Daryn Strauss gained an underground following and Writers Guild award nomination with her web series, Downsized, a series spun from America’s real cynicism during the recent recession. For her next web show, Weight, starring soap goddess Martha Byrne, Strauss wrote a character whose entire life turns upside down over reaching a positive weight loss goal.
Whenever you’ve produced web series material about the bad economy in 2010 and now “Weight,” is that because some part of you has been hurt by those things and you feel any others would share that sentiment?
Sure, comedy and pain are usually intertwined in some way. The way I see it is that when people are causing the most pain to others, they are usually also acting the most absurd. If you can capture both the absurdity and the hurt in your writing, you’ve done your job. I have definitely dealt with stupid, funny desperation from both money and weight, which is why I wrote about it.
Not once have I seen a made for the web series. What should I check out? Presumably, after I watch your show?
Well, you’re in for some cool stuff. There is a creative freedom you have in web series that you don’t have in television. My current favorites are Awkward Black Girl on YouTube, Little Horribles on YouTube, High Maintenance on Vimeo and My Gimpy Life on YouTube. Also, look up Broad City on YouTube. It’s now a TV series on Comedy Central, but their web series was really inventive. Amy Poehler did a guest spot in their web series finale and then eventually executive produced the TV version. Also, if you like drama, check out anything by Tina Cesa Ward.
What is harder about making a web series as opposed to what we think of as “television?”
Financing! Also, discovery. Finding online shows can be hard, considering the web is infinite.
Why are people on the show jealous of Martha’s character losing weight? They should be happy for her. Also, has anyone ever gotten jealous/weird towards you about something normally admired?
I agree, but there is this thing that happens between women when weight loss is involved. You’re usually happy but jealous at the same time. It just stirs up your own baggage. And there is also that moment in a person’s weight loss when people turn on you. Like when a star loses all this weight, the public typically goes from cheering them on to getting all catty about it.
Look at Jennifer Hudson. She lost a little weight, and we were like, ‘Go her!’ Then she kept losing weight, and she started having to defend her weight loss. It happens in offices and friendships too. There is no perfect body that satisfies everyone.
As for me, I don’t know that my body has ever caused anyone to get weird because I am just a curvy average woman with hips and a butt, but I’ve definitely dealt with cliques and backstabbery. I am a feminist, but I can also recognize that women can be little jerks!
How does the character handle the people who go weird once she comes off the weight loss reality show?
Badly, because we need drama! That’s her struggle – to figure out how to balance what she thinks she wants and what other people want from her.
Does the show cover implications of 100+ pound weight loss like the need for plastic surgery: stretch mark removal, skin tightening and body part lifts?
Definitely. That was probably one of the first scenes I wrote – an awkward love scene where this comes up. You’ll have to ask Martha this, but I think that is one of her favorite scenes – on paper at least. We talk about that one a lot.
What naughty foods are beloved by Martha’s character and you alike?
What is one food you would eat every day if it didn’t make you put on weight? I get sick when I eat an abundance of foods bad for me. So my reverse answer to this is, I would splurge on boxes of mochi ice cream: Japanese sweet rice cakes filled with ice cream. I can only safely eat three a day― with balanced “real” food meals such as veggies. 😦
Martha’s character has a battle with ice cream! And junk food.
If I could eat whatever I wanted, I would eat cheese. Blocks of cheese. Cheese on pasta. Mexican food with extra cheese. Cheese sticks. Cheese on everything. My life, with layers of cheese. I don’t have a huge sweet tooth, so cheese is my ice cream.
This one’s gonna be long winded.
On another person’s YouTube channel, there’s a 2010 video of you talking about why we don’t have more female Oscar winning directors…and how only four women total have ever been nominated. Since this is one of my many career goals ― to be an Oscar winning director ― I hope you don’t mind my opinion here. I personally feel like women don’t win because frankly, their work when compared to men is not anywhere on the same talent spectrum. Often, it’s terrible. Not that it will always be this way nor are women incapable of doing it. I’m saying, in the past, their films are simply not equal to anything the average male nominated director does. What can women do so they are in positions to write/direct compelling film projects once and for all? I’m referring to Oscar worthy creations here. I’m very aware more women do get nominated for TV and like yourself, web series achievements.
Interesting that you feel that way. I would say two things.
First, I agree that you can’t just give women directors awards just for the sake of it. They have to earn it, just like any great male director.
Second, women typically can’t make those films you find compelling because nobody is asking them to.
I don’t think it’s a question of talent. It’s a question of not even getting a shot. Minority directors have the same issue. The films that women are usually able to get financed and make are quieter, more character driven indie films. And when they do get a shot at typically “male” epic films, they often still get shut out of awards, like Kathryn Bigelow last year. Best Picture nomination, no Best Director nomination.
That happened to Barbra Streisand too. Penny Marshall? How was she never nominated? That being said, I personally enjoy films made by women because they usually have an emotional connection that resonates with me. But it’s great that you want to get in there and change this. I think the only way to change it is to just make the films you personally find compelling and make them awesome.
I cannot put my finger on it…when I see you talking, there’s something similar to Drew Barrymore.
The manner of speech, possibly, combined with the makeup she wears. I don’t know. If you could collaborate on a project with her, do you think you two would be similar as producers? Or would you have lots of arguments over the story’s direction because you’re nothing like her…and I’m way off mark?
I love that. She’s awesome, and I would love to be anywhere near her. I think we would get along great. I would love collaborating with her. Honestly, I would be happy to just chat with her, just to chill with Drew Barrymore. To tweet her. I would literally be happy just to tweet with Drew Barrymore.