Gemma and the Bear: We’ve All Been There, right?

In the past few years, there has been an explosion of binge watching, streaming services usage and internet celebrities. All of this has led to the rise of the web series.

A web series can be anything from the thoughts of a teenager sitting in a bedroom with big dreams and a video camera to a fully-funded professional film project. They have become the destination for actors, writers and filmmakers eager to bring their dream projects to life.

Kevin R. Free and Eevin Hartsough are two people taking a chance on themselves. They are the producers and creators of Gemma and the Bear, which was a Best Web Series Nominee at the 2016 Winter Film Awards Indie Film Festival in NYC.

The web series revolves around your average career-focused woman who just happens to become a a hairy gay man when she falls asleep. The series flows with the vibes of 30 Rock and Parks and Recreation, but do not let yourself think it’s all just outrageous comedy. Gemma, played by Eevin, still has to deal with the daily work grind and a co-worker who used to make her life tough as kids – situations many of us can relate to.

Winter Film Awards’ Matt Reich had a chance to speak with Kevin and Eevin about Gemma and the Bear. They talk about the inspiration for the web series, the challenges of filming the series and plans for the future, plus some advice for students aspiring to work in the entertainment industry.

What is or who is the inspiration for web series?

Kevin:  Eevin rhymes with Kevin. We like to tell people that we rhyme – So we wondered what it would be like if we were actually the same person… We discussed it – and our dissimilarities – and voilà!

Who is Gemma and where does the inspiration for the character come from? As I watched I felt a Liz Lemon of 30 Rock vibe, was she part of the inspiration?

Eevin: What female actor/writer isn’t inspired by Tina Fey and what she’s created and accomplished?  I was a HUGE fan of 30 Rock when it was on (and now a huge fan of The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) so I’d say Tina Fey is a big influence on me, but not a direct source of inspiration for the character.  Gemma is really the most uptight version of an early career day-job me and if there’s overlap in that character with Liz Lemon, I feel very flattered.

Kevin: I love when people compare Gemma with Liz Lemon; I think it’s such a great compliment. BUT I have to say that we were adamant that Gemma be more real-life awkward and less comic awkward than Liz Lemon. It was important to Eevin that Gemma just be an ordinary woman who is getting life done when -BAM! – the Bear returns to mess everything up.

What was the most difficult part of filming Gemma and the Bear?

Kevin: Coordinating schedules and locations was pretty tough. I was performing off-Broadway in The Fantasticks, so we had to work around my 8-show-per-week schedule. I missed a performance on the day that we shot my scenes with the kids in Episode 2. NOT on purpose. I drove like a bat out of hell from Long Island to Manhattan to get to the show on time but the producer of the show put my understudy on because I was so late.

Eevin: The Office scenes were incredibly difficult only because we had just one weekend to shoot EVERYTHING we needed there.  On top of that, the office ended up being the first stuff we shot, so we were all finding our groove under circumstances that really didn’t have any wiggle room.  Having said that, and although there’s plenty I’d tweak/fix from the office scenes, I feel proud that we shot as much as well as we did.  A close second would be an outdoor scene from episode two; it’s a flashback to when Gemma’s in third grade and we had a bunch of kids playing outdoors . . . on one of the coldest days of the year.  They were amazing troopers and eventually we all got the feeling back in our fingers and toes.

Are there plans to continue Gemma and the Bear as a multi-year project?

Eevin: YES.  We LOVE the universe and the characters  and we’re excited to keep playing with and within them.  Right now we have Season Two fully outlined and we’re getting ready to start fundraising for it.

Are you currently working on any other projects? If all the stars were to align, what would be your dream project to create?

Eevin: This year Kevin and I hope to create at least two more stand-alone shorts in addition to producing season two (and maybe work on some theater together too?!).

Kevin: My dream would be for us to raise enough money for Season 2 and 3 and be picked up by a distributor, so that we can continue making Gemma & The Bear! as a full-time job!

For students majoring in film, communications and acting, what advice would can you give them?

Kevin: If you know that it’s what you want to do, don’t stop doing it. Build your community of colleagues now, and continue to add to your community.

Eevin: Create your own work.  When I first graduated from college and came to NYC to get started as an actor, I had this idea that to be successful I had to avoid being a hyphenate: not an actor-writer or actor-producer, JUST an actor.  But creating my own work  – first for theater and now on film – helped me understand my point of view as an artist and taught me valuable lessons about how to better bring everything I have to offer to a project and to focus on doing that instead of on simply pleasing the people in the room.

By Matt Reich | @Matt_Reich7
Matt Reich is a sophomore at Mercy College majoring in Media Studies: Television and Radio Production. He is the creator and host of Just Say It and Real America, which can be found on his YouTube Channel: MattisLiving.



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