AWKWARD EMBRACES: Making Geek Dating Fun(ny)

AWKWARD EMBRACES: Making Geek Dating Fun

Dating is hard. For everyone, equally. The act of asking out/getting asked out is uncomfortable enough let alone the anxiety you feel on the actual date. And sometimes they can go horribly, horribly wrong. Well if you’ve had at least one bad date in your life, and you probably have, you’ll be able to relate to the acclaimed web series, Awkward Embraces.

Hailed by The New York Times as “charming, sharply written and neither sappy nor cruel,” the series, starring Jessica Mills, shows the ups and downs of single life, with a geeky twist. Mills, who also writes Awkward Embraces, just happens to love Star Trek and going to Comic-Con. Her co-stars Candis Phlegm and Lyndsey Doolan try to help her with her various dating misadventures while struggling through their own the most hilarious way possible. Directed by Adam Jason Finman, Awkward Embraces shows us “nerdy girls need love too.”

With eleven episodes behind them, the Awkward Embraces crew gears up for the premier of Season 2 on February 18th. Newsarama recently conducted an email interview with Mills to discuss how much truth there really is behind these episodes, the struggles of making a successful web series in the vast universe that is the internet and what the “geek community” means to her.

Newsarama: Tell me where the idea for Awkward Embraces first came from and how much, if any is based on your own life. This stuff couldn't really have happened...could it?

Jessica Mills: HA! Well, the donut thing happened. It happened a little differently, but I did freak out after a one-night stand and accidentally ask the guy if he wanted a donut...and then got him one. *sigh* That story is so priceless, though, that I decided to make it a short. We had so much fun filming it, and the premise was so great that I decided to turn it into a series Some of the stories are straight up real (yes, someone fell asleep on me while making out, yes I flushed my keys down the toilet), but most of them are combinations of things that have happened, or maybe something will happen that's totally normal, but I think "How would the AE girls deal with this?" And then the episode grows from there.

Nrama: There's a lot of web series out there now, did you think this was a particular niche that wasn't being addressed, the "geek" dating scene?

Mills: Not at all! I just wanted to tell a story from my life in a fun, interesting way and the show just grew from that organically. Since it's based on mostly my own life and experiences, the geek aspect just became a natural part of it. I'm SO floored that the geek community has identified with and enjoyed the show so much. It's so exciting! It really makes me feel better about my own awkwardness and geekiness to know that so many other people out there are like me!

Nrama: You didn't have a name for yourself when starting this series like say, Felicia Day did when she started The Guild, but you've built up quite a following in a short time. What have you done to get the show out there for people to see? Who or what did you look to for inspiration?

Mills: Felicia Day was absolutely a big inspiration. I looked at what she did and how she did it. I also talked to a lot of people in the web series world to get advice on how to start and what to do. It's really just a matter of getting your stuff up and then telling as many people about it as you can. Also, creating extra content (such as our awkward vlogs) so that there is always something for people to see or watch.

The big following happened totally by accident.  We got reviewed by a few nerdy blogs (The Nerdy Bird being one of them) and suddenly people started talking about the show and following me on Twitter. Honestly, one day I was tweeting about TNG and Doctor Who to about 300 people and a few months later it's 1500! It's craziness, but so, SO awesome. I love my geek followers. Our nerd conversations make me really happy.

Nrama: Tell me a little about your fellow cast members. Where you already friends with them before starting the series, did you make them audition or did you write roles specifically for people?

Mills: Candis, Lyndsey and I all went to college together. I actually crashed on Lyndsey's couch for two weeks when I first moved out here. When I wrote the original Donut script, I couldn't imagine doing it with anyone but them. They are two of the funniest people I know. The rest of the roles I've mostly written for specific people I already knew and worked with. There have also been a few that I filled based on recommendations from Candis or Lyndsey. I haven't had any auditions, yet, but at some point we may need to start doing that.

Nrama: Speaking to a community of people who are into comics, sci-fi and video games, what would you say to them about the first season of the show? Do you think it has appeal outside the "geek" community?

Mills: Absolutely. Our initial fan base was just friends, friends of friends and family. Not very many geeks in that group, and they loved the show. Dating is incredibly awkward, and I think people like to watch episodes and think "oh, no, I've so been there."

Nrama: You're currently filming Season 2, what's changed both story-wise and on the production end? What can we look forward to in the premiere?

Mills: Production-wise we grew quite a bit. Our crew went from 2 people to about 15 people and it made a huge difference. Adam was actually able to direct without holding a boom with headphones on! Story-wise, I've tried to keep the arc of the season throughout each episode. There are a few stand-alone episodes, but a lot of them lead into each other. Candis wrote three episodes this season as well, so we are really excited about that. The premiere sets the stage for the season. The girls see Jessica in a pathetic state and decide to make it their life's mission to find her a man. Hijinks ensue...of course.

Nrama: What has been the best reaction or comment you've gotten from a fan of the show? You also collect dating horror stories from fans, what's been your favorite?

Mills: Gosh. That's a hard one!  Honestly, the fact that Grant Imahara and Bad Astronomer love the show is HUGE for me. I was a big fan of theirs before they ever contacted me about seeing the show and loving it. Since then they've been such great supporters of us. It's totally crazy to have someone you respect (and maybe have a little crush on) contact you out of the blue about something you made. Huge, huge for me.

The best/worst dating story was the girl whose boyfriend got institutionalized (not funny). She went to visit him, got buzzed in through security (this was a major institution), and went to sign in. The dude's ex-girlfriend had signed in as well and wrote "Girlfriend" as the relationship. This girl found out he was two-timing her with his ex BY VISITING HIM IN AN INSTITUTION AT THE SAME TIME (funny). Then the three of them had a very, very awkward visit. Wow. WOW.  That is just amazing.

Nrama: A lot of people aspire to do what you're doing. What are some of the challenges you've faced while producing a web series? Where do you get your funding, equipment etc.?

Mills: It's rough, for sure. It gives me pure joy, but it's a full time job. Finding crew and equipment with little to no money is hard, organizing the shoots when everyone is working for free, keeping people motivated when you can't pay them....then you put the show out where there are thousands of other shows going on at the same time. It's tough for sure. But really, really worth it. So rewarding.

Season 1 we shot totally for pizza money. When it came time to do Season 2 we went to IndieGoGo to see if we could crowd-fund through are fan base. The campaign is going now and it's doing incredibly well. We've been SO overwhelmed by the fan support. We're hoping to fund Season 2 through IndieGoGo and then seek sponsors for Season 3.

Nrama: What are your hopes for the show? Do you want it to become the most famous web series of all time or could you see it making its way to television?

Mills: I would love it if we could stay on the web. I really like doing what we're doing. We're so connected to each other and to the fans. It feels really intimate, and I'm afraid we would lose that if we got plugged into the Network Television Machine. I'm not counting TV out completely, it's still a possibility, but ultimately my goal is definitely to secure sponsorship and grow the show on the web the way The Guild has done. That's the ultimate goal. It's a giant one, though! So I'm trying to take things one step at a time. Onward and upward as they say.

Follow Jessica Mills and Awkward Embraces on Twitter.

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