Lexington-based Web-series 'Girl/Girl Scene' portrays women 'happy to be gay'

rcopley@herald-leader.comDecember 18, 2011 

  • Online

    'Girl/Girl Scene'

    The first seven episodes of Girl/Girl Scene are at Girlgirlscene.com. The eighth episode, the first-season finale, will be available after midnight Dec. 19.

Tucky Williams didn't see something when she watched TV: her life.

"I didn't see anything about being gay and really enjoying it," the Lexington actress and filmmaker says. "I didn't see a lot of celebratory stuff about what it was like to be a lesbian.

"You see a lot of stuff about people being tortured about it, or they're really boring — tortured or boring. I'm really happy to be gay. My friends are all really happy to be gay. We love it. We go out and have fun, and I think the show reflects that."

"The show" is one that Williams created, Girl/Girl Scene, an online series that has found a niche among viewers like Williams who are looking for something mainstream TV isn't providing right now. It wraps up its first season at midnight Monday, when the eighth episode is scheduled to be posted at Girlgirlscene.com.

Williams writes the show and is the lead character, Evan, the hot, promiscuous center of a group of lesbians living in Lexington. Surrounding Evan are Maxine, the femme fatale whom Evan meets on a movie set; Zoe, Evan's friend who is struggling to recover from a breakup; Trista, Zoe's aggressive ex-girlfriend; Jessie, the 16-year-old just coming out and discovering life as a gay woman; and Elliott, a transgender man.

Each of the first seven episodes is about 45 minutes long, closely resembling cable-TV dramas, a form that often has focused on gay people but never in a way that Williams says she found satisfying.

The University of Kentucky journalism school graduate says the Showtime series Queer as Folk — which ran from 2000 to 2005 and starred Kentucky native Hal Sparks — came closest to representing the life she knew, "but it was about men."

The highest-profile television series that focused on lesbians was The L Word, also on Showtime, but it ended its six-season run in 2009. Williams has mixed feelings about The L Word, set among a group of gay women in Los Angeles.

"They were trying to be very diverse and all-inclusive of the lesbian community, but there were like three characters that were young, in their 20s, going out and having fun," says Williams, who says she's in her 20s. "So I said, let's go out and make a show that's about being in your 20s and being wild."

But making Girl/Girl Scene during the past couple of years has taught Williams that creating a Web series might sound easier than it is. It also has shown her how the serialized format of TV and online series can build a following and foster artistic and administrative growth.

As a project that started with virtually no budget, Girl/Girl Scene has rolled out over a year and a half. Its production values improved notably, particularly in sound and lighting, after it found a financial backer and generated advertising revenue from being on Blip.tv, a site that features independent, original online series. (It's also distributed through TiVo, iTunes, Vizio, Boxee, DivX TV, PopBox, Roku and Samsung, Williams says. Trailers are available on YouTube.)

Williams thinks that Girl/Girl Scene's first season is ending on a high note. The powerful final episode (she divulges no details) sets up a second season, scheduled to begin production early next year, and includes a guest appearance by Abisha Uhl, frontwoman for the all- female Minneapolis indie-rock band Sick of Sarah.

It's safe to say the show has come a long way since its modest beginning.

"It was a labor of love," Williams says at the Starbucks at Plaudit Place, just down the road from WTVQ (Channel 36), where she briefly worked as a meteorologist on Good Morning Kentucky in 2003 and 2004. "I just wrote it, and Nic Brown, the executive producer, said, 'Tucky, write this and make it.' So I did.'"

Before Girl/Girl Scene, Williams had been a B-movie horror scream queen in the films Dead Moon Rising (2007) and Red River (2011). When the show started coming together, she drew on much of Central Kentucky's horror film talent to make it, including director Eric Butts and actors Katie Stewart (who plays sexy Maxine) and Roni Jonah (Trista, the aggressive ex).

"They were thrilled" to be doing something different from horror, Williams says. "These are three-dimensional characters, which is hard to find in any movie."

The series — shot at private homes in Lexington and popular local spots including Al's Bar, Doodles restaurant and Thoroughbred Park — also has called on Lexington stage talent, primarily UK student Joe Elswick (as newly out lesbian Jessie), who appeared in SummerFest's July production of Frankenstein, and Jackson E. Cofer (transgender Elliott), a singer and guitarist for the local rock band The Spooky Q's, which has contributed several songs to the soundtrack of Girl/Girl Scene.

When the show started, Williams' expectations were modest.

"I thought I would put it on YouTube and maybe a thousand people would watch it," she says. "Instead it turned into this. ... I mean, millions of people are watching it all over the world. It's insane."

Viewership statistics for online series are notoriously nebulous, but Williams says Girl/Girl Scene is seen around the world. It's most popular in the United States, then Canada, England, France, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Germany, she says, and it's viewed in most every country on the planet.

"People are watching it in countries where being gay is punishable by death," she says, citing Iran and Saudi Arabia. "And then they write to me to say thank you."

The national media have taken notice.

"Girl/Girl Scene portrays the emotional reality of lesbians," Curves magazine wrote. "It's not just a show about sex, drugs and drama — it has depth and realistic characters, which makes Girl/Girl Scene easy to connect with.

The lesbian-centric pop culture Web site AfterEllen.com, whose readers put Williams at No. 42 on their list of favorite openly gay or bisexual women of 2011, wrote, "The quality of the series would have you thinking it took more than just sure will to make it come together, and that's definitely true — it's also the passion of Tucky and her cohorts, who aim to create 45-minute episodes about the human nature of lesbians in love and other relationships, while worrying more about their day-to-day lives than high-profile events or a bourgeois lifestyle."

That was one of Williams' major goals for Girl/Girl Scene: to make a drama about lesbians as opposed to a lesbian drama. It was important to her to have characters and story lines that drove the show forward, although there were some points she wanted to make.

Williams says it was important to her, for instance, to portray a teen coming out, embrace some stereotypes that lesbian- centered stories often run from, and depict a mid-American gay community.

"Sometimes people act like you can only be gay in New York or L.A.," says Williams, who adds that she has reminded out-of-town interviewers that Lexington's mayor, Jim Gray, is gay. "It happens all over. It's the same here as it is elsewhere. In fact, sometimes the scene is even better here.

"There is gay culture and lesbian culture, and here in Lexington, it seems like we're more in touch with that. People aren't trying to blend in here, and in L.A., it feels like people are just trying to blend in."

But the show isn't all drama all the time. There's plenty of humor, and it's more than a little racy. (Online series aren't rated for content, but Girl/Girl Scene contains strong language and adult situations.)

The series has auto biographical elements, Williams says, but her character, Evan, is based more on one of her friends. Still, Girl/Girl Scene is now a big part of her story.

"This is the greatest thing that could have happened," she says. "In the back of my mind, I thought, there's a chance this might turn into something big. It blew up right away, and it's continuing to blow up."

Reach Rich Copley at (859) 231-3217 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3217. Follow him on Facebook at Facebook.com/richcopleyhl.

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