Michaline Babich Gives Us Some Sugar

 
 

All five women — according to Babich, who adores them — are
pretty fierce. "There’s a level of fearlessness about them," she
said. "I recall Pam Post [Senior Director of Development and Production,
Original Programming] at Logo saying that they have no shame about who they are; they
just accept themselves. So they can be very brutal, because there are no holds
barred."

Either way, the show is certain to cultivate awareness about
issues related to bisexuality. As Babich noted: "At least people are talking
about it. It’s a sensitive subject."

And Babich knows firsthand exactly how sensitive a subject
it can be. "In 2000 I dated a guy for a short while and I stopped being
invited to things," she said. "Gay male friends were totally
accepting of my journey, but lesbians were hard on me."

For the past five years Babich has been in a committed
relationship with her partner, Ellen, and before that she had dated both men
and women. "I’ve never really labeled myself," she said. "Others
label me.’"

The inclination to label is, itself, something Babich hopes
we can all move beyond. "We fear judgments, so we label," she said.
"I like to think in the future it will be more fluid, and people can do
what they do without defending it or disappointing people."

Overall, Babich said the feedback she has gotten about the
show has been "totally mixed." She noted that while gay men tend to
love the show, "serious girls think it’s the stupidest show they’ve seen.
And we’re all so serious. I’m guilty of that as well." Still, Babich has
also gotten plenty of enthusiastic responses from queer female viewers.

In the end, though, the most important feedback for Babich was from her three aunts — sisters of her mother,
who passed away when Babich was very young. "They are the closest women in
the world to me," Babich said. "One works in a library in Vermont,
one works in a warehouse, and one works for a construction company, so they’re
not exactly marching in gay pride parades. But they loved it and that really
meant a lot to me."

The idea for Gimme
Sugar
was a joint venture between Babich and Michelle Agnew, a top promoter
for lesbian nightlife in Los Angeles. (The two women executive produce the show
along with Scott Stone.)

"Michelle runs several clubs," Babich explained,
"and she noticed a shift a few years ago, with young girls coming out in
full forces. Many people have wanted to make a show like this for a while, but
Michelle had unique access to this community." Babich met the show’s stars
— who are actually friends in real life — when they rounded them up to make a
casting tape. She said that after editing the tape, the producers "felt like it represented
a unique perspective."

Over the years, Babich has worked at many aspects of
filmmaking — acting, operating cameras, recording sound, and heading up the art
department — in addition to writing, directing and producing. She said she is
most passionate about directing, because it is so creative.

In addition to Gimme
Sugar
, Babich has worked as a producer for Bravo’s Welcome to the Parker and Fox’s
Nanny 911
. She is also producing the upcoming season of Million Dollar Listing, a reality series
about three high-end real-estate agents in Los Angeles that will air on Bravo
in August. "One agent on the show, Madison, talks about being a bisexual
male," she said. "I’m proud of him for doing it and interested in how
people will respond to him."

For someone so embedded in the world of reality TV, Babich isn’t
a huge fan of the genre. "I don’t really watch TV," she said,
"and when I do, I’d watch 30 Rock
over any reality show." But she added that she loves her work as well as
the people with whom she works.

So, how did she wind up in this particular segment of the
industry? "What I like about reality TV is the immediacy of it," she
said. "You can just go out and start shooting and in six months you have
something. I sold a scripted pilot to CBS a while back and our no took two
years."

Babich wasn’t always planning on a career in film and
television. At NYU she earned a master’s degree in media ecology, which she
describes as a combination of communications theory and philosophy. She did,
however, take some film classes while she was there.

She wound up in Los Angeles when an acting gig required her
to head out there for some re-shoots. That was 11 years ago, and she decided to
stay: "I had been saying for years that I should move here, and I just
made a snap decision one morning, and I’m happy I did it. I love New York, but
L.A. is more laid-back. I stay out of the fray and craziness and
competitiveness."

Babich is taking time off this summer to work on developing
two documentary projects. "I’m always pitching other reality shows,"
she said. She will also be working on a script for a feature about a high
school girl, which will also include a lesbian character.

Only six episodes of Gimme
Sugar
have been shot thus far, and all in the span of five weeks, due to
budgetary constraints. But Babich has plans for more: "Everyone is hoping
Logo will want a second season. We want to follow more of the girls’ lives and
friendships, including outside the club."

Shooting in a club environment proved to be a particularly
challenging aspect of making the show. Night clubs — even those that don’t
sport throngs of shrieking lesbians — are noisy environments. The Gimme Sugar crew had to resort to
heavy-duty headsets to counteract the din. "We alternated between the kind
they use for sporting events and the ones with the big, red earphones, like for
shooting ranges, which look ridiculous."

To boot, the action all happens at night, so Babich and crew
were working into the wee hours. Then, as a show runner, she had to be up at
the crack of dawn each day.

The long hours are one reason why Munroe considers Babich an
unsung hero: "We all know who Dick Wolf is, who Greer Shephard [producer of The Closer, Nip/Tuck] is,
because we see their names repeatedly. We’re so celebrity-focused. And we’re
focused on the [Gimme Sugar] girls
and their antics, but someone worked 20 hours a day to make it happen, and
that’s Michaline."

The trailer for Gimme Sugar

Gimme Sugar airs Monday nights at 10 p.m. ET on Logo, and is
available here
on AfterEllen.com
.

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