Image: The Streets Barber Stories (AUS)
Due to its effectiveness in delivering digestible content succinctly, the comedy genre has often been the weapon of choice amongst web series creators.
However, as each year passes we witness the rise of less scripted and more freely-flowing conversation focused projects. This content educates viewers and provides genuine on-screen emotions, whether they be good, bad, happy or sad.
An example of this dose of reality is The Streets Barber Stories (AUS). Directors, editors and co-producers Vidad Narayan and Bryce McCoy say the concept “just really made sense!”
“We essentially took what Nasir, The Streets Barber, was already doing through his charity work, which was sharing stories from his ‘street clients’,” says Narayan and McCoy.
“Nasir’s street clients generally being less fortunate, are also the kind of people which most barely know about at all and are stigmatized either through media or from our own preconceived notions wherever they may come from.”
The web series format allows The Streets Barber Stories to dedicate each episode to a unique individual, gaining an insight into the lives of the lovable yet often misrepresented people Nasir works with.
“It’s all about creating an environment where you feel like you are hanging out with friends… You start to clue on when someone’s not feeling quite right, and so you learn to pace how you introduce the camera being directly amongst the conversation.”
It’s no irregularity for filmmakers to need to ensure their subjects feel as comfortable as possible, it’s essentially like any blossoming relationship… You need to build trust first. The end result, storytelling which shines a light into a world most viewers don’t normally get access to.”
Following the lives of a deaf theatre group cast in the lead up to their hearing-impaired adaptation of The Little Mermaid, Seen & Heard (CAN) is a documentary web series that explores the challenges of the Deaf community. Maureen Marovitch, director, writer and co-producer of the series, went through the process of building trust with Jack, a Deaf teacher.
“He [Jack] also worried about how we would represent deaf people, their issues and if we truly understood them on a deep level,” says Marovitch.
“It was a really important lesson and [a] reminder to us, even after two decades of filmmaking to realize that trust is so hard to win, and can remain fragile throughout the entire filmmaking process.”
Building relationships with communities relies heavily on communication. When conventional methods of connecting with another person are no longer available it can create a deeper understanding of someone else’s point of view, and highlight our own society’s foibles.
“We could not easily get close and form close bonds with some of the deaf people in the production… We did persevere in particular with Jack and Sera, sometimes communicating by writing when all else failed- and we managed to get closer with them,” says Marovitch.
“The things most hearing people take for granted – access to medical care, to experiencing the arts, access to education, employment – are at times nearly unattainable compared to what hearing people experience and access.”
Highlighting the power of connection and conversation, Crips in Cars (NZ) takes a forward approach by placing a celebrity in a car with a person living with a disability each episode.
It’s heart-warming to view the process of the individuals learning about each other, relating through the situation they find themselves in.
“It’s a critical message about connection first, conversation second. Plenty of people will come across a person with a disability but they do not take the first step to connect,” says executive producer Robyn Scott-Vincent.
“Ironically, non-disabled people often feel vulnerable and fear offending or making a mistake. This serves as a reminder to all of us watching that the power of actively bridging a gap can help make us an all-inclusive society.
“By isolating the two characters, we’ve made it easier for a viewer to feel they are really there in the car and part of the conversation. There is little distraction – it is just about the conversation; one-on-one.”