Being a woman in film is hard. As of this year only four women have ever been nominated for the 'Best Director' award at the Oscars and only one has ever won. According to statistics published by The Hollywood Reporter female directors make up for just 7% of directors working on the top grossing 250 films of 2016. The statistics for television aren't much better with women making up approximately 17% of directorial talent. With these disappointing figures in mind it is hardly surprising that women working in the industry are finding new and creative ways to produce and distribute their work outside of mainstream production.
Or Die Trying is one of several female projects which have been created by circumventing traditional production, distribution, and exhibition routes. By crowdfunding and distribution on YouTube the all-female team behind Or Die Trying have been able to get their story onto international screens. The series focuses on the trials and tribulations of young ambitious women who live and work in Los Angeles. Making the story of Or Die Trying's creation even more pertinent.
Jennifer Shearman: Why did you want to make Or Die Trying - what was the inspiration behind it?
Myah Hollis: Initially we just wanted to create something that reflected our experiences in LA and in this industry. Sarah and I had an idea for a short that we were developing, and Sarah and Jenny were talking about wanting to do something together, so we just kind of joined forces. We were thinking very small in the beginning. Our goal was just to make something cool for our reels that we could take ownership of, instead of waiting for opportunities that may or may not come. Once we really began developing the show and realized the potential behind the concept, we knew we had something really amazing on our hands.
JS: What are the key differences between Or Die Trying and other female ensemble lead programmes such as Girls?
MH: We’re in a time right now where shows are trying very hard to be transparent, relatable and authentic, because that’s what audiences are coming to require and expect from their content. It’s no longer a novelty to see characters behave on TV the way people behave in real life, and shows like Girls are what brought us into this era of unapologetic realism. Female ensemble shows have also proven that they can be successful because there is value in the female perspective. So now it comes down to the characters and their stories. You have to tell an honest story that reflects the world that we live in, but do it in a way that is unique. I think we created a really distinctive voice and style with our show.
JS: Why did you choose to stream Or Die Trying on Youtube? Sarah Hawkins: We chose to stream Season 1 of Or Die Trying on YouTube because accessibility is everything! We wanted to ensure our audience can easily access the series so they can enjoy and share without any complication, leaving room for an infinite possibility of growth. YouTube by and large, provides that type of reach to all over the world, without any sign up or costs infringed upon our audience. It’s kind of amazing when you really think about it. JS: How instrumental has crowdfunding been in the creation of Or Die Trying? SH: Crowdfunding Or Die Trying was crucial to creating Season 1 not only in regard to funding for production and post production, but in growing our team and audience as well. So many wonderfully talented, and passionate people came out to support us in ways we never could have imagined.
JS: How do you think being able to distribute your programme on Youtube benefits your audience? SH: In addition to global accessibility, familiarity also plays a huge role in why we believe our audience benefits from watching Season 1 on YouTube. With so many new platforms popping up everyday, YouTube is already a tried and true outlet to navigate within and discover new content, plus the playlists are pretty cool! You can set Season 1 to autoplay, or our Inside the Episode videos, or let it go and discover other similar series or projects filter in through suggestions. JS: What's next for Or Die Trying and the Or Die Trying team? MH: I’m trying very hard to give myself a short break before writing season 2. I don’t really remember how to not be immersed in the world of ODT, so we’ll see how that goes. SH: Right now we are focused on getting out Season 1, especially coming off of the premiere event and it’s launch online June 9th. It’s been an exciting few weeks! Taking a break at some point does sound nice too, but I know we all are eager to begin working on Season 2 as well. Stay tuned!
Or Die Trying is available to stream now.
Image Credits: Caroline J. Phillips