Highs and lows on students’ new web series

by Cathleen Cusachs / Beacon Staff • January 20, 2016

The students behind High, Hello.
The students behind High, Hello.

After a man rips her off in a marijuana deal, fictional drug dealer Parker storms up to his front door to kick him in his genitalia and curse.

Rachel Halilej said she found the inspiration for this new web series, High, Hello, while watching the show High Maintenance on Vimeo. Halilej, a junior visual and media arts major, wanted to take the idea of a drug-dealing storyline and add a relatable, collegiate, and female empowerment twist. The protagonist, Parker, is a strong-minded feminist selling marijuana on her campus while clashing with her more modernized, less judgmental roommate, Jen.

Halilej enlisted the help of a former project partner and junior visual and media arts major, Sophia Abbey-Kuipers, to be director of photography for the series. The two women cast junior Dominique Carrieri and sophomore Maria Del Mar Fernandez as the fictional roommates and are currently working on the last four episodes in a season filmed almost entirely at friends’ apartments.

“Parker’s afraid of her own shadow, but craves people acknowledging her existence,” Carrieri, a performing arts major, said. “It enables her to exist on her own platform, like this super confident person that just remains on the surface with people and doesn’t really delve in with anybody. It also makes her incapable of asking for help when she needs it.”

Parker, whom Halilej called, “a Rosie the Riveter-style feminist,” hates being too dependent and has strong opinions on how other women should act. Jen, who’s into more things trivially thought of like boys and friends, doesn’t fit that image. In the entire production, there’s only one man involved backstage and two on screen. This varied women-dominated cast was exactly what Halilej said she wanted to show— how the concept of feminism is different to everyone.

“I personally think that’s a fine line [women] ride in the age we are right now,” Halilej said. “We want to be taken seriously, especially in [the film] industry. But at the same time, why can’t we do whatever we want?”

Between recurring roles, extras, and crew, there are now approximately 20 people involved in the production of High, Hello. Carrieri said everyone is one big family. Abbey-Kuipers said it’s very much a collaborative project between everyone.

“If Rachel or any of the other writers write anything that the actors want to change around a little bit, then we kind of work together and figure it out.” Abbey-Kuipers said. “We want to make this as realistic as possible. Rachel's only one perspective.”

The first three episodes, scheduled for release on Vimeo around late February, focus on relatable, female topics, like what bras entice men, the duo said. Comparing the series’ style to Lena Dunham’s raw, comedic, post-graduation Girls, Halilej said she wanted to make a show real, college girls can truly relate to without any soap opera drama or unattainably attractive men.

“There’s no later coming-of-age story that shows real female relationships and talks about things that we actually talk about,” Halilej said.

High, Hello isn’t the first project Halilej and Abbey-Kuipers have created together. Last year, they filmed Kitty’s Revenge, a mockumentary short about a mother-son pageant duo. Their actress, sophomore Catherine Yamashita, was nominated for an EVVY for her role. Next year, they have slated a cheerleader horror piece called Killer Spirit.

The two said they bonded over campy entertainment, a love they’re incorporating into their self-funded High, Hello. An Indiegogo campaign hoping to raise $2,000 will be released with the first few episodes.

Abbey-Kuipers said right now the series is only planned for a one seven-episode season to act as a substitute for a capstone course. Although the nine-minute episodes revolve around selling marijuana, both said the plot is focused more on the realistic friendship of the characters during a pivotal time in their lives.

“Girls aren’t allowed to do a lot of things, selling drugs is one of them,” Abbey-Kuipers said. “It’s kind of just expanding the realm of possibilities.”

Halilej said their main hope is to pave the way for more shows depicting women in non-stereotypical, accurate roles that everyone can really relate to. She feels it’s important to show the various, complex sides of females that aren’t typically represented in the media.

“You can’t judge girls on how they talk, how they look, what they care about,” Halilej said. “[The series is] a lot about leaving the door open for anyone to come in and affect your life.”