The new comedy series about a diverse community in Bushwick (or East Williamsburg) hopes to capitalize on both the popularity of Brooklyn among web series and the growing Latino market online.
Premiering last week at a packed screening at Anthology Film Archives, sponsored by Licor 43, East WillyB centers on Willy Reyes, Jr., the self-proclaimed Nuyorican “King of Bushwick.” Willy owns a bar catering to Latinos in a community on the verge of gentrification. His ex-girlfriend and business partner wants him to upgrade the bar to cater to the coming influx of hipsters, but Willy would rather not.
The series humorously explores the complexities of gentrification: from the people within the community who accept the trend to the real estate agents who re-brand neighborhoods, all while giving audiences a big cast of crazy characters.
Creators Julia Grob, an actress, producer and Brown University graduate, and Yamin Segal, a filmmaker and NYU alum, created the series to target a “new generation” of Latinos: English-speaking, educated and raised in multicultural communities.
“It was important for us to come out as the trends were emerging,” Grob said, adding that the bulk of the Latino population in the US is young and the Spanish-language programming of Univision is seen as for the older generation.
The two producers spent time in LA pitching the show to networks but were told they were too “early.” Coming out with the show independently allowed them to get ahead of the trend.
As of now the web series is only releasing six episodes along with some viral content, with a plan for over two dozen episodes once a sponsor comes on.
East WillyB has a professional look and serious actors, may of whom have appeared in prominent indie films and TV shows from Dexter to Royal Pains, but the series was made without sponsorship. Licor 43, a popular European brand looking to move into the US market, approached them after the series was shot, a testament to the producers own marketing efforts, which have landed them coverage on MTV Tr3s and The L Mag, among other publications.
“It really comes back to knowing your niche,” said Segal on how the series focused on its target population of young Latinos of all nationalities.
“The exciting thing about sponsorship as well is a lot of brands are trying to reach this population that we’re trying to reach,” Grob said, adding that Licor 43 is excited about the series and the creators are in conversations with a number of brands to sponsor the rest of the show.
East WillyB takes some serious shots at gentrification. Between the episodes, there are videos profiling community organizers working toward social justice and spoofs on real estate marketing. But at the end of the day, both Grob and Segal didn’t want to preach.
“This is about having fun as well,” Segal said. “It’s out there so people can have a good time and laugh.”