In April, 2013 I sat down to write Episode 1 of a web series called Best Intentions. In July, 2013, a number of drafts later, that web series was called Lost and Found and then By Design. By the time we started shooting in September of that same year, the series was called Starting From … Now!. Three years later we’ve dropped the punctuation and are currently in the middle of releasing the fifth and final season.
Given all that’s happened during that time and how much Starting From Now has dominated my life, I feel an overwhelming sense of loss and sadness, but at the same time, relief and gratitude. This series has taken me on an incredible journey with some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. As indulgent as it may be, I can’t help but reflect on everything that’s happened and the impact those events have had on my life and on me as a person.
When we started shooting on Saturday, September 7, 2013 there was only ever going to be one season – six standalone episodes born out of frustration at the lack of diversity in mainstream media and the firm belief that there was an audience for stories by and about women. What happened over those next 11 days made it clear to me that this was never meant to end with only one season. There was more to these characters and their stories that needed to be told. There was also more that I needed to find out about myself and, at the time, this seemed like the best way to do that.
By the end of 2013 we’d shot two seasons before going into post-production. The first episode was released in March, 2014. By the end of that year we’d not only shot a third season, but released all three, 18 episodes in total, the equivalent of 18 short films. I can’t even count how many mistakes I made during that time. It was the steepest learning curve of my career, but it was nothing compared with what was to come.
By this stage everyone’s hard work was starting to pay off. Starting From Now was finding an audience, 10 million views in less than 12 months. But it wasn’t just any audience; it was a passionate, engaged and invested audience who cared about the characters and their stories. The messages of support and gratitude were beyond anything I could have imagined. Viewers wrote about how refreshing it was to see lesbian characters who weren’t defined by their sexuality, others told of how this made them feel less alone, and another wrote to say she’d been waiting for a show like this since she was 12 years old. As a lesbian who grew up in the western suburbs of Sydney I knew exactly what she meant.
Not surprisingly, a large proportion of the audience comments were about the quality of the acting. I’ve often felt, over the course of the past three years, that this production is blessed. The best and most obvious example of this is the incredibly talented and generous cast that is the heart and soul of the series. Bianca Bradey, Sarah de Possesse, Rosie Lourde and Lauren Orrell have been on board since the very beginning. They have given more to me and to Starting From Now than they will ever know. Working with them over five seasons has taught me a great deal and has been one of the most rewarding aspects of this venture.
By this time I was no longer the sole producer on the series. Lauren Orrell (who plays Kristen) came on board as a producer for Seasons 2 and 3 and Rosie Lourde (Darcy) joined as a producer from Season 3 onwards. Having both Lauren and Rosie as producers on the series helped elevate Starting From Now to new levels. It wasn’t always easy, however. Having been the sole decision-maker and creative on the project from the beginning, it was difficult for me to relinquish some of that control. What became apparent, however, is that if you want a project to soar, you can’t do it all yourself. If I had remained the sole producer throughout we probably wouldn’t have a fourth and fifth season and, if we did, we’d still be shooting most of it in my living room.
The demands of other work meant Lauren stepped down as a producer after Season 3. This, coupled with a disappointing crowd funding campaign, led to Rosie and I taking stock, thinking about where we wanted to take the series and how many more seasons we needed to achieve our goals. We realised we’d need two more seasons to do justice to the story and the characters. We also knew that if we were to make Seasons 4 and 5 of Starting From Now we wanted to challenge ourselves creatively and elevate the production values and the storylines beyond what we’d been able to achieve to date. Thus began the next phase of this somewhat unlikely and incredible journey.
END PART ONE
P.S. Given how notoriously unreliable I am at updating this blog, I’ll be handing the reins over to some of the cast over the next few weeks. Stay tuned for their thoughts and insights as they share their experience of working on Starting From Now. Part 2 of “The End” will then follow as our fifth and final season draws to a close.
By Julie Kalceff