The Complex: A Black Christian Web Series Expands In Atlanta

| May 11, 2013 | 0 Comments

Sue-Ann-HinesThe Complex is a Black web series based out of Atlanta. It follows the story of Johanna, an aspiring actress who lives with her twin sister. The web series is comedic but is also spiritually grounded, with a Christian base. Sue-Ann Marie Hines, the lead actress  and co-creator of The Complex web series, talks about their new expanding web series..

JAM: What gave you the idea to start your web series?

Sue-Ann Hines: Kervin and I we used to brainstorm about show ideas and pitch our ideas to each other. He’d also pitched his ideas to his co-workers to get feedback.  When the concept of “The Complex” was pitched, we instantly knew we had something that others could relate to. We were unable to find a character like Joanna, a character who remains spiritually grounded through her dramatic trials.

We just decided to shoot and go for it.

JAM: As you stated earlier, Kervin Jenkins is your partner in creating the web series. He is also the writer?

Sue-Ann Hines: I would give him the credit of the main creator of the show. I’m also the co creator but he originally created it. He writes, produces and directs it. He does everything.

He does sound for it because he was a music producer as well. So that’s where he decided to take a shift and kind of do this interest in his creative journey to direct, produce, and write.

He is definitely a big part of the show behind the scenes. Actually, he plays the music producer in episode 2, the one where I go up to his house.

JAM:  When did the general idea of “The Complex” come together?

Sue-Ann Hines: At first it was something else. We had an idea for doing a story about the people who worked in the apartment complex and then as we were trying to flesh around that idea, the idea of Joanna character came about. Because I currently live in Florida right now. It’s almost like life imitating art.

I actually drive up there or fly depending on what’s going on in my life. When we first decided to do this, he had his equipment; I was ready to go. So we just decided to do it.

The first episode wasn’t even scripted, we were just out there. Actually the guy who was at the ending of the first episode, was outside and he saw us filming. He was like, “ What y’all doing, you shooting a documentary?” And I said,  “ No, this is a web series that we’re shooting. “ And he said, “For real?” So he took out his phone and wanted to find the channel and he was like, “What’s the website?” And I said, “This is the very first one.” I said, “Do you want to be apart of it?” And he said, “Yeah!“

I told him what the concept of the show was and he pretty much just adlibbed.  At first, he was looking at the camera and then I said, “That was good but this time just don’t look at the camera.”

So, what you see at the end of episode one, was two takes and that was it. We didn’t even get his name, he just walked off and that was it.

(spoiler alert) JAM: Was that the gang member?

Sue-Ann Hines: Yes and I think he really is in gang. He had a woman with him but she walked off to wait for him at the end of the gazebo. On another visit, when I was there we went back to the gazebo, there was a lot of gang graffiti and stuff like that out there. So it was real.

That was my real reaction. At first we were just having fun with filmmaking and things like that and then I got my sister involved. Actually when I was coming into to town, that was actually real life. I went to go pick up Kervin, who is the director.  He got in the backseat with the camera and he was filming as I was driving.

I was communicating with my sister about what was going to be said. We did different takes after I got there but some of the aspects of the first and second episode you see are in real time.

After that, I decided to really put some effort into writing the script. It just  came together.

JAM: Why do you think fans have connected so well to your series?

Sue-Ann Hines: There is a balance of real life scenarios that many can relate to and it’s also on a comedic base. The show is multi faceted. That’s why we gave it the name, “The Complex”. It speaks on following ones dreams and it also deals with trials or relocation, living with family members, looking for love and making new friends.

As a faith based production, it was important for us to maintain a healthy level of integrity. Although some of the characters are whimsical and others are humorous, it serves to enlighten. So there’s something for everybody.

JAM: How do you generate new ideas and creativity when you’re writing new episodes?

Sue-Ann Hines: Many of the ideas are from real life situations that we booth have gone through or are currently facing. It’s almost like art imitating life, which is also why so many people can relate to it. It’s like laughing at our pain. We think of Joanna’s story line, like where she should be now and the conflict of living with her sister. Then we go back and forth with our ideas before we start the writing process.

Sometimes he will start it off or I will start it off.  We live in two different cities. So, we do a lot of email communication and phone communication.

He’ll send me something that he wrote and then I’ll tell him what I do like or don’t like or vice versa. Then we’ll add to it. When we have a final script, we start to plan as far as casting, finding out if everybody is available and stuff like that.

First we started off with friends and friends of friends. But now people are reaching out to us and wanting to be apart of it. So it’s always such a great thing.  We haven’t even had a whole casting session yet.

JAM: Web series are emerging as a leading force of entertainment and education online, why do you think this is happening and what future do you see for web series?

Sue-Ann Hines: Well with the advent of smart tv and we see technology changing, this is the new wave of how people will be watching content.  We’re always pleased when someone from another country let us know that they’re watching or are going to showcase our show at their festival. It reminds us that there is a global love of web series.

It’s great to be among the many wonderful series out there, especially those that tell the Black experience. This is something that has been lacking on prime time and cable television for a while. Just like when TV first came to the scene, radio had to adjust and now TV must make way for less TV. We’re just fans of web series and I enjoy finding new ones all the time.

JAM: We discussed Kervin and your sister (Candace Hines) working on the web series. How else did you form your team?

Sue-Ann Hines: We have a very small team. You pretty much named them already there. You have Kervin that does the directing, writing, editing, video, sound and design. I play the lead actress, I also write and edit the show. My sister’s apartment is pretty much our set. She’s the set decorator. She  also helps out as a production assistant when we’re out at different sets. Tracy E. Tartt, who plays Theresa in the web series, is the photographer and production assistant. She has been great. She’s been down from day one. She always has a positive attitude and is willing to help with anything. That’s our core.

Right now we’re starting to build our crew a little bit with people wanting to work with us. We have someone who was on episode 7, who came from another web series and she helped out with our camera work.

Going forward for our next episode, we have one of our cast members who we’re relinquishing all of the writing duties to. We’re giving up your baby to allow someone else to write. James Luckett is also the guy who plays Joe, the preacher/ handy man /everything. He’s going to be writing our next episode.

As time goes on and our workload is just becoming more, we’re going to allow other people to take on different roles. It’s just been great when people take an interest in your work. We know we had to do it first to show the template and example of what the vision was.

JAM: What advice would you give anyone that is starting a web series?

Sue-Ann Hines: Well we meet people that say, “ I want to do what you’re doing.” Well do it. The beginning stages were challenging but after receiving feedback from people that are industry professionals and fans, the show started to improve.

We took in a lot of what people were saying and we applied those things. We’re not above criticism. We always welcome what people have to say, no matter if they’re a fan or somebody who is already in the business.

Give it careful thought and plan well. Look at it as a business and be organized. What started out as a hobby and a desire, extended into film making for us and has grown into a business. We stepped out on faith and had confidence that God would provide if we took the first step to press record.

If it’s possible, we’d also suggest writing and shooting your series in it’s entirety first or at least get a good bulk of it done and then release the episodes on a set schedule. That’s what we didn’t do; those are little lessons we’re learning along the way.

It takes a lot of planning. Being that I don’t live in Atlanta, it’s a lot of finances but I’ll be making my move very soon. I can’t say when, but I will be relocating there and just put more effort and attention into the show. I really want to give it the attention it really needs. It’s becoming, I wouldn’t say a monster, but it’s something that I find I’m very passionate about. If I’m going to do something, I don’t what to do it half and half. I’ve just got to put my all into it.

There are so many great opportunities there in Atlanta already. I just want to be there and make the most of those opportunities.

I would just tell anybody that wants to do something like this is to do your research first. Plan well and just do it.

JAM: Is there anything else that you want viewers and fans to know about the web series? Any news or events?

Sue-Ann Hines: Just to continue to share the videos, to watch it, subscribe or tell a friend. We’re growing but we feel like we can be further along with our viewership and promotion. There’s things that we’re going to do to help that.  But we also say if you watch it, you like it, then share it.

Tell a friend. Like I said, once I’m there full time it’s on. Not only more episodes but other content. We will be able to do more things.

For me personally, I want to create wholesome content that everybody can watch. I want it to be family friendly and still entertaining.

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Category: Interviews

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