"Screw that, I'll start my own nation right here": Mini web-series 'IndigNation' creators Marian and Melissa Harkness on America, Trump and more
Dabbling around in the manner of a social satire, the entire concept of their show implies a latent idea - the situation is so tragic, it's almost funny
The fact that most Americans - much like the rest of the world - are fed up with the current state of American politics, is no secret. And it is, sort of, that same sense of frustration, mingled with certain other recent not-so-positive developments in the country, that finally led LA-based sisters Marian and Melissa Harkness to put on their producer pants and create a web series called 'IndigNation,' based on the miserable state of their country.
Dabbling around in the manner of a social satire, the entire concept of their show, sort of, implies a latent idea - the situation is so tragic, it's almost funny. The web series' season premiere happened September 25. The opening sentence of the trailer sets the premise for the show: "America has elected a tyrannical Neanderthal, so, we've taken it upon ourselves to break away from the masses and create a nation of our own."
It primarily "centers around three main characters who are fed up with America’s current state of the union and set out to create a new, better nation. Chaos ensues as the three characters: ex-political aide played by Philip Casale, a wacky humanitarian played by Lyssa Mandel and a rich housewife played by Melissa Harkness all have drastically different ideas on how to run their new nation. In this six-episode series all made up of short, bite-sized episodes (around or under 3 minutes each), the trio struggles to find common ground on the most basic of nation-building tasks such as: choosing a name, designing a flag, writing a constitution, creating a slogan and electing a president. The trio's chemistry and comedic timing make for a brilliant series about a new nation's struggle that makes the American political scene look laughable in comparison."
Currently streaming on YouTube, additional episodes of the web series arrived October 2, October 9, October 16, October 23 and October 30 - arriving just in time for the mid-term elections. And, with all this, MEAWW got a chance to speak to the creators of this unique concept. In a casual chat, the Harkness sisters revealed to us the intent and inspiration behind their show and how it all came to be, including the hilariously apt naming. Here are some excerpts of our conversation with Marian and Melissa.
What was the inspiration behind the concept for IndigNation?
We all knew we wanted to work together, and so Phil, Lyssa, and Melissa got together to brainstorm a concept. Trump had just taken office in February, and we were all depressed about it so we wanted to create something that would take people out of it, make them laugh and make ourselves laugh as well. We all had friends who had talked about revolution or leaving the country, and the thought was basically, “Screw that, I’ll start my own nation right here.” We knew that was the idea, and when Phil said, “Oh yeah, we could call it IndigNation,” and we all burst out laughing, that's when we knew we had something.
Did you brainstorm it over the period of the said "Neanderthal's" rule, or was it a spur of the proverbial Eureka moment, owing to more recent socio-political developments?
It definitely was a response to Trump and what’s been going on in the past two years (has it really only been two years?). Since we were doing a comedy, though, we decided to sort of bring in all sides of the coin so Beth (played by Lyssa Mandel) is sort of the wildly left leaning Liberal, Wes (played by Phil Casale) is the moderate, and Eleanor (played by Melissa Harkness) is the republican, though Beth and Wes aren’t 100% aware of that at the beginning.
What is your favorite episode out of your web series when it comes to tackling social issues?
Melissa: I think my favorite is, honestly, Episode 1, “The Name,” because it’s about the most basic thing in the world: what do we call this place? And yet no one can agree on even that. We all agree fundamentally that we do need to call it something, but no one can decide what. And that’s the problem with a lot of social issues. Take for example, something like gun violence. I think most sane rational people can agree that we don’t want anyone to die in a school or on the street, but when it comes to how to solve that problem, we have radically different views on how to do so. And that goes from things as complicated as gun violence all the way down to something as basic as a name.
Marian: My favorite is "The Election" because it's representative of what's been a historical problem in America - the rich win because they can get votes through campaigning, advertising, or in this case, bribery. Whereas, the poor have to compromise and make sacrifices to survive.
Has there been anything particularly challenging with regards to the production? Were there any occasions where you just agreed to disagree regarding the instances portrayed in the series? How did you tackle it?
The most challenging part of producing was finding the right location. We shot it in a friend’s house, and there were so many problems with sound. We just had to be patient and soldier on. We were all pretty much on the same page regarding what happens in the actual series. There were a couple of moments when people wanted to do something a little different with a character, and for the most part, we were understanding of that and let it be. We all have very similar political views so the only real thing that we discussed was that we would love to see more diversity in the cast next season.
What has the response been like? What else is coming? Could you also talk about any other projects you are working on?
The response has been really positive! We have had great reviews from friends and from online media outlets such as Ms. Magazine, Tubeflilter.com and TheTalko.com. Next season will depend on how the midterms shake out. And please vote! If the Democrats win the house, we have one plan, and if the Republicans win, we will hole up in our house, cry and then think of a plan for that.
We are in editing for a comedic short film called “Dial M for Morons,” we have another web series, “Instabody,” that we are writing, which focuses on body image issues that have, in our opinion, only been made worse by the growth of social media, and then we are planning on shooting a dramatic short early 2019 that deals with the power dynamics between a man and a woman in a relationship.