In an overpopulated entertainment landscape, how do creators make shows that truly cater to the audiences they aim to reach? Same Same, an original web series premiering for free online, did so by bringing together a queer inclusive cast and crew to more authentically tell the stories of its modern queer characters. Created by Lauren Augarten, the season takes an intimate look at the lives of young queer women as they navigate sex, relationships and friendships in an ever-evolving world of dating.

"As an LGBT woman in TV, it's still surprising to me how little of the female queer experience appears on screen," Augarten says. "When it does, it's often relegated to minor roles, or used as a plot device rather than simply being a part of the human experience. I set about to make Same Same, in all honesty to have something relatable for myself to watch, and am endlessly proud of the incredible group of people that came together to make this gorgeous and hilarious little slice of the modern queer experience that we have."

The series tells the story of three women, Emily, Aviva and Sam who meet through a dating app called Same Same. They're all at different stages of life: Aviva has just come out in her mid-twenties, Sam has an issue with putting her foot in her mouth and Emily has rendered her dating pool in Brooklyn miniscule given that she's already slept with so many people.

Same Same is receiving plenty of buzz, having been chosen as an official selection at the LA New Media Film Festival, Brooklyn Web Fest and the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival Creators Market. The pilot episode garnered over a quarter of a million views and a fan-fueled campaign to create a full season resulted in the twelve episodes now available on Vimeo. "We saw the huge response to that first episode and went to them with a crowdfunding campaign," producer Stephanie Begg said. "We produced this series on the passion and enthusiasm of the LGBTQ community around the world, who connected with the show. With nearly a feature film's worth of content to watch, the passion of the cast, crew and our supporters made Same Same the web series possible."

Read PAPER's conversation with creator Lauren Augarten and see a teaser for the series below:

What was the inspiration for Same Same?

When I first started dating women, this whole new world, a whole new culture opened up to me. I was hungry to read or watch anything that might give me an entrance into that space, to observe it from afar I guess. Both to get comfortable and also to see myself represented, but at the time, there wasn't really much out there. I wanted to make something of my own so Same Same is that. A mixture of stories gathered from people in the queer community, but primarily based on my experiences as I journeyed into that world.

Why did the web series format appeal to you?

I work in TV, and I find it to be incredibly collaborative. A web series is the closest thing I could make to a TV show financially at the time. For the most part, you're not telling one person's story. You're telling the story of a bunch of people in a room, and you're pulling from the perspective of each department on the show—production design, costume, props, the DP, the director, the actors. Everyone has something really valuable to contribute. This was the same thing. I ran it as if I was a showrunner, and had different people write and direct different episodes.

For Same Same, I was newly part of the queer community, and I didn't feel like I had the authority to speak for everyone in it so I wanted it to be as collaborative as possible. It was also the first big thing I made and I wanted to surrounded myself with people who had more experience and could elevate the storytelling, which they certainly did. I got pretty darn lucky with my team, and also was able to experience them as a writer, director and actor so I know from all of those vantage points just how brilliant they are.

What's the next step in terms of distribution?

Well we've been tied up in conversation with some distributors for about a year, and at the end of the day came to the conclusion that releasing it ourselves was the best way forward. Having a queer series that we made for a specific, very underserved community hidden behind a paywall felt counterintuitive. So we're releasing it on our website and vimeo for free.

Most of the crew (and cast) is LGBTQ. Did that happen organically or was that something you intentionally aimed for?

The show is about queer womxn, so yes—it was absolutely intentional. When we were first casting, I went all around NYC looking for people who were both part of the community I wanted to represent and also incredible actors. I asked every casting director I interacted with, I researched as much as possible, I attended acting classes specifically for queer people. Brad Calcaterra who runs the Studio in New York let me observe his class and introduced me to several of the cast in Same Same.

Also, part of the series is semi-improvised so I wanted to pull from the community for that. I wanted people with interesting stories, a different perspective. The show is based around an app, 'Same Same' so our main characters all go on dates with people they met through the app. They were all performers but not necessarily straight up actors, and they are all actually the things they play—a musician, a rapper, an astrologer/healer, a sex educator.

Finding people who aren't necessarily straight was intentional, but I think gender is more of the organic part of the process. We have people on the show who are female, male, trans and non binary. I guess I didn't think about this until now, but when you open up space to look for different casting choices you get to experience more people, so it's natural that you'll meet people outside of the binary.

In terms of the creative team, it's made up of all the peoples we represented on screen, sexuality-wise. Lesbians, bi-people, queer people, straight people. That was less intentional and more organic, but if it hadn't organically happened I would've made it happen. Representation is important in every aspect of art.

Who do you hope watches Same Same?

My mum and dad. Just kidding, they've already seen it. I hope it reaches lots of different people. People who aren't used to seeing their stories, and people who are. I mean, essentially it's a group of people learning about themselves through relationships, whether it be friends, family, lovers. It's also about bad dates. And most of us do both those things, so hopefully people relate!

Photo by Gabby Kirschberg

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