Film festivals are no longer just about standard theatrical feature movies. They include shorts, TV and web series. The web series that most caught my eye, or more exactly, my ear, at the LA Film Festival this year was Quirky Female Protagonist.
The two-minute episodes, which you can watch on YouTube, star creator/writer Aliee Chan as Quirky Female Protagonist and showrunner Adrienne Rose White as Straight-Laced Bestie. The series draws its inspiration from rom-coms like Sex and the City and New Girl with one, shall we say, quirky difference. Instead of the actual dialog, the actors describe trite dialog. “Sing song condolences” might get the reply: “Gratitude”. Instead of an actual joke, the actor might say “One liner”.
Chan calls this non-dialog dialog “script math”.
The quirkiness of all this made me want to talk to Chan. “Interview.”
When I’m not interviewing quirky female protagonists, I write screenplays, so I found your “script math as dialogue” technique, funny, fascinating, and clever. But, do people who aren’t that deep into scripts “get it”?
Thank you! Glad you liked the script math as dialogue. No one has spoken up yet to me about “not getting it.” Honestly, my litmus test as to whether or not non-industry people will get my work is “Do my parents understand it and do they understand why it works?”
The alienation effect makes the similar, strange. In that strangeness – in this case, script math as dialogue – you’re able to pluck out what’s familiar in order to key in to what this weird world is. The fact that we’re all so familiar with this girl-attempts-to-figure-out-life-and-love narrative helps make the show work. But, that’s all due to the fact that our show is produced and watchable on YouTube.
I had actors who came in to audition ask the casting assistant why there “weren’t any lines on the page.” The impression I get was that some of them were like “It says what I’m supposed to be saying, but it doesn’t have the words of it” and she had to tell them that those were the actual words they were supposed to say as dialogue.
What inspired the “script math as dialogue” technique?
I was working with the New York Neo-Futurists for a few years and really dove in to learning all that I could about the Neo Futurist company in general and their aesthetic. I found one of their older plays from Chicago by Greg Allen called “Title” that used script math as dialogue, except I believe they refer to it as deconstruction. Then, in college, I had to have watched BriTaNick’s “Every Oscar Nominated Movie Trailer Ever” hundreds of times because it was just that funny. This device clearly worked and I wanted to explore how it could play out for a serialized parody.
I’m a fan of New Girl. Which episode?
I was on an episode called “Reagan” this past season where I play an awkward receptionist who can’t lie to Megan Fox. New Girl is one of my favorite shows and it was their 100th episode, so it was great to be there for that.
How does working in TV compare with working in theatre? Which do you like better and why?
I’m trained in theatre, I’m a stone cold theatre nerd who can’t stop listening to Hamilton, and I imagined that after my moving to LA to work in TV I’d be asked this question and be like “Yeah! Theatre forever! It’s Real Art!” and honestly I can’t say that I like one more than the other.
I got the same feeling when I booked my first co-star as when I got cast in the elementary school musical, so I really can’t pick.
There’s nothing like live performance and the rehearsal process. Theatre will always be my first love – I miss it and I’d like to do more of it in the future, but right now I’m focusing on my career in film and TV.
I’ve been obsessed with television since I was a kid. I’m really excited, especially as a content creator, by everything that’s happening as TV shifts more towards digital streaming than traditional network programming and how that all will play out in the next few years.
Will there be more episodes of QFP? What will you be working on next?
Season two is in the works! Next up on our TV parody plate, though is Strong Independent Woman, our love letter to Shonda Rhimes and the worlds she creates. It focuses in on Scandal, in particular and stars my creative partner, Adrienne Rose White, as a comedic Olivia Pope with me filling in for Quinn. Adrienne and I are also teaming up to write a few feature films as well as a 30-minute comedy pilot about an elite private school dealing with the fallout of a viral scandal.