By Clare Mulroy
This article was first published October 26, 2020 in Tagg Magazine here.
As a high schooler, filmmaker Marin Lepore wished she saw someone like herself on screen — LGBTQ characters with normal teen experiences. Now as the co-founder of Sad Girl Productions and writer and director of the web series I Put the Bi in Bitter, she is creating those characters for others.
I Put the Bi in Bitter is a coming-of-age comedy series following bisexual high schooler Sam (played by Rhema Srihartiti) as she navigates high school, friendships, and first relationships. Lepore wrote the series as a personal project in summer 2018 and was filming the first season by September of the same year. Kelley Zincone co-wrote and produced it. The series, which concluded after the season three finale, is available for streaming on Tello Films and YouTube.
Lepore says she wrote the series to fill in gaps she saw in the LGBTQ film category.
“A lot of the LGBT media we have right now [is] dramatic or tragic, or if they are comedies, then they rely on R-rated language or sexual humor,” she says. “A lot of the [LGBT] content we have right now isn’t really accessible to kids, so I wanted to make something that was light-hearted and cute.”
The series incorporates playful emojis into its production, which appear above the character’s heads in moments of expression and gives the series a truly Gen-Z feel.
Lepore’s ultimate goal is to normalize gay youth on TV and film. Like the character Sam, Lepore hopes other LGBTQ teenagers watching the show understand that you don’t have to have a “big, dramatic” coming out moment if you don’t want to.
What’s more important is representation. The majority of cast and crew are women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ community. The three leads are played by women of color, which is especially important to Lepore, a woman of color herself. It’s made by people in the community, for the community, she says.
“If you have a gay story but it’s completely filtered through the lens of heterosexual people, cisgender people, people who aren’t in the community, that’s doesn’t do anything to change the film industry,” she says. “The representation won’t be authentic or relatable.”
After its debut, the series appeared at various festivals around Colorado like SeriesFest and the Colorado Short Circuit Film Festival, where the team won Best Comedy and Best Screenwriting in March 2019 and the Women in Film Award in February. The series also appeared at ClexaCon in both 2019 and 2020, a media and entertainment convention for LGBTQ women, trans and non-binary fans and creators.
Though I Put the Bi in Bitter is no longer in production, Lepore hopes to pitch the concept as a 22-minute TV show in the future. This would give her a chance to expand on the characters and storyline, she says.
For the time being, Lepore is balancing finishing her Film/TV BFA at the University of Colorado, Denver and making “as many [films] as she can” to satisfy her goal of empowering marginalized groups both on screen and behind the scenes.