Or Die Trying is truly the answer to our binge watch dreams. We don’t know about you, but a series about women in film, by women in film, with WOC is our wildest dream. ODT answers that dream so much so that it’s been featured as IndieWire’s Project of the week and has been one of our first choices for an interview since before the The Light Leaks was born. We spoke to the creators of what’ll be the hottest series of the summer.
The following is an edited email Q&A between the ODT and TLL teams.
What is it “Or Die Trying” about?
Myah Hollis (Executive Producer / Showrunner / Actor):
Or Die Trying is about four millennial women living and working in Hollywood. When it comes to their careers in the entertainment industry, they know what they want and they have an idea of what it will take to get there, but they struggle with making all of the pieces of their lives mesh seamlessly. While they’re strong in one area, they’re lacking in another. It’s a story about their journeys as they develop as women and try to come to some type of equilibrium, while not compromising who they are in the process.
How did this idea develop?
Sarah Hawkins (Executive Producer / Actor):
Or Die Trying evolved from a minimal dialogue, split-screen concept short that Myah Hollis and I were developing, following the highs and lows of a day in the life of an actor and a writer in Los Angeles. A few weeks later, Jenny Austin (who plays “Amelia” in ODT) and I were also discussing wanting to get a project off the ground. I brought the three of us together and we restructured the short into a series, looping in Chelsea London Lloyd to play “Bailey”.
How did the team come together? Did you all know each other?
Myah and I met a few years ago in Philly where we both lived and worked. We both made the leap to LA within months of each other in 2013, Myah moving here for writing, and I sought to pursue acting. Being friends and fellow film industry ladies, we wanted to create something together that we could call our own, as if you wait for the perfect role or opportunity to come to you, you’re never going to find it. We’ve been work wives ever since!
Aside from Jenny Austin & Chelsea London Lloyd, whom I met at work, a good portion of our team came from our concept trailer shoot, friends who I’ve always wanted to work with, recommendations, and women in film Facebook groups.
Our director, Camila Martins, came to us via a women in film Facebook group and we could not have found a better fit. The miracles of social networking!
What does “Or Die Trying” mean to the group? Where did that name come from?
The name derived from a brainstorming session between Myah Hollis, Jenny Austin and I. We had exhausted every name under the sun when Myah said it out loud, kind of as a joke at first. We all looked at each other like “wait, no, this actually it!” It’s the epitome of our show in a nutshell. This series is about ambitious women who know what they want, and who they become in the process of chasing those dreams.
What’s the series’ intended audience?
We sought to really hone in on our fellow millennial women in film, because they are our community, our niche; the ambitious, driven women who know what they want and are actively doing everything they can to make it happen. Every dream is worth fighting for. For us, it’s chipping away at the celluloid ceiling, for others it may be something entirely different. We don’t want to limit ourselves to just one gender, just one industry, just one perspective, just one dream, because we believe Or Die Trying is much more than that.
What do you have to say those who say finding women or POC crew/talent is too hard?
It’s our responsibility as producers to look for unique and diverse perspectives, and hire fresh talent. As a woman, it’s tenfold. We need more women above the line to hire women below the line. It’s absolutely not hard to do, you just need to keep you eyes open and not be afraid to network and connect with others.
What do you think is added to this web series by having it so heavily guided by women on set?
I think it brings another level of authenticity to the project, as the characters Myah so skillfully penned reflect the highs and lows of people we know and love. These are our stories, and I believe that created more of a drive to make sure we did it justice.
How do sets differ when women are BTS?
The fact that the series is about women in film made it that much more special to work with a predominantly female crew. Being that this series is about our peers, I think everyone took more ownership of their role to ensure their story was as authentic as possible.
What were some of the biggest struggles/accomplishments with this project?
Lack of time and money are always obstacles, but I think what is unique about ODT in this capacity is that we shot close to 70 pages within five and a half days, producing the entire series with a budget a little over 13k. It’s definitely not something I’d recommend, but looking back I think it was a pretty excellent feat that we were able to get it all in, while still producing at the high quality that this story deserves.
How did you get the Seed & Spark backing? What was receiving that news like?
Seed&Spark was one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences. Crowdfunding is never easy, but the folks at Seed&Spark vet you and prepare you on a level that is incredibly empowering. Really cool filmmakers came out of the woodwork to support us, not only financially but with loans of goods, services, promotions, etc.
Will you self publish on your site or will it be distributed elsewhere?
We will be releasing Season 1 of Or Die Trying June 9th on YouTube!
Keep up with ODT via their website and keep an eye out for their release! All photos are stills provided by their team.