While at ClexaCon, AfterEllen caught up with the fantastically good looking and unbelievably down to earth cast and crew of “RED,” who flew in all the way from Brazil to attend the convention. Germana Belo, Fernando Belo, Ana Paula Lima, and Luciana Bollina held a panel on “RED,” walked around the convention floor talking to and hugging fans, and fangirled over other panelists. Below, they answer at length anything and everything we could throw at them.
AfterEllen.com: Let’s talk about how “RED” started. Tell me where the idea for the plot came from.
Germana: I have been part of fandoms and I know there’s this fantasy of actresses playing love interests that become a couple in real life. I remember I talked to Viv like, “What about a show about this concept that every fan has, that the actresses work together and get together in real life?”
AE: It’s fanfic.
Ana: I love to hear that! That’s amazing.
AE: In season 1, it was Germana and Viv financing production. With such a small budget, and with such risk to do something unpaid, why did you (Ana and Luciana) sign on?
Luciana: Well in my case it’s because I trusted the team and I trusted Fernando, who invited me. I really appreciated his work and we were friends for 13 years. I believed him, and when I met Germana, she was so passionate about it and I got into it. I love independent works and Fernando knows that about me and I think that I believed in the work and in the truth of the work and the idea of a web series. It was different. For me it was a good thing to be into.
Ana: I think when you have the freedom to choose the project, what I always think about is the story it wants to tell and if the story excites me as an actress to tell it. “RED” was something that I thought was super interesting and pioneering and was a great bet. As an actress and also as a person, female visibility and representation matters to me, and I want to talk about it for the world. I didn’t know it was a bet, but it was an amazing bet.
AE: “RED” is being financed using crowdsourcing platforms like Indiegogo and also subscription content like “Shades of Red.” Are financial contributions to the series increasing, or are you starting to see a leveling out or a decrease in funding?
Germana: It’s always hard to get money from crowdfunding, but we always get at least what we need or what we are planning to use. But it is increasing. What really made a difference for us was On Demand. This is what increased our budget a lot.
Fernando: In Brazil, mostly we don’t have a culture of contributing. In America, it’s way more common to contribute to a project you’re passionate about. In Brazil we’re still trying to show that it’s important. So we have a hard time crowdfunding, but we have a small group of friends who are very generous and we couldn’t do the show without them. But then when we started to do Vimeo On Demand and find ways to monetize the show and still keep it accessible to people who couldn’t pay, that really helped our budget and improved production values. People don’t know how expensive it is to make this. We’re never in the actual budget. We’re always trying to get closer to what would allow us to do a good job and pay for everyone’s time and it’s always a challenge.
AE: If there is one, what does a typical day on set look like?
Luciana: A lot of laughs.
Fernando: It’s a big family and an amazing set. Everyone that we bring in is someone we know. Even casting, we don’t audition much. We have two amazing, collaborative set people. We just find each other. On set it’s a healthy mix of friends hanging out and artists together creating something. We have to shoot a lot of pages in not a lot of time so that is impressive. Working together is very exciting and something we look forward to.
AE: How many days do you shoot per season?
Fernando: Every season is different because it depends on the budget we have. Last year we had a bigger budget, so we had a longer shoot schedule. We had exactly 22 days. They were 8-12 hour days.
AE: Sao Paulo has the largest pride parade in the world, but Brazil also has the highest murder rate for gay men and transgendered people in the world. There have also been three lesbian couples on Brazilian TV that were very popular. How do you account for this weird dichotomy in the treatment of LGBT people in Brazil?
Germana: We’ve had successful storylines, but I don’t like the treatment they give to the lesbian couple. I don’t think it’s good representation. I don’t feel represented by them. So it shows there’s a lot to be done in terms of representation. For example, they use build-up as a form of censorship. They’re always building up because they don’t want to show them as a couple. Even now, in 2018, Limantha had two small kisses. You see other straight couples get kisses but they don’t show gay couples getting to kiss like straight couples so it’s obvious there’s censorship.
Ana: I think unfortunately society still reflects a lot of what we see on public TV. We have the biggest gay parade, but one week before the gay parade we have a parade just for women, and still a lot of people don’t know about it. It’s small. It’s never in the newspaper, nobody knows about it. It’s been going on for many years, so why? Brazil is very conservative, but sexist.
Fernando: It’s an interesting dynamic because we have freedom of speech but we had a recent dictatorship so society is still learning to express itself. While in Brazil we like to think of ourselves as very welcoming and accepting, there’s still a lot of hatred and prejudice and sexism against minorities. At the same time, we have the biggest parade and I feel like LGBTQ and other minorities, blacks…we have a specific region in Brazil, the northeast, with a culture and community that’s also a minority that fights back. It’s a very interesting dynamic that we’re watching. We don’t know what will be on the other side of this, but it’s a shifting culture.
AE: Ana and Luciana, when first making “RED,” I imagine Viv and Germana sat down with you and explained why they wanted to make “RED” and what it meant for LGBT visibility and what LGBT visibility looked like around the world. What did you learn from that?
Luciana: I realized that we had nothing for this public at the moment and I was like, “My God, that’s true!” And of course I thought we had to do something about that. That touched me a lot and I began to watch “The L Word” and every kind of show that I could. I couldn’t watch everything, but I realized that we don’t have in Brazil anything like this. This shocked me. What I learned is the sensibility to talk about it. They told me, “The story will just be a normal couple that’s in love. It’s nothing but that. A love story.” I realized that I had a preconception that I didn’t even know I had. I was like, “Let’s open my heart for everything.” I was really open, but I realized that I had a label for telling this story. How to tell this story with this sensibility.
Ana: You said exactly what I would say. They made us aware of what we would do and why we were doing it. The point that is special to me is that they said, “We’re going to tell a love story and that’s it.” It comes with a label because that’s what we do with stuff and people and that’s terrible and that’s what amazed me. It’s not about a label, it’s about a love story and that’s what we’re going to do. And I fell in love like, “Let’s do this!”
AE: What are your impressions about ClexaCon? What have you learned or what do you hope to convey while here?
Fernando: It’s just the second year and it’s a huge thing. It’s super impressive. Another thing that we see is there is a huge audience for this kind of event, a community that is craving and lacking content and talking about content and you just have to put it there and they will come because there’s a lack of that. It’s beautiful that people are organizing and getting together and in the same spirit of creating content and creating shows they’re doing conventions like this.
Ana: It’s much more than just the lesbians. It’s about women saying what they’re doing and that’s huge. Women supporting women. Sometimes we are taught to be competitive (competing for men). It’s a culture thing. Here it’s about how to make things happen, like content, and the huge community of women and men who support it. Everyone is welcome to join and treat people with respect and do their best to make things happen.
Luciana: I think similarly. It’s female empowerment and I love to see that. I love to see this magic of coming together. I’m really proud of our show, that we’re here and the only Brazilians and the only Latin Americans to be here. So we’re really proud and happy to be here and meet the American fans, who are amazing. And everyone who wants to watch the show! It’s really, really good for us as a Brazilian project and as a person and actress, everything. Amazing.
Germana: It’s been important for the show and for me personally. I remember watching some of the panels on YouTube from last year and I never thought we would be here this year. So it’s a big deal for me personally. And to be the only foreign people here, other than the Canadians! For us it’s a big deal because we’re a small show, a web show. We don’t have conventions in Brazil, we don’t have this convention culture. So this is a chance to meet people with whom we talk on social media. I recognize some people with whom I talk on social media, because I run the “RED” social media. This is the opportunity to be with the people who help us to do it.
Luciana: This project isn’t possible without fans.
AE: For Ana and Luciana, in what ways are you similar to or different from the characters you play?
Luciana: Mel holds things in. I really don’t. At the same time, I understand her and I do my best to embody the character and when I start to shoot it just happens. When I watch the show it’s like, “Oh my God, Mel, no.” I get anxious. I want her to make a decision! This is the main difference between me and her. The similarity is everything else: the tastes, the sensibility. I think she is a strong woman and a woman with a lot of inner world. I’m like this. I don’t know, the literature and music tastes are similar. I constructed her and it’s me at the same time and it’s not. The story’s not mine, but it’s me. It’s something in me.
Germana: We started in the first season writing and shooting, so we didn’t have a plan and we didn’t develop the characters, so the way Mel and Liz turned out to be, a lot of that was brought by Ana and Luciana and it’s fun to see because we incorporated some characteristics like Luciana is very clumsy. So Mel became clumsy because of that. I never imagined her clumsy, but she is. So it’s very interesting to see how many qualities are really brought by them. They totally created the character.
Fernando: That’s another thing that just occurred to me about working on this type of budget or project. Germana is on set every day. She’s managing social media, she’s taking photos. She’s watching things in a way that doesn’t happen on a big network show. There’s no writing room with scripts where I go and execute it. She’s watching it and it’s informing the writing. It’s a circular process. She’s watching, getting insights, and putting it on paper. We’re always talking on set about choices and artistic choices and that’s how she was able to create these characters.
Germana: And it’s also because you give them a lot of freedom to bring things and I think it helps a lot. Fernando is also an actor and I think that totally helps. We’re very open. If they want to change a line, we don’t have a problem. Fernando is always open to leaving them free to bring things.
Ana: I think the difference (between me and Liz) is that Liz is a little bit self-destructive. I don’t think she’s totally self-destructive, but a little because of the drugs and everything. I don’t relate to that. She is very lonely and I don’t think she trusts people a lot because she’s very closed. To trust someone is something magical. I don’t feel she does that a lot. I like to trust people. Trust until they disappoint you. Liz is really honest and I relate to that. She has her problems but she’s honest and she doesn’t lie. She does things because she wants to, and I think that’s amazing. I think she lives in her own world and I’m like this too sometimes. She’s very introspective. I’m not.
Germana: Ana on set is amazing. Two minutes before we start she becomes Liz. She moves differently. She’s the opposite in terms of temperament.
Ana: She taught me a lot. We have personas. I relate to her because I know she’s closed. I’m not introspective, but sometimes I have lots of levels to get to who I am.
Could you have played the opposite character (Luciana playing Liz, Ana playing Mel)?
Ana: Can we?
Luciana: Yes! That would be super cool. In the series, we do “Red,” and Scarlett is not Liz but is like a sexy woman and very different from Mel. We can explore in the moment the opposite energy and it’s so fun. Yes, I think we can, but we don’t like it. We talk about it. I love Mel and I love Liz, but I get attached.
Fernando: Sometimes in theater at the end of the season you switch roles and do it for each other. It would be funny to have that.
Luciana: I’d love to play this!
Germana: You just gave us an idea for the season wrap.
Ana: Let’s do it!
AE: “RED” has had over 1 million views from 145 countries. How does it feel to have fans that literally span the entire globe and to have that impact? It’s relatively unique, because most network shows don’t have that kind of internationality.
Fernando: We have been going to, partially as a consequence of this global reach, a lot of festivals and attending panels and I heard someone speak in LA this week and they were talking about how it really is a global market and you’re creating content for the world. If you put it online, it’s for the rest of the world. Speaking as an artist, regardless of your subject matter, it’s very empowering. Being an artist is such a fragile and vulnerable career, and when you can can create your own content and be successful…it’s a very exciting time to be a creator and see those numbers and reach. We don’t need anyone else to contact and be in touch with our audience. It’s very exciting and empowering.
Ana: I agree. I relate to what you said.
Luciana: Always when we work we think about success, but this is so much. We didn’t predict this global response. There was a Japanese fan video about “RED” on YouTube that we watched…
Fernando: It really reframes the significance of success in our career. We have this image of success as being like money or stability, and then you meet a fan here and see how excited they are about the show and there’s no way to say you’re not successful. I did it right. It’s an amazing experience.
Ana: It doesn’t matter your history and your culture. Sometimes I’m like, “I don’t know if this is enough to tell about this person’s point of view and experience,” but no, we are all human beings and we all connect. It’s important. Why not? That’s the most powerful thing and it’s amazing. I get emotional. I swear I’ve learned a lot.
Germana: Because we are talking with this kind of audience, especially the lesbian audience, one of the things that matters the most for me is the impact. We see the impact, we know that we have impact in people’s lives because of what we do. There’s no amount of money in the world that’s worth more than hearing that we changed someone’s life for the better.
Luciana: Yesterday people were saying, “Thank you for doing this because we’re so glad that we have something that represents us.” Especially the Brazilians.
Ana: “You have NO idea. You think you have an idea, but you have NO IDEA.”
AE: What is the best thing you’ve heard from fans or have been given by fans?
Fernando: The fans threw Germana a surprise birthday party.
Germana: You have no idea. I got a cake with my face on it for my birthday. They made M&Ms with my face on it! There were a lot of fans in my room (here at ClexaCon). I said this is a sign of success in life.
Fernando: So the fan who threw that had been talking to me to organize it since January.
Germana: I don’t even know how to say thank you. I kept saying thank you.
Ana: For me, the courage that they have to share with us their own experience is like, supporting, saying, “You don’t know how important that is.” Sometimes we really don’t know. I have an idea, like when people have the courage to share things in their life, like the courage to tell their parents, tell themselves, to accept a friend, be proud of who they are, that’s amazing.
AE: What is something your fans don’t know about you? When the cameras turn off and you go home, who are Luciana and Ana?
Luciana: I think I’m transparent, and on social media I don’t show everything but I think they know that I’m really spiritual. I love to be alone and do meditation and yoga, but I think they know it. I think I told them everything.
Ana: I think they don’t know that I’m super shy, and because Liz is like, hot and everyone falls in love with her, they think I’m like this in real life. I really struggle when I like someone. I say stupid things sometimes. I have my own struggle and it’s hard and I try to do my best. I’m shy. I’m not this girl, the hunter, not at all.
Germana: I think most people don’t know that.
Luciana: I think for me, I think in the same vein, I am more assertive. I really go for it. When I like a man or a girl I just go and I don’t have a problem. At this point I am different from Mel and I think people don’t know that.
AE: Final question: if you could say something to “RED” fans, what would it be?
Ana: Of course, the first word is thank you. I want them to know that I and everyone else is really proud of what we’re doing. I love “RED” and I never expected to be here. But since the beginning, I expected we’d go further and further. It wasn’t in my mind, it was in my heart. I felt it.
Luciana: I really want them to realize that the power is with you. The power is you. You are the guide of your life. You can change it, you can do it, you can be with the person that you love and you can be a successful woman and you can be everything you want. Especially lesbians because it’s so hard to deal with so much struggle. There are so many women who don’t believe in themselves, beautiful women, and the power that they have to change things and do things because they think they don’t deserve it. They think they can’t have it all: romance, family, career. I want to tell them that yes you can. You have to think you deserve it, because everyone deserves to be happy.
Germana: The first thing is thank you. To know that it matters is really, really important for us. We know the project touches people and it really matters for us how they feel about it and the impact that it has in their lives. It’s important to us not just as creators and artists, but as people. This project changed my life and I would say the same for people who come to us and say that the project changed their lives. It changed my life and it’s because of them, too.
Fernando: I heard a great thing in a panel yesterday, which is how more and more we have the power to change things. We have the ability to organize things ourselves. I would tell people to get inspired to create their own things and do their own podcasts and series and get heart or support projects that fulfill that mission. We can do that and we should make more use of that to make a difference.