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March 18, 2016

Watch the Hilarious New Sketch Comedy Web Series: Cake Walk!
by WomenInComedy - 0

The Cast of Cake Walk

An Interview with Series Creator Serena Schuler


By Christine Cannavo, WICF Associate Producer

Cake Walk is an uproarious sketch comedy series about the joys and absurdities of Engagement, where nothing is a Cake Walk. It's a playful romp through love, marriage, and the wedding plans that threaten it all. Each episode features new characters barely holding on to their sanity as they get ready for the last, best day of their lives.

The series was created by Serena Schuler, who developed the idea shortly after getting engaged. She began writing the series in June of last year and, with 12 members of Cast and 33 Crew, filmed over five weekend days in the fall. The series just launched online and right out of the gate, Cake Walk has received positive early reception in its first season. I spoke with Serena, who shared her experiences on the making of the series.

WICF:  Tell me about how you got into making films?
Serena:  It really began with the writing. I'd been writing stories my whole life, and got into screenwriting 6 years ago when I was living in New York. When I moved to San Francisco, I joined a film incubator, worked on a couple of films to learn the ropes, and made my first film The Ten Plagues. Since then, we've won awards and screened at festivals all over the world (including winning Audience Award Runner-Up at the Women in Comedy Festival last year).

WICF:  What was your inspiration for the web series Cake Walk?
Serena:  It seems as if everyone on Facebook and Instagram is getting engaged, taking it so seriously, and portraying themselves in the best light. But really, life at this stage is messier, crazier, and more hilarious than you'd imagine. I'm engaged myself and have come across the most hysterical circumstances which are totally worth poking fun at. I realized, this is comedy gold. We're taking something sacred and making it absurd.

WICF:  Did you improvise scenes to help you with the writing process?
Serena:  We always started with the script, and we were constantly building on the story. In rehearsals, the actors brought life to the characters and improvised some dialogue. Then, when we got to filming, I often would pause between takes to write down a new joke for the actor on a post-it note and share it with just her. She'd giggle to herself and use the new line in the next take. And usually, that was the line that made it into the final cut. These are the best improv comedians in San Francisco, they absolutely are at their best when there's a fresh turn to the story.

WICF:  Tell me about your fabulous cast!
Serena: The cast is mostly improv comedians, many of whom performed together onstage with various improv teams within Endgames in San Francisco. (And for several actors in the series, this is their first film credit!) One of our lead actors, Kyna Wise, is the daughter of actor Ray Wise (Twin Peaks) Two of our lead actors - Kaeli Quick and Julie Katz perform with the improv group Vagina Jones, and most recently performed at SF Sketch Fest.

WICF:  What's it like to work with actors who are improvisers?
Serena:  It's a phenomenal gift to work with improvisers. They're trained to go onstage and make bold character choices with voice, physicality, and all of the quirks to embody the person they're playing. Improvisers bring such a richness to each character. They can riff with each other's characters and bring new depth to each scene. There were times when I'd ask the actors - what would your character do next? And they were able to take a small detail from earlier in the story to think of a hilarious action or dialogue to make the scene really pop. Improv actors don't take themselves too seriously, constantly iterating on new material, and aren't afraid to try things. They're exceptional at listening and support each other as performers.

WICF:  What are your biggest hopes for the Cake Walk series?
Serena:  We know that there's an audience who's hungry for content that features women in comedy. And this series taps into the engagement experience that isn't being satirized enough, where there's plenty of room to make that connection with the audience who just wants to laugh at the absurdity of it all. There's so much potential for this series, we've only just begun! We're currently looking at partnerships and distributors for Season 2. In the future, I want to write for television, and it's been a fantastic experience to just put my work out there.

WICF:  What advice can you give to filmmakers about how to get your stuff out there?
Serena:  Find great collaborators and build your dream team. When it's your production at an indie level, you get to decide who to work with. Choose cast and crew that are strong in their craft and their passion. It's absolutely the strength of the team that makes the project soar.

WICF:  What is your take on the uproar in Hollywood over the lack of female directors, writers, and editors getting a hand up in the business?
Serena:  The good news is that there is momentum for change right now. Leah Meyerhoff is leading the charge with Film Fatales, a collective in which I'm a part, which supports and promotes female directors. There are also new studio initiatives like J.J. Abrams' production company Bad Robot and its talent agency CAA, which are now requiring that women and people of color are submitted for writing, directing, and acting opportunities in proportion to the population. It's an exciting time; this movement is just getting started.


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