Project Spotlight: 'The Right Swipe': An Intersectional Rom Com Series
Dynamic duo Kyra Jones and Juli Del Prete have created a masterpiece of a web series. The Right Swipe, starring Kyra and Juli as India and Margo, is the story of two best friends who begin a business ~finessing~ the dating profiles of single bachelors. Through this unique and comedic plot, they manage to show the imbalances of dating culture, swiping right, and life as a young woman. Neither of the main characters are limited by their relationships, appearance, or other shallow identity facet- each is confident, multidimensional, and direct. Well fleshed out characters in the Right Swipe is no surprise when we take a moment to look behind the curtain at its’ creators. Kyra’s background as a sexual violence prevention educator and Juli’s background in music paired incredibly to make this piece. The chemistry between the creator pair is palatable. With this being their first collaboration, we eagerly await more!
How did each of you find film?
As an actor, I started to feel frustrated by the lack of artistic agency I had. You are kind of at the mercy of other people - they write the film, they decide if you can audition, if you get the role, they give you direction on how to play it, they decide what takes to use, etc. So I wanted to write and produce so I had more control of the stories I was involved in. Also film is more accessible than theatre is to the people I want to make art for (PoC, young people, low income people, disabled people), there’s so many more interesting roles for young black women in TV, plus it can be accessed forever and wherever. - KYRA
I have a background in playwriting, but I've always loved movies, always been a photographer, always been drawn to audiovisual storytelling. When I realized I wanted to make movies, filmmaking felt inaccessible to me – in part because it seemed, from afar, like such a (white) boys' club, and in part because it requires money. Working with Kyra was incredible for many reasons, but she had a big network in the Chicago independent film community because of her acting work in other web series. When we combined our resources and partnered with our producers, suddenly things started to feel possible. - JULI
What roles in production are you most comfortable with (DP, Directing, Writing, etc)?
Writing, acting, executive producing- KYRA
Definitely writing. Definitely executive producing. I was focused on writing during the latter half of college and my first few years out of school, but it was fun (terrifying, but fun) to return to acting for The Right Swipe, too.- JULI
What are roles you’d like to get better at?
Directing for sure. There are so few WoC directors, especially in comedy. We originally wanted one for this project but we searched and came up empty handed. I would also just like to learn more about film equipment in general. - Kyra
Definitely directing! Also music supervising is one of my dream jobs.- JULI
Why did you choose a web series format?
The story we wanted to tell required a serialized format - it doesn't have a finite end point, so it didn't really work as a short film or a feature. And web series allow you to reach a wide audience without having to wait on a TV network to give you a "yes." You can distribute whenever you want to. I was lucky to have a prior relationship with OTV from a web series I acted in called Seeds, so we already had a place to distribute that was looking for stories like this one.
How did you assemble your team for production?
From the very first day we thought of this project, we knew we wanted the team to include as many artists of marginalized identities as possible. Our producers, Sarah Minnie and Sarah Conley, were totally on board with our vision of a crew that reflected the intersectional feminist mission of the show, so they prioritized hiring women, PoC, and queer applicants. They also had everyone answer "Why is intersectionality important to you?" on their application, so we could see if their beliefs were in line with ours. We ended up with a team of zero straight white men. It was a dream.
What were elements of dating culture you wanted included in this piece?
We explore the challenges of dating in the digital age at the intersections of various marginalized identities. We poke fun at dating app troupes that everyone has seen and is annoyed by (guys holding giant fish, men who have a million group pictures with other guys who look exactly like them), but we also shed light on real social justice issues that people don't think about when it comes to dating, like how toxic masculinity, misogynoir, transphobia and more. - KYRA
What is one thing you both learned from this production?
Filmmaking isn't a white boys' club! Don't let anyone tell you that! It might take some extra effort to find women, POC, queer/trans folks, & people who occupy those intersections – in part because the system isn't set up to encourage marginalized folks to work in film – but they exist and they're so talented and it's worth taking the time and putting in extra effort to find those people. Doubly so when the story you're telling centers marginalized people. This is an intersectional feminist story, and it was crucial that women of color led the process. Diversity is when the most privileged people give marginalized folks a seat at the table. Equity is when those marginalized folks are actually running the show.- JULI
I also learned crowdfunding is a fucking nightmare.- KYRA
Juli, does your background in music inform your curation of music in film work?
So I trained as a musician pretty seriously as a teenager, but I also illegally downloaded .mp3s pretty seriously as a teenager. I also have synaesthesia, so I'm hella audiovisual – sounds have colors for me, etc. As a filmmaker, I'm fascinated by music supervision as an art form – how the right song can elevate a scene or a transition, or how music that contrasts with what's happening onscreen can create dissonance that heightens dramatic tension. As a writer, I don't really know what a script or story feels like until I know how it might be scored. I make a playlist for every script and write to that playlist. In the case of TRS, since Kyra and I were co-writing in a Google Doc, I had a massive playlist I listened to when I was editing retyping all of our episodes into in Final Draft. There was a lot of Cardi. There was also... a lot of Drake .
Kyra, How did your background as a sexual violence prevention educator inform this story of relationships, sex and love?
Since most of us didn't have schools or parents who provided us with comprehensive sex education, most of us got our information about sex from the media. Way before writing this series, I would use romantic comedies as an example of problematic messaging around gender, relationships, sex, and especially consent. The classic romantic comedy sex scene is just a sudden cut two the two main characters ripping each other's clothes off and mounting each other. There is no consent, no discussion of boundaries, and usually no use of condoms or other safer sex products. If we never talk about consent or see it modeled, how are we supposed to know how to get or give consent in real life? I wanted to make sure The Right Swipe did the opposite of that. We made sure that every sex scene included enthusiastic consent and they condoms were noticeably placed in them. If we notice a problem in our culture that is causing real, tangible harm to people but don't do anything to change it in our own work, we become a part of the problem. I was really excited at the opportunity to model consent in a realistic, sexy, and entertaining way.
What do you hope for the future of the Right Swipe?
We are hoping to finish production this summer and release the rest of the season around the Fall. Ultimately, we would love to get picked up by a network so we can reach a bigger audience and get all the money and resources we need, but there are also a lot of benefits to continuing to produce independently. We get more creative control and don't have to edit the bullshit we want to call out or the identities we want to center.
What specific advice would you give for filmmakers cowriting a web series?
Just write it. Sit down and do it. So many people have an idea they have been sitting on forever but can't make the move to actually put it on paper. Don't psych yourself out. Don't make excuses like "I need to do more research" or "I need to take more classes." I mean, DEFINITELY do research and take classes, but get a rough draft on paper as soon as you can, then go back and edit it later. And involve people who are of the identities you are writing about if those aren't identities you or your cowriter share. Cowrite with them, ask them questions about their experiences (with their permission), hire them as script consultants, invite them on set. Try to make your characters as authentic as possible.
Keep up with the Right Swipe by checking out their website: https://www.the-right-swipe.com/