Kate’s crush, Emaline, is at first a ‘psycho drama chick’, but by the end, I’ll bet you love her almost as much as Kate does.

At first, I wasn’t sure how to feel about the nostalgia. It hits you pretty hard up front. But very quickly I found myself singing along to every song. So if you remember jamming out to artists like Oasis, Tori Amos, and Ace of Base, or if you still do, then I’ll meet you at the living room karaoke bar.

And that finale? It made me so happy I was smiling all damn day.

This show is like a glamorized version of my high school years. I had a Luke and an Emaline. I knew a McQuaid and a Leslie. I wore the flannel. I had the dumb posters of guys up in my room until I realized I didn’t give a damn about any of it and tore them down. And yes, my name is Kate. (Though I went by Kat most often back then). It makes it so much more personal than any high school show I’ve ever seen, and so it holds a place in my heart like very little else.

Thank you, Everything Sucks. You’re my wonderwall.

If we get a second season, here’s my wishlist/predictions.

**Bonus Mega Spoilers!**

—MEGA SPOILER ALERT—MEGA SPOILER ALERT—MEGA SPOILER ALERT—

Even if Kate’s dad is okay with who she is (if he isn’t at first for some reason, he will be), Emaline’s might not be. I get the sense that Emaline’s family is not particularly supportive or kind given the way that she so desperately needs attention and love.

In season two (should we be so lucky), I want to see them address the fact that Emaline feels the need to tailor herself to her partner. Kate-Emaline is infinitely sweeter than Oliver-Emaline, but she’s still making herself into the person she’s dating. She’s still trying on an identity that she thinks will appeal to a person she needs to love her. Frickin’ cute as that is with Kate, because Kate actually adores her, it’s definitely something that she needs to work through. If that leads us back to Emaline’s home life, I will personally be riveted.

I’m sure Leeroy’s return will be a major storyline. Although it doesn’t grab me initially as a concept, especially since Luke seems to have already dealt with his father issues/rejected his father’s philosophy, I trust that they can do something interesting with it. Perhaps it’ll be much more about Leeroy growing as a person than his son.

They’ve thrown out threads for Leslie’s utter isolation. A potential return of Oliver (hopefully he’ll get his for being such a jerk). Tyler still can’t read. There’s plenty to explore, and if there’s a second season, above all, I hope that they don’t fall into the trap of a lot of second seasons: please introduce new storylines instead of re-treading old ones, let the characters grow and deal with new issues. Past that, give me the same sincerity, lots more lesbian romance, compassionate characters, and an f-ton of 90’s songs, and I’ll stand by you.

And I’ll never desert you. I’ll stand by yoooooouuuuu…


Kathryn Graham is a TVWriter™ Contributing Editor and a Fine Writer Of All Things. Learn more about Kate HERE