It's not that often that a short film seen primarily on the LGBT film festival circuit transitions to the small screen as a prime-time television series, but that's just what happened with Exes & Ohs, a new half-hour comedy about lesbian dating, that premieres Oct. 8 at 10 p.m. on Logo, AfterEllen.com's parent company.
The series, which is based on Michelle Paradise and Lee Friedlander's 2002 short film, The Ten Rules: A Lesbian Survival Guide, stars out lesbians Paradise, Megan Cavanagh (A League of Their Own) and Heather Matarazzo (Welcome to the Dollhouse, The L Word), as well as Angela Featherstone (The Wedding Singer) and Marnie Alton (Love on the Side). The television series includes several characters from the short film, including the ones played by Paradise and Cavanagh.
"When I was shooting the short," said Friedlander (Out at the Wedding), "I really wanted to shoot it like a half-hour, single-camera series, and everyone was like, 'It's a short, it should be shorter,' and I kept saying, 'It feels like it a series to me; it feels like we shouldn't shorten it." The Ten Rules, which Friedlander and Paradise had early on envisioned as a possible series, ended up running 28 minutes.
While shooting the film, Friedlander shared her hopes for The Ten Rules with Cavanagh, who originated the role of Chris, a lesbian partnered with a woman named Kris (who together own an online pet accessories store), in the short. Cavanagh was initially skeptical about its chances of making the move to the small screen.
"Listen, I've been in Hollywood a long time," Cavanagh said, "and I was like: 'Good for you. Right on. Let me know.' And then it actually happened. I couldn't believe it."
The birth of the Logo network coincided with the end of The Ten Rules' run of the film festival circuit. "It did absolutely everything you could expect a short could do," Paradise said. "Logo saw The Ten Rules on Lee Friedlander's reel when speaking with her about her earlier film Girl Play, and they thought it would make a great series."
Logo's senior vice president and general manager, Lisa Sherman, concurs. "There are a lot of shows about relationships and dating out there, but this is the first time a show features a women's perspective on dating women," she said. "So in many ways, we hope it breaks ground on the most elemental dynamics of dating and relationships."
Friedlander encouraged Logo to bring Billy Grundfest (Mad About You) on board to develop the series for television, and he and Paradise worked on the story together, deciding what to keep from the original short and what to change.
While The Ten Rules was largely the story of documentary filmmaker Jennifer (Paradise), they envisioned the television series as an ensemble, with additional characters having their own story lines as well. Since the "rules" from the short were creations of Jennifer's mind, helping her navigate through the world, they are less emphasized in the series. Thus, they decided to call the series Exes & Ohs, which also helps identify the work as an ensemble show.
Grundfest became a co-executive producer along with Paradise and Friedlander. Once they decided which characters to bring forward from the short, they began the process of casting.
Paradise said that the variety of experience among the three of them definitely helped out in the casting process. "Bill has a lot of television experience; I have quite a bit of writing and acting experience; and Lee has produced a lot of independent film and done some directing," Paradise explained. "Getting those three different points of view in the room when we were looking at actors was fantastic."