For our ongoing Women We Laud series, we asked our BN NYC writer and filmmaker-producer Dillon Greenberger 14 questions about the creation of her excellent series, MARIAS.
1. What was your inspiration for the Marias series?
I think the main inspiration for the series is mainly based off of the great friendship Inés and I have with each other. It is funny, in real life I would say she is more like Maria (my character), and I am more like Daniela (her character). We aren’t as extreme opposites as Daniela and Maria, but we do have different personalities. I think that sometimes that can make a great friendship, because you can learn and grow from each other based on those differences.
2. How long did it take to shoot each episode, on average?
We shot every episode in one day. They are short episodes. Only 2.5-6 minutes long. We shot the show on a very small budget, which is why the episodes are so short. However, I am really proud of what we accomplished because we were able to tell a full story in about 23 minutes. It can be done!
3.Did you study filmmaking, or was it a trial-and-error process and labor of love?
Inés and I went to school together for Musical Theatre and moved to New York around the same time, wanting to explore more film. We decided to write a two and a half minute short to have some footage for our reels. That short is now the Pilot. People loved the pilot so much and kept asking us when we were going to make more! We didn’t even really know what a web series was until people asked us to make one. We did some research and realized that we could create a really amazing story…so we did :)
But yes, it was very much so a trial-and-error kind of a thing. We learned how to do everything with the help of our friends, research, and asking a lot of questions. We wrote, directed, acted, and produced everything together. The two of us have always been actors, but we had never done all the other stuff before. I think each episode gets better and better, because we got more experience over time. It is definitely a passion project for both of us!
4. Is Marias open-ended, the way “Curb Your Enthusiasm” could be ongoing forever, or is it more like “Search Party,” where the plot line is mapped out to a final conclusion?
I think the great thing about Marias, is that you could set Daniela and Maria in any situation and it would be funny since the characters are complete opposites. Our story could be open ended if we wanted it to be. We have the second season mapped out completely, but not any farther than that. The first episode of the second season, called “SURPRISE EPISODE,’ is actually out on YouTube and SeekaTV as well! It will give you a better idea about where the second season is headed. It is also a much longer episode.
5. Where were you in the Marias process when the pandemic hit this year?
We had been hitting the film festival circuit for the past year and were on our way to Miami and Giessen, Germany to pitch the series before the pandemic hit. We ended up attending the festival in Germany online, and the festival in Miami was rescheduled for next year. We were also most likely going to shoot an episode in Miami, which would have been a lot of fun. Covid, unfortunately, slowed our momentum down; however, I really do think there are some great things in store for us in the future.
6. Where would you ideally like to see the series land, or is it ideal for YouTube?
The series is on Youtube and the independent web-series platform called SeekaTV. I think we would really love to see the show get picked up by a major network. A lot of shows like “Broad City” and “Insecure” started out as web series as well. Sometimes the shows already have a large fan base online in a short web series form, and then it gets picked up by a network. Also, big companies like Netflix of Viacom are looking to put up more short form content because it is really fast and accessible to watch. We would love to keep growing our fan base and keep pitching.
Please subscribe to our Youtube Channel under “Marias: The Web Series” and follow us on Instagram at @marias_thewebseries!
7. It seems Marias gently reminds the viewer not to make assumptions. What are some other things you want to convey through the series?
Yes, that is a lot about what the show is about. I think a lot of people today, especially in America, are very judgmental without even knowing a person. We really wanted to convey that everyone is very multidimensional. You don’t actually know someone until you really get to know them. We also wanted to convey the importance of not stereotyping people, especially people from different cultures and ethnicities. Not all Latinos are the same, and not all Americans are the same.
For my character in particular, I also wanted to convey the importance of being confident in yourself. I have had some people treat me poorly after college and right when I moved to NYC. This really affected me, because I never really had the courage to stand up for myself in the full capacity that I wanted to. I wanted to write a character that finally could do that.
8. What is distinct to your generation about the series?
I definitely think our show has a lot of millennial jokes thrown into the series. In particular, there is a running joke that Maria loves a matcha latte….with coconut milk. It is a very millennial thing to have your coffee with non dairy milk. I think the locations of Brooklyn where we shot are very millennial/urban as well. Chilling on rooftops, hanging out at the park with friends, etc.
9. Is there anything that you would do differently now in hindsight?
Inés and I did everything. We wrote, produced, directed, and starred in the show. I don’t regret doing all of that because I learned so much, but if I had the chance to do it over again, I think I would have asked for a little bit more help from people. I also think whenever we make more, we will find a director to direct it so we can have more focus on our acting. It is extremely hard to direct yourself and act at the same time!
10. Is there any advice you would give to aspiring series creators?
My advice is “Create, Don’t Wait!” Just do it. Write the thing. Find some friends with the equipment. Raise a little bit of money. Ask friends to borrow their apartments for a few hours. A lot of new businesses might be cool with you shooting there after hours if you just ask. There are always going to be people or friends who want to create something for fun and to gain more experience. Seek those people out and I promise, it will happen.
11. What are your aspirations beyond Marias?
I have an amazing manager at CPM Talent Management who gets me auditions in TV/Film, and Theatre and I audition frequently. Even during Covid, I have had several auditions. I would love to travel the world with my acting by going on tour with a show. I would also love to book a tv show one day.
I am also starting to get into voiceover work. It is so much fun, and I think there is a lot of work in voiceover right now since you can work from your room if you have the equipment. I took a commercial class during quarantine, and I am about to take a video game class next!
12. What is the best advice you’ve been given?
The best advice I have been given is: one of my teachers in London told me to always remember that I am taller than I think I am. I am 4’11” so sometimes when I get nervous, I can “shrink”. She said to pick a tall hat and remember that I am always wearing it. Mine is a top hat. Sometimes I need to put on my top hat and be tall.
13. If you could live anywhere outside of America, where would it be and why?
London! I studied acting there at the London Dramatic Academy for four months in college. I would love to live there as a working actor. It is an amazing city with incredible art. My family is also from Mexico, and I love it there. I would love to live there for an extended period of time one day.
14. What are some other series that you personally love and recommend?
For comedies, I would recommend “Broad City,” “Dave,” and “The Great.” For dramas, I would recommend “Succession” and “The Morning Show.” There are so many great shows, but this is just a few!