‘The Viagra Diaries’: Jessie Kahnweiler Tapped As Writer For the CW Series
Based on the critically praised and irreverent book by Barbara Rose Booker, The Viagra Diaries centers on Kit, a gorgeous intern new in town who gets the break of a lifetime when she poses as the online avatar for her literary hero, Anny, a 40 year-old journalist fighting to stay relevant. Anny must keep her true identity hidden just as her writing finds a new world-wide audience and Kit gets all the credit.
Kahnweiler also exec produces with Erwin More and Brian Medavoy (American High, Just Shoot Me). Alan Nevins and Suzy Unger are also on board to produce.
Kahnweiler first became known for writing, directing and starring in her short film, Meet My Rapist, a comedic exploration of Kahnweiler’s own experience with sexual assault, which debuted at the 2014 Slamdance Film Festival. She then wrote, directed and starred in a comedic short form series called The Skinny that explored a young woman’s struggles with bulimia, which was also rooted in her own struggles. The series, produced by Jill Soloway and Paul Young, was one of the first short form series ever to premiere at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. Kahnweiler also developed Bump, a show about surrogacy which sold to ABC digital.
Kahnweiler is repped by ICM Partners and managed by Paul Young.
Jessie Kahnweiler, a 32-year-old Los Angeles-based filmmaker, has never shied away from taking on sensitive and controversial topics, and her latest project is no exception: freezing her eggs.
In a recent essay, she openly discusses everything from the pressure she felt of having to “find the one” and the experiences that led to her decision to go through with the procedure.
“The decision to freeze or not to freeze is going to happen gradually,” she wrote. “Don’t stress. Live your life but pay attention.”
Putting Herself First
The idea of freezing her eggs first came to Kahnweiler’s mind when a guy she was casually seeing told her that he didn’t want to ever have kids.
Kahnweiler quickly responded, “Whatever. I don’t need kids. My films are my babies.”
But the honest truth, she says, is that she really does want a partner and a family one day.
“There is this social stigma that as women we don’t want to be baby crazy and we don’t want to scare off guys,” she says. “But I do want a family and I’m just now realizing that. I didn’t want to be in the position where I was at war with my own biology. There was something that I could do, so why not do it.”
“It’s way too much pressure to put on someone that you’re dating and on myself,” she adds.
A few months after their conversation, they broke up, and Kahnweiler began to work on Bump — a potential TV series about a twenty-something woman who becomes a surrogate for an interfile 40-year-old woman.
“For the project, I interviewed dozens of women in their forties who experienced fertility issues. Some chose adoption, some chose multiple rounds of IVF, some chose to stop trying to have kids entirely — but all of them said the same thing to me: “I wish I could have been more proactive when I was younger,” she wrote.
“Meaning, by freezing their eggs they could have possibly avoided some of the emotional and financial stress that fertility treatment entails. Even though it is widely known egg freezing is not a ‘foolproof’ plan it does give you more options in the long run. For my career, I have taken every action, hustlin’ 24/7. Why not do the same thing for my own body?”
These eye opening experiences led her to “decide to bust out the bottle service and put my eggs on ice,” she wrote. “Or at least go talk to a doctor about it…”
A Crash Course on Fertility
The night before Kahnweiler had her first consultation with a fertility specialist, she stayed up late on the Internet to come up with a list of prepared questions.
“Will the procedure damage my ovaries? No. Will it decrease my chance of having kids naturally? No. Will the hormones drive me to the brink of insanity? No,” she wrote.
She also realized that her well-educated friends also had zero education on what it really meant to freeze your eggs.
“There is still so much stigma,” she says. “Some of them said, ‘Wait, wont that kill your ovaries?’ There is so much fear. People need to start talking about it more.”
While the decision to freeze her eggs was difficult, she didn’t know how tough the hormones she was required to take would also be on her body.
“I had to give myself all of these [hormone] shots and mix all of these chemicals,” she says, “and I had to do it at a certain time every day. It was painful. Emotionally, you’re on this total roller coaster — and you’re bloated.”
Kahnweiler says she ate crackers and drank ginger ale for almost two weeks before her procedure because she was too nauseous to eat.
“I took the shots every night before I went to bed so I could sleep through most of the symptoms,” she says.
When Kahnweiler’s doctor determined that her eggs were ready to be retrieved, they give her a shot that she had to take in the middle of the night to induce ovulation.
After her actual egg retrieval in July, she says she felt sore and tired, but she was physically back to her old self in less than two weeks.
“Emotionally, I was depleted and sad, but this can be really normal because of the hormones and the experience itself,” she says. “But I felt so incredibly happy that I’d done it and was so grateful for my body.”
The experience also made her realize how lucky she was to even have the procedure.
“Freezing your eggs is a financial burden. It’s over $10,000. There are payment plans, but I personally would not have been able to freeze my eggs without help from my parents. I recognize the extreme position of privilege I am in. I feel grateful. I also feel totally ashamed,” she wrote in the essay. “How can I waste my parents hard-earned money? The world is so overpopulated, does it really need my offspring? How can I be so selfish?”
After a mild freakout, she says she realized that this decision “is not simple or without flaws,” but ultimately, “I want the choice to carry my own child.”
The Road Ahead
Since her procedure over the summer, Kahnweiler says she has been able to live her life with even more freedom than she had before.
“I can continue to pursue my career and not have this pressure to have children now,” she says. “Why do so many men have children later in life? I basically feel like I’m borrowing male privilege. If I want to have a kid at 45, I can have a greater chance of doing that now.”
She is looking forward to working on her movies, becoming more financial stable and eventually bringing a baby into the world when she wants to, not when her biological clock tells her she has to.
And she says it was her 97-year-old grandmother’s reaction to her procedure that really hit home: “She said, ‘Great. Now you won’t have to marry a guy just because you want to have kids.’ ”
Kahnweiler says it was the best decision she ever made.
“Maybe I’ll defrost the eggs in 10 years, maybe I’ll adopt, maybe I’ll be the quirky stepmom, or maybe I’ll just get more cats,” she wrote. “The point is, I am now an educated woman with choices.”
From her hit YouTube series “Meet My Rapist” to her recent web series The Skinny, Jesse Kahnweiler has long been one of the most fascinating YouTube personalities. Her ultra-confessional style of interviewing people, along with her glib glee in saying and doing the most ridiculous things in order to uncover deep dark societal truths is entirely unique.
Needless to say, when I found out she was doing a podcast, I was excited.
Her new series “Schmucks” is a three episode mini-series on Earwolf Premium where Jessie talks to the people that the internet loves to hate and tries to understand what makes them do the things they do.
The first episode is about Steve Rannazzisi, star of the television show The League and the fallout that occurred when it was revealed that he wasn’t really at 9/11 when it happened like he said he was. Spoiler: He’s really really sorry.
On Schmucks, a Comedian Interviews People You Hate (Even Martin Shkreli)
Jessie Kahnweiler interviewing Martin Shkreli on Schmucks
Courtesy Jessie Kahnweiler
“I was like, ‘Fuck, Terry Gross would never do this,’” Kahnweiler says, referencing the host of the NPR show Fresh Air. “I felt like, ‘What have I done? I’m an asshole, I’m a pussy, I’m a coward.’”
But Kahnweiler isn’t a coward — nor does she claim to be a journalist — and so she decided to embrace her on-air flubs, rather than editing them out of the podcast or attempting to re-tape the interview. Acknowledging her own failure to hold Shkreli accountable, she recorded a postscript in which she consults a family member (“He was playing the victim,” her grandmother agrees); gets chewed out by her producer (“You were so friendly and funny and chummy with him that I felt like it was letting him off,” he chides her); and analyzes exactly what went wrong (“I don’t think I was fully honest about how scared I am of him and what he represents, and what I do when I’m scared is I make sex jokes,” Kahnweiler admits). They’re the type of introspective, behind-the-scenes revelations that don’t often make the final cut of a podcast. They’re also part of what makes Schmucks, a new Stitcher Premium series about the most hated people in America, so thrilling to listen to.
“I went into this interview and I felt prepared, I felt very connected to him. I felt like I just showed up and did it,” Kahnweiler says. “It wasn’t until afterward that I got these feelings of dread.” Those feelings of dread later multiplied into sensations of shock and then self-loathing. When Kahnweiler posted to Instagram a photo of her and Shkreli embracing prom date–style, it was met with enraged comments about his marking up the price of an HIV drug. She realized that maybe it was she, not Shkreli, who was the biggest schmuck of all.
“Oh my God, I let everybody down. It was this thing of like, ‘How do I live with myself?’” Kahnweiler remembers thinking. “Not to be melodramatic, but it felt like my whole self-worth was kind of on the chopping block.”
To her credit, there are plenty of redeeming moments throughout the interview with Shkreli, who was recently kicked off Twitter for harassment and is currently on trial facing federal charges of securities fraud. Kahnweiler gets him to open up about his childhood with racist and emotionally abusive parents, his heartbreak over a repeatedly failed relationship and his poor hygiene habits, including that he hates brushing his teeth with a passion typically only seen in preschoolers. The point of the podcast, she says, isn’t to convince listeners that Shkreli is a supervillain — he does a pretty good job of that on his own — but to examine the person beneath the headlines, many of which declare him the most hated man in America.
“Just try sitting in a room with somebody. It’s such a different experience than being on Twitter and having your opinions,” she says. “You’re forced to be in the humanity of the moment.”
Kahnweiler is no stranger to being on the receiving end of internet hate. As a filmmaker and performer who frequently uses the medium to explore her own sexuality, body image and eating disorder, she’s gotten rape and death threats from male commenters across Reddit, YouTube and Instagram. “It’s one thing to be like, ‘Oh, this person called me fat.’ But it’s another to be like, ‘Oh, this person wants to rape and kill me,’” she says. “I’m very fascinated by the emotional and psychological effects of living your life out loud online — because obviously I have a personal vested interest in it because I love the internet, but also, the internet can suck a dick.”
Kahnweiler with Nicole Arbour
Courtesy Jessie Kahnweiler
Nicole Arbour, another interview subject featured on Schmucks, likely can relate. The former professional cheerleader turned YouTube personality achieved viral Internet fame in 2015 after her video “Dear Fat People” — which might be described as the opposite of a love letter — garnered a tidal wave of backlash from celebrities who accused her of bullying and fat-shaming. Steve Rannazzisi, the other guest Kahnweiler tapped for the three-part podcast series, is a television actor who became a pariah after admitting he lied about having escaped from the World Trade Center on 9/11.
“There’s the concern with the podcast that we’re just giving a platform for hate, and that’s something that I was really nervous about,” Kahnweiler says. “But it’s like, well, I’m not going to not do the podcast, and that’s a risk — I’m going to try as hard as I can to make this thoughtful.”
Kahnweiler has gotten heat for sympathizing with guests like Shkreli, whom she allowed to downplay serious accusations. But she says the social experiment at the center of the podcast could serve as a powerful lesson in a country that’s divided by political extremes. “I look at all these people now who voted for Donald Trump,” she says. “What am I going to do: Am I going to hate these people, or try to understand them? I think that’s the next level is trying to understand them.”
Are there other dream guests she’d like to book on the podcast someday? “I wrote to Charles Manson,” she says. “So, fingers crossed.”
Check out Ep. 2 of SHMUCKS ft. Nicole Arbour who discusses her viral video DEAR FAT PEOPLE, body image and being hated online. In the words of my father “She seems like a very interesting woman” Father knows best so check it out!
*in order to listen to shmucks you have to sign up for Sticher premium here http://www.stitcherpremium.com/schmucks and then download the APP to listen on your phone. It’s a pain in the ass but so am i so…
The first episode of SHMUCKS features comedian, actor, and pool owner @steverannazzisi Steve got supes deep about his experience getting caught in a lie and dealing with Internet shaming. What lies have I told in an effort to find my identity? Does the truth really set you free? What the hell is a first down anyway? Listen by signing up for #sticherradio and use promo code SHMUCKS for a free month trial. http://www.stitcherpremium.com/schmucks #sticherradio #shmuckspodcast #vulnerability
We invite you to a meeting with Jessie Kahnweiler, a filmmaker from Los Angeles who comes to Warsaw to take part in Asylum Arts project at the POLIN Museum. The show includes storytelling, screening the episodes, and a talkback with audience – the show runs a little over an hour. Afterwards, a less formal part with kosher snacks and wine. Feel welcome!
VEDEM (which means to lead) was an underground newspaper written by jewish boys while prisoners in the Terezin ghetto. “The writers braved hunger, exhaustition, and forced labor. They would regurlarly risk their lives by sneaking into forbidden places in the ghetto in order to write”
This photo is of Petr Ginz who was just 14 when he created the magazine. Ginz proclaimed “you probably think you know Terezin well. I want to prove you wrong” Please join us for the open reception of the VEDEM exhibition tomorrow night at 730 at the silverlake jcc and our panel discussion “creative activism: From Terezin to Trump” @sijcc and yes @ivankatrump you’re invited of course but only if you bring the kugel
Writer/director Jessie Kahnweiler discusses her painfully funny webseries The Skinny, now available via Refinery29.
by Daniel Barron
The pratfalls of making it and faking it as a Millennial have become well-tread ground in film, TV, and especially DIY online content. We persevere in the face of questionable internships, a noncommittal dating landscape, a fickle job market, and the pursuit of abstract concepts like “influencers” and “going viral.” Self-reflexive, yes, but often still in good fun. That snake finally chokes on its tail with writer/director Jessie Kahnweiler’s honest, acidic webseries The Skinny, which premiered in January on Refinery29 from Executive Producer Jill Soloway (creator of Transparent). The six-episode show follows Kahnweiler, playing herself, as she attempts to preserve her dignity and sobriety while chasing success as a YouTube star. The comedic actress has previously drawn praise in The New York Times, The Guardian, and Cosmopolitan for her provocative, often hilarious, videos that gave a royal roasting to rape culture and white privilege. She is no more charitable when examining her own issues, including bulimia and toxic co-dependency. If most mumblecore is Billy Madison, The Skinny is Punch-Drunk Love. The series also co-stars Illeana Douglas as her mother and premiered at this past Sundance Film Festival. It went on to receive a Webby award for Best Dramatic Series.
The concept of capturing what is “real” or “authentic” in entertainment is better stated than achieved, and usually is an ideal that exists to be varnished and homogenized. These notions clash with Kahnweiler, who has little interest in safe material, and The Skinny resists classification. Kahnweiler may be widely recognized as a comedic actress, but her creation defies the impulse to be a non-stop joke machine. “I certainly thought a lot about tone,” she says, “but I also think it’s really counter-productive to say, ‘This is going to be a comedy.’ It makes more sense to work from the inside out. What is the story you want to tell?”
This ethos is perhaps best exemplified in a scene that occurs early in episode 3, where Kahnweiler is pitching her material to a roomful of potential financiers. She shows them a clip in which she shows her support for veterans by crudely offering them sex. “Real women are the next wave of clickbait!” enthuses her producer. “No one likes women that real,” someone deflects.
“I think [that scene] was a reaction to being a female trying to create content in a very specific way while trying super hard to make men and women like me. You want me to be funnier, you want me to be louder, you want me to be real, but you also want me to be sexy-real. It’s exhausting. Who do I need to be? That’s a question we ask in the show.”
So how has the actual public reacted? “There are people who really don’t like it and that’s actually a huge compliment. I want everyone to love it- slash me- but they don’t and I think that’s what art is supposed to do. It’s supposed to polarize people [laughs]. Any kind of reaction is a win.”
Sometimes that means winning big, especially from young women who connect with the material on a deep personal level. Kahnweiler has spent the past year touring The Skinny on college campuses and having an open, often humbling, conversation with students. “It’s special because it’s so much bigger than me. There’s so much shame that no one wants to talk about. What does it mean to be a feminist? What does it mean to hate myself and not know what to do about it? For me observing other people allowing themselves to be so vulnerable is the greatest gift.”
As with her onscreen counterpart, coming to terms with her own limitations is part of the growing process. “I’ve also learned that I can’t be responsible for fixing people.”
Since self-help is rarely an easy process, the The Skinny leaves no tidy conclusion for its protagonist, who tiptoes towards recovery. Details are tight on a second season, but Kahnweiler states that there have been discussions. She is, however, very pleased with her results. “Making [The Skinny] was a great exercise in getting out of my own way and making something really personal.”
Admirers of Kahnweiler’s work get can dirty again much sooner when her podcast Safe Space debuts on the Earwolf network this coming January. The show revolves around Kahnweiler getting personal with some of society’s most infamous public figures, such as comedian Steve Rannazzisi and pharmaceutical entrepreneur Martin Shkreli.
Published on October 17th, 2016 | by Adriana Catanzarite
By Adriana Catanzarite, Contributing Reporter
Jessie Kahnweiler has some serious chutzpah. Or, as the goyim might call it: guts.
It’s hard to find any other description for a woman who demonstrates the existence of white privilege by trying to get arrested—walking up to two cops, offering to sell them her antidepressants and walking away undetained. On another occasion, Kahnweiler crossed the Green Line in Israel simply to ask border guards if they were circumcised.
The Los Angeles-based 30-year-old writes, directs and acts in Web shorts and series. She has been making a name for herself the past few years with her special brand of comedy.
In 2013, she created a webseries on YouTube called Dude, Where’s My Chutzpah?, where she tries to discover her Jewish identity through a series of hilarious trials and errors. Her short video, Meet My Rapist, went viral that same year. The film is about a fictionalized Kahnweiler running into her rapist at a farmer’s market. Kahnweiler explained that it was a response to her own feelings after she was raped 10 years ago while studying abroad in Vietnam. While the subject matter may seem somber, the end result is a genuinely touching and surprisingly funny look at something that far-too many women have to cope with.
Paul Young, the co-founder of Principato-Young Entertainment, said that this was what drew him to start working with Kahnweiler as her manager.
“I initially became aware of Jessie because I saw her short film, Meet My Rapist,” Young said. “It was such a courageous, funny and meaningful short film that represented a rare talent in Jessie.”
A native of Atlanta, Georgia, the first documentary Kahnweiler created and directed was Little America, which she made during her senior year at the University of Redlands. Kahnweiler and a friend hitchhiked across the country with truck drivers, interviewing the various people they met at truck stops. Kahnweiler admits that this was reckless, but she relished the opportunity to meet new people, especially those that society has cast off or ignored. She found it to be a spiritual experience, and said that was when she found her purpose. The comedy came later.
“I never really set out specifically to do comedy,” Kahnweiler said. “I started making documentaries, so I was always behind the camera. Everything that I worked on always felt very personal, but it wasn’t until I started really taking on the issues of pain in my own life that I really developed my style.”
When Kahnweiler went through a particularly bad breakup, she decided to write a comedy about it. The experience helped her process her pain, but ultimately she found that it resonated it with other people, who shared their breakup stories with her.
“I come from a family [that] always laughs at the hardest things,” Kahnweiler said. “That’s how we cope with this stuff. So just being able to laugh about it, it felt very natural.”
Since then, Kahnweiler’s projects have only gotten funnier, not to mention, more personal. Her newest web series, The Skinny, delves into the life of a young woman navigating her increasing Internet fame, while also dealing with bulimia. Kahnweiler struggled with her own bulimia for 10 years, using some of her own experiences as fodder for the show’s comedy. The series, produced by Refinery29 and Jill Solloway’s Wifey.tv, debuted at Sundance earlier this year. It also won a Webby—the Oscars for online content—for best dramatic series. That award doesn’t quite do The Skinny justice; the series is more than just a drama. It’s not just “that show about bulimia.”
Throughout the six 10-minute episodes, the main character Jessie, played by Kahnweiler, navigates her turbulent personal life when her ex, Cole, a recovering junkie, moves in with her mom, played by the fabulous Illeana Douglas.
There are a myriad of entertaining moments, like when Jessie rips into the media executives who say she’s just another pair of tits.
“I am so sick of asking men with man buns and tuna breath for permission to be myself!” she yells. “There is more pussy fear in this room than the Republican National Convention!”
Yes, she does eat cake out of the trash, stuff prosciutto, sushi and God knows what else into her bra and she steals a box of chocolate laxatives while wearing a diaper. But the series shows that bulimia is not the cause of Jessie’s problems, it’s her very misguided attempt at bringing some sort of control to the chaos converging around her. It doesn’t overtake her life, but it’s always there in the background waiting for things to go wrong.
Kahnweiler said she was trying to subvert expectations of what someone with an eating disorder looks like. A person doesn’t have to be uber thin to suffer from an eating disorder. It can happen to anyone, even someone as boisterous and outgoing as Jessie.
Kahnweiler maintains that talking about her problems openly has been the best medicine. But when she tried to get The Skinny produced, she found that not a lot of people were willing to go down that path with her, saying it wasn’t “sexy.”
Her manager, Paul Young, and her mentor, Jill Solloway, the creator of Transparent, encouraged her to keep moving pushing forward.
“They said it was too risky it wasn’t commercial enough,” Young said. “I happen to believe that when you tell the truth like that in stories, audiences feel it and want to watch it. It’s that simple. When a storyteller is being authentic, that’s when they tell stories that are emotionally resonant.… She’s just able to go there. She wants to tell the most honest story she can and she’s willing to go through the pain that requires.”
Kahnweiler and Young are working on several different projects, including a new Web- series about a surrogate mother, and trying turn The Skinny into a traditional half-hour long program for television. One thing’s for certain: Kahnweiler is not going to stop delivering her brash style of comedy.
“I really don’t know what I would do without having art to express myself,” Kahnweiler said. “It’s like air.”
Excited to be part of this project. Taken off our baggage and bullshit. Feeling ourselves from the inside out.
September 6th, 2016
A gallery exhibit of previously unreleased early photos of Amy Winehouse, looking happy and “full of hope,” opens in London on September 13, the day before what would have been the singer’s 33rd birthday.
Celebrations and explorations of her life have continued to emerge since her death five years ago—most notably Amy, the critically acclaimed 2015 documentary. The film portrays the singer’s struggles with drugs and fame; she reportedly used heroin and crack cocaine, and was found by an inquest to have died of alcohol poisoning.
But Amy has been criticized for failing to highlight the role Winehouse’s eating disorder played in her struggles and her eventual death. Her brother, Alex, has said that “what really killed her was the bulimia.”
One such critic is filmmaker Jessie Kahnweiler. She wrote, directed and stars in the web series The Skinny, which tackles bulimia with humor, pathos and rare honesty. Produced by Refinery29 and Jill Soloway‘s Wifey.tv, the six-part dramedy premiered at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, where it was the only web series to land a coveted spot.
Based on Kahnweiler’s own life, the series is about addiction in multiple, intersecting forms, and follows a few days in the life of “Jessie,” a Jewish wannabe YouTube star, as she binges, purges, drinks and uses drugs, has sex, gets dumped, and befriends a younger social media powerhouse and her crew.
The first episode of The Skinny is below, and you can watch the rest here.
Kahnweiler is just getting out of a pool when I call her, giving the impression of a carefree LA life. She comes across as warm, open and funny—a little like “Jessie.” But over the course of the conversation, it became clear that she’s also perceptive and direct.
Including on the topic of the film Amy.
“Amy,” Kahnweiler tells me, “was inspiring.” But she also found it incomplete.
“I felt like they talked about the drug addiction and all that stuff so much,” she says, “but there are scenes of her binging in the documentary that are not talked about [in the film]. This perpetuates the idea that addiction’s just about alcohol and drugs, and you should just be able to get a handle on your ‘weird eating thing.’”
While watching the film, Kahnweiler says she thought “about all the times I did drugs and drank.” For her, “the eating disorder was what they call my ‘core addiction.’ Whenever I did coke or drank it would all be about losing weight or controlling weight, or using alcohol (or men) to replace food.”
It’s unclear whether that was also the case with Winehouse. But Kahnweiler urgently wanted to know things that the movie didn’t address, like, “How did her eating disorder affect her depression?”
She’s not alone in finding the issue under-exposed. “We all knew she was doing it,” Alex Winehouse told the Guardian, “but it’s almost impossible [to tackle], especially if you’re not talking about it. It’s a real dark, dark issue.”
And in a comprehensive essay for Pitchfork, titled “We Need to Talk about Amy Winehouse’s Eating Disorder and Its Role in her Death,” Kayleigh Hughes took a similar position. She described a scene in Amy where “A teenaged Winehouse, snacking with her friends, laments between mouthfuls that she’s a pig and she cannot help herself. In a voiceover during this sequence, the singer’s mother Janis Winehouse recounts the moment a young Amy tells her mother about discovering a great new ‘diet’—eating and then vomiting […Her mother] muses that she essentially ignored the statement and forgot about it, thinking it was a silly teen girl activity that Amy would soon grow out of.”
Hughes wrote that “this casual dismissal—the first mention of Amy Winehouse’s eating disorder—is wrenching, and comes almost halfway into the film. For many viewers, this may be the first they have ever heard about Winehouse’s eating disorder. As well-documented as her struggles with alcohol and drug addiction were, the tiny little fact of her severe, untreated, decade-long eating disorder was rarely mentioned.”
Hughes acknowledged that Winehouse’s official cause of death was alcohol poisoning, but argued that “this can be understood as the equivalent of someone with AIDS who has died of complications from pneumonia. Similar to the way HIV compromises a body’s ability to fight infections, bulimia damages the body to the point where it is no longer able to keep up basic functions and is more susceptible to external threats.”
The Skinny refuses to collude in the kind of cultural dismissal of eating disorders of which Amy stands accused. Neither does it treat bulimia in a narrowly-focused, after-school-special fashion. Instead, over the course of six short episodes, it gets at the interwoven, interactive relationships with drugs, alcohol, food, love, sex, relationships, and technology experienced by one woman.
That’s realistic in that there are clear correlations between problematic relationships with drugs, alcohol and food, according to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University. Statistics vary across studies, but they report that up to 50 percent of people with eating disorders “abuse alcohol or illicit drugs”—far more than the 9 percent figure among the general population. And around 35 percent of alcohol or illicit drug “abusers” have eating disorders, compared with 3 percent of the general population.
Another thing that feels different about The Skinny is its funny yet emotionally resonant approach to bulimia. It’s not a pure dark comedy, with bulimia as a punchline, nor is it purely tragic. I ask Kahnweiler what inspired her.
“There’s a Henry Jaglom movie from 1990 called Eating,” she says. It was made by “this white dude,” but nevertheless, it’s “amazing.”
She describes it as a “‘a day in the life’ about this woman’s dinner party in LA.”
“I remember seeing that,” she says, “and thinking that no one has ever said this stuff out loud about food, and talked so openly about body image. It wasn’t a documentary but it kind of feels like one. That really inspired me when I was still really in my addiction. I was obsessed with it—on a deeper level, it made me feel like I’m not alone, I’m not crazy … it was a really realistic portrayal.”
Though the clothing and decor are cheerfully late-20th century, many of the sentiments in Eating are entirely contemporary.
In one scene, a French ingénue, who attracts the jealousy of the other women for her thin Gallic sexiness, admits that she has made herself throw up after eating. She says that it’s hard for her to admit, because “…you can say I’m an alcoholic or a drug addict, and that’s ok, its kind of interesting. But just saying ‘I have an eating disorder’— it’s so unattractive, it’s so disturbing. I was never able to say that to anyone.”
I ask Kahnweiler if there will be a second season of The Skinny. “I’m developing it right now for TV, as a longer form,” she says, “but still thinking about whether or not I’ll do a second season of the web series. There are different forms it could take, which is really exciting.”
Meanwhile she’s “working on another series which I can’t officially announce yet, but it has to do with motherhood, and infertility and boundaries and shame—it’s gonna be really funny!” We laugh. It makes sense, though. I can see her applying The Skinny‘s tragicomic approach to the topics of infertility and motherhood, which, like bulimia, are hyper-gendered and involve weight, bodies and societal expectations. And in an interesting parallel, Jaglom’s second film in his “women trilogy” after Eating is called Babyfever; you can guess what it’s about. (The third in the series is Going Shopping).
But the new project will be further from Kahweiler’s personal experience.
“I’ve never been pregnant,” she says, “but I’ve definitely felt like I wanted to belong and would do anything to belong. So I’m taking that emotional truth and building a story around that. In some ways it’s awesome writing about your own life, and in some ways it’s harder. [With writing about your own life] you think—’does anyone care about this?’ I tell other writers to go to therapy so you can sort it out first.”
While working on The Skinny, which did deal with issues so close to her own life, she found it helpful to surround herself “with people who can call me on my blind spots. One of my biggest strengths,” she says, “is actually knowing what my weaknesses are.”
I ask her what they are. “Trying to go for the joke,” she answers, “without necessarily having an emotional truth to back that up. Focusing on ‘moments—like when you see a movie and think ‘oh there were good moments in that.’ But I need to work at coming back to ‘what is the story?’”
One aspect of her story that was important to her was showing that in her experience, “when you have an eating disorder it’s not just depression. I had a full life.”
Her goal was “to show the reality of what I went through—which is really sad, and beautiful. But also fun.”
It does look fun, at times. When the “likes” are coming in [when one of “Jessie’s” videos go viral], the blissful expression on her face is similar to the one she has after vomiting or masturbating. When I say that she conveys a lot through that recurring facial expression, she responds that she’s “had a lot of experience!”
And where does technology addiction, if that’s what it is, come in? “The internet is a huge relationship in my own life—getting all the comments—both for good and for bad.”
Kahnweiler says that if she didn’t have a “core base of some kind of spirituality or soul or something deeper,” she “can really get fucked up in that stuff.” She says she’s “very prone to it,” and feels like she has “an addictive personality.”
I wonder whether the new attention she has received for making the show fed into the very addiction it depicts. “There’s been a couple show-within-a-show moments,” she laughs. “When I’m getting all this love, it feels good, like maybe I am queen of the world! Then it goes away and it’s like ‘what is my life?’”
TV is a great medium for her to tell her particular addiction story, she explains, because there’s a lot of space to unfold a saga without a neat ending. “You see so many addiction narratives and the character is better after 90 minutes,” she says. “That is definitely not my story.”
Read more from The Influence:
Instead, the Skinny shows the interactive ebb and flow of relapse and recovery both within and around Jessie. At one point Cole (Jessie’s on-off boyfriend) gets out of rehab and says “My sobriety is the most important thing to me right now.” She responds, “Well you’re the most important thing to me.”
“I’ve had a lot of experience on both ends,” Kahnweiler says. “I’ve been close to many different addicts and also in recovery myself.”
When it’s someone else entering recovery, she says, there’s a fear that they will change. And “they can be kind of annoying, those smug people in recovery—it can be annoying! It is selfish. If you’ve ever been an relationship with an addict, they’re like, ‘I’m sorry I can’t do that—I’m an addict.’ And it’s like, that’s not an excuse to be an asshole!”
But coming at it from the other side, as someone in recovery herself, she says “it’s like, maybe I do need to be selfish right now. And I’m sorry that I can’t be the person that you need me to be in order to feel okay.”
She says that she “doesn’t have the answers, [but] wanted to represent that struggle in the show.”
Kahnweiler has said that “bulimia is something I’m going to have forever.” I ask her why.
“Light question!” she jokes. Then she explains that she’s not currently “actively engaging in bulimia, in terms of binging and purging” (though that period of her life lasted 10 years). But she does “believe it’s an addiction, in that there’s stuff that I need to do every single day to protect myself and keep my health.” Her list includes support groups, therapy, meditation, yoga, making sure she eats three meals a day and doesn’t skip meals, and practicing “self-care, self-love and service to others.”
“I don’t want to get into the habit of thinking I can rest on my laurels,” she says. “The bulimia is a symptom, and the core issue was just feeling terrified of my own mind, not feeling comfortable in my own skin. That was a way to distract and control.”
I ask her if she has any advice for people wondering if they have a problematic relationship with food.
“For so many years,” she says, “I thought that because I’m not super skinny or because I’m not throwing up 50 times a day I’m not sick enough. I had this idea about what it meant to have an eating disorder, and that kept me really silent and ashamed.” Her weight, she says, “hasn’t changed since recovery.” But her mental state has.
“I know it sounds cheesy,” she says, “but there is so much help out there. You can find help anywhere in the internet age—you can find help on instagram. We partnered with the National Eating Disorder Association for The Skinny—they’re a great organization.”
For people suffering yet wondering if they actually need help, Kahnweiler says: “If you think, ‘I’m not sick enough,’ maybe re-frame it as: ‘I deserve to be happy.’”
Giving weight to web drama
Web series The Skinny tackles dramatic subjects like eating disorders with heavy dose of comedy. As part of DQ’s Digital Drama Season, filmmaker Jessie Kahnweiler explains why budget remains the only separator between online and TV drama.
Eating disorders might not be the first topic that springs to mind for a new comedy, but it’s the dramatic nature of the subject at the heart of web series The Skinny that makes it stand out from the online crowd.
A 2016 Webby Award winner, The Skinny sees writer/director Jessie Kahnweiler play a fictionalised version of herself as wannabe YouTube star Jessie, who attempts to face up to and overcome bulimia – an illness Kahnweiler herself has struggled with.
“The Skinny is about our desire to avoid discomfort,” Kahnweiler tells DQ from her parents’ home in Atlanta, Georgia. “In season one we’re watching what effect that has on your life. You cause yourself a world of pain to try to avoid discomfort so we’re setting up those seeds and [examining] how those issues become a security blanket. We’re just setting up this rollercoaster ride of insanity and a lot of fun.
“My goal for the first season was to create a character who has a problem but has an amazing life and sex and dreams. We’re all like that. We all have so much stuff that’s horrifying and amazing, we’re not one-dimensional.”
Kahnweiler is no stranger to filmmaking. She has her own YouTube channel filled with videos such as Jessie Gets Arrested and Meet My Rapist.
And for her next project, she wanted to confront her experiences of bulimia by putting a humorous spin on a very personal story.
“Looking back, everything came together really organically, even though at the time it felt like a fucking mess. It felt like a hurricane,” Kahnweiler says of The Skinny’s origins.
After failing to find success in shopping the pilot she had written, the comedian decided to let the camera do the talking and film it herself.
“Whenever I have an idea, people are like, ‘That sounds like the worst idea ever,’” she declares. “My pitches often leave people crying in the room horrified. I did a comedy about sexual assault. So people were like, ‘Bulimic comedy? Absolutely not. That will never work.’”
Kahnweiler grouped together some friends to make a half-hour spec pilot that landed in the hands of Jill Soloway, the creator of Amazon’s award-winning Transparent, who suggested some editing work to get it into shape. The resultant promo, paid for with a successful Kickstarter campaign, was watched by style website Refinery 29, which ended up picking up a six-part series.
“Having Jill was really a turning point for me,” she admits. “Yes, it’s very personal but it’s not a documentary. When I first sat down and started working with her, she was like, ‘This isn’t therapy – this is not ‘hey world look at me’.’ This is creating something that everyone can identify with and that feels emotionally solid. The story really connects and you’re wondering what’s going to happen and you care about these people, so it’s not just this girl is puking. That is the difference between Transparent and a lot of shows – you actually give a shit, and it’s hard to make people give a shit.”
Kahnweiler confesses that the biggest thing she learned from the process is that she needs to be able to talk through stories and plot points when she writes, rather than writing in isolation. Soloway paired her with two associate producers from Transparent who would break down story with her and build episodes in a way that makes viewers want to continue watching after the credits roll.
“For me, it was so important to have people around me that really called me on my shit, because I think sometimes people can be so positive,” she notes. “Sometimes I could get really funny or really crazy, so it was great to have people around me – imagine a bunch of judgemental British people! I would yell and scream because you don’t want to write another draft but The Skinny wouldn’t have been what it is without those conversations. That’s what I learned – writing isn’t about sitting down at the typewriter and just having it all pour out. It’s really wrestling and struggling and it was kind of the moments that came out of those really hard conversations.”
With unrestricted freedom granted by Refinery, which encouraged Kahnweiler to always push the show harder and further, she admits she would impose her own limits to create boundaries for the series to live within. This included keeping a handle on the levels of nudity and swearing, to ensure the show was as accessible as possible to all audiences.
One note from Soloway also instructed her to focus on ‘bubble scenes,’ those “money shots” in each episode that drive the plot and the characters forward.
But how did she manage writing, directing and starring in her own web series? “I love it because I’m a masochistic control freak,” she jokes. “I love it because you’re writing throughout the process. Fifty percent of writing is done in the editing – I don’t think people realise that. It’s amazing how much is done in editing. So I find it, as a writer, really amazing to be able to be there.
“But the most helpful thing I found was locking those scripts. It might not be perfect, or you might not know if it’s going to work, but just being able to give yourself the grace of locking the script so then you can go on set and you’re not worried about rewriting. You can work those kinks out on set but I wouldn’t have been able to make it with directing and writing if I was still rewriting on set.”
However, the nature of the subject at hand meant Kahnweiler had to be frank and confess to her producers that this isn’t a story that could be neatly wrapped up at the end of its first season.
“The biggest challenge we had was convincing the producers and Refinery [that Jessie is] not going to get better in the first season. These kinds of things, you don’t wrap them up in six neat little episodes. It’s a long road.”
Though traditional television networks didn’t pick up her ideas first time around, Kahnweiler is now once again shopping The Skinny to broadcasters. But whether a linear channel or another online outlet picks up season two, the writer is in no doubt that web series and TV are crossing over and the boundaries are becoming increasingly blurry.
“Netflix has web series now and pretty soon you’ll turn on Netflix and there will be a 30-second episode,” she explains. “I think time is this revolutionary thing – it’s whatever the content, whatever the episodes want to be. There’s still a separation, mostly by budget, but there are all the opportunities in the world and there are no excuses not to be making your own content. I’m very grateful to be on this path.
“All these projects I’m working on, a couple of years ago people would have been like, ‘Absolutely fucking not, no way’ – and people still are, but you have to keep proving yourself. These are the stories I want to tell and only I can tell. The coolest thing about The Skinny is that the Kickstarter was funded by all these women with eating disorders. It’s amazing because it brings the conversation closer. Everyone’s talking to each other. You want to watch real shit? You want to make real shit? OK, let’s get to work!”
Focusing on the story for season two, “whether that’s on HBO or tampons.com, I don’t really care but it’s going to be out there for sure,” she adds. “I have a feature I’m working on and I’m working on two web series about fertility and women’s issues. I’m just taking all this collective trauma – sexual abuse, eating disorders, infertility – it’s a party!”
I spoke with Racked about makeup and somehow managed to bring up bulimia and porn!
Women wear makeup for a number of reasons: to transform and reinvent ourselves, hide imperfections, as a confidence booster when we want to feel like our best selves, to sculpt and enhance features — the list goes on.
In the era of highlighting and contouring, strobing and baking, with makeup brands popping up faster than you can scroll through your Instagram feed, and beauty vloggers earning six-figure salaries — the beauty industry is indeed, booming.
Jessie Kahnweiler, filmmaker and comedian: I never wore makeup growing up. I don’t know if it’s more being lazy than anything. I was never a total tomboy or anything, I liked getting dressed up. I was never like, I can’t leave the house without wearing makeup.
Belise Thomas, graphic designer at NBC and HRDCVR: Never wore it. I don’t know if there was ever a solid reason, but I was always the kind of person that liked to do the least, if that makes sense. I like to wake up and not have to do too much. I just didn’t want to have to spend all that time doing stuff.
Curly Penny, YouTube personality: I actually used to wear a lot of makeup. From 13 to 16 years old, I wore a full face of makeup. I had really crappy self-esteem. When I took off the makeup, I just felt really crappy about myself. I said, you know what — I’m gonna start this journey and try to accept my most raw state. As natural me as I can get. So starting at 16 years old, I slowly started just getting rid of the makeup. I noticed that it wasn’t helping me at all, because I was only confident when I had it on.
Marie Van Cooten, Pre-K Teacher at the Joan Snow Pre-K Center: I guess it all started when I was younger, I was mostly like a tomboy, so I was never that interested in makeup. As I got older, people would tell me, oh you have nice facial features, you don’t need makeup. So I kind of left it alone.
Jessie: I kinda have two modes. I’m pretty extreme. Either I’m on set working or it’s an event or something and I’ll have a professional makeup person. I feel like it’s fun and I embrace it, because it isn’t exactly who I am, but I embrace it. If I’m directing the piece, I really like minimal makeup for all my actors too.
Jessie: I think my mom was a positive role model. She wore makeup and my sister probably wore makeup, but she was never like, this is how a lady looks and all that stuff. I would probably say I was more of an oddball. Everybody sort of has their thing, and I remember being really insecure about being really hairy. I always had a uni-brow, I was nervous about my mustache. That was what I obsessed over more, but I never started wearing makeup.
Belise: My mom didn’t. My grandmother, no. She was a minimal person as far as getting herself together. She just swore by Vaseline. Then my mom was the same way, now I’m the same way. My older sisters always had on makeup, that was their thing.
Curly Penny: My mother never really wears makeup. She only wore makeup to family gatherings. That’s the only time she would ever whip out makeup. My sisters, they would wear makeup every single day. My aunts are heavy makeup users. My aunts would always ridicule my mom for not wearing enough makeup, and they still do til this day. They call it fachosa in Spanish, that means like, lazy girl.
Jessie: My friends don’t care. I would say that I think my mom will try to send me stuff. It’s just never really been my thing. I would say though, men love that I don’t wear makeup. You would think it’s the opposite. In my experience, the guys that I have dated, they were like, “I love that you don’t wear makeup.”
Belise: I think that now, I’m finding that when I’m around my friends or girls that do wear a lot of it, they’ll probably ask me like one time, like “hey, do you wear XYZ,” and I’m like no. it’s never really a big deal. And I know one of my closest friends, she wears it sometimes, but she’s kinda getting to a point where she doesn’t want to wear it at all.
Tyler: Not really, because I don’t think most people even notice that I’m NOT wearing any makeup. I do put quite a bit of effort into my skin, so I think i can get away with a barefaced without looking “bare.”
INSTAGRAM AND YOUTUBE IS A HUB OF SWATCHES, REVIEWS, AND DEMOS. DO YOU EVER FEEL PRESSURE TO SAY TO HELL WITH THIS AND RUN TO SEPHORA?
Jessie: I would say not as specific as, “I need to go buy that foundation.” But I would say, more so Instagram than YouTube because you feel like there’s less separation between you and celebrities because you’re all using the app. I would say it’s unhealthy and it makes me nervous and it makes me grateful that I didn’t become a teenager with Instagram. When I have professional makeup people, it looks different. I just think it’s important to notice that.
Belise: I never felt any pressure. I think one time when I did try to wear something it just felt like I had an extra layer of something on my face and I needed to get it off. I just never felt compelled to do it. I do see the reviews and stuff all the time, and I’m like it’s cool, but it was never something that I had that much interest in.
Curly Penny: Majority of the time, I don’t feel any pressure. I don’t have anything against people who like makeup, because I see those tutorials, and I’m like, that looks cool. I felt pressure one time and it was recently. My fiance’s friend invited us to his yearly garden party, and I had never been to one of his garden parties before. When I showed up, I didn’t go with makeup, because that’s usually how I present myself. Literally every single female was decked out, they were wearing makeup, hair done, really beautiful gowns, heels. I felt so weird because I was the only chick with frizzy, curly hair, no makeup… and I’m sitting there, I felt so weird.
Tyler: I definitely feel urges to learn and or try it. I see the difference it makes in women’s looks and confidence, why wouldn’t I want that boost? Or to feel beautiful? I mostly wonder for my partner, does he think I’m too plain? Am I limiting my beauty? Or am I simply afraid of trying new things? However, I think I remain true to what works for me and understand that I can learn, try, change my mind about makeup whenever I feel ready.
Jessie: I just feel like it’s a great metaphor for being me. I feel like I get to show up in the world and I want to be vulnerable in the world. I’m a writer, I’m an artist. I love interacting with people, that’s my work. It’s nice to just have to just put on my sunblock in the morning, brush my teeth and go out into the world as me. Literally, warts and all. Pimples and all.
Curly Penny: Spiritually, mentally, emotionally speaking a big benefit is I’m not attached to it. I used to be attached to it for happiness. I needed my makeup to feel confident. I’ve learned to put my confidence in other things besides how pretty I look in the moment.
Marie: For me, I have pretty sensitive skin and I’m just afraid that if I put on all that cover-up and foundation it’s just gonna make it clog up and break out more, so I’d rather not just risk it cause I have enough stress in my life already. I don’t want to make it even worse.
WOMEN CAN OFTEN FEEL THE UNIQUE PRESSURE TO LOOK “POLISHED,” WHICH BY MANY STANDARDS INCLUDES SOME FORM OF MAKEUP, PARTICULARLY IN THE WORKPLACE. HOW DO YOU COMBAT THAT PRESSURE?
Jessie: As far as acting jobs. Have I not gotten acting jobs because I didn’t look a certain way? I’d rather not get a job as myself than pretend to be something I’m not. When I need to look polished, I look at what makes me feel the most comfortable. Like, I know that sounds like such bullshit, but it really is the truth. If I need to look good, I take a shower, I wear my bad ass jean jacket. I wear tight leggings because I like my butt, a loose tank top or loose T-shirt. I have all these necklaces I wear, I put on lip gloss and I’m ready to go.That’s what makes me feel polished, when I feel good about myself.
Belise: I’d say no, only because I’m a designer, so I can be very casual. I really don’t have to dress up, I don’t have to do that much. When I do have to dress up, and look a certain way for an event, I’ve never gotten any strange looks or backlash.
Curly Penny: I’ve struggled with that. When it comes to those really fancy situations, I go to show people, I’m a girl and I can show up without makeup. It’s not the end of the world. A soft spot I have are weddings. My wedding is going to come up soon. I remember telling myself, I’m not going to wear makeup to my wedding, but once I put on my accessories and dress, I thought, oh, maybe a little would look nice. I’m struggling with that right now. Like, should I wear a little bit?
Jessie: I use Arbonne. I started using their stuff a couple years ago. I had an eating disorder for a lot of years and I wouldn’t even wash my face at night. I was in that whole hell. Coming out of it, washing my face at night, putting on moisturizing cream, it feels like I’m being a woman of dignity. Even on the worst days, that’s given me confidence
Belise: African black soap. Vaseline is great. I drink a lot of water. I’m really into green juice, making sure I get my veggies, staying away from dairy — so that also helps. I noticed my skin, probably from college til now, has gotten way better, the more I cut out certain things. Black soap is the shit, that’s my main takeaway.
Curly Penny: I wash my body, including my face with African black soap. To moisturize sometimes I use rose hip oil, or sometimes I use coconut oil or shea butter. Usually it’s whatever I can find the quickest because my products are all jumbled together. If you use a bit of Vaseline on your eye area, it gives you a bit of a dewy look. I like the dewy look.
Jessie: It’s whatever your comfort level is. It’s your body. It’s not anybody else’s body. Whatever you feel comfortable with. I always see pictures of myself when I was a little kid. I’m 31 now, and I always see those pictures and I’m just playing, laughing, having fun. It’s before I’ve become so aware of my place as a woman or what I need to look like. It’s trying to cultivate those kinds of moments, because then you’re not thinking about your face or what you’re wearing.
Belise: I think like anything, if you’ve done something for a long enough time, it’s kind of a habit for you and it can be hard to let that go. I’d say, start slowly maybe on a Saturday or on a weekend where you’re just chillin’, walking around the city, or running errands — don’t wear any makeup or wear something light. With anything it takes time.
Curly Penny: I didn’t really know any other females who were doing that at the time. It was hard for me because I didn’t really have somebody to do it with. I think if you had somebody to do it with, it’d be a lot easier. My little sister, it’s gotten to the point where she doesn’t wear any anymore with me. It’s a nice feeling to have somebody do it with you.
I WENT TO A PRIVATE SCHOOL, AND I WAS ALWAYS THE LOUD, HAPPY, HIPPIE KID THAT SMOKED A LOT OF WEED — NOT SOMEBODY YOU WOULD REALLY THINK OF AS HAVING AN EATING DISORDER.
Jessie is a film maker who talks about sexism, racism and other social issues in her unique way with full of sense of humoure. She made some short films, some are documentary, interview with people style and some are like drama series(?) style. I first encouraged her work, The Skinny, which is about her eating disorder story.
A scene that stuck in my head the most from the skinny is Jessie told her mother that she is having an eating disorder. When it’s comes Hollywood movies, most time parents say “ Thank you for telling me” but reality isn’t like movies most of times. what Jessie mother said is
Honey you’re not bulimic. You’re beautiful, you’re happy, you’re successful and you’re tan. Why you telling me this.
The skinny isn’t like other videos talk of eating-disorder. It’s more comedy style but it’s just so real. There are lots people who look like a person who is happy, but suffer from a eating-disorder and don’t know what to do with it. I thought I am watching myself when I am watching The skinny. Jessie was me. Of course not exactly, but I could see myself in there.
I was having a similar problem while my teenage time. I was so depressed and unhappy with my body and tried to so many diets and ended up stressed out and eat lots then blamed myself. Also I (I guess lots people did or not) drunk too much and slept on the floor or passed out in toilet. I knew that I’m stupid but I could not control myself.
When @stylelikeu nominated me to pose for @swimsuitsforall in a bikini sans a coverup or photoshop I was really annoyed. Yes I believe in body positivity and self acceptance for all people but when it comes to MY body there is still a part of me that cringes when someone calls me “healthy” or “curvy.” Some days I want to get so small that you and your mom and the entire internet calls to tell me how good/thin I look. For me my body journey has been accepting and even loving that part of me that is not 100% better. That shame or Shame of having shame is what makes me a human woman person — and being honest with myself and the world is what makes me feel beautiful. These trash cans and I have had some dark times — I’ve thrown food away only to hours later dig food out of them like a drunk Raccoon. I pose with them today to keep adding to the story. Nothing is ever one thing, except my body — she’s a badass bitch. I nominate @theonlyalanajohnston @urfavprgal @bekiebekie f#bodypositive #selflove#nodiet #whatsunderneath #theskinnytv hat by @heraldhill #myswimbody
Are you a member of The Television Academy or currently sleeping with someone who is? Pls consider voting for #theskinnytv for the first ever short form #emmyBecause I have a huge hole in my heart that can only be filled with a golden statue that will never love me back. VOTE HERE
Last May, the web series made its appearance at the Palais des Festivals in Cannes during the Film Market . Nestled in the hollow at the Short Film Corner , a conference entitled ” Wild Wild Web: webseries are tomorrow’s goldmines? ” ( ” Wild Wild Web: are the web series the gold mines of tomorrow “) is open to all young writers, directors and producers of the 2,000 short films present this year on the Croisette. Halfway between the televisual codes and sometimes look very artisanal Short Film, the web series can sometimes be an interesting alternative for creators.
To represent this trend, the conference welcomed young Jessie Kahnweiler, designer, actress and director of the webseries The Skinny , shown in Europe for the first time in the last edition of Mania Series .
In 2013, Jessie had already made a first web series titled Dude, where’s my chutzpah? , Caustic comedy about Jewish identity. Since Jessie became known almost exclusively on Youtube , occurring at regular intervals videos at once funny and engaged , often reaching hundreds of thousands of views. His favorite subjects? Sex, love, rape, feminism, but also racial privilege.
One of his last video / performance confronts his “dates” Tinder so gratifying as absurd.
The Skinny is a web series of six episodes of ten minutes, Jessie calls itself a “dark comedy” that follows the (mis) adventures of Jessie , a young bulimic YouTuber, faced with a painful breakup. “I hope no table of fate, because what I’m going to show you is really dirty, “ joked the young director before the screening of the first episode.
The series has a true autobiographical background, like Jessie confirms: “I left ten years of bulimia, and I realized that no film, no series not dealt with this problem yet affects millions of people. “
The series offers its director amazing mirror, not only on his eating habits but also on his professional activity, videographer on Youtube , many are still struggling to be considered a “real job”: “My career is something I am very proud, and at the same time I can really hate me in my private life. This contradiction is common to many women, and I found it interesting to use the world influencers and youtubeurs as a metaphor for this; a world where even with a million views, always more you want, you’re never really satisfied. “
“A series like mine would never have emerged on television. “
Jessie Kahnweiler first tried to sell her story to American television. Without success, she then turned to Refinery29 , platform “lifestyle” for hip New Yorker. “It was crazy that they agree to make The Skinny , it was really the first time they produced a content of this type without top models with imperfect bodies, far removed from what they usually do. “
The series is co-produced with well Wifey.tv , feminist video site explicit slogan ( ” Be the subject, not the object “ ), one of the founders is none other than Jill Soloway, creator of the series Transparent . ” Jill was a kind of mentor to me, it was she who advised me to turn to the web when I realized I could not do the Skinny on television. “
Jessie Kahnweiler claim to belong to the web and what it owes. “I feel that the webseries give voice to original and unique voices. They can tell stories that I had never seen before, crazy stories. “
Ignoring the difference between videos posted on the Internet in minutes, and short films for festivals chiadés, Jessie Kahnweiler has reconciled everyone at the end of the conference. The numerous requests of the (young) audience asking advice, Jessie met all “Make stuff, post them online. It is still the best way to learn. “
While Cartoon Network has been in the short-form game quite a while with both animated and live-action series — including pretty much everything in its Adult Swim block — think “Children’s Hospital” and “Robot Chicken” — a growing number of cable networks are starting to realize the power of the platform.
SEE MORE: Awards: The Contenders
Whether distributed on air, digitally, or across multiple platforms, both episodic and serialized short form series are helping networks stay flexible and relevant in the rapidly evolving entertainment landscape.
Sponsored by ESPN’s 30 for 30
“I don’t think any TV business can actually think exclusively about creating content only for television any more,” says Lisa Hsia, exec VP, digital, for Bravo and Oxygen. “So our development teams, all of us, think in terms of creating content for all platforms. Content is content, as far as I’m concerned, and whatever screen it appears on, its success will be measured on its overall impressions and engagement, wherever it exists.”
Hsia has about a dozen short-form series in development, and with good reason: In 2013, Bravo’s online series “Top Chef: Last Chance Kitchen” won an Emmy for creative achievement in interactive media multiplatform storytelling, and its fifth season had nearly 10 million streams. Bravo’s new digital series, “Going Off the Menu,” has been submitted for consideration in the Emmys’ new short form category.
When Paul Cabana joined History last year, he knew that ensuring the long-term vitality of the brand meant courting new viewers, and he felt short form was a good way to woo them.
History decided to take divergent paths into short form: “History Now,” a series of one- to two-minute documentary-style videos, and “Night Class” a block of two on-air and online comedies.
“These represent two very different approaches to talking to new audiences,” Cabana says. “ ‘History Now’ is a new way to target a different audience — young people who may never get cable. We’ve shifted that product to focus on young people who are making history now. Young activists. Young people experiencing things now that we’ll one day look back on as historic, whether it’s the Flint, Michigan, situation, or Black Lives Matter. What better way to curate this living time capsule of history than by doing it in social and short form?”
On the surface, History’s comedy block might not seem a perfect match for the stalwart network, but both its shows — “Great Minds With Dan Harmon” and “The Crossroads of History” — build episodes around a real person or event in history.
“What we’re doing [in those comedies] is different because it’s based in actual fact. That it also happens to be funny and irreverent and feature lots of stars and have this totally unexpected tone was a bonus,” Cabana says. “You walk away knowing these things happened. Hitler was actually rejected from art school. Just as with everything in our programming, there’s a foundation of fact.”
Elizabeth Shapiro, writer, producer, and star of “Crossroads,” applauds History for expanding its brand to include humor.
“Short form allows you to take risks and experiment because it’s not the same amount of crazy money that’s on the line,” Shapiro says. “For a creator like me, it’s a wonderful space to play in because you have a budget to do something awesome, yet it’s not the kind of budget that has everyone scared it won’t work. That left us a lot of room to play. The cool thing is the show is on television but it’s also on YouTube. Straddling those two worlds has the potential of bringing very different demographics together.”
Although AMC had previously done webisodes of “The Walking Dead” and created digital pieces supporting “Breaking Bad” and other series, the network synergized its on-air and digital assets with “Fear the Walking Dead: Flight 462.”
“Aside from wanting to re-imagine what short-form content could be, we also wanted to have a way for the period of time ‘Fear the Walking Dead’ was off the air and ‘The Walking Dead’ was on the air to keep that world alive and keep people engaged in ‘Fear the Walking Dead,’” says Joel Stillerman, president of original programming and development, AMC and Sundance TV. “The creative driver for ‘462’ was: How do we take a story, tell it in a serialized way in short form, but also do it in a way that continues to immerse people in the beginning of the zombie apocalypse? — which was a big differentiator of ‘Fear the Walking Dead.’”
As such, Stillerman says “462” was a hybrid of sorts, streaming not only digitally, but also airing during commercial breaks of “The Walking Dead.” “The idea of taking these short form pieces and presenting them in a serialized way, those things, structurally, got us interested in trying to tell a story a different way.”
Even better, there was a crossover between “462” and its namesake series by having “Fear the Walking Dead” character Nick [Frank Dillane] watch the ill-fated plane fly overhead, and giving a “462” character, Alex [Michelle Ang] a story arc on season two of “Fear the Walking Dead.”
Across all platforms, Stillerman says “462” had about 8 million views. “We’re very happy with those results. It was a truly original way to extend brands and push promotional messages out through non-traditional [means]. We will absolutely look at other opportunities [in short form].”
While Hsia, Cabana and Stillerman are all committed to the short form format, Hsia says there’s a big learning curve.
“There are so many challenges with digital video series,” she says. “What’s the best way to distribute them? Should you give them all at once in a binge fashion, or should you do it in batches? What’s the best way to let audiences know it exists? How can we leverage social [media] best to spread the word? Do we need to create different versions of the content for different platforms? With a series like ‘Off the Menu,’ should we be creating something for Snapchat or Facebook to encourage people to watch the longer versions? The jury’s still out on how audiences will learn about and enjoy video series, but we’re very pleased with the results so far.”
L.A.-based filmmaker Jessie Kahnweiler does not shy away from controversy. She has just released a new video where she confronts men who’ve sent her online sexts on Tinder. In the video she confronts these men in person—men unprepared for her experiment—to have them read their online sexts to her in person. Even they are embarrassed by their communication, and it’s clear from the exercise that the men treat women in person differently than online.
This video can be seen as a continuation of “The Skinny,” Kahnweiler’s recent dark comedy series. Produced by Jill Soloway’s Wifey.TV and Refinery29, the web series premiered at the Sundance. The episodes follow Jessie’s life as a feminist and striving YouTube star in L.A., yet the series is unsettling; it deals with the realities of battling bulimia, based Kahnweiler’s own 10-year struggle with the eating disorder.
Kahnweiler, 31, told the New York Times, “For years, I’ve been wanting to tell this story, but I haven’t known how.” Rather than tackling the topic of bulimia directly, she has a sidelong take on the reality of the disorder, which proves to be a more realistic depiction of the role an eating disorder can play in one’s life. Bulimia is never the highlight of “The Skinny,” but it’s always there, weaving in and out of the narrative, depending largely on what else is happening in her life.
Throughout her career, Kahnweiler has made several other unsetting, provocative, and fiercely honest short films. “Meet My Rapist,” for example, shows a woman who runs into her assailant in a farmers market. In “Jessie Gets Arrested,” she illustrates white privilege through trying to get arrested, and failing, despite violating a dozen laws, including selling prescription medication to cops.
Kahnweiler is known for her ability to depict the dark and hidden corners of the female experience. When her ex-boyfriend rapes her in Episode 5 of “The Skinny,” rather than creating a moment of high drama, the scene shows the subtleties of how a conversation can escalate from flirting, seduction and pleasure to violence. Our culture often refers to rape as something that happens to a woman alone on the street at night. But in reality, 85% of rape victims already know the perpetrator. The normality of Kahnweiler’s rape scene and the silence that follows are deeply unsettling. Through comedy, Kahnweiler conveys darker, often uncomfortable realities.
– See more at: http://lilith.org/blog/2016/05/jessie-kahnweiler-confronts-online-dating-app-sexters/#sthash.aZiVx9Rs.dpuf