Interview with Filmmakers Kai Yost & Olivia G. Mills & Samantha Rayne Harris (UNLIKELY TV Series)

UNLIKELY played to rave reviews at the September 2020 TV WEB SERIES Festival.

Interview with Filmmaking team:
Samantha Rayne Harris (Producer/ Co-Writer)
Kai Yost (Director)
Olivia G. Mills (Associate Producer / Co-Writer)

1. What motivated you to make this film?

Samantha: I think it just comes down to Olivia and I being motivated by our love for the story. We wanted to make it come to life. We fell in love with Sara and Rayna and wanted the rest of the world to meet them and fall in love with them too.

Kai: I originally signed onto this project as the Director of Photography, and also, since I had Directing experience prior, as a Director for two episodes and a consulting director for the rest. When Sam and Olivia asked me if I wanted to direct all four episodes, I was ecstatic. I’d fallen in love with their characters and the story they were trying to tell, and I really connected to the idea that learning who you are never really stops. On top of that, college is where so many of us had these revelations about who we are in the world, which is why I loved the premise.

Olivia: Sara and Rayna , in a way, became parts of me and snapshots of what I experienced during my college journey. I knew that if it was a story that resonated so well with me, then it could for someone else, so it had to be told.

2. From the idea to the finished product, how long did it take for you to make this short?

Samantha: We wrote this series for a class project in the Fall of 2018. We released all four episodes in August 2020.

3. How would you describe your short film in two words?

Samantha: Heartfelt, Friendship

Kai: Found Family

4. What was the biggest obstacle you faced in completing this film?

Samantha: From a production viewpoint, the hardest obstacle was finding and maintaining crew. While this was not a project for a course, the crew was made up entirely of college students. We started production after most of our friends had graduated and moved away. It took a lot of networking and creative thinking to find people. However, we ended up with a 20+ person crew that I sincerely could not be more proud of. The show wouldn’t be what it is without them.

Kai: For me, the largest obstacle was translating the vision in my head to the instructions I gave both to the actors and the crew. We were students when we made this, and even now we are all still learning, and learning how to communicate what I needed efficiently and accurately was the biggest challenge for me as the Director. As for everything else… Well, I’m very lucky to have had Sam as a Producer, because she is amazing.

5. What were your initial reactions when watching the audience talking about your film in the feedback video?

Samantha: A lot of the audience picked up on the themes we were hoping to convey. That made me really happy and proud. We wanted people to see an awkward teen and a quirky, somewhat lost elderly woman bring the best out in each other and form a sincere friendship. I’m glad the themes and tones we were going for were understood and well received.

Olivia: Having a diverse cast and crew was important to all of us and I’m proud that that was highlighted by the audience. We also worked really hard on the dynamic between Rayna and Sara, especially in the writing, and I was excited that everyone enjoyed watching their relationship.

Kai: I was so happy with how the audience reacted, especially to the premise and to Rayna as a character. I loved how everyone picked up on how awkward college is, and how funny and unique our show was, and that they genuinely enjoyed watching our pilot episode.

Watch the Audience FEEDBACK Video:

6. How did you come up with the idea for this short film?

Samantha: Interestingly enough, Unlikely is based on a true story! A friend of mine had a 43-year-old woman as her roommate during freshman year of college. My friend found out the way Sara did in the show- by showing up and meeting her. She said her roommate was really nice and they became friends. I thought it was such a unique situation and the perfect premise for a series. The other writers and I loved the idea of exploring intergenerational female friendship.

7. What film have you seen the most in your life?

Samantha: If I am being honest, then it is the 2003 Eddie Murphy film Haunted Mansion. I was quite literally obsessed with that film as a kid. I watched it probably over 100 times in one summer.

Olivia: I think it has to be Big Momma’s House starring Martin Lawrence. According to my family, as soon as I started talking, I was asking to watch this movie.

Kai: I was a big Disney kid growing up, and Beauty and the Beast and Mulan were always on repeat in my house. When I was really young, I apparently used to grab pots and pans and sing “Be Our Guest” in the kitchen, to my parents’ amusement/annoyance.

8. You submitted to the festival via FilmFreeway, what are your feelings of the submission platform from a filmmaker’s perspective?

Olivia: I have found FilmFreeway to be a really great place to start when looking for festivals to submit your films and screenplays to. It is really easy to navigate and it allows you to find and submit to places you never would have thought of originally.

9. What song have you listened to the most times in your life?

Samantha: I’m not sure. I get obsessed with songs easily so I feel like I have listened to every song I have ever liked dozens of times. I’m a big fan of All Time Low’s “Missing You” when I need a pick-me-up.

Kai: Oh wow, I don’t know if it’s the song I’ve listened to the most in my life, but one song I always come back to for a pick-me-up is Alexis Harte’s “No Wrong Way Home”.

Olivia: I had to think long and hard about this one, but it’s probably “My Girl” by The Temptations. My mom would play it on Saturday mornings when it was time to clean and my dad would always play it when we went for a car ride together. Definitely a go to song if I’m missing home.

10. What is next for you? A new film?

Samantha: Right now I am looking for production work in the Atlanta area. I am always writing and trying to exercise my creative muscles. I’d love to work on another short-form series if I have the opportunity again…maybe even Unlikely season 2?

Kai: Graduating in the COVID season has been a journey, for sure. I’m currently in Atlanta with my family and looking for production work, and planning on a move out to California in the next year or so. In the meantime, I’m doing some freelance video editing and trying to compile the stories that I want to write. Honestly, I might reach out to Sam and Olivia again if I can get a script together.

Olivia: I’m currently in metro Atlanta with my family. I recently took a break after graduating, but I am currently looking for work in production and/or entertainment law. Did someone ask for season 2?

Watch Season 1 NOW!

By matthewtoffolo

Filmmaker and sports fan. CEO of the WILDsound Film and Writing Festival

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