Webseries #ATown from TurtleDove Films has just dropped and it's fantastic. #ATown is a female-driven comedy about friendship and f***ing up in the greatest city in the world: Austin and I couldn't resist the chance to catch up with Elena Weinberg (who plays Layla).
Elena is truly a female film-making powerhouse and inspiration. Acting from the age of 3 with a BA in Theatre from St Edward's University in Austin, Texas, she formed TurtleDove Films with Duncan Coe after college. She says it was "an experiment to broaden our horizons and learn how to do things other than act and write." Doing a 12-month project where they produced one short film a month for a full year it served as a DIY self-taught film school. At the end of the year they LLCed and crowdfunded via Seed&Spark for start-up costs. Since then, Elena has continued to act and freelance produce and direct as well as run TurtleDove Films.
When news of #ATown started to make the rounds, I knew I had to pick Elena's brains about it in the hopes that it would help inspire other women wanting to pursue their own film industry aspirations, regardless of whether they wanted to act, write, produce or direct.
Tell us about your character Layla.
Layla is an aspiring stand up comedian who baristas to pay the bills. She is very set in her ways; she was born in Austin and has never dreamed of leaving. She's headstrong and always has her eyes on the prize. Melanie moving to town is a blessing in disguise for her; she starts to realize that she can let loose sometimes and sometimes it's okay to not know where you're going. She loves teen television dramas, margaritas and spending time at the river. Honestly, she's a heightened version of me, so all the little details I put into her are endless.
How differently would #ATown have turned out if it wasn't based on the friendship between yourself and Mallory Larson?
It wouldn't have. Mallory came to me early this year and pitched a short film version of the #ATown story (which was based on a play we did together called "All About a Boy") which evolved into the webseries idea. Without that push, TurtleDove may never have even turned in that direction. This story is completely both of ours: we just couldn't have told a story like this without our real life friendship.
What do you hope viewers take away from #ATown when they watch it?
I hope it makes people happy. I mean, everyone hopes that in some form or fashion, but really, our goal is super simple: to make people laugh and have fun. There is so much depressing stuff in this world and we just want to remind people that life can just be simple and goofy and fun. I mean, there are some touching, dramatic, deeper moments throughout the season, but the objective remains the same.
We also hope this makes people to continue to think about the role of women in the industry. Being so female heaving both on and off screen, we hope that we can help with the Female Filmmaker revolution that's happening right now. Women have voices and should use them!
What were the biggest challenges when writing and filming #ATown?
Timing was our biggest issue for sure. This was Mal and I's first writing project together ("All About a Boy" was written for us) so neither of us really had any idea the amount of work we were going to have to put in to write 100 plus pages together and unify them as the singular "#ATown" voice. We definitely rushed the writing process a bit, and have discussed how we're going to fix that for season 2. Don't get me wrong, we're both very happy with how the scripts turned out, it was just a bit stressful at times.
Pre-production was also a bit crazy for us: I put a self-imposed deadline on us because we had the opportunity to screen at the end of September, so we had to kind of rush through pre-pro to get everything shot in time for that, which made filming a little stressful. Other than stress, though, there weren't huge issues with actual filming. As we go through editing, I know that I want to be more particular with the camera work in season 2, but that's just personal preference.
This is the first webseries for TurtleDove Films. What did you learn in the process of creating it?
The biggest thing I've learned is that collaboration is key. Duncan and I spent an entire year basically working alone and trying to figure out everything ourselves; not because we weren't open to other's opinions or expertises, we just genuinely didn't want to bother anyone. Bringing on more producers and writers was a huge sigh of relief for us. Having a group of people as emotionally involved in a project as you are is not only a huge confidence boost, but so many more amazing things happen. There were so many little moments throughout the entire process that wouldn't have happened without the people around us.
You act, freelance produce, direct AND run TurtleDove Films. Any advice to women working in the film industry?
If there's something you want to do, do it. The only person stopping you from accomplishing whatever it is you're passionate about is you; I don't really care if people say there isn't a place for "this" or "that" in the industry -- as long as you care deeply about it and have the drive to get it done, there is a place. I'm constantly working on something. Well, I'm constantly working on like 4 things (haha). I get almost no sleep, but it’s totally worth it for me. If you stay true to your personal voice, someone is going to notice and someone is going to like it.
Want to see Episode 1? Check it out HERE. More eps dropping October 1!