“Is there anything more lesbian than a potluck dinner?” asked Ness Simons, a New Zealand-based writer-director.
Not in her world there isn’t, and that’s why she’s brought us the aptly named web series, Pot Luck. Believe it or not, this little gem is New Zealand’s first lesbian web series.
“We’re still in a situation where representation of queer characters is really limited,” said Ness of the country’s entertainment industry. “For me, that was part of wanting to make a web series, is that there’s none of the gatekeepers.”
And what a web series she’s made. Pot Luck is well acted, funny and can boast great production values. But even more significant is the chemistry between its diverse cast.
Pot Luck follows friends Debs (Anji Kreft), Mel (Nikki Si’ulepa) and Beth (Tess Jamieson-Karaha) and their lives in Wellington. Debs is a shy and loveable butch, Mel an androgynous, charismatic womanizer and Beth a somewhat conservative, semi-closeted, kind femme. Mel and Debs are longtime best buds, whereas Beth is Mel’s ex. All three are currently single and have a standing date of potluck dinners on Tuesdays.
“The sharing of food is so integral to almost every culture,” said Ness. “I think that when you bring people and food together interesting things happen.”
That’s certainly the case for Pot Luck. Before the first episode’s over, the challenge that will guide the rest of the six-episode season has already been laid out: Mel will abstain from sex until Debs, who’s been single for six years, gets some, and Beth will have to finally come out to her mother, who suffers from dementia. What could possibly go wrong?
Hilarity, of course, ensues when Mel tries to set Debs up for the sake of her own sex life. But for Mel that means inviting over her usual type: considerably younger women who hear the word potluck and think “orgy.” In their defense, they were invited over as a pair.
Does the more mature Beth fare better? Well, she invites over a colleague who’s just as into comics as Debs is. The problem? She’s a “lesbrarian” and Debs is intimated because she’s dyslexic.
But who says Debs needs the help anyway? Maybe she’s already got her eyes on someone. And who are Mel and Beth to judge? They’ve got their own unresolved stuff to deal with.
“As a couple, in lots of ways they’re chalk and cheese,” Ness explained in a very Kiwi-like way. Still, she’s a fan.
“There’s a spark there that interests me with Beth and Mel,” she said. “Neither can get the other out of their system.” That doesn’t mean, however, they only have eyes for each other.
Now, with a population of just about 4.5 million people, it’s no surprise New Zealand isn’t a hotbed for lesbian content. So how was Pot Luck made possible? Through a whole bunch of donations and favors.
Ness, by the way, did not ask the New Zealand government for money. “Because nothing like it existed, I wasn’t sure they would understand,” she explained.
Instead, the team crowdfunded and raised over $16,000, approached businesses and organizations to sponsor episodes, received sponsorship through a city arts grant and an emerging artists trust, had a lot of equipment donated and were fortunate enough to be able to count on a cast and crew willing to work for low rates.
And on their cast and crew, you might find it interesting to know that 69 percent were women and 20 percent were LGBT. The team also included Maori and Pacific Islanders.
“I never set out to check any boxes in terms of what my cast might look like or having different kinds of groups represented,” said Ness, who later said the same in regards to her crew. “I absolutely was looking for who brought me the best version of the character that I imagined.”
“It just so happened that this resulted in this quite gorgeously diverse cast,” she said. “They’re also women of an age that we don’t often see having their own stories on screen.”
What will these stories look like in Season 2?
“There’s a bit of a shift in the friendship between the three,” she shared. “Maybe some of these friendships are being tested in terms of how long they’ll really last and what their friendship means to each other.”
New characters will also be introduced, but storylines from the first season will be continued as well, including some interesting romances.
“My aim is to not just make another season but to make a better season.”
You can help make sure that happens.
“All we ask is if you like it, tell your friends,” said Ness, who explained that this time around the Pot Luck team will be submitting for government funding. “The stronger our audience numbers are, the better case we have for funding.”
They may also run a crowdfunding campaign for a smaller amount at a later date. Engaging with their social media pages will keep you in the loop about all of that.
With Pot Luck’s view count continuing to grow nicely, I think we can be hopeful.
“We’ve just had such positive response from both inside the community and the broader audience.”
Trust me, it’s deserved.
Visit www.potluckwebseries.com to see all six episodes and extra material.