Alexandra Swarens – LA Web Series
By: Lisa Steinberg
Q) Did you expect such an outpouring of response to your online funding campaign?
A) No, I did not expect it. Our budget was really low and we threw it out wherever we could, but still I didn’t expect to reach it because we actually did a campaign and we didn’t make much of anything. So, we tried it again. We were going to do it again if it didn’t make it, but luckily it did and we got just enough to film. We did two parts of season one. It was just easier on everyone’s schedule and funding. It really restored some kind of faith in the industry. To get that kind of support was really, really cool.
Q) What made you make it into a web series over another format?
A) Actually, I write. I love to write. I’ve always been a writer. I quit acting three years ago. I was tired of the business side and wanted to reconnect with myself. I felt like I lost myself a little bit since this industry can take someone and spit them out, kind of. So, I wanted to just get back on my feet and feel better about myself. I was just writing like crazy. Also, holding my other job. I write novels and stuff like that, but never tried to publish them. I was writing this into a novel where one night these two women meet and it is like a soulmate kind of situation. It would have been back and forth and I thought it would be a cool novel, an interesting read at night. Then, I missed acting a lot so I thought I’d do a web series. It is a pretty easy read and it translates pretty well. The second half of the season is definitely better. [laughs] We all put so much passion into both parts, but we learned. We learned what works and doesn’t work and what is interesting and what is not.
Q) You learn through your writing and mistakes and edits happen.
A) I’m reediting the second episode since that’s where we lose people. It’s just so long. It looks so good when you read it, but it didn’t translate that well. It’s just such a conversation, but I think people got bored. We had to feed you the fluff though to get you to understand what we were doing. I get that it sucks because it takes you away from the art and these two people and what it is about, but we had to feed you something. It came out a little arduous and boring, but I’m trying to re-cut so it is not so much. We have to give you where they are going because it sets you up for a second season in the second episode. So, it’s like I’m going to meet this woman seven years later, but then the whole first season plays and it is in the past.
Q) For episode eight, I wished there was more because the connection started and you begin seeing the chemistry.
A) I think that’s where it really starts to go. That’s what I wanted to point out, you see the connection at first yet you see them fighting it and just battling since they are both really strong women. They don’t have something the other needs. They aren’t suffering horribly. They don’t need each other. They are two full people who happen to meet and are butting heads. It’s like, “Just walk with me. See what the hell will happen. Let’s do it!” They are both really strong women. Then, the connection forms after that. I think that a lot of film and TV always have someone better at something or this or that. They are not struggling per se. They are just going about their lives and happen to run into each other.
Q) Where did you come up with the backstory for each character?
A) The backstories, I don’t know…I just wrote it out to where I said they were both strong and independent. Landon’s story, I got a sense of her father is in control a lot in the household and stuff like that. I don’t know how I came up with that. Her mother was a little bit meeker so she was trying to raise a strong girl, but she kind of still needed that strong foundation that her father has. So, she could be a doctor, lawyer, etc. and she chose veterinarian because it is a bit of the soft side of a doctor while still in the realm of him telling her what to do or following in his footsteps. Maybe in seven years when we meet up again in the second season is she a vet now? Did she go through this wild, crazy stage to where she said FU to everyone and stopped the doctorate and everything like that or is she still living in his footsteps and doing the basics of what she should be doing. My character…[laughs] I got a sense of her from someone I knew and I guess she intrigued me so I kind of built her off of that. She’s also really strong. She’s maybe strong because her father passed away and she had to be strong, but she’s strong for other reasons as well. Her sister is a very strong person, too. So, that’s where they kind of came together.
Q) I liked that sisterly advice that takes place and how they are now at an age where they appreciate each other.
A) I kind of based this off of my sister and I’s relationship. We didn’t get along much while we were growing up. Life happens. Big life events happen and you know that you have your sister to count on. There was never a question of “if.” It was always “I’m here because.” I kind of based it on my sister, but I think that sibling bonds are such a rarity. Having a sister or brother makes you so strong in a sense and even if it is…You just feel a bond that no one else will feel, but it is just so true. No one can give you so much crap and you still love them unconditionally. And I kind of wanted to throw her into season two just to see their dynamic together – everyone. That will be interesting.
Q) The series is called “LA Web Series” and quite often the setting can sort of end up being a character in itself. We get to see these great landscapes where the characters are walking. How did you integrate that aspect?
A) I’m such a location person. I fall in love with cities like Paris, New York, LA, etc. I can’t be constantly in the rough of it, but I like seeing stuff that is man made every once in a while. It just reminds you that things are possible. And LA has that kind of vibe. You can go somewhere new every day and feel some kind of different culture. So, I wanted to integrate that feeling of it being a character itself and not so much seeing the Hollywood glamour. I want you to see the Hollywood grit part because that stuff is really wonderful and it is built off all of that grit. For downtown, I didn’t want to show Beverly Hills. I wanted to show what was real and really happening. It’s kind of a gritty feel to it – but in a good way!
Q) The girls begin the series at ages eighteen and nineteen, which means seven years later they’re about twenty-five years old. These are their formative years we’re watching where you learn the most about who you are and the most about who you are going to become. Talk about that aspect of the series.
A) Well, the second season…I keep teasing that even though the second part is still coming out of the first season! Eighteen and nineteen years old are special years, but they are such hard years. They were hard for me, at least. I moved away. I was not even eighteen yet when I moved to LA to act. It was crazy and scary. I think they are both in that kind of searching place. When I was twenty-five, I found my footing a little bit more. That’s not to say that everyone does because it happens in stages, of course. In the years between, that’s what you’ll see in the second season. Stuff happens in their lives and maybe they are mad at each other that they weren’t there for it. Even though you can’t hold a grudge…When they meet up seven years later, you go through the emotions of, “This happened in my life. Why weren’t you there for it? You could have been, but you weren’t.” Yeah, twenty-one, twenty-two and twenty-three – all those years are such defining years. People can meet the love of their life or someone they marry. Anything can happen. That’s why we’re kind of playing with can two people meet seven years later and stiff have this unspeakable bond? And people can change in a year. In like a month people can have a different feel for something. Your taste buds fully change within seven years, something like that. I change often and you should always be growing. So, it’s just a question of is their bond something unreal and unimaginable. And I’m a hopeless romantic so I believe in that kind of thing. Maybe not one soulmate, but definitely there are many people you are supposed to bond with in a lifetime kind of thing. So, it’s just playing off of that. It’s still a question of “what if.” I don’t know for real, but that’s why I like to write stuff about that. It’s like if these characters could then who is to say…
Q) As you point out, there was no social media. So, there was no stalking your ex or crush. With LA Web Series, you don’t know a last name and you don’t know a phone number.
A) I’m not big on social media still. I don’t have Facebook and Skype. I had Myspace maybe for a couple months back in the day. I have an Instagram that I haven’t posted on in I don’t know how long. It kind of scares me still, to this day. Even though I made a web series – I’m still not into social media. I’d rather have a conversation with someone and have them get a sense of who I am than tweeting something out and having it misconstrued in a certain way. You can’t see someone’s movements and how their eyes are and hear someone’s inflections. So, it scares me. I kind of try to stay away a little bit.
Q) You all went to ClexaCon. What was that experience like for you as an individual and creatively?
A) It was amazing! I loved ClexaCon. I get giddy talking about it. It was so much fun! Everyone there was so passionate and I think that’s what was so great about it. I get there and I didn’t even have a pass. Someone came out the door and asked if I wanted a VIP pass. I said, “Yeah…” But it was amazing! It was inspiring. Everyone used their voice. Whoever you talked to was so passionate about whatever they were talking about and I think that was the best part. There were a few people who had seen the video before it came out and were like, “Oh, I saw your Perfect Strangers video” or “I saw your teaser. When does the series come out?” So, that was really cool that a couple people did know about it. But we were really just there to see what was happening and see what kind of movement. It was nothing short of amazing. It was so cool!
Q) How did you and Emma Maddock meet and how did she become a part of the series?
A) I had a producing partner previously and we were casting for LA Web Series. We were casting and I saw her and her acting blew me away. It was so great! The producing partner wanted someone else. I know what I wrote so I was just like, “I want her. She is so good!” She had a more natural quality to her. Some of them were a little too overacting and dramatic. She just had a really natural feel and understood the character through what little I gave her. Then, the producing partner didn’t work out. It wasn’t a sour thing. She had obligations to do something else. So, I was not about to quit on this and Emma really took over her role as producer after I casted her. Ride or die scene partner, right there! She is awesome! So, she has been my best friend since September of last year because of this series, which I’m so grateful for.
Q) There is a natural ability with you interacting with each other. I don’t connect with people if they don’t connect with what they are portraying. I see that natural connection and chemistry in “LA Web Series.”
A) That’s what I didn’t want the series to be – slapstick. I wasn’t that inspired by many web series since a lot of them were over the top. There are just so many out there. There are a lot of web series that I had no idea about. So, I didn’t want to make a gratuitous lesbian series where we talked about what the media won’t cover and stuff like that. I kind of wanted to leave it as this quiet unhindered bond that happens to be two women who are falling in love.
Q) We talk a lot about a second season…
A) There are actually ten more episodes. They are all about four minutes. Each is a chunk of time where they want to talk about and all the dialogue conversations are deeper conversations you’d have with your friends that you wouldn’t write down. It’s what’s on their mind. The next episodes you can look forward to a more physical connection happening than just merely mental playing with it. They are so good! I can’t wait!
Q) For Season Two, will you be doing another campaign for funding?
A) I definitely want to do a Season Two. There is just too many questions. You have to see them seven years later. Do they have a bond or not? It’s like they could be great friends, soulmates, lovers or so many things. One of them could be married. You just don’t know what is going to turn up. I know that I want a second season. It’s just funding again, but hopefully when we let the rest of it out that people will kind of see that it is going somewhere and we’ll do another fundraiser.
Q) What are the other projects that you are working on?
A) I’m currently writing a film to star with Emma and I as the leads again.
Q) Is there anything else you want to be sure fans know about “LA Web Series?”
A) The second season will be really good. I had three seasons in mind for this. I wouldn’t go any farther with this because I wanted the second to be where they meet again and the connection is formed. Then, the third season would be current day and where they are at. They could be living together and it could be an every day kind of web series. They could just be friends who have this unbelievable connection. That’s why I want to get to these questions and stuff like that. We’ll see if we can! I’m hopeful. I’m very hopeful.