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By Michal Stein.
Jane and Charlie want a baby. Really badly. But it’s not going to be that easy.
How to Buy a Baby is a new web-series out of Toronto about a couple struggling with infertility as they try to get pregnant. It is written by Wendy Litner and produced by Priscilla Galvez and Tanya Hoshi. On March 1st, they released a teaser on YouTube that has been garnering a lot of attention from the infertility community and beyond. They’ve just applied for funding to produce the rest of the series from the Independent Production Fund, a program in Canada that helps out emerging and experienced independent filmmakers.
I got a chance to chat with the filmmakers about their inspiration, their process, and their hopes for the project.
You can check out the teaser below:
MS: What inspired you to create this project?
WL: My husband and I have been battling infertility for years now together and when we were first diagnosed, we vowed to try and take it in stride with as much good humour as we could. Some days are easier than others to laugh. We are constantly surrounded by pregnancy announcements and adorable pictures of people’s adorable children and it can be so isolating when you are struggling so much and it seems so easy for other people. As a writer, I decided to channel my heartbreak into telling the story. I’ve been inspired by other women who have spoken up about their infertility and I wanted to lend my voice to this narrative too.
TH: I saw Wendy Litner’s pilot script being performed at Women on Screen’s Web Series Incubator in Toronto and it was the only script that night that made me laugh out loud. I knew right away there was something special about this story and this world she was creating.
PG: I attended the same event with Tanya and I remember Wendy coming up on stage to introduce her script and thinking… “I want to be friends with this woman.” And after her script was read, I remember thinking… “I really want to watch more of this.” I connected to Wendy’s unique voice and her openness, and this inspired me to want to make the web-series a reality.
MS: Why is this an important story to tell?
WL: Infertility is getting trendier now as celebrities like Tyra Banks and Chrissy Teigen disclose their difficulties conceiving. Yet, it’s not often a story we see. The parenthood story is well represented in popular culture but the struggle to become a parent, faced by so many people, isn’t. And that’s unfortunate.
TH: No one is putting the infertility community on screen! People are afraid to talk about infertility and I think this series is opening a path for people to laugh about this billion-dollar industry while educating themselves about it. So many people who have experienced IVF or know someone who has have told me how much this series means to them. I think there is something special here.
MS: What is unique for you about this creative team?
TH: We are all emerging female filmmakers. We all love comedy and understand what’s funny and what’s offensive. Also the fact that Wendy is going through IVF helps keep the project authentic.
WL: Working with all women is exciting and energizing! We are all really interested in finding the comedic thread in the IVF process and staying true to that.
PG: I want to say it is unique that we are all women, but to be honest, I find myself (unintentionally) collaborating with women all the time! So it’s not that unique after all… I love working with a team with different backgrounds and perspectives and our ability to discuss, debate and make creative decisions collectively.
MS: Why were you drawn to telling this story through a web series as opposed to more conventional media?
PG: I think the web-series is a really interesting format and it is certainly a product of the digital era of film and TV and how easy it is to make something on the cheap. It’s a way to have our story viewed by a large audience and by the massive infertility community on the web without the constraints of going through the long process of developing something for television. I think it is a narrative worth telling now – why wait?
TH: Successful web series have always been comedies (Broad City, Letter Kenny). We wanted to use a platform that would allow our series to thrive while also having the biggest outreach. YouTube is accessible by most people and will allow us to reach out to as many people as possible to educate them, while making them entertained at the same time. That is not to say we refuse to consider other platforms such as television. A web series just seems the most realistic at the moment for budgetary reasons.
MS: Why are initiatives like the IPF Web Drama Series funding program important for emerging artists?
TH: IPF allows any Canadian to go out and make content in the hopes of it being funded. You don’t have to have major connections or major credits attached to you in order to apply. IPF is looking for good content that resonates with viewers, which gives anyone a fair chance at funding if they come up with a good story. It’s deadlines also pushes emerging filmmakers to work with time restraints and simply go out and create. Even if they don’t get funded, at least they have an idea in their hands that they can continue to push along.
PG: Funding opportunities like the IPF is so important for the independent film community in Canada. Living in Toronto, I run into so many talented media creators with a point of view and a story to tell but there isn’t always the support there. I know I mentioned earlier that it’s a lot easier to create content today with digital technology, but the truth is, it is still really expensive to cast, hire a crew and make something of reasonable production quality.
MS: How is using this type of financing structure beneficial to creating a web series? In what ways is it limiting?
PG: There is a lot of money that goes into creating content and not a lot of people realize that. Having an appropriate budget will elevate the production value and will help pay and feed the crew working tirelessly behind the scenes. I guess it is limiting in the sense that we will never make something as polished as HBO but I feel like having budgetary constraints reminds us as creators to be mindful of the medium we are creating content for. It’s a creative process!
TH: When YouTube first emerged, web series were low quality and could get away with it. But now people expect high production quality and that requires money. A lot of money. IPF ensures filmmakers don’t have to sacrifice quality for the sake of finances. With the funding, filmmakers can focus on the story instead of stressing about the finance and it allows for greater production value.
MS: What do you hope this web series will achieve?
WL: I hope this web series helps other people struggling with infertility know they are not alone and that their story matters. Really, I hope it makes them laugh – even for a moment – because this shit is hard!
TH: I hope this web series opens up a dialogue about infertility outside of the community. I don’t think we should shy away from the topic since so many people go through it and will go through it. It’s better to be educated so you can understand how you should and shouldn’t approach people who are going through infertility treatments.
PG: At the very least, we hope the web-series will reach individuals and couples experiencing infertility and that they are able to have a chuckle and see their experiences reflected in the media without judgment or pity. We also hope to educate audiences about this narrative, an alternative journey to parenthood, that isn’t widely known or represented in popular media.
MS: What do you think people would be surprised to learn about infertility?
PG: I think people will be surprised to learn that there are a lot of individuals or couples going through it or have gone through it and it may be a co-worker, neighbor or even a family member.
WL: That it’s outrageously expensive. That while we have many more options now to help people become parents, those options don’t always work for everyone.
TH: That it is so f****** expensive!!
MS: What’s been your favourite part so far of working on this project?
TH: The overwhelming positive feedback from the infertility community has been the best part of all of this. It made us realize what we’re doing is good and it’s resonating with our main demographic. Just to get positive feedback from viewers has really been the most fulfilling part of all of this.
PG: The overwhelming response from the infertility community and working with these amazing gals!
WL: I am overwhelmed by the support of the infertility community that has made me feel like I am part of real sisterhood. So many people have reached out to tell us they needed a laugh and that means everything to me. One woman wrote that she watched our teaser while waiting for her insemination to be performed. Something about that, that we can be all together in this is really powerful for me.