A change in location often seems to be the best way to shake off bad habits, a dead-end job or the lingering remains of a broken relationship. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but an adventure is always in store. Filmmakers Alexandra Roxo and Natalia Leite explore this in their brilliant new web series Be Here Nowish—and they do so with such intelligence, honesty and humor that it's been selected by this year's TriBeCa Film Festival, where the pilot debuts today. The duo behind the series (and Purple Milk production company) is not new to filmmaking. They've made a documentary, "Serrano Shoots Cuba," on the life and works of photographer Andres Serrano, they launched a pilot for a show called "Every Woman." They've co-directed commercials and music videos—and there's more on the way.
"Be Here Nowish" is told in six-minute installments across 10 episodes. During the season, an awkward, chance meeting between Sam (Roxo) and Nina (Leite) develops into a close connection and a deep, exploratory friendship in the midst of their changing lives. Sam is a dating consultant, who should be consulting the men she herself dates. Nina is a prescription pill dealer with commitment issues. A bad Yelp review and failed attempts at turning things around lead Nina to a new direction: a guru-shaman in Los Angeles—a trip Nina was offered and that Sam clings to, also hoping it will bring about change. As with most adventures, things aren't what they seem and never turn out as planned, but "Be Here Nowish" catches the magical moments of fun and awakening, amidst morphing spirituality and developing sexuality.
"We were looking for a show that reflected our community—people exploring more alternative practices of spirituality, seekers, queers, people that have unconventional jobs, people that come from diverse backgrounds and choose unconventional paths in life," the filmmakers share with CH. "We just didn't have much in common with the shows we kept seeing on TV or the web." In the absence of content that harmonized with their thoughts and desires, they went out and made it themselves.
Leite and Roxo shot on and off for a year, "around other shoots, schedules and people's day jobs. We had to stop for a little while to raise money and do a Kickstarter." From there, production charted the course of friendship—something deeply integral to the filmmakers' process and the essence of "Be Here Nowish." "The whole thing just started off with a few friends getting together on Saturday afternoons to do something fun with no money. We were just being resourceful and calling in the people we love to come be a part of it." They worked with upwards of 40 friends during the shoot's duration, noting that, "Basically, we've convinced every friend we know to help in some way at some time."
As for being co-creators, the two shared some of their process: "We sit in a room and write together. We've spent the last two years working together almost every day. We also text and email each other random ideas at all hours and it's an important part of the creative process that we have an open line of communication." Beyond the duo, they further credit those around them for inspiration, collaboration and progress. "Our community and collaborators on the show have contributed a lot, like Liz Armstrong (who acts in it and was also our story editor) and Karley Sciortino (aka Slutever, who also plays Aurora). They've written some of our favorite lines."
Roxo and Leite originally met through mutual friends. "We were drawn to each other because we have a lot in common. We both liked each other's work; we both speak Portuguese; we both have been dedicated to our spiritual paths and curious about that for about 15 years." Of equal importance, they continue "and also our work/art is at the forefront of our lives. And we are both extremely hard workers. We realized pretty early on that this was a special working partnership we had." The filmmakers hope that audiences enjoy the series—and laugh. But they have their sites set on TV; "We know there is an audience for it," they share. And with such clever, laugh-out-loud humor, stemming from a genuine attempt by two characters to change their lives, it's more than relatable. It's charming, and it is certainly now.
The pilot episode is streaming online thanks to the TriBeCa Film Festival.
Trailer and stills courtesy of Be Here Nowish