Connecting with the writers & stars of #Hashtag

In a global connection ever so befitting of the Tello web series in question, Planet London braved the snow-challenged wifi-4g-3g trials of 21st Century communications to Skype (eventually) with Laura Zak ad Caitlin Bergh, creators, writers and stars of the modern-romantic-comedy #Hashtag Season 2.

With a series that contains references to pretty much all the social media on offer, including a brilliant argument with Siri, a Vine viral sensation, swiping on Tinder and much more (probably one or two references that went straight over this writer's "down with the kids" head) what could be more fitting than three-way Skype call to talk about the web series? 

Planet London (PL): Season 2 is bigger, sexier and bolder... how did you take the decision to develop the storylines for this season?

Laura Zak (LZ): The storyline for Liv was an extension of what happened in real life so we knew what direction that would go in. The challenge was to figure out the equivalent drama for Skylar's character - whilst we ate hotdogs on the beach - following the end of her serious relationship... (spoilers witheld here).

We're really proud of this season, it feels like an elevation. Not just plot wise or story wise - it was great to get the cast back together and bring in new members to the ensemble too, and it looks beautiful too.

PL: It's a bolder series, you do more with the episodes and take the sexiness a stage further than season 1, how did the decision to be a bit freer come about?

Caitlin Bergh (CB): It wasn't so much an active decision... I think in the first season we were a bit more timid about the boundaries of what we could do, and for some reason in the second season we had a lot of confidence. We just wrote it, and there were no issues, and then on set we asked "are we allowed to show our boobs?" and the reply was "of course", and so we found out there were no limits.

LZ: And leading up to some of the sex scenes, it was important to the directors to portray sex scenes between women that are more realistic that might be typically seen, and I was keen to make that happen.

CB: It's important, because it is frustrating to see lesbian sex scenes on TV that are so fake, or that look so obviously ridiculous. It was cool to challenge those portrayals.

Hashtag season 2PL: Did you find that the social media you referred to in Season 2 was much different was Season 1 - have references changed within that timeframe?

CB: We definitely explored Vine more... which was getting popular at the time of writing. However the nature of social media is that new things come along and they might be a fad.

LZ: We did more of dropping in quick references in a more organic way, such as Tinder, Siri, Snapchat...

PL: Why did you take the decision to bring in Marley's Mom as an IRL character for Season 2?

LZ: Originally she was going to be in season 1, however we decided to make it more of a slow burn... and then it also created more conflict when she does appear because Liv is getting more serious with Tash at the same time.

PL: I liked how you explored the divergence of situations of the characters, and their paths cross into opposite directions from the first season. What was the motivation behind that?

CB: Partly, that's how Laura's and my lives always are - we are rarely in the same relationship space at the same time, and that means we can explore the jealousy or the tension between friends who are chasing different priorities - and the nature to compare oneself to our friends.

LZ: It was especially fun when we figured out the Marley's Mom sotryline and a way to converge Skylar and Liv's love lives in a really awkward, uncomfortable and funny way.

PL: Are you able to share any insight about whether Liv will be able to commit to Tash?

LZ: I think she will. Marley's Mom created one of those situations where Liv could go into autopilot and respond without thinking through the consequences, logic or reason... and she's still denying to herself how much she cares about Tash and by the end she's disappointed with how things have turned out...

PL: What is your process for writing together?

CB: We do an outline for the episodes together, and then divide the scenes up to write... usually we write for our own characters. I've written for Liv a couple of times but it didn't quite feel right, it's easier to make my own character do stuff and get into situations. Then we get together and read through and tweak, over Skype... it's a social media based writing project!

LZ: Caitlin is not giving herself enough credit here, her strengths are the observist humour and jokes, and she also provided a good check and balance against writing what really happened vs creating epsiodes for a season that stands on its own.

PL: How much do you both use social media to connect with each other, and friends and family and your own love lives?

CB: Laura and I both work from home so we GChat a lot, which is helpful to be productive for the web series, and we Skype a lot as LA can be difficult to travel across with the traffic. I would prefer not to use social media with my family... once they've friended you on Facebook and then they complain about what they see (especially the lesbian stuff!) and I can't block what they see... so tough luck. It's positive but can also be annoying.

LZ: I used social media a lot before the show personally, and in the process of promoting the series, I have become much more active on Twitter. Even though the show parodies the use of social media somewhat, doing the show made us have to use social media in a good way to connect with viewers. I have had the same issue as Caitlin with family and Facebook and had to get over the need to filter stuff... and I've found that it means family know what I am up to, even if they don't like or comment in a post, they might still ask me about something they've seen I'm doing when they see me in person.

PL: We'd also like to know what projects you are working on next...

LZ: We are writing a season 3, and also working on conceptual shorter character videos to put out between season 2 and 3. I'm working on another series called HerStory which will shoot in April. In the last six months we are working with a growing network of lesbian creatives which is creating opportunities too.

CB: I'm doing a lot of stand up and working on the season 2.5 episodes... and trying to write more sketch style content that can just go up online stand alone.

Watch #Hashtag seasons 1 and 2 on Tello Films. Subscribe for their Premium content for just $4.99 a month. It's worth it, trust us!