On April 15th, three of the youngest participants in the Tribeca Film Festival debuted their short film, Girl Band. 23 year-olds Cailin Lowry, Olivia Mitchell and Kerry Furrh, recent grads of the University of Southern California, wrote, directed, produced, edited and wrote music for a film about career-driven female friendships, in the hopes of turning it into a TV series.
While Lowry, Mitchell, and Furrh are clearly very driven in their respective fields, I expected Girl Band was somewhat experimental based solely on their age. My mistake. The women behind Girl Band have spent years honing these characters and making Girl Band a reality. I found their determination and the origin of their collaborative friendship inspiring and important for coming-of-age women.
Girl Band tells a story of four effortlessly fun and funny female musicians just after they’ve graduated high school together, about to abandon their home town, hit the road for L.A., and embark on their first inkling of fame. Lowry, Mitchell, and Furrh used Girl Band to explore female friendships, their fascination with the lives of musicians, their relationship with the music they create, and the significance of creating adolescent characters with business-savvy perspectives over characters we’ve seen many times over: young women whose storylines are lead by their romantic partners.
On Girl Band’s website you wrote, “If you go on Netflix and look for career driven women that care more about their friendships than they care about romance, that you’re not really going to find that,” and you wanted to see characters that look like you on the big screen. I’ll start by asking: When did your love for film and music begin and did you always know that this is something that you wanted to pursue?
Cailin: I grew up in Asia, and I always felt connected to the U.S. through movies and TV, so for me I would say it started as a form of escapism and kind of sectioned to whatever American culture is when I was pretty young. It was a very natural decision for me to go into a field where I felt like I could be a part of making all that happen.
Kerry: I started making movies when I was six or seven when I was with my brothers and neighborhood friends, and then when I was in high school I started doing contests and I was able to make a little bit of money, so I was like, Okay, this could be a viable career option, instead of something I just did for fun. And in terms of the music project, when I was in high school I would always do music videos and parodies and stuff and music was always something that I liked, especially editing because it seemed to time everything out. And also, Olivia and I became friends, this was a way of figuring out how we could work together because she was a musician and I was in film, so there was a way for us to collaborate.
Olivia: Yes, I am the music major of the bunch, so Cailin and Kerry carry the film side. I’m more of the music side, although we all overlap, but I always wanted to be a singer growing up and came to USC at 17 years old to be in the music school, and then I slowly kind of realized that A) I didn’t’ want to be the singer and I wanted to be the songwriter and B) I really liked film projects as well. I met Kerry my freshman year. She made me a music video and lots of other music videos at that point and she was the one who kind of encouraged me to minor in film and so our interests started overlapping. And then I met Cailin and we just kind of realized we all like music and film.
Kerry: And the rest is history.
That brings me to my next question: How and when did you start this project? I know that you all met through USC.
Kerry: So I had a lot of musician friends in college and I made music videos for people, and I had a lot of their music that they sent me, so I would listen to it all the time. I thought it was fascinating hearing the lyrics that they’re writing about and seeing their life and seeing how they relate, and I just found the way that musicians talk about their life so fascinating and I wanted to portray that in our film and explore it, especially the industry too because I had some friends that were experiencing major label deals and I was going on tour with musicians. It was such a fascinating life that I wanted to present to the world.
Olivia: The initial idea came 4 years ago for this show, and it was Kerry’s idea. She said she wanted to do something with music, and she and I started working on it, writing scripts and thinking. It really didn’t truly come to life until Cailin became part of the project and kind of solidified our voice.
Cailin: [Laughing] As Cailin, I will say it’s my raw kinetic energy. Also, the summer before senior year, we did a web thing called The New Major, that Olivia and I starred in, and it lives at the bottom of the hard drive somewhere. It was pretty terrible. It had been through a lot of iterations before we landed on what you hopefully enjoyed today. So yeah, we’ve been developing it for years.
Four years!? That’s very encouraging! So, you said that you thought the life of the musician is very interesting. Were these characters taken from real life and real experiences?
Kerry: Yeah, and they all have a little bit of us in it. We’re inspired by our friends and the people around us.
Olivia: Yeah they are kind of based on real people but they morphed into their own stance.
Kerry: Especially when we got our actresses involved. They went a different route once we cast, because we finally were able to see these people that embody their characters, and they brought something new to the table so we kind of adjusted their script.
You want Girl Band to become a TV series. Why TV and not a full length film?
Cailin: With a series there’s a much longer journey to follow. I mean, I love features but they’re a pretty contained story unless we made it like every ten minutes they’re growing into another year. TV allows us to kind of follow the journey of them not being successful and then rising to success. There are four lead characters, too, which is something that makes it difficult to really properly explore their lives in like 90 minutes.
Olivia: We’ve been working on this for so many years; I have notes full of ideas galore and we want to share it.
What plans do you have for these characters? You don’t have to go into detail.
Kerry: We want them to be on pop radio, they will become household names and they will never break up. That’s not something that’s a question. Their friendship is the root to this entire project.
Olivia: If they get famous they’re not going to change. We’ve seen that story so many times about how famous girls become hostile.
Kerry: Their world around them changes. They don’t.
None of you are acting in Girl Band. Why?
Kerry: If you saw The New Major you would understand. I was never in it, but these two were, and that was what we were referring to when we realized we had to scrap something because we shot two episodes and they starred in it and sat there and had to make that hard decision to never show anyone.
Olivia: I didn’t realize that acting takes so much work. When you’re a kid, you think, “Okay” actors go up, they read their lines, they go through the motions. It is way more than that! For anybody wondering, it is very hard! Kerry once filmed a movie in her film class and she needed me to be an extra walking to the microwave opening a bag of popcorn and I got so nervous, I couldn’t do it.
Kerry: It was like 20 takes.
Olivia: Acting is hard. So, we’re definitely not acting in it, we’re letting the professionals handle it.
Is there anything on Netflix or TV where you feel particularly unrepresented?
Kerry: The way that we feel about it, there are obviously awesome female centered shows out there like Girls and Broad City, but what we’re trying to do for Girl Band that we haven’t quite seen represented are such young girls being so career driven. That’s what we’re really trying to focus on. Making girls that have a career aspiration and are working every single day to achieve.
Cailin: Without naming anything specific, I would say whenever we see ambitious women on TV, it’s always like they’re missing something in their lives, whether it’s romance or friendship, they’re not the nicest people. So we wanted to create a show that showed these awesome, fun, positive career driven girls that aren’t involved with the cattiness and the backstabbing.
Olivia: Yeah, I think the honest truth is we love a lot of these shows that are on TV already and we watch them, but we don’t really feel represented 100% by any of them, and that’s why we’re making Girl Band because we want to see our exact comradery and brand of friendship on TV, and that’s no-hate on the other shows.
Kerry: Our girls are 18 at the beginning of the show, they just graduated high school. There aren’t many of that high school and college age represented that are especially career driven. That’s what we’re really interested in exploring. That demographic.
Again on your site, you wrote, “Girl Band is a love letter to anyone who is going through the discomfort of pursuing their dreams.” What advice do you have for women pursuing their passions?
Cailin: Be delusionally persistent if you know what you’re doing is good. I think it’s been so important for us to have each other. That is something that we know; we all push each other and encourage each other to be doing it and I think it’s really essential to find a support system whether it’s people you’re working directly with or someone who’s going to motivate you and push you and tell you what you’re doing is legitimate. I say delusionally persistent because we just started doing this and went for it and there was – a lot of people were telling us…
Kerry: That we weren’t old enough…
Cailin: Yeah. But we loved it and kept at it even when it seemed like it was a little delusional. And here we are now!
Olivia: Another thing I would say is, you have to be open with yourself. You have to practice being open with something that you just spent three weeks on, like is it a piece of shit, because that happened to us. And for me, when I put “X” amount of time into something I think it has to show “X” amount of quality. It’s so frustrating to have to kill your baby in that regard. We’ve all been there for each other, having to re-do and edit and it’s thankfully gotten to a pretty good place.
You’ve gotten to an amazing place! Do you identify as feminists?
Collectively: Oh yeahhhh!
Cailin: I’ve always identified as a feminist. I always say, if you don’t identify as a feminist, you either don’t know what feminism actually is or you’re an asshole.
Does feminism play a part in Girl Band?
Kerry: Yeah. during college, I read a lot of articles about it and learning about it and it’s something that is continually evolving. We write a lot of male characters too from the perspective of how we’d like our girls to be treated sometimes, and we try to represent men in a way to show young guys that this is a respectful way to act in certain situations.
Cailin: Those guys exist.
Kerry: We’re trying to show people who are people we interact with that maybe don’t get that screen time because the reality is that men are represented fairly negatively, too, like they’re only in it chasing the girl or whatever. We’re trying to make it a little equal with what we’re showing. How people can be different than they’re usually seen on TV.
Olivia: And feminism is kind of a weird thing, because you have to be aware of it in order to implement it into your life, and encourage other people to be aware of it too, because like Kerry said, I read a lot of articles, too, about emerging feminists in college and it was so important because as a woman, you expect to be treated equally and everything but sometimes you have to really immerse yourself in learning about it just to realize all the subtle differences between men and women, and to really understand, “Oh wow, I was questioned on set more maybe because I’m a girl because that guy just did the same thing and wasn’t questioned.” To know, to be confident enough to say, “Wait a second, this might be gender based” and not a reflection on the quality of my idea or my thought process. And that was important in writing Girl Band, too, because we wanted to make sure all four of our leads are totally unfiltered, un-self-conscious and not trying to be cute.
Kerry: And have their issues too.
Olivia: They just do their thing.
Image via heyitsgirlband.com
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