Cheska Bacaltos | It's Complicated

Coming out is never an easy task. For some it's this epiphany moment of realization and acceptance. For some it's more fluid, it can sometimes be earth-shattering. But more often than not search for a label to go by. We spoke with the creator of It's Complicated, Cheska Bacaltos, on her inspiration for creating Skye's journey as she recovers from a one-night stand with a girl and struggles to find a label for herself.

netTVnow: What inspired you to create It's Complicated? Have you been involved in other web series before?

Cheska Bacaltos: It's Complicated is my first web series. While this isn't my first time doing film, this is my first time creating something that is serialized. I was inspired to write the series last year after a friend of mine fell in love with a girl for the first time. Her story didn't end up having a happy ending, mainly because of culture and society differences, and it was just so sad. She had so much emotion telling me about it that I started to feel all of it too. I had to write it out, for her and for me.

I often get inspiration from my friends' experiences. I once wrote a one-act play about an Indian girl whose parents wanted to set her up in an arranged marriage because it happened to a friend of mine. In general, I really like writing stories that aren't often told or seen in mainstream media and novels. 

netTVnow: What's your background in the industry?

CB: I graduated from the University of California, Santa Cruz and studied Film and Digital Media. I've always liked to edit and write. In community college, I submitted two one-act plays for our theater department and both were selected to be produced. Other than that and this series, I haven't really done anything professionally.

netTVnow: What was the most challenging part in creating the script for your series?

CB: I've written scripts for classes before and other full lengths things, but I gravitate more towards the short form. To be honest, writing this web series has been the easiest script for me to write! After I came up with the idea, a girl sleeping with another girl for the first time and being confused, it just kind of wrote itself. During the writing process, the only real change I made was to Lance's character, who was originally a girl playing Skye's college roommate.

netTVnow: Did you face any other challenges with the series?

CB: One of the most difficult parts for me was staying organized! After the pilot, I decided that in order to make future episodes successful, I needed a producer. I got a friend of mine from college, Alena McLucas, involved. She kept things on track and pushed us forward, even though she let us have giggle breaks between takes! She's really amazing.

Oh and marketing is tough! That's something I'm experimenting with and learning a lot about!

netTVnow: The actors are so fluid on screen, they really nailed the pacing and delivery of your writing. How did you come to cast them?

CB: I got really lucky! I could ramble on and on about my cast. Initially, I was just looking for friends who would be interested in playing these characters, as I thought this would be a short film and if people liked it, we'd add more. Jordan Mitchell Love, who plays Lance, is my friend's boyfriend. I had written the script and shelved it for awhile actually, but when I met him I knew he would make a great Lance. Devin Drain, who plays Skye, is a friend of his. I didn't quite have a grasp on who Skye was at first, but once Devin took on the role I had this realization of, "Ah, I know you." It was easy to write the other episodes from there. I didn't even hold a casting call, this was just something I wanted to do for fun and everything fell into place.

As for Alex, Skye's love interest played by Samantha Gabrielsen, I ended up scouring my Facebook for a few days. I would have Devin's picture on one side and my actor friends on the other just to see if they looked good together! Sam, who I did an improv class with, happened to pop up on my feed one night and I was like, "Of course!" I messaged her to see if she was interested and shortly after, I had her read the couch scene (from episode three) in a cafe. When she left, I looked at my husband and smiled. He nodded and said, "We found Alex."

netTVnow: You said Lance was originally written as a female character, tell me more about why you decided to make Lance the way that he is.

CB: It was a happy accident that came out of improvisation I had with my husband, who is also my Director of Photography. While I was refining the script and working on Skye's roommate's reaction, it was very much from a best friend, supportive standpoint. Then I improvised the scene with my husband and didn't tell him what the original script was, but simply set the scene up: You're a very supportive friend but also in a hurry to get to the point because you're on your way to a date.  

His reaction was totally different than what I'd originally written. It was such a guy reaction in that he asked, "Well you liked it right? So I don't see what the problem is." He didn't want to talk about feelings and it was more focused on the character's enjoyment. I thought this was really interesting and it seemed like a fun way to write the character. 

But after deciding to make Lance a guy, I had to figure out why the two of them were living together. They're not just college roommates, they're friends. I decided against a brother/sister relationship because I don't think Skye would come out to her family right away, so I made Lance an ex-boyfriend. But I didn't want to write the relationship between them from a jealousy standpoint so I made them friends since they were kids. They dated out of convenience, both got along so figured why not try dating, only to find it didn't work out and now they're stuck in a lease together. I wanted to show, too, that exes can be friends. I think think that Lance and Skye's relationship is so beautiful, it's very refreshing to have a friend in your life who is going to be there no matter what history you have.

netTVnow: Will we find out why Lance and Skye broke up and for how long they've been broken up for?

CB: When I first read with Devin and Jordan, we figured out parts of their characters' history together. We established that Lance and Skye would probably be around the three month stretch of their break up. They're at the point of minimal awkward moments, dating other people and are open about it. They're transitioning to that not awkward phase.

Why they broke up, I'll save that for another episode.

netTVnow: You released some great mini-episodes in between the larger episodes of the season, which has allowed the audience to see other characters, like Alex, really come to life. What made you want to do that?

 Bacaltos (left) as Claire in a recent mini-episode.  Credit: YouTube

Bacaltos (left) as Claire in a recent mini-episode.
Credit: YouTube

CB: We have a very limited amount of time to shoot the series with the actors. Since we can't always get everyone together, I shot the mini-episodes almost out of necessity, but also because it seemed really fun and gave the audience more content. I also cast myself as Alex’s friend out of necessity, but it ended up being really fun. I love working with Sam. When we did her mini-episodes, I wrote a script, but I encouraged her to improvise as long as we hit certain beats and lines. I got a lot of gold nuggets from just letting her say whatever she wanted as Alex.

netTVnow: You wear many hats on the series as writer, director and editor, was this a personal choice? If so, which one did you find most difficult to do?

CB: I think out of necessity I filled a lot of these roles. As great as it would have been to have someone help me edit the series, it’s a lot of work. I didn’t want to subject my friends to that [laughs]. Also, I know it’s something I do well, so I didn’t mind.

When I shot the pilot I honestly didn’t know what I was really getting into but when I started editing, I just saw so much potential. Because I hadn’t met Devin before, she ended up being a wonderful surprise as the lead. I honestly missed a lot of her nuances when we shot the pilot. But the moment I started editing, it came together. I would literally pause the footage and pump my fists in the air [laughs]. I was also worried about the first scene between Sam and Devin. They had never met before we shot episode three, but it ended up working really well too. Me pumping my fists as I edit has become normal.

The only thing that I really had doubts about was my directing. I’ve only directed one short film prior It's Complicated and everything else were projects that I had to do versus wanted to do. Directing really isn’t my forte to be honest, but I do my best to research on how to improve and I'm always learning more. What’s really helped is my background in improv and theater. I try to direct how I’d like to be directed. It also helps that I have a crew that I trust. I don’t have to micromanage them. They’re all people I knew from college and have worked with before.

Be sure to catch up with all the drama unfolding in Skye's life and follow the series and Cheska for more updates on It's Complicated and some gif worthy moments Cheska loves to share of her cast!

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