Capilano University Alumnus’ low-budget web series shocks with award show nomination
Rachel D’Sa // Arts and Culture Editor
Photo: Bruce Novakowski and Katie Stewart walk the line of real-life crisis in breakthrough success
Most students face the problem of not being able to find jobs post-graduation, while others take another approach by making things happen for themselves. Joel Ashton McCarthy, one of the first graduates of the Cap U’s four-year Motion Picture Production Degree program, has done just that.
The show-runner, co-creator and director of the Vancouver-based web series, ‘Inconceivable,’ alongside Rachel Kirkpatrick (co-creator) and Mike Doaga (co-creator and actor), are anywhere but close to done, when it comes to what they have planned ahead of them with the wildly successful series that follows a young self-identified lesbian’s fling with a male independent filmmaker, which results in an unexpected pregnancy. The six-part web series is semi-autobiographical of McCarthy and Kirkpatrick’s journey through parenthood.
Picking up an astonishing amount of online popularity for a low-budget web series, the project has landed itself and its creators in the hands of the prestigious independent film awards ceremony, Gotham Independent Film Awards. The New York award is one of the major Oscar Award winning predictors, kicking off the award season, and currently lines up nominations filled with A-listers, including Margot Robbie, James Franco and Donald Glover, for nine awards. The nomination for the ‘Breakthrough Series – Short Form Award’ came as a shock to the entire cast and crew of the web series when they received the email notifying them.
“I thought it was fake. I read the email, like, 10 times, called my co-writer Mike over to my computer and he didn’t believe it either. Then all of a sudden Variety, Hollywood Reporter, LA Times and several other big entertainment publications started printing it as fact and we started celebrating,” said McCarthy, also noting that the entire cast and crew still can’t figure out how the show was discovered.
Though the creators admit they feel the nomination was out of their league, they still acknowledge their hard work and efforts. “We believe it was picked because everything in the show comes from an authentic place. We are at a point in time where people are valuing authenticity more than ever before – both in media and politics,” said McCarthy.
When crafting this project, the three creators made sure to remain consistently accurate in the authentic representation of their real-life circumstance. Though most of the roles were filled with an open casting call, Bruce Novakowski and Katie Stewart, the actors essentially playing McCarthy and Kirkpatrick were hand-picked for the roles. While Novakowski was chosen from his past portrayals of McCarthy’s self-identifying roles, Stewart was cast from her impressive demo reel.
Though the cameras stop rolling in the lives of the characters in the show, off-set and real-life McCarthy and Kirkpatrick can’t escape the spotlight of parenthood. “It’s a venerable experience sharing intimate moments of your life on screen. Luckily, it’s been received so positively overall, but I will say for this project for some reason negative YouTube comments sting a little more because it can feel like they are attacking myself and my family personally,” said McCarthy. He also noted that because Inconceivable is autobiographical, there is a heightened pressure to keep the content true and genuine, without causing real-life problems by depicting certain real-life “characters” negatively on-screen. “It’s usually not till we’ve already shot it that I have that little voice in my head that says, ‘maybe we are sharing too much,’ but at that point, it is a bit late.”
Living with the circumstance in real- life has presented its challenges, but nonetheless McCarthy took the life-changing turn as a positive omen, by crafting it into the success it is today. “I brought up the idea to my partner about making a show about our experience more so as a joke, and she was into it. So the next day we shot a pitch video, and we were shocked to find how many people were supportive backing the project,” McCarthy recalled. One of the support systems behind the project included local web series funding competition, Telus Storyhive, which granted the Inconceivable crew $50,000 to produce an entire season after seeing an intense demand for it after the pilot.
Since taking to YouTube this spring with newer episodes airing weekly, and noticing the rising success of the series, the crew is ultimately working towards picking up a network to carry it, therefore enabling them to convert the show into a half hour episodic show. “We had such a hard time condensing our episodes into 10 minutes when we had so much story to tell. If we can get a network to believe in the show, then we can have the budget to do the show justice,” said McCarthy. He also notes that he has worked to create a collection of pitch materials, while the show’s agent is shopping the project to production companies and networks – though the dream is to get the show on Netflix, which has just announced that they will be spending $500 million on Canadian-created content.
Aside from Inconceivable, McCarthy is currently working on drafting and funding an action dark-comedy feature lm, though he notes that the project is nothing like the web series. “I’m always trying to make each project completely different from the last. I don’t really have a clear goal of where I want to be in the future, I just keep creating and I’m loving every minute of this journey.”
For more details on Inconceivable and to watch its first season, visit Thisisaspoon.com/inconceivable.