Interview with Skyler Barrett

Interview with Skyler Barrett

"Reckless Juliets" is a darkly comedic, award-winning web series about 4 teen girls who are headstrong, fascinating, and somehow likable even though they're kind of assholes. Skyler Barrett is the creator, writer, director, and casting director behind the project, and she was nice enough to answer some of my questions over email.

For more info on the series, check out the Reckless Juliets website.

To give you a bit more context about what to expect when watching:

Caustically funny. Watching "Reckless Juliets" is like hanging out with the cool kids in high school who were always making bowls (for smoking, not eating) in art class and driving into the city on weekends for underground punk shows. It's a series about teen girls, but it's no "Teen Girl Squad." All of the characters feel fully-formed and getting to know them over the course of 6 episodes is highly enjoyable.

Best time to watch:
Whenever you're in the mood for something like "Heathers" or "The Virgin Suicides" with just a touch of the "The O.C." and a light whisper of "Gossip Girl." This is an easy/good show to binge when you want something new to fill the hole in your tv series rotation.

Worst time to watch:
When you're not in the mood for teen girls and their problems/dramatics.

Where to watch:
You can stream the season on Vimeo.

Quick summary:
Pulled from the press packet:
"Reckless Juliets" follows four lifelong friends - Carmody (Britni Raine), Wynn (Lelia Yvetta), Chloe (Sadie Eve), and Shasta (Natasha Stricklin) as they navigate their way through high school, womanhood, and hectic home lives. Unlike anything else on the web, it touches on themes of mental health, body positivity, suicide awareness, LGBTQIA representation, and most importantly, the complexity of female friendship.

Interview with Skyler Barrett:

WiR: Tell me a little bit about your background/yourself. Did you go to film school? Do you have a full-time job in addition to working on Reckless Juliets?
SB: I grew up an hour outside of Atlanta in the Marietta, Georgia area. In 2007, I was accepted into Columbia College Hollywood and moved to Los Angeles. I've had several jobs, mostly in casting and childcare, but have recently taken up freelance casting and editing part time while I work on writing the remaining episodes of Reckless Juliets, and a full length Pilot to pitch to networks early next year.

Who are some filmmakers you love/that inspire you? Have you seen any especially good films or tv shows recently?
Oh, that's a hard question. The answer is constantly changing. Two filmmakers that I've been consistently in awe of/intimidated by for years are Lynne Ramsay ("Morvern Callar," "We Need To Talk About Kevin") and Andrea Arnold ("Fish Tank," "American Honey". I feel like they're two filmmakers who haven't sold out, and create layered, thought-provoking projects that are impossible to put in a box. Discovering Arnold's short film, "Wasp," especially, had a huge impact on me creatively. It's one of the most beautiful character pieces I've ever seen.

Too many good TV shows and not enough time is my problem with TV. But I'm a huge fan of "Better Things," "Big Little Lies," "Twin Peaks," "Bloodline," and "This Is Us." "Westworld" is incredible. "Better Call Saul" is TOO GOOD to exist (seriously). And I was obsessed with "Feud."

If you were having a really shitty day, what movie would you watch?
Easy question. "Ghost World." Every other line makes me laugh. Genuinely laughing always makes me feel better.

What's your favorite thing about living in LA?
All of the movie theaters. I would have to travel forty minutes to an hour back in Atlanta to see an independent film. Very depressing.

How did you come up with the idea of Reckless Juliets? Did you always envision it as a web series?
I didn't even know what a web series was when I came up with the idea. It hadn't become a popular medium yet. The story came to me in 2009 when I was in my second year of film school. I was studying screenwriting and trying to think of a story for my first feature script. I've always loved writing for teenagers, and noticed that there was a lack of material for strong, female leads in that age group.

The main idea was a sixteen-year-old girl struggling with the aftermath of her older sister's suicide. The story was going to take place two years after the suicide and focus on the life of the lead character, Carmody, and her three best friends. The script was flashback heavy, showing the older sister's mental illness through a younger Carmody's eyes. Long story short, I ended up writing a short film instead of the feature, hoping to use the finished product as a pitching tool. We never finished the short film and I shelved it for a long time while working on other projects.

After having numerous jobs, I decided to throw caution to the wind and write a seven-page pilot to release on the web. It was a lot of hard work and sleepless nights, but very fulfilling, and the series grew from there.

How did you fundraise for the series?
Crowdfunding, family, and myself.

The production value on "Reckless Juliets" is insane (in a good way, obviously). I can't even imagine how much time and effort went into these 6 episodes. How long did it take you (from pre-production to post) to finish the first 6?
We started pre-production for the Pilot in February 2016 and wrapped Episode 6 in April 2017, so a little under a year and a half. I owe the production value to our insanely talented DP, Jon Schweigart, and the crew. They all have an incredible work ethic and make everything look good. And also work quickly and well together, which is essential on a low-budget project.

How did you find the other people who work on the show? I'm especially curious about the other two directors (on episodes 5 & 6).
Craigslist, Film & TV Pro, and referrals. I had never hired anyone before the show and was terrified of finding the wrong people. Luck had a lot to do with it. The Directors, Mengfang (Yang) and Upasana (Beharee), I did find from Film & TV Pro. They both had impressive reels that really drew me in, and after meeting both of them, I knew that they understood the atmosphere of the show.

**Teen girls are endlessly fascinating, but so damn obnoxious. These four - Carmody, Wynn, Chloe, and Shasta - actually feel like real high school students. The dialogue, insecurities, and relationship dynamics are spot on. It's also great that they're not total stereotypes. How did you develop each of them? **
Aren't they though? They've always fascinated me. Developing them was a long process. Carmody is an exceptionally bright, witty, tough girl who has been through more shit than most kids her age. I wanted her to be all of that on the outside and be dying on the inside---like a tree that's slowly rotting.

Wynn I based a lot on me as a teenager. I was very shy and insecure and had a lot of issues with body image and being accepted by my peers. And I was always writing in notebooks, creating different stories and characters, letting my imagination run wild. Though the dynamic between Wynn and Michael, and being separated from her Mother and younger brother, is fictional. I needed her to have an obstacle to overcome that hit close to home.

Chloe is based on a lot of girls that I've known throughout my life. She appears to have everything, constantly craving attention and acceptance, well-liked, but hates herself and thrives off of becoming/acting like other people. There's a reason that we only see her without the wig when she's at home alone or with her sister, or with her group of friends. She doesn't want anyone to see the real her because of the possibility of rejection. Rejection is her absolute worst fear next to being alone.

Shasta (much like Annie's character) was created through extensive research on my part. I read an article about the mindset and behaviors of children who had been abused early in life by their parents, were taken out of the situation, and put into the foster care system. So, that's where I started with her. Shasta is an angry young woman. She harbors a lot of resentment for the world and those around her who don't appreciate what they have. She doesn't have a strong connection to her sexuality or ethnicity, and finds it difficult to give and receive love. Which is where the problems with her ex-girlfriend, Fiona, who she's still in love with, all stem from. There's more that's going to be revealed about her home life in Episode 8, so I don't want to give too much away.

The four primary actresses are wonderful. Can you tell me a little bit about the casting process? Did you have a specific type of person in mind for each character? Did any of the casting decisions surprise you or differ from what you pictured when writing the characters?
Well, I had a background in casting prior to the series, so I set up sessions through Breakdown Express and schedule the actors like everyone else does. I remember seeing a photo of Frances Bean Cobain in a magazine and thinking "That's Carmody." That was the only idea that I had about what I wanted the characters to look like, really. The rest of the ideas came from just seeing different types of girls, and figuring out what kind of talent was out there in that age group. Obviously I had to find a Young Carmody who resembled Britni, and Annie had to resemble both of them. That's always tricky.

The biggest surprise was definitely Sadie Eve (Chloe). She came in wearing black and had wavy hair and a nose ring. Very punk rock. The complete opposite of the character. But as soon as she opened her mouth and said the lines, I knew that she was the person I'd been looking for. It was a very strange experience, but I'm beyond grateful that it happened. It taught me to not be so stuck on types, and to consider everything... meet everyone.

I'd love to know more about the shooting locations. All of the girls' bedrooms are incredibly detailed and just feel right. Shasta's bedroom is what I imagine Lane Kim's bedroom to look like if she grew up without Mrs. Kim (if you're not a "GG" fan, disregard this comment)
The Pilot was shot in a house in La Canada Flintridge with this amazing treehouse in the backyard. I wanted those bedrooms to feel very bare because when you see them, Carmody is dreaming. Sometimes memories are distorted when we dream. I wanted the audience to feel uneasy. The dream sequence was shot at my sister's house in a workout room (believe it or not).

Episode 2 and the first half of Episode 3 were also shot at my sister's place in the Hollywood Hills. Chloe's bedroom and Shasta's dungeon (as I like to call it) are my favorite. Both of those characters are very specific about the aesthetic that they surround themselves with. All of the credit goes to Emily Baker, our Production Designer. She really understood the mindset of both characters, and was very easy to work with. Episode 2 was all shot in an upstairs hallway and master bathroom. We shot eight pages in 12 hours.

Episodes 4 and 5 were shot in Airbnb homes. Shasta's bedroom is probably my favorite set that we've had. Emily did an amazing job creating her environment. And the great thing is that it's constantly changing, so the next time we are in her bedroom it will be completely different. Shasta changes things depending on her mood. The parking lot scene was shot at Columbia College Hollywood. They were nice enough to let us use it. Episode 5 we got very lucky on. The house in Venice was exactly what I wanted and there wasn't much that needed to be done looks-wise. It's a very eclectic house and matches Wynn's father's personality almost exactly. One of those weird coincidences. We did have to stock the bar on their roof with fake booze though.

Episode 6 was shot in that same home in Venice, but we decorated Wynn's bedroom. I bought a bunch of stuff from Target and Amazon, and found things at home to use. Our Producer/Location Manager, Josh, found the AM/PM for the gas station scene, which was a blast to shoot in. Usually we don't have the money to shoot anywhere outside of a home, so it was nice to branch out.

And, yes, I am a "Gilmore Girls" fan and agree!

What is Chloe's dog's name IRL?
Babs! She's a Yorkie that I adopted a little over two years ago. Originally a dog wasn't in the script, but I threw her in because Chloe seemed like the type of person who would have a dog. Something to keep close for emotional support. We had a cat toy, so she was so distracted that she didn't even realize that there was a camera.

Where can I buy Shasta's "Becky with the good pubes" t-shirt? I'm probably too old to wear it, but idgaf.
I created that on a website specially for the show, so... nowhere? 😄 It was a line that had been in Episode 3 that I cut out, and had the idea to put it on a shirt for Shasta to wear instead.

Thanks, Skyler! I look forward to watching the rest of the episodes once they premiere. Congrats on an awesome web series.

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