In addition to her work on screen, Casey Hartnett is making strides in breaking the barrier that society has created when it comes to discussions on stigmatized issues. A Chicago native and now New York City resident, Hartnett is creating her own web series in hopes of changing the narrative on issues specifically dealing with women, her work with Hashtag Happy Period and more. Check out more on Hartnett below!
netTVnow: What has your background been like working in web series?
Casey Hartnett: Before I started creating my own series, I was acting in a few series created by friends. I had a role in the pilot episode of a series called Between the Lines when I still lived in Chicago, where I played a drug dealer disguised as a preppy high school student. That was fun but I moved to New York and had to give up the role. I ended up with a role in a great comedy series in New York called Tiny Boxes, where I play a depressed twenty-something therapy patient. That series was actually created by a friend of mine, Larissa Adamczyk, who I then collaborated with on my series, Unplugged.
I guess my involvement with web series even goes back to college at The University of Iowa, where I studied Cinema and was involved with an organization called Student Video Productions (SVP) where I had several roles both in production and as an actor on a couple of series, Entrusted and Dark Wings. That was probably when the medium of the web series as an alternative form of watching television was starting to really pick up and gain popularity. Now I’m creating my own web series and it’s been an amazing journey so far!
netTVnow: Where did the idea for Unplugged come from? Ultimately, why did you decided to take the web series route versus a short?
CH: The idea for Unplugged really stemmed from my every-day experiences with things like sexism and periods as well as my built-up frustrations of auditioning and working on film and TV productions as a woman in such a male-dominated industry. I’ve always been super independent, even as a kid, and the stories I’ve related to in film and TV have never been the cliche rom-coms. The first character I idolized was Harriet Welsh from Harriet the Spy because not only was she independent but she was such a badass spy and a writer with goals and ambitions.
When I write, I don’t write about dating or romance. My life is the opposite of romantic so I don’t relate to that. My life is spontaneous road trips by myself across the country and prioritizing time spent with close friends and family and struggling to pay rent for a tiny NYC apartment while pursuing a career as a filmmaker, actor and writer and working my butt off to achieve those goals. I wanted to use my voice to share interesting and real stories about women and all the complexities of life that we come in contact with. I wanted to create something to help girls and women feel more comfortable talking about certain topics such as periods, sex, harassment, sexism, gender and put that perspective out into the world for the other half of the population to try to understand. I decided on a web series rather than a short film because there’s just too much to talk about that I couldn’t fit into one film.
netTVnow: What are you hoping audiences will take away from it?
CH: The main goal of Unplugged is to unplug the conversation about these stigmatized issues women face daily to help girls and women feel more comfortable talking about it all and understanding that we are not alone; there other women going through the exact same thing as you. These really are universal topics that the show is discussing, not specific to just one demographic of women. So many people have periods, everyone has some sort of sexual experience and has battled gender norms and expectations, and sexual harassment and sexism is not unique to one kind of woman. And yet, while over half the population is going through all of these things, these topics still remain so hush-hush, which doesn’t make sense to me. Comedy can be very healing, and laughter is contagious, so I’m hoping that audiences will be able to make light of these topics and feel more comfortable talking to each other about them.
netTVnow: I love the movement you are working on to normalize period talk, can you tell us more about that?
CH: Thanks so much! This is something I’m very proud of. It was actually one of those things in life that I hadn’t been planning for, it just happened. I thought I was simply creating a funny comedy series about periods, but when I saw how uncomfortable it made certain people I realized that my work could have a stronger impact than just making people laugh. I wanted help normalize the conversation surrounding periods and being able to combine that with helping homeless women obtain proper menstrual care has become such a huge part of my life.
It started when I hosted my first donation drive for menstrual hygiene products at my web series premiere party with the help of an organization called Hashtag Happy Period. They collect donations of menstrual hygiene products that are then donated to homeless shelters for women in need, or are made into period kits to be handed out to homeless women on the streets. It’s really amazing! Chelsea VonChaz, the founder of Happy Period, is based in L.A., so she continued to reach out to me to help her facilitate donation drives in New York and from there I became the NYC representative for the organization and have loved every minute! My purpose as a filmmaker and the way I approach my work has changed from the experience, so I’m very grateful to Chelsea for including me in the movement!
netTVnow: You also released a web series prior to this called Period Drama, how do they all tie together?
CH: Period Drama was the series that got me involved with period activism in the first place, since it’s solely about periods. Well, it’s about women on their periods in different time periods. We’ve been bleeding for ages, man. Why isn’t the topic normalized yet? Anyway, while I love Period Drama, I wanted to expand on the topics I was able to touch on through my filmmaking. Women go through so much and there are so many stories to tell. The series begins and ends with periods, though. I wanted to keep that theme on the forefront as I transitioned from Period Drama to Unplugged, but I’m excited that Unplugged has given me room to explore even more taboo topics that are also so important to talk about.
netTVnow: Since this is a site about web series, do you have any favorites?
CH: I connected with the ladies who created the web series Dirty Talk through Twitter and definitely became a fan after watching their series! It’s about three young women who start an adult phone chat business to make some extra money. They’re so funny and real and they all have great on-screen chemistry. Other than the series that have gone mainstream like High Maintenance and Broad City, Dirty Talk is one I would recommend watching.
netTVnow: What’s some advice you can offer to those looking to create their own series?
CH: Write something, write two things, and reach out to friends who have production experience and acting experience and the equipment to make it happen. Find friends like you who are hungry to create and will work for free to help you get your first piece of content out there! Write everyday, know that the first project will have a very small budget, or no budget at all, but create something so that you can make others aware that this is something you have the ability to do and eventually you’ll find more and more like-minded people who you can create with and each project can be bigger than the last. It’s all about patience and taking small steps while working towards a career as a storyteller. Save the million dollar idea for when you’ve established that you are a creator and have gained some sort of a following and support system. Start small and grow from there. But please, do create! Our world is only richer with your voice and your story!!
netTVnow: Where do you hope the community will be in the next few years?
CH: I think that with all of the original and unique material web series have allowed filmmakers to create and produce, I hope that the independent film community has a strong comeback. With the exception of the select few series that have gotten picked up by major networks, the web series community is like the indie film community in that it has such a strong support system of filmmakers working towards telling honest stories and sharing these bits of themselves with the world. I’m a huge indie film nerd, that’s my happy place in the film industry, and I really think we’ll see web series having a similar impact, especially since they are being included in the film festival circuit now. I think creating a web series can be a great stepping stone for any filmmaker hoping to get an even bigger project financed and produced.
netTVnow: Any upcoming projects or anything else you’d like to add?
CH: I have a feature film being released in theaters early January that I co-produced called The Crash starring Frank Grillo, Minnie Driver and John Leguizamo, so I’m looking forward to January for that! I also have a couple of independent features that I’m currently working on in addition to Unplugged, so it’s been a lot of work but I love it. Unplugged is my baby, though, and I’m so excited to share this project with everyone! So far we’ve raised enough money through our Indiegogo campaign to put the pilot through production. The writing has been going in a very exciting direction so I hope we raise even more money to get all six episodes released! I think we can do it. I have faith!