“Me and Zooey D” centers on a young Zooey Deschanel look-alike who has an unusual (maybe creepy) obsession with the wide-eyed, full-banged actress, and travels all the way to Hollywod to win her friendship. In each three to four minute video, we watch as the heroine, Alex (played by Berkowitz), carries out some new scheme to grab Zooey’s attention. These plans usually involve Alex frequenting cupcake stores or roaming LA’s streets accompanied by her best friend in the hopes of casually (maybe creepily) running into the future, better BFF of her dreams.
It took a long time to bring Alex’s baby doll dress and chunky glasses to the screen. After developing the concept, Berkowitz took the first episode’s script to Hunter Wolk, SY ’12, a friend from Yale who ended up directing the series, and together they put a team together. They cast recent grads Brittany Belland, who graduated from Ohio State in 2012, and Ben Smith, who graduated from Harvard in 2012, as the two other co-stars.
With the team in place, the next step was raising the money to finance their project. Using Kickstarter, the web series actually exceeded its original budgetary goal, collecting more than $3500. After months of pre-production and planning, the series was finally shot from beginning to end 4-day span in April.
Beyond Berkowitz and her quest for a new BFF, several former Yale students have hopped on the trend of creating web series. Stuey Pliskin, BR ’13, developed “Business Time” in 2012, a four-episode series about an unemployed guy named Fitz, a sort of modern lothario who helps his friend, an heir to a rat extermination fortune, to talk to women. Kurt Schneider, CC ’10, produced and directed the “College Musical” videos, starring Allison Williams, MC ’10, and Sam Tsui, DC ’11. The videos got noticed by Gawker in 2010, and were just the start of Schneider’s prolific YouTube presence. In recent years, Kickstarter has overflowed with proposals to develop new web series, as more college graduates decide to make it in television.
It seems that this phenomenon is at least somewhat inspired by the recent prominence of web series, and by the popularization of Kickstarter.
“We got 900 views on the Kickstarter video alone,” Berkowitz says, a figure that suggests viewership on the finished web series has the potential to soar.
Assuming they are adequately publicized, Berkowitz insists, web series are an effective way to get your work out into the world with a small crew and a miniscule budget. For Berkowitz and other independent creators “who want to get their voice and their story out,” these shorts can build resumes or land jobs.
After nine months of work, six episodes, and countless gluten-free cupcakes, one of Berkowitz’s most satisfying triumphs relates to her coiffure rather than her career. “I grew out my bangs and dyed my hair blue,” she laughs. Maybe Zooey won’t recognize her kindred spirit on the street anymore, but with more than 1,000 views on the first episode already, the rest of the world might.