With season of two of High'rd Help set to premiere today, we had the opportunity to chat with one of the writers, the creator and director, Emily Neiman. Check out the details below and stay tuned for this season of High'rd Help!
netTVnow: Where did the idea of High'rd Help come from?
Emily Neiman: I was very awkward in high school and I was the only out queer female, so it was difficult for me to navigate crushes and pretty girls. I really had no one to turn to, to ask for advice or even just vent about my queerness, which led to a lonely existence in high school. SO when I was in my third year of university, I started to toy with the idea of web series. By about late November, I had come up with the idea of, "what if we got a guardian angel when we came out? What if that guardian angel was an asshole?" and so the original premise of High'rd Help was born! And fun fact, the series was originally called I'm Out.
netTVnow: That's amazing! I know you and Olivia D'Agostino wrote both seasons together, what was the writing process like when collaborating?
EM: Writing with Olivia is so easy. Honestly, I was super lucky to be introduced to her because she's such a talented writer. I had already developed the characters to a degree, they had a good foundation, but Olivia was able to come in, pick up their voices easily and bring so much more to the table. I think because we get along so well in our personal lives, it makes it very easy to write together and develop new ideas. I mean sometimes we're laughing too hard to actually get work done, but eventually we get some words on paper and things come to life.
netTVnow: You also directed the series, what was that like? Did you find anything different this time around?
EM: I've never done anything like this before, it was really my first major project. Season one, I ended up being really sick but just not knowing it during shooting and so I wasn't really aware of what was happening and I just really did my best to direct.
However, I was completely healthy for season two, so the experience was much better for me health-wise. Working with the cast and crew, was an amazing experience. I get the privilege to work with a group of talented people who love to share their ideas. I'm always open to hearing to help better the series. They really are the most genuine people I've worked with, in any capacity so directing them was a pleasure.
netTVnow: As a director, when you approach new projects, or even revisist old ones like your series, what's the process like when determining what angles are best to use, etc?
EM: Because everything I've shot, I've written, it makes it easier for me to visualize what's happening. There's always a shot list on set, which is followed, but not too strictly. Sometimes you'll be directing a scene and you'll see it differently than how you originally envisioned it and that ends up being the better way. Also my sound guy, Emmerek Vanleur, who was also my first AD had some really great ideas while we were filming, so he was a great asset on set.
netTVnow: Was High'rd Help you're first web series?
EM: Yes it was. I really hesitated creating it, not thinking I could actually do it. Eventually, I thought "Why not? What's stopping me?" So I started to develop it and well, now we have a project that's near and dear to my heart!
netTVnow: The first season featured 22-episodes, all close to being around two to three minutes in length. What was the creative through process behind that?
EM: I think the only reason we kept it short was because this was the first big project for all of us and so we wanted to keep it short and sweet. But season two, the episodes are longer and we have a lot more than 22!
netTVnow: Where did the inspiration for these characters come from? They're written to be such strong forces on screen.
EM: I can say with certainty that Ava is definitely based on me when I was in high school and Charlie is me now. I had only realized this a couple months ago. I told Olivia and she looked at me like I was stupid and said, "Really? You just noticed this now?" Billy is this sweetheart, which I think I developed her that way because sometimes we all need that one character that just oozes kindness.
Sometimes you want to get away from the angst and the doom and gloom of the real world or other shows, and so Billy was born to be someone who always supported her friends and who would give the shirt off her back if need be. Clooney is that kid that always has a wisecrack. I think we all know someone like that, but I didn't want him to be just the "sarcastic kid" so he's almost someone who is extremely protective of the people he loves and cares for, which we get to see more of in season two. I was really aiming for these characters to be more than just a trope, or more than just one-sided. So I really hope this well-roundedness comes across on sreen.
netTVnow: Your actors have such great rapport, what was the casting process like?
EM: The casting process was great. Season one was really fun because we had no idea who these people were would would be playing our characters, but it was a little nerve-wrecking because it was all new to us at the time. When our actors came in to audition though, they were already their characters. Carina (Newton) who plays Ava, originally auditioned for the role of Jane, but she came in and just starting going off about how horrible her day had been and Olivia typed out on her laptop "Can she audition for Ava?" and I was already ready to see her get going as Ava.
Season two casting was a little more laid back just because we knew what to expect. It was a lot of fun getting to figure out if these two new actors would fit well with the cast, which they definitely did and we all vibed super well from the start!
netTVnow: Why do you think web series have become such a hit?
EM: I think they've become a bigger hit recently because those who creator them are free to do what they want. Mainstream media is extremely white, cisgendered, straight and able-bodied all of this leads to boredom of the audience. We want to be represented and with the rise of web series that can start happening. Also, I think that web series are a safe place for queer kids to watch themselves on screen. From what I've seen, web series and social media are heavily intertwined, queer kids can create and join communities with people who are just like them and watch stuff that represents them.
netTVnow: Do you have any upcoming projects we can share?
EM: Olivia and I are actually developing a new web series that we are very excited about! It revolves around four friends that work at a grocery store. I don't want to give away too much, but it's comedic and queer.
netTVnow: Thank you again for your time! Is there anything else you'd like to add?
EM: First, thank you so much for taking the time to interview me! It means a lot that people have an interest in our series. Second, thank you so much to the fans that continue to support us and watch our series. Without them, our series would be nothing but maybe a couple views and few retweets on Twitter. The support we get amazes me all the time and we love everyone from the bottom of our hearts! Finally, a quick shot out to my amazing cast and crew, without them the little idea I had would never have been developed into a series. It really warms my heart that all these people, who I can now call my friends, took a chance on a rookie in the industry!