Live, Laugh, Love: Not a bad motto for young women searching for their purpose in life. A new independent web series (aptly dubbed 3L) by Haitian-born director Francesca Andre follows the story of Gaelle – a young, ivy league educated African-American woman, played by Haitian-American jazz vocalist Melanie Charles, who is left in a tailspin after a bad breakup.
Lost, confused, and feeling like a part of her is missing, she relocates to Brooklyn, beginning a new journey as a jazz singer, poet and amateur cook. Things don't always go as planned, and she must deal with harsh new realities in the highly competitive city of New York. Her friends support her in her quest to find her passion, opening her up to new possibilities and relationships.
In a month in which we celebrated International Women's Day and Global Voices highlighted some extraordinary real-life women, we thought we'd talk to some of the women involved in the series (Andre, the director, and Melissa Ternier, one of the producers) about the message they want to send to young women. (We will also publish a second part to this post, in which we talk with the lead actress, Melanie Charles).
Global Voices (GV): You've built a great reputation as a photographer; why venture into the realm of film and web TV?
Francesca Andre (FA): I started producing short videos for Fanm Kanson Network as well as doing stills for several productions as a way of getting my feet wet. Eventually I knew I was going to use film as medium to tell stories.
3L is basically the story of taking control of one's life, holding tight to ambition in the face of hardship, and being blessed with the type of friends that will push and guide you through the struggle on the way to success.
GV: Is this a Haitian story or an American story? [Andre and Melanie Charles, the lead actress, are Haitian/Haitian-American, yet the main character is described as African-American.] Do you see distinctions between the two or are the lines becoming blurred? And does it even matter?
Melissa Ternier (MT): It's a story of young American adults of diverse backgrounds. The lead character, Gaelle, is Haitian American. We describe her as African-American at times, since we blur that distinction. The important thing is that the character navigates in two different cultures – one of the American culture and of her heritage. It’s not uncommon for people to adapt to different cultures in order to create their sense of self. The important thing is that you’ll see elements of culture throughout the series – whether it’s through art, music, food, etc.
GV: How did the series idea come about, why were you inspired to work on it and what message does it send about womanhood?
FA: The series came about in the cold winter months [as Melissa and I] juggled the daily anxiety of our personal lives. We had free time, since work was slow for both of us. I came up with the idea of a series about a young graduate making her way in the unapologetic world of present-day USA. Melissa was intrigued and loved the concept because we both imagined so many issues, problems and highlights that either we [personally] experienced or knew that people, in general, went through. And there were many perspectives that we often didn’t see on the [TV] screen that accurately represented us as women on a normal, matter-of-fact level that we wanted to see. So the web series was born out that hunger to create and depict stories of women living in this generation.
The message that this series portrays is that we are [more connected] on varying levels than we might admit, especially as young female adults of this generation.
GV: Can you elaborate on the use of the web as the medium for your series? Why the Internet? What advantages does it have over traditional broadcast media?
FA: We loved the idea of using the web as a platform because it's more accessible to use. I use the web frequently in my daily life for work and for pleasure. I loved the idea that [3L] could potentially reach a greater amount of people around the world without being so costly, just by the connection and draw the series may organically have for women and men. So for me, it was easy an easy choice to make it web-based.
The web has a firm presence among traditional broadcast media, because it has the potential to reach so many people from across all walks of life. That connection creates more fuel and leads to more creations and more networks. And the thing is, series – and anything else on the web – is fueled by the viewers. If they like it or hate it they will let you know. The viewers have a vital role in playing out the longevity of what creators put out there. If it's placed and marketed correctly, the Internet can be a treasure chest of discovery, connection, epiphanies, and growth than traditional broadcast media could ever give.
MT: We used social media (to the extent of our basic knowledge) to help raise our initial funding for filming. We connected with friends and family and filmed a few episodes last summer, and came back to again to increase the momentum and interest for the series. We're getting ready to launch our final fundraiser to help complete filming the series, so that we can deliver the whole season to our supporters who have been SO patient with us! The thing about social media that I love, is that you get to connect with people all the time who are interested in what you're doing. And I hope as we get to know our market we can continue to sustain and nourish our relationship with our viewers, even beyond the series.
GV: Can you give us details about the series launch?
FA: The series is set to launch in the summer. We will make regular updates on the website.
GV: Why should people watch the series and what do you hope they will come away with?
MT: If you want enjoy, connect, poke fun, laugh and recall what it means to live, fall, and get back up in this society, you should watch 3L. We really hope that people can converse, and connect while seeing themselves or people they know in this series.