By Clare Mulroy
This article was first published November 20, 2020 in Tagg Magazine here.
While many film and TV productions are halting due to the coronavirus pandemic, OML’s Dating ‘In’ Place incorporates the pandemic into the central storyline. The 10-episode comedy series, which debuted on Revry on November 1, follows two women exploring long-distance dating as the coronavirus pandemic turns their worlds upside down.
Dating ‘In’ Place was created by actress and producer Shantell “Yaz” Abeydeera and Marina Rice Bader. The cast and crew filmed and produced the entire series remotely, with meetings and rehearsal done over Zoom and filming done individually on HD smartphone cameras.
According to Abeydeera, the process was challenging as both an actor and producer. Post-production file transfers sometimes had to be done standing in the street with masks on, passing drives back and forth.
“As the actor, we had to do everything: setting up the lighting, the audio, all that kind of stuff,” Abeydeera says. “Some of the shots took almost two hours to set up and then the other actor would call in…and you would act for seven minutes.”
Still, the payoff was big. Abeydeera had never even been in the same room as her co-star, Emily Goss, when the two played characters falling in love. Despite the physical distance and virtual acting, Abeydeera says that she loves the energy the cast created and the chemistry they were able to find.
The content creator says she is grateful for the chance to get to tell queer stories during such an unprecedented time. The reason for making it a comedy and love story was simple — to show how connection was possible amid seemingly impossible circumstances.
“At the beginning of the pandemic I felt like everyone was really scared and everyone was spending an exorbitant amount of time online,” Abeydeera says. “What I saw was that people really needed a distraction…something else that they can hold onto that felt positive within the negative.”
Writing the series amid a pandemic also gave Abeydeera a chance to reflect on her own life. She knows living with her wife in Los Angeles means that they have the privilege of walking down the street holding hands without fear of harassment. Others don’t have the same opportunity.
“I understand that there are people all over the world that go to digital platforms to find content like this, to find answers,” she says. “And also so that they don’t feel alone.”
Queer representation is “everything” she says, but being able to tell those stories on a platform like Revry, which is ad supported by companies that support the LGBTQ community is equally important.
Abeydeera also serves as director of content and partnerships at OML, which provides free, accessible LGBTQ content to 186 different countries worldwide. According to OML’s website, its mission is to aggregate quality LGBTQ content in one place for the community to find and enjoy.
“This is specifically what I want to be doing,” she says. “I want to be making queer content and I want to be serving my community and making the stuff that I didn’t get to see when I was younger.”