In the web series world, shows written by and starring black people are a rare but growing segment of the market. Within the sub-genre, there are surprising number of shows starring black women, a real divergence from television and film. The most well-known, Buppies, did some decent business for both BET and its sponsor CoverGirl, and a number of series in a variety of genres have attracted smaller audiences including Chick, Blue Belle, Kindred, Whoopi Goldberg’s Stream and Robert Townsend’s popular Diary of a Single Mom which just entered its third season on Pic.TV.
Debuting on KoldCast this summer and now finishing up its run, Celeste Bright, from TV writer Sonya Steele, furthers this mission of giving better roles and more complexity to black women on screen.
After years of lamenting the tough market for roles, she and her girlfriends decided to do something about it.
“I can do my part to produce images of black women that are multidimensional, that are based on other attributes than being a black woman,” Steele told me. “I wanted to be able to show us in the totality of our humanity.”
Celeste Bright follows the story of a banker of the same name, who becomes embroiled in a financial scandal involving millions of dollars from Wall Street. Starring Ryan Michelle Bathe, a friend of Steel and veteran of Trauma, Brothers & Sisters and numerous other series, the show makes us skeptical of our otherwise sympathetic lead. How aware is Celeste of the scandals surrounding her?
“She doesn’t want to know,” Steele said of her character. “People are not all good, they’re not all bad. People make bad choices.”
The ER-veteran started filming the show in fall 2009 and finished in the spring of 2010 – production was set back when an actor dropped out. Steele mostly paid out of pocket for everything, which amounted to a few thousand dollars.
But she received many favors and free services. “I couldn’t put monetary value on it because I could never afford it.”
Post-production services in particular was far cheaper than it would have been had her editors and sound technicians charged what they were worth. After she cut a trailer, Steele even got composer Andy Georges (Letters to Juliet, Run Fatboy Run) to write original music. “I was blown away when he contacted me. I was like, ‘I cannot afford you!’ But he believed in the project.”
Plans for a second season are underway – pending funding, as always. “It’s already mapped out,” Steele said.