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THE BIG INTERVIEW: We chat to 3Some writer/director Lisa Gifford

August 9th, 2014 by Big Phil Comments

With women representing only 11.4% of the UK’s TV and Film directors and only 16.1% of the UK’s TV and Film writers in 2012, it is clear that attitudes within the media industry are preventing women from reaching their full potential. Owing to this lack of opportunity, female writers and directors are turning to new media, and to new countries, to get their work seen.

Writer and director Lisa Gifford did just that, and now her webseries, 3some, has been honoured worldwide with an abundance of awards and accolades. These include ‘Best writing in a Drama’ and ‘Best lead actor’ at the Indie Series Awards in Hollywood, ‘Best actor’ at the Snobby Robot Web Series Awards, ‘Indie series of the week’, ‘Best Actor’, ‘Best Actress’ and ‘Best couple of the week’ at the We Love Soaps, ‘indie series poll of the week’ and ‘Outstanding lead actress’ at LA Web Fest.

Yet, despite this, BAFTA continues to ignore online series, choosing only to recognise film, TV and video games. Hollywood is the entertainment capital of the world, with London at a very close second. Many of the UK’s series have made it stateside and British actors and behind the scenes talent are respected all over the world, but British web series still seem to be ignored in the UK, forcing up and coming talent to go elsewhere to get their voices heard.

3some is directed and written by Lisa Gifford and produced by Elisar Cabrera. It stars Lisa Gifford (Sweetheart), Peter Halpin (Mermaid of the East), Euan King (MacBeth), Annette Badland (Eastenders) and Simon Fisher-Becker (Doctor Who).

It is no surprise this wonderful web series it sweeping the awards boards, the characters are quirky and the plot exciting. In 3some ROB (Euan King) and JENNY (Lisa Gifford), a thirty-something couple living together in a trendy part of East London, are about to split up – spectacularly!

Meanwhile Rob’s former best friend and Jenny’s ex-fiance, PAUL (Peter Halpin), is on his way back home after a year of travelling, escaping the consequences of “that threesome”, the repercussions of which are still reverberating throughout Paul, Rob and Jen’s lives.

FTN: Where and how did you first come up with the concept of “3Some”?

LG: 3some is a mish mash of real life events, based either on my own experiences or those of people I know, that have been tweaked for dramatic license. It started life as a play, which I wrote over a weekend in 2011. I’d had the concept in mind for a while, but then I went to see Mike Leigh’s ‘Ecstasy’ at Hampstead Theatre. The second half of that play is a group of people in one room on a drunken night, and that inspired me with the structure for the 3some play. The webseries followed later.

FTN: When you first came up with the idea for creating a television show, what persuaded you you to choose an internet broadcast as opposed to regular television episodes?

LG: It’s easy to get something up on the internet. With broadcast TV you’re relying on commissioners, and people with the purse strings. But you can do a webseries on low to no money, and pretty much do what you want with it, and that appealed to me.

FTN: In my opinion, that freedom is what is so great about the web, but it’s also where potential webseries fall down. Just because you can do anything, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should. There are still rules for webseries that creators should follow if they want them to be successful. For example, it’s better to keep them short – especially when starting out. Once you’ve got a following you can afford to lengthen your episodes, but until then shorter is better. There are one or two exceptions to this rule, Chronicles of Syntax for example, but almost always keep it short and sweet. Story is another – you need to tell a story. Dispense with the flowery niceties and bring the audience into the action. You’ve got a few seconds to hook people before they float off – start with a strong scene.

FTN: What difficulties as both writer and director did you encounter when bringing “3some” to life so to speak?

LG: The main issue was money, really. We self financed 3some, so we had to make it happen on a tiny budget. That meant calling in favours and writing scenes to what I knew I could get. There were shots that weren’t possible – I really wanted a tracking shot in the opening of episode 3, for instance, but we couldn’t afford a long enough dolly and the one we did have didn’t work for that shot so we just had to junk it. There were compromises, but we made the most of what we have. I think that would be the same for everyone working in low budget filming. Our cast and crew were absolutely amazing, and got behind what we were doing 100%, so that really made the difference.

FTN: 3Some has an impressive cast in that it it has recognizable faces from popular British television shows and not “unknowns” as most web-isodes have. Did you have any difficulty in securing these actors?

LG: Not at all, they were an absolute dream to work with. I’d met Simon (Fisher Becker) at a Doctor Who convention because my husband, and 3some producer, Elisar Cabrera does the Talking Who live web series and so we were at a convention filming interviews. I thought he was fabulous, so I’d had him in mind when I wrote Roger. We asked if he would read the script, he said yes, he read it and came back straightaway to say yes, which was lovely.

Elisar had lunch with Annette (Badland) at another convention, and he cheekily slipped 3some into conversation. She agreed to read the script, so he texted me to tell me. I thought he was joking, but within a week she was on board. Then we found out Simon and Annette had worked together in the past, so that was fab.

Edmund (Dehn) was already a friend of Pete (Halpin)’s, so he suggested him for Giles. We met up, in the middle of a snowstorm as I recall, and had a coffee and he came on board too.

It was such a wonderful experience to work with these great actors. The thing is – it’s all about the script. If you’ve written something with interesting characters, then actors will take it seriously. You should never be afraid to ask!

FTN: Web-isodes sadly do not seem to be as popular here in the UK as they are in some parts of the world. Do you think this is down to a large proportion of the public believing that web-isodes are poorly written and mostly created by “fan-boys” in their garages when many are very high quality?

LG: There’s a bit of that, but there’s also a lack of knowledge about webseries. Let’s be honest, BAFTA are hardly out there supporting us and banging the drum, are they? They champion our gaming industry, but not online drama – which seems a weird choice to make and one I hope they reconsider.

In the meantime I think awareness is growing. After we won the awards in LA 3some got a lot of mainstream press and we saw our viewing figures leap up. Suddenly people in the UK industry wanted to talk to us, where it had been a closed door before. So I think people are slowly waking up.

It helps when TV shows like Eastenders, The Fast Show, Alan Partridge and so on do webisodes, as that puts online entertainment into the limelight. I can only see that increasing in the next few years – I know some UK broadcasters are actively recruiting talent for online content.

FTN: 3Some has garnered a number of prestigious awards. What do you think is its appeal to both critics and fans alike?

LG: I think, hopefully, it’s fairly relatable. I was determined that I wasn’t going to make anybody out to be a hero or a villain – that all the characters act in flawed, but real, ways. Who hasn’t gone out, drunk too much, and done something stupid? Who hasn’t tried to hide a secret from their family or friends? Who hasn’t flown off the handle and regretted it later? Hopefully there is something or someone to identify with in there. It’s a mixture of comedy and drama – which is what real life is.

Plus the performances really make it. Pete and Euan (King) are perfect in their roles, and the supporting cast are all brilliant. It’s so important to cast carefully; one wooden actor can bring down the whole show, because that’s what everyone remembers.

FTN: With television companies spending obscene amounts on big budgeted established  television shows, do you think that webisodes may become the cheaper and perhaps the more artistic route for new talent to become recognized in the entertainment world?

LG: Absolutely. The traditional route was to make a short film and hope it got into festivals. The problem with that is that a short film can look very pretty and win awards that way, but it’s no guarantee that the writer or director can tell a story. A webseries proves that you can create, and sustain, character and story. That’s vital for a career in the industry, and I think that’s a strength of webseries.

Another strength is that webseries can be cheap to produce – anyone with a camera can do it. As long as you write the series to the budget and equipment you can afford, you can make something very good for very little.

FTN:  Aside from “3Some”, do you have any other projects that you are currently working on, or are there any plans for “3Some” to be broadcasted on terrestrial or cable television?

LG: I have quite a few scripts in varying stages of readiness with varying people. I am working on a new webseries in a different genre, which is quite exciting. I’ve also got a couple of features in development.

Series 2 of 3some is written, but at the moment it’s up for discussion as to whether it will return on the web or somewhere else…

FTN: Finally, the big one… Star Wars or Lord of the Rings?

LG: I’m a child of the 70s so it has to be Star Wars! No comparison, is there? I had all the action figures, the Millenium Falcon, even the Jabba the Hutt play set, which was a bit rubbish because you had to keep taking Jabbba off his throne to put anyone in the cell underneath, and then the grates never shut properly. But yeah, I had it all. As kids we used to play Star Wars. All the girls would fight to be Princess Leia, but I always wanted to be Chewbacca. Chewie is pretty awesome. I rewatched all six films very recently actually, and the original three really have stood the test of time. I’m not a massive fan of the tinkering that George Lucas has done with them – but that’s his right, I suppose. I just wish the original versions were available on DVD as a comparison, instead of my choppy VHS copies. But yes, Star Wars all the way.

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I arrived on Earth in 1977 and have virtually devoted my entire existence to cult films, television programmes and cartoons. I am a very big fan of Star Wars and Star Trek; I may struggle with foreign languages but I can order live Gagh in Klingon! I’m the Nerd that knows the trivia but I’m hopeless at sport!

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