Burning Brigid Media is a production company that aims to bring diversity to storytelling. “We create honestly entertaining diverse stories about people, who are people, instead of caricatures.” Kat O’Connor acts with Terra Mysterium and appeared in the award-winning Hatboxes. Michael Coorlim is the self-supporting, independent author of the Galvanic Century steampunk series. O’Connor answered questions that we had about Burning Brigid Media.
1.) Could you give a little background on how the two of you formed the idea for Burning Brigid Media?
It was a confluence of several things, really. I (Kat) have been a performer in Chicago for several years, and I’d been becoming frustrated by a variety of systemic barriers that had been inhibiting my career: in general there’s not a lot of substantive roles for women, while you see casting calls everywhere where women are relegated to bit parts, often non-speaking, often a character that doesn’t even have a name, but is entirely defined by her relationship to another, more important character, and she must be conventionally attractive, of course. I was hearing “we don’t have any work for your type” a lot because I don’t neatly fit into a pre-defined category: I don’t “look like” the ingénue love interest, the wife or mother, or the stripper/prostitute/victim.
I was also starting to get really tired of TV and movies that were never about people like me. There seemed to be a real lack of imagination, in that the seeming “default” of writing a story excluded telling a story about a woman who was facing a challenge other than finding a man. There are “chick flicks” but almost no movies about women dealing with something other than what’s considered “being a woman”; by the same token, not much is out there telling stories about queer women, or any LGBT characters, that isn’t about them being queer. Religious characters are Christian, unless the plot is about them being a minority religion, like stories about terrorism, or the annual October fest of The Token REAL WITCH(tm).
At the same time, Michael had written a web series a couple years ago, working with a friend’s production company to get it made. That relationship didn’t work out, and we spent the next couple years trying to find another production company to work with us on it. After a while, we started talking about whether we should consider just doing it ourselves; and all that combined with our desire to do it right, where more people have substantive work and artistic opportunities, where everyone gets paid for their work, ultimately led to us looking into, and then committing to, creating Burning Brigid Media.
2.) How does Burning Brigid work as a collaborative process, both as an artistic endeavor and a business venture?
Burning Brigid Media is a collaborative endeavor on many levels. Our directorial style is such that we put faith in our actors to bring their own talents to our projects, and involve them in the decision-making process as much as possible. The spin individual actors put on their characters, the choices they make and how they embody the role, is as important as the source material we’re working from. We want our talent to make their characters their own.
This extends to other creative technical positions; we’re very open to input from the professionals we bring into our projects and are actively looking for those we can rely on for their expertise. If we didn’t put stock in their perspectives, we wouldn’t be working with them in the first place.
As a business, both Kat and Michael have discussed and come to a joint consensus on matters of incorporation, planning, and developing a sustainable business model. We share very similar values and perspectives when it comes to making creative careers, which makes collaboration on decision-making fairly easy. We both view the production company as a business venture and an artistic endeavor, rather than sacrificing one to feed the other. And we share a respect for independent artist-businesspersons who have succeeded before us. Our values in terms of business are in agreement that creative work has value and is just as legitimate as any other kind of work, and deserves fair compensation. We also believe that, when given the option, most fans are happy to support the arts and artists that they care about, and that informs our approach as well; in a sense, this is collaboration with our tribe of fans, too.
3.) Your mission statement states, “Our goal is to contribute to a cultural shift through narratives that normalize stories about the traditionally marginalized: women, minority, and LGBT characters presented as people rather than genres.” How does your goal inform you first series, Sleep Study?
Sleep Study’s pilot predates Burning Brigid Media and its mission statement, but even before we formally wrote it down, our values guided us to cast the series gender- and race-blind without preconceptions of what sort of actors, or “types,” we wanted in each role. Any actor, regardless of race, gender, or orientation, was invited to try out for any of the series’ roles.
Moving forward in our further casting choices for future seasons, we are going to continue to introduce more LGBT characters and people of color who defy traditional media stereotypes. We will be actively encouraging performers of color, women, and LGBT performers to audition.
4.) Will Burning Brigid Media stories share a common universe or will they be stand-alone tales?
Future projects may be built with certain cosmological and spiritual assumptions about the nature of reality, but they won’t necessarily be related. Each story will be self-contained, and enjoyable on its own merits.
We want to do a lot of wildly different things and explore all sorts of possibilities.
5.) What do we need to know about the upcoming Kickstarter.com campaign?
We’re funding the production budget for the first season of Sleep Study entirely through Kickstarter. We’re planning to launch the campaign on January 14, and we’re going to have lots of cool perks, including some fun, exclusive ways to interact with the character of the lab assistant, who is the one leaking the videos to YouTube. And of course we will be offering the entire first season, with bonus extras, as a digital download.
Bonus question: How does the Celtic goddess Brigid support your work?
Brigid is Kat’s matron deity. When trying to come up with a name for the company, we wanted something that “fit” us, and our mission. We thought of Brigid because she is matron of creative arts, healing arts and particularly healing wells, and “high places” (literally such as mountains/highlands, as well as noble endeavors); and she is a blacksmith, which for us represents big transformations — something as unmalleable as iron being transformed through fire and water and hard work into something strong, resilient, and useful. That’s how we view our work through Burning Brigid — we aim for our hard work to be transformative, to “burn away” negative stereotypes and mold them into something better, and to promote healing of our culture and the way people interact with each other.
When we came up with the name, we asked Brigid if she approved and would like to be the matron of the company, and she agreed. In my (Kat’s) work with her, she has indicated very strong support of this path. Our circumstances certainly have been lining up to allow it to happen.
Sleep Study and Burning Brigid Media can be supported at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/burningbrigid/sleep-study-season-one-a-trans-media-horror-web-se. They are looking to meet their $25,000 goal for the web series by February 18, 2015.