There are a lot of independent projects I am excited about now. Swords of Insurgency are powering through their Kickstarter campaign, Cannes entry Rough Cut is heading to cinemas in the next few months and a little Grindhouse feature called Raising Hell has just started production. However, perhaps the most exciting indie film project at the moment is #ATown. Why? Well, it is a second season. We know it works and that makes it even more difficult to wait to finally get our claws back into the two most loveable Austin girls (even if one of them is a disciple rather than being born and bred) on the internet right now. It is also really rewarding to see a film crew feel appreciated enough to make a second season, giving film-makers out there hope that people do love their work. “We started talking about Season 2 before we even finished writing season 1, so we definitely knew we’d get here — we just didn’t know how, or why, or how enthusiastic our audience would be,” Elena Weinberg, the actress behind the crazy comedienne Layla, reflects on the success of the first season. “That enthusiasm definitely surprised us. We thought people would like it, otherwise we wouldn’t have made it, but we didn’t realize how much. Being called “The New Lucy and Ethel” or “If Broad City was set in Austin” from people that weren’t our moms trying to make us feel better about getting theatre degrees was very rewarding and helped propel the decision to do a season 2.”
For people who have no idea what #ATown is (and it is definitely #ATown, not A Town, before the grammar Nazis wade in), it is a web-series devised by Elena and her irrepressible co-star Mallory Larson, about two girls trying to navigate the day-to-day life of living in Austin, Texas. Layla is the hometown Austin girl, desperately chasing her dreams of making it as a stand-up comedian, despite only having one fan, and Melanie is the girl who has moved into this town and is struggling to understand why these people are so crazy. Other than that, #ATown is a space for these comedians to make jokes about being a woman, living in Texas and generally being funny. “We tried to stay true to the duality of Austin — what it we love and hate about this place,” director Duncan Coe explains about both Season One and the latest season. “That’s kind of the driving force in everything we do for the series. Because we do love this place, first and foremost. But at the same time, we kind of hate like, how lackadaisical this place is and how nobody really commits to anything. Everybody kind of just skirts by, moment to moment.”
And Season One was an utter blast. The fun the cast seem to have on set was infectious and passed down onto the audience. Taking the natural charisma and chemistry that we have seen Judd Apatow harness in mainstream cinema, Elena and Mallory, (as well as the supporting cast that are promised much more to do this season), have created an addictive, quick-fire lesson in how to make comedy on the internet. “Comedy is hard work,” Mallory says about their way of working on set. “You need to find more places for truth before the absurd can really land.” However, she affirms my suspicions by adding: “Plenty of laughs were had by all.” Duncan Coe agrees that the girls natural humour is a powerful tool for the show to use. Without taking away from the hard work put into the script and structure, “nobody is married to the dialogue. If it’s not word perfect, that’s good, because that means your mouth and your body want to deliver the line differently than we wrote it.”
So onto Season Two. Set just two weeks after we last saw them, the characters are just as we remember them. A few things have changed. “Melanie is a little more put together, willing to take on more responsibility,” Mallory explains about her character’s transformation. “Alice’s wedding is drawing closer and she is not talking to Sex God.” As for Layla, she has travelled outside of Austin and experienced extreme homesickness, but realized she survived with the help of her best friend. “That realization that Melanie can help her overcome anything, is a pretty prominent theme this season,” Elena adds. Any other themes to keep an eye out for? Mallory responds with: “Melanie wears more head accessories this season.”
Just because #ATown has survived the first season doesn’t guarantee that the series will be an overnight success. Many a show have suffered from second season syndrome, both in mainstream and independent circuits. It is even worse for the web-series crowd, as a lot of production companies rarely expect their shows to last more than that single season. However, as Elena confirmed, Season 2 was already being talked about, before the script stage of the first season was even completed. She remains firm that audiences will not be disappointed with the latest batch of comedy episodes from the team. “Season 2 is already so much better than season 1 in SO many ways. We brought in more people to the writing room which, I think, really stepped up our story game. We brought in an experienced DP, a bigger crew and were way more organized. Duncan is also much more knowledgeable in the director’s chair and editing room.” Mallory backs up the enthusiasm by insisting that when it comes to specific moments to look out for, we should be excited about “ALL OF IT!” Capital letters mandatory. Elena follows it confidently with: “This season is gonna kick all of your asses in the best way.”
So #ATown isn’t just hanging around for another season, but improving as it does so. Just chatting with the team creates this sense that a really powerful force is slowly coming together behind the scenes. This could be something really big. “Our production value has definitely improved by like a trillion percent in several ways,” Elena agrees. She thinks about what is different about their story-telling this time around. “We definitely kept the whole feminism/girl power theme going and even gave Whitney and Avery bigger roles to push that agenda as well. Our storytelling style is still the same, we’re releasing in the same format – on Vimeo for ten (ish) minute episodes. We kind of dropped the whole “female duo” thing and made this more of an ensemble piece. We love shows like Broad City and Garfunkel & Oates, but we aren’t them and feel power in numbers. It’s pretty exciting.” Of course, there is still that slight dilemma that the girl power vibe could kill off any male viewers that stumble onto this series. Will they hang around to try and discover the comedy hiding beneath the feminism? Duncan Coe’s response is brilliantly blunt and exactly the attitude modern film consumers should share. “I hate this question. Am I allowed to say that? The fact that this question has to be asked is kind of insulting. Who the fuck cares what gender the audience is? Is it funny? Did you laugh? Yes, then keep watching. No, then this show isn’t for you. Why does the gender of the character or the audience matter? In short, no, I’m not worried. The things that worry me are making sure my actors and crew are fed on set — and making sure, with all of my power, that everyone has fun on set.” Amen.
Before I sign off on the interview, I have to ask the burning question in the back of my mind? Season Three? Can I get my hopes up? “Yes? We’re growing our crew/cast so it becomes more expensive to shoot every year — so a season 3 kind of teeters on whether we can secure funding.” Then Duncan respond firmer. “But then again, if we don’t we’ll find a way to make it happen. We love it, and we think there’s a very important story to tell here.”