Interviews

Steph Ouaknine – Carmilla

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By: Lisa Steinberg

 

Q) Where do we pick up when Season 2 of “Carmilla” begins?

A) The transmedia feeds pick up where the Christmas Special left off, and show how the gang ends up back at our favorite Nightvalian campus. Meanwhile, the Voice of Silas University Tumblr gives some context as to what’s been transpiring at Silas while Laura was off deciphering riddles with a Kobold in a cave.

Q) How much do the Twitter characters play into what is transpiring or are they meant to be funny interludes?

A) They are definitely funny interludes, but that is the what happened between the Christmas episode. When we start Season 2, you will see Carmilla and Laura in their new abode (which I can’t really spoil because it’s really fun). We pick up as they have just arrived at their new place. You will see why they went back and how very, very soon.

Q) Will what happened during the Christmas episode have any recurring mentions?

A) We’ll see the fallback of episode 36. Laura (Elise Bauman) is going to feel the ramifications of deciding to leave. She’s the one who, after all, suggested they “just go.” She’s in for a rude awakening… the tagline of the series is “love will have its sacrifices” and we now get to explore said sacrifices – as well as the question of accountability – in Season 2.

Q) During the Christmas episode Danny was notably absent and fans were trolling because there were no mentions of her.

A) Danny’s (Sharon Belle) got strong ties to the Summer Society that the rest of the gang doesn’t have. We didn’t get much of a chance to see her interact with those people in Season 1 because they had no reason to be in Laura’s orbit back then. Maybe she would have wanted to leave, but didn’t feel she could. She’s got a sense of duty much like Laura’s, but more concrete responsibilities that tie her to campus.

Q) Will we see more side relationships developing such as LaFontaine and Perry or Kirsch and Danny?

A) Season 1 introduced all these various dynamics and we saw a lot of characters at the start of their relationship  – minus Perry (Annie Briggs) & LaF (Kaitlyn Alexander). Now, Season 2 is about testing these newfound ties and seeing how far you can push and pull them. How different is too different to be friends? Too different to be lovers? What happens when elements from your past are thrown in to the mix? With rising stakes (heh) and tensions on campus, our gang is pulled in different directions and loyalties are put to the test.

Q) We had a tease of sorts of the LaFlashdrive of LaFontaine and JP. Will JP be another active character this season as well?

A) JP returns,and the props department even made two little custom sweaters for the USB key. It’s yellow. I enjoy that.

Q) We have seen in the posters some new weaponry, like Danny and her arrows. Will we be getting see these weapons in action?

A) Our props master Philip Toesev built that steampunk bow from scratch. He’s insane! I love it. He and Danielle Sahota (production designer) made a ton more (spoilery) items. Some that burn. Some that do not. Some that can be played. Some that had to be broken and put back together repeatedly.

Q) How does the dynamics between the new and returning cast play out?

A) Whenever you’re casting new characters, it’s obviously important for us to find actors that fit the puzzle, performance- and tone-wise, but the other question is— is this someone who is going to enjoy this type of production? While we had a lot more resources on set and in prep, the time frame hasn’t changed. We still did thirty-six episodes in four days, which is really demanding and not for every actor. Our days are relatively sane with a standard number of hours, but everyone needs to be on point all the time, and some actors just prefer a slower pace. We hire actors whom we trust to do all their extensive table work in advance. This isn’t a show you can just “wing it” on. That said, this production model really allows actors to flex their performance muscles – since it’s one angle, you go from scene to scene, performance to performance, instead of re-doing the same movements, hitting the same marks, and giving the same line delivery over 15 times with say, 4 different setups if you’re doing coverage.  What we capture is essentially their “pure” performance. There’s very little to tweak in post-production, and you can’t use close-ups to edit out pauses or manipulate performance the way we do in standard coverage. We also cut it very differently from our other one-angle series. There are few YouTube cuts to save takes. Ian D. Clark, for instance, found this model very exciting, something he had never done in his 40 years of experience. Shannon Kook, who’s guest starring on the show, came onboard our little web series even though he’s in the next Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl) movie amongst a myriad of other high profile projects. He loved the show. That was neat and it was great to have him. Sophia has extensive theatre experience on big national stages like Stratford and this was definitely something wildly different for her. I’m supremely excited for you to meet Sophia Walker and Nicole Stamp’s characters because they are some BAMFs in action, that’s for sure. Sophia, especially, is a huge part of the season and she has wonderful chemistry with everyone as well as a magnetic presence on screen. Needless to say, once again, I’m so proud of our returning cast – they’ve all had more challenging material to tackle this year and being behind the monitor, I can tell you they’ve also leveled up as performers and pushed themselves farther than you can expect. They knew who their characters were, so they dove right into “How do I get my [character] from Point A to Point B?”

Q) Can we commission Ian to make these shirts for the Carmilla store?

A) It’s a great shirt, but it’s too spoilery. We’ll tweet the photo later when it’s appropriate and you’ll be like, “Aw, yeah!”

Q) How did the scouting for locations go this season and what is different this season?

A) I can’t go into too much as to why we were looking for what we were looking for, (you’ll discover where they are exactly within the first couple of episodes) but I’ll say that I when I stumbled upon The Darling Mansionon AirBnB, it was clear even from the photos that this location was not only spot on story-wise, but the history of the house and its owner also reflects our values and meshes in so well with us.  I urge you to stay there when you come to the area! We like to play this game, “What is props and what is Tanya’s (the owner of The Darling Mansion) house?” She’s got some weird shit in there!

Q) There was such great word-of-mouth promotion for Season 1 of “Carmilla.” Is that how you intended to get the word out about the show?

A) When we launch a show – and have the luxury of launching worldwide without geoblocking – our mantra is “If you build it, they will not come.” It’s all about the outreach legwork you put in. We knew who our audience was, what the different pockets of interest were (interest-wise, not age-wise) before our writer Jordan Hall even wrote a page. We knew who to reach out to when the show was live and we did it slowly, but surely. You start with a tiny, tiny snowball and you have to push it up the hill. We reached out to certain people in similar fandoms we knew, specific blogs, femslash fans, readers of LeFanu, etc. Not saying, “Hey! You should check out this show. It’s awesome!” but more of a “Hey, we made a little show. Perhaps you’ll like it, perhaps you won’t, but feel free to check it out.” Once things started gaining traction, we got to the point where we didn’t even need to do outreach as much because people were pitching it for us. That’s the sweet spot. So rewarding! I can’t even tell you how satisfying that was.

Q) Now you are able to use other social media platforms like SnapChat and Instagram. How has that become an asset to the show?

A) We were also looking for a platform where we didn’t have to record footage and audio, edit it, package it and put it up. With Snapchat, you get what you get when you are there and it is up directly. It’s very fun, direct and immediate. What I love about Paige Haight (who played Elsie in Season 1) being on our social team as well is that you have a differing point of view through the official account. Paige’s persona created the Snapchat content and it was a ton of fun. The official feed stays official – it has to be – with a smattering of a swaggy Elsie popping in here and there.

Q) What were some of the challenges you faced in filming Season 2 that weren’t there when filming Season 1?

A) Speaking from an audience point-of-view, it’s two-fold: the pressure to make a season more compelling than the first, combined with how to deal with the burden of representation. I can definitely pinpoint the moments that some fans will be angry at, but might love later on. (Jordan, Ellen – let’s figure out our hiding spot…) Production-wise, we’re still an indie web series funded by a brand. It’s very different from our other series and it’s still a struggle to shoot a show in four days. On the other hand, with more resources, a returning cast and some key crew that’s used to the game, we knew how to head into this type of production efficiently. I’m really, really happy with everything we got. We won’t be able to satisfy everyone, but that’s part of the gig. While we definitely want to address the elements we – and our audience – find truly and deeply problematic I think we’ve learned from a production standpoint that we have to take a step back and be selective with what we engage with. The fandom’s not our space to play in, it’s yours!

Q) The show is so great about inclusion of LGBTQ, non-binary. What has been the response you have received from those communities?

A) Many other cast and crew interviews have spoken at length about this and they’re much more eloquent. Being queer myself – I just made what I wanted to see. I’ve also learned a ton about non-binary identity through this series, and so has our cast and crew. Life imitates art in many ways. Kaitlyn has gone through their own identity process throughout this series!

Q) Many of the Creampuff fandom find themselves snacking alongside of viewing the episodes thanks to Laura. What are some of your go-to snacks or rituals for tuning in?

A) Once we ended the series, we found ourselves floundering. “What do we do with our Tuesdays and Thursday now?” I’m so ready to jump back in for essentially 36 premieres. Episode 1 starts with a new setting and everyone is like, “This is cool. This is nice.” Then, BAM! Cliffhanger. It’s a nice, slow re-entry into the world of Silas. We ramp up the action much more quickly this season. In Season 1, the audience is ahead of Laura for close to 14 episodes. We know Carmilla is a vampire. She doesn’t. As of now, you’re all on the same page as Laura from the get-go. Then, sooner rather than later, Sophia’s character arrives and drops some bombs. I love it! I just love her so much.

Q) Will there be additional episodes similar to the Christmas episode?

A)  We are doing a serialized mini-season that is super, super fun. Let’s call it Season B. Unlike last year where all the additional scripted videos were product-specific one-offs, we are going to bring an entire arc to life and we’re very excited to do so.

Q) What do you hope Season 2 leaves fans with?

A) An unsettling sense of death, destruction, glimmering hope and delicious cookies. Also: Got Blood? In all seriousness, I’d say Laura and Carmilla are the heart of the show and drive the emotional arcs forward. I love the theories! That is what has been super fun about the lead up to Season 2. Looking back to the novel, which has so many clues, I’ve grinned at those who had figured it out, and those who were way off in an (interesting) place. Ian was definitely not Papa Hollis, neither was Sophia starring as Ell. It’s a hilarious coincidence that she happens to have a piercing where a mole would be. Hahaha…

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