This was an early interview (2010) with Seeking Simone creators Renée Olbert and Rosemary Rowe I did for the queer women’s site Queeriesmag.com (which sadly is no more).
Seeking single female w/o Emotional Crabs!
These days, before the U-haul comes the online profile. This is all too true for online dating newbie Simone Selkin in the hilarious, homegrown web series about online dating, Seeking Simone.The series follows the adventures of Simone Selkin (Renée Olbert) as she dates her way through gay Toronto. Recently I had a great time chatting with Seeking Simone creators Renée Olbert and Rosemary Rowe about the experience of making the series, online dating, Kristin Chenoweth and, of course, about the underwear they get in the mail.
Suzy Malik: Seeking Simone is a series that is a perfect online fit. This has me wondering which came first. Shooting the series primarily using webcam dialogue between the two main stars — was that conceived before or after the knowledge that it would be a series made for the web?
Renée: Ahh, the immortal chicken or egg question! Well, as all well-organized lesbians, we started off this endeavour with several lists! Lists of things we did want our show to be about — for example, cute lesbians. Aaannnndd things we didn’t want our show to be about — like oh, off the top of my head… straight dudes. We knew very early on that we were going to create a comedy about a hapless gal and her dating woes. We also wanted to add the fish-out-of-water element into the mix — we wanted Simone to be on her own and in a new city. So, the webcam really fit well into the grander scope of our series. It’s probably hard to say what really came first, but we knew almost from the onset that we would put our series online.
SM: Recently Chica Busca Chica (Girl Seeking Girl) made the leap from web series to DVD, and Angela Robinson is currently filming a musical feature based on her web series Girl Trash. Was Seeking Simone made with hopes of transitioning to another delivery medium, or is continuing the series online your goal?
Renée: Waaayyyy back in the day when Rosemary and I originally started kicking ideas around, our goal was to conceive and create a pilot script to shop around. However, it is increasingly difficult to gain any traction or attention in this industry if you don’t have the means to show people what your concept is all about. It can be really, really frustrating waiting for people to give you permission to create art. So, very quickly we gravitated toward the idea of producing the show ourselves and getting it out there. The web seemed like the ideal place to do that, and we love that our series has reached so many folks around the world.
We were huge fans of shows like Felicia Day’s The Guild, which was, and still is, a groundbreaking model for what can be achieved on the internet. Having said that, we both really believe in our show and also believe in the sustainability of the concept. So, would we turn down a meeting with the CBC? Hells no!
SM: Okay, so if the series was picked up for TV, as an all-lesbian all-the-time series, what would your show have to do for ratings during sweeps week since Sapphic smooches are already commonplace?Rose: Great question! With TV stars going temporarily gay twice a year already, we’d really have to up the ante to make an impact. I think that sweeps is always a good time for a crossover episode. Ideally, Simone’s crime show, CSIS:ForensicSWAT, would be doing a crossover episode with CSI, and then Simone would “solve the mystery” of what Jorja Fox looks like naked. I’d watch that. Over and over. In slow motion.Renée: Oh, me too! One question… Is there any way we could have Kristin Chenoweth just wander into the crime scenes and break into song? It’d be like Cop Rock… but gayer.QM: In the ’90s, digital video made film more accessible, and as a result we heard from a bigger variety of voices (like lesbian ones – yay!). It seems we’re at a similar point in technology/history as the result of web TV. In some ways, web series are to TV what digital video was to film in the ’90s. Any thoughts on this? Is it exciting to be a part of this kind of movement?Renée: New media is routinely compared to the Wild West, where there are seemingly few rules and no sheriffs. I may have taken that analogy a bit far, but the point is that the internet has provided a new platform of expression to a whole generation of artists. It’s now possible to produce your art and have it seen without needing the support of a network.I think back to what it was like in the days of VHS (yes, I can remember a time before the iPod) when I was so starved to see representations of myself in media and how challenging it was to find films in my smallish town. Today you can go online and see really fascinating, funny, touching portrayals of life in our community made by members of our community for our community. I think that’s really huge, and it is incredibly exciting to be a part of a movement like this.QM: Seeking Simone has found an international audience. Fans are even volunteering to translate your series so that you can find an even greater audience all over the world. Have you been surprised by all the attention you’ve received internationally? What kind of a response are you getting here at home (Canada)?
Rose: People here in Canada have been incredibly supportive of the show — posting about it on their blogs, spreadin’ the word, leaving comments. We’ve been very lucky to have such an enthusiastic audience here on the home front!
We were definitely surprised by the international attention; I totally love how the magic of the internet makes sharing content so easy — really, the only barrier left is language. We were so thrilled when our translators popped up and offered to lend their time and talent to help bring our show to a wider audience. We really can’t thank them enough for making us funny in five languages.QM: You are wisely using the fact that you’re online to your advantage, with additional elements like Ask Audrey and the blog. Are there plans to make other elements of Seeking Simone more interactive?
SM: Who would your dream actress be to cast in Seeking Simone?Renée: By now I think my love for Kristin Chenoweth is more than apparent! She sings, she’s funny, she’s cute as a bug’s ear, and she’s so tiny you can just carry her around in your pocket!Rose: I’d say Ellen Page, but then we’d really be cradle-robbing cougars. So I’ll say Gina Torres. Because… well, she knows why.QM: You say Seeking Simone was made to help feed the hunger for lesbian content; what other lesbian content out there can you not get enough of? Are there any other web series you follow?Rose: I follow pretty much every lesbian web series out there, like Plan V (from Argentina), Anyone But Me, We Have to Stop Now… and, of course, we’re fans of our fellow lesbo-Canadians over at BJ Fletcher: Private Eye.Renée: I would say that Rose has eloquently summed up our shameless enjoyment of all things lesbonic on the internet. So perhaps I’ll dip into the literary oeuvre and list Sarah Waters as one of my all-time favourite authors. Fingersmith just blew me away. And although she may not admit it, I have it on good authority that Rose was so surprised by the turn of events in that novel she actually threw her copy across the room!QM: How did you take Seeking Simone from page to screen? Has this been a difficult or serendipitous process?
Renée: Because we didn’t want to wait for someone to green-light this project for us, we had to fund it ourselves. We have been incredibly fortunate to be able to work with so many amazing folks. Many were friends that we called upon in our time of need, but others just heard about our show through friends and wanted to be a part of it. People put in the long hours and a lot of work because they believed in the project, and that was really gratifying.
SM: Are exes calling you up asking if certain characters, like Caramel Kiss or Rebecca, are based on them?
Rose: My ex Rebecca sent me a pretty furious note, actually… but she calmed down when I explained I had actually based “Rebecca” on Rebecca’s ex, Danielle. Then she thought it was funny.
Renée: Ah, I think I’m gonna go ahead and plead the fifth on that! Wait… can we even do that in Canada?! I have got to stop watching so many Law and Order reruns.
SM: Rosemary, I know you met your partner online; did you have an “Audrey” when you first started online dating?
Rose: I did not have an Audrey when I ventured online to find love, probably because no one I knew at the time had tried online dating (or would admit to it). Of course, because it worked out so well for me, I am eager to push every single person I know into trying it. You should all try it. All of you.
SM: How do you feel about being the Audrey (through Anna) to a whole community of lesbians out there?
Rose: As for being the woman behind the Ask Audrey curtain — obviously, I love giving people advice, so it’s been a lot of fun to interact with our viewers that way. They’ve been very brave to send in their dating questions, and I hope Audrey’s keen advice has been helpful. I should probably note that I am not a licensed therapist. Although my mother is, so you know… I’m licensed by association.
SM: Renee, do you have any experience with online dating? Or are you just translating your analog experiences to digital?
Renée: Haha! Oh boy. In this modern age I’m ashamed to admit it, but I’ve never attempted online dating. To be honest, I’m a bit of a… Rose, what’s the word for folks who aren’t terribly tech savvy?
Rose: Luddite, Renée.
Renée: Yes! Thank you! I’m not even on the Facebook. In actuality I’m a little afraid of the Facebook! By the way, is it The Facebook, or are they more like Cher — and it’s just Facebook? What was the question again?
SM: What makes working on Seeking Simone so fulfilling?
Rose: So many things. Creative control. Connecting directly with viewers around the world. The underwear we get in the mail.
Renée: Everything Rose just said… especially the underwear. In all seriousness, although it sounds really dorky, it has been so amazing to work on Seeking Simone because Rose and I have been talking about doing something together since university. When I look at what we’ve accomplished so far with Seeking Simone, I must admit I’m pretty darn proud of us.
SM: What do you hope people will say to their friends after watching episodes of Seeking Simone?
Rose: As one of our YouTube commenters (I believe it was ilovecrystalsassalot) recently said, I hope they say “LMAO.. what ya trying to say?? cause I cant spell I am not cute??? ROTFLMAO.. did ya watch this whole series.. it is freakin funny scotty!” And then I hope they say, “Get me one of those Emotional Crabs mugs for my birthday!”
Renée: Well, I hope they say, “OMG! I think I just lizzed a little watching Seeking Simone.” ‘Cause I’m nothing if not a classy broad.