For me, Unde<ided (or Undecided) is personal. I am a woman, I am Black, I went to a PWI, and I am a born and raised Southerner. North Cackalacky go on and raise up. Sidenote: I seriously had to look up the proper spelling for that. Anyway, I have a story to tell. It’s relevant and actually the story of the first time I heard “PWI” (predominantly white institution).
I was in my friend’s friend’s apartment, visiting her HBCU (historically black college/university), and it was my first time visiting one. We were sitting in the girl’s living room, partaking in activities, and after I stopped saying something, she asked me if I went to a PWI. I told her yes after establishing what that meant, and she said that she could tell. Immediately, I felt unease. It made sense that she was referring to the way I talked and/or carried myself.
So, I’m sitting here thinking…how does one tell a Black person, “I know you did not just ‘you speak white’ me,” while you are in their house? In retrospect, I wish I had questioned her on it. And if it was indeed my voice or demeanor, I would have told her (on behalf of all POC who don’t use much slang) how self-deprecating and diminishing it was for her to assume whiteness taught me speech. Then I could have taught her what sophistiratchet really means.
I digress to let you know what Unde<ided is really all about, straight from the creators’ mouths. The series portrays three best friends, two Black women and a Black man, who are attending a PWI in the South. From the trailer alone, I see friendship, heartache, white girls, and money problems. The creators’ main goal in this show is to portray their and others’ experiences, ones they know people can relate to, and to do it in the realest way possible.
Together, the team recreates real life stories that are familiar to anyone who is in a minority group, lives in the South, or has ever gone to college. So, with REELYDOPE, I spent some time (virtually) with the co-creators of Undecided — thank goodness for the interwebs — to ask a few questions.
So how did you all find each other? What’s the team’s story? When did the idea of the series come about?
We met in college through an internship program called T. Howard, which focuses on increasing diversity in the entertainment industry. We were both placed in Atlanta, GA at Turner Broadcasting. There were 4 of us placed in our particular business unit, Turner Network Sales, and we sort of clicked over those two months. We stayed in touch throughout college and our friendship blossomed organically over the next few years.
Fast forward to the beginning of last year, Whitney moved to Los Angeles and I invited her to my room and blow up mattress as she got acclimated with a job and housing. One night in my apartment, we started reminiscing about our college days and noticed we shared both similarities and differences attending large PWIs in the South. We also realized that these stories had never been told on screen and rather than starting a hashtag or complaining to each other, decided to take action.
Why? Why a show? Why the plot? Why college?
We chose the series format versus a film because college is 4 years or longer of your life. To really comb through that life changing experience and get a thorough character arc and examination, we needed to be able to take our time. We also want to be able to explore multiple current topics within our community and college in general with this project. Any other format would have been too limiting.
Do you feel each person brings a unique piece to the table?
We have different personalities and skillsets, so we both definitely bring something unique to the table. From a story/script standpoint, we had different experiences in college- socially, academically, etc. That allows us to have a unique vantage point for storytelling.
Our skillsets are different as well. We both share a marketing background, but Shandrea’s is from a business background and Whitney’s is from a mass communications background. Much of Shandrea’s experience is from physical production and creative producing, and Whitney’s had great experience strategizing and promoting long and short form content. We think we balance each other out well.
Who are the actors?
The actors are Shandrea Evans, Micah J Oliver, and Diamond Mitchell, who are both based in Atlanta. Micah is a professional actor and Diamond is a student at Spelman. Because of our micro-budget, Shandrea acted as casting director.
We think Shandrea did well casting because the three had never acted together before; they didn’t even have rehearsals because Shandrea is based in LA and everyone else is in Atlanta. Everything in the trailer is their first time acting together. There’s great chemistry.
Who do the characters represent?
The characters are representations of friends, people we met in college, family, and ourselves of course.
What makes your show “real life?”
Our show is real life because our generation lives vicariously through the filtered lives of others. And, we are often ourselves culprits of projecting this filtered image of our lives to the world via social media.
There are plenty of shows on TV right now. Many of them entertaining, but often very melodramatic or hyper dramatized for ratings. We wanted to bring stories that were a slice of life, something showing that the subtleties of everyday life are just as entertaining. We also wanted to spark an authentic dialogue that resonates with our peers.
Who are you gearing your show to? What does your audience look like?
Undecided is a series that will resonate with different age groups: high school seniors heading to college, current college students and college grads. We hope to attract people from different backgrounds as well: male, female, black, white and more.
Are you aiming to be entertaining or educational?
The series is meant to entertain but it can also be viewed as educational because we will touch on various topics facing college students. Many of which, for those outside the “college world,” may not be aware of. Viewers will take a peek into the college experience through the eyes of Zuri, Cam and Alexis.
Undecided is about PWIs in the South. Do you find this to be a different space from PWIs in the North. Where do those schools fit into the dialogue?
With Undecided, we wanted to point out that the stories and experiences that we portray are from the perspective of being in the South. In the South, things tend to be more segregated. Whereas in the North there is less division. We can’t completely speak for those schools because we are basing this series off of the Southern experience but this would be a great opportunity to highlight some of the similarities and differences amongst the two regions.
We both attended two different PWIs (Whitney – Clemson University, Shandrea – University of Georgia) and although our schools were only about 80 miles apart our experiences were not identical. So, with that being said it will be interesting to see how students from northern PWIs respond to the series.
Do you find that social responsibility plays into your work?
We definitely feel that our work has a social responsibility. First of all, as artists we have a “duty to reflect the times,” as Nina Simone graciously put it. The purpose of this series is to tell our stories and the stories of current students to spark an honest dialogue about what is going on in our generation.
On a large scale with supporting the students of Mizzou and others facing discrimination at these institutions of higher learning. And to a smaller, more personal scale of trying to figure out your major and where you belong in the world, we want to talk about it all. We may not have all of the answers, but we’ve got plenty of questions and we want to bring them to light.
We plan to conduct a college tour and have screenings and Q&As of episodes/topics. We want to be a part of the voice of our generation. Dialogue is the first step to solving our issues. We definitely want to make an impact and tell authentic stories with the hope that others will see themselves and similar situations and make a connection to the content that we are creating.
What are you hoping for as an outcome of the show?
Our main goal is to reach as many people as possible and share the series with them and raise funds to shoot Season 1. After shooting our conceptual trailer this past August, we are really excited to dive into the story because there are a lot of different layers to explore. We also want people to have conversations about the series and the topics that we are addressing. And we would like to see Undecided potentially aligned with a content provider in the future that fits well with the tone and story of the series.
Is this just the beginning?
We are both ambitious and focused young women that have many stories to tell. This project has taught us so much and really helped us to grow personally and professionally. You will be seeing a lot more from us as we continue to create authentic content
With all that being conveyed, I am excited! I love web series and fall into the characters’ lives just like I do watching TV. Plus, if I’m on my laptop, I can usually talk to the screen in the sanctity of my own room. I can’t wait to see what, beyond their trailer, they will create. From issues of Blackness to misogyny and class. I have no idea what more to expect, and this series has the power to bring dialogue to a struggle not often discussed. If you haven’t already, check out the trailer to the series! And visit their reely dope website.
&On is all over the Internet. Whether it’s Tumblr, Facebook, Youtube, and of course…REELYDOPE. Ze took interest in writing about media when ze began writing reviews in comments as ze watched music videos posted to zher page. Ze likes to look at the good, the bad, and the ugly, always keeping in mind the social implications of what we watch and are shown. And also turning up for entertainment.