Hollywood is a place filled with dreamers and doers of many different backgrounds. While their own career goals may be different, their objectives are the same: to succeed and thrive in the world’s most glamorous industry. Another thing that Tinseltown’s creative and executive leaders share, though, is the responsibilities that come with romance and family.
The challenges posed by those responsibilities, and their impact on the pursuit of showbiz success, are spotlighted in the new drama series OR DIE TRYING. The series will premiere on June 9th on its official web site and its soon-to-be launched Youtube channel. OR DIE TRYING’s first season consists of 8 total episodes.
Produced by and co-starring Myah Hollis and Sarah Hawkins, OR DIE TRYING focuses on a group of four talented young women who aim to shatter Hollywood’s glass ceiling. However, their personal conflicts threaten to jeopardize their fledgling careers in the world of entertainment, where its creative and managerial sides remain impacted by the epidemic of gender inequality.
OR DIE TRYING’s ensemble features Hollis as TV writer/show-runner Raegan Thomas, whose acclaimed primetime series has established her as one of the small screen’s biggest new talents.
As she finds out, following up on her professional success is difficult, but building an equally thriving personal life is a different kind of challenge. Comedian Bailey Rosenberg (Chelsea London Lloyd) has made major waves on the standup circuit, but her mother isn’t convinced she can make a living through laughter.
Hawkins portrays Ellie Hansen, an actor who wants to establish herself as a prominent player in the world of indie film. However, her financially sound Hollywood parents, and her peers in the acting profession, prove to test Ellie’s unwavering commitment to her own artistic integrity. Meanwhile, reporter Amelia Tinsley (played by Jenny Austin) hopes to redefine herself, and every phase of her life, while hoping to overcome the problems she faces in her current romantic relationship.
Every creative idea undergoes its own levels of growth and evolution. It was no different for OR DIE TRYING, which was first conceived to be a contained short film. “We (Hollis and Hawkins) were working on a split-screen, minimal dialogue peek into a day in the life of a writer and actress living in L.A, and the ups and downs of pursuing that kind of lifestyle,” recalls Hollis.
Thanks to the involvement of two of its primary cast members. OR DIE TRYING’s transformation into an episodic drama would eventually be jumpstarted. “A few weeks later, Jenny Austin (who plays Amelia in ODT) and Sarah were discussing potentially doing some type of project together,” Hollis adds. “We decided to restructure the concept for the short into a series, and brought Chelsea London Lloyd on board to play Bailey.”
OR DIE TRYING’s characters, and their season-long arcs, reflect the real difficulties that come with standing out in a predominantly male career field (entertainment). The individual journeys of those characters also give viewers a look at how the demands of work, love and family can dramatically converge in the lives of all people – and not only those in showbiz.
“If you’ve worked in this industry for any amount of time, chances are you’ve experienced rejection or disappointment or frustration with your career. And, if your career is going well, chances are you’ve noticed some deficiencies in other areas of your life. Each of the protagonists in ODT are constantly dealing with these types of issues, with an understanding of the fact that it all just comes with the territory,” says Hollis.
OR DIE TRYING’s honest depiction of women in the entertainment industry isn’t just reflected on-screen, but also, crucially, behind the scenes. “I think what sets it (ODT) apart from other series is not only the tone and beautiful juxtaposition of personal and professional success penned exceptionally well from Myah (Hollis), but the fact that our team is comprised of the very types of women we hope to empower,” responds Hawkins. “We’re telling our story as millennial women in Hollywood, and for that, I believe it’s incredibly authentic. (It’s) a labor of love.”
That labor of love is made even greater thanks to its majority female production team, which in itself represents a critical part of OR DIE TRYING’s main objectives: to level the playing field for women actors, filmmakers and executives who’ve been severely underrepresented in male-dominated Hollywood, and to present viewers with identifiable, non-cliched, non-stereotypical characters.
“By hiring a crew that is at least 85% female, we are hoping to chip away at the root of the systemic problem of gender inequality in our industry,” Hawkins says. “There is a great focus on the types of stories we tell as filmmakers, and the need for female-driven narratives, but there is also a desperate need for women behind the camera, as well. We know it’s not an issue that is going to be resolved with our series, but we hope our decision to give women a chance helps fuel the conversation of women in film until more talking leads to more action.”
OR DIE TRYING’s six day shoot was an unqualified success, all thanks to the talents of its cast and crew. “I’m so incredibly proud of our wonderful dedicated team, and the devotion to put our best foot forward day in and day out,” Hawkins replies, adding that the show’s production serves to promote the talents, efforts and perspectives of women in film through collaboration.
“There is a genuine drive to support and empower one another, because filmmaking is a team sport. When one woman succeeds in this industry, we all do,” she says “It’s incredibly important to foster community (in filmmaking), and (to) create a bigger movement together. The more connected we are to our community, the more conversation and work can continue.”
OR DIE TRYING also shows filmmakers how capturing realistic stories of women in today’s world can entertain and enlighten audiences.
“The way to smash the negative stereotypes of women in mainstream media is to create content that accurately represents women. It’s really not that hard,” adds Hollis. “Everyone knows at least one woman. It’s just a matter of putting forth the effort to be observant and (to) learn about people, and (to) depict the world the way it actually is.”
“OR DIE TRYING was always intended to be a truthful look into the lives of these characters,” Hawkins remarks. “Through the show, we hope to portray a sense of authenticity, not only through great storytelling about the highs and lows of being a millennial female in the film industry, but by devoting ourselves to a high standard for the production itself. We hope to inspire and empower young women (and everyone, really) that dreams are worth fighting for.”
As an examination of how career ambitions can often be pushed aside by life’s vicissitudes, OR DIE TRYING shows that the path towards “making it” in any field doesn’t have to be a rocky one. “I want people to remember that it’s okay not to have life completely figured out. We’re all just trying to find a way to make it work and to be happy and to feel fulfilled,” Hollis says. “That’s a life long process, but as long as you’re continuously working to make yourself better, and to build a life that you can be proud of, then you’ll be fine.”
(NOTE: Regarding closed-captioning/subtitling of OR DIE TRYING, Hawkins says: “We’ll likely leave that to our distributor, but if we end up distributing ourselves, most, if not all, self-distribution platforms require a closed-captioning file type, so audiences have the option.”)