(This is third in a series profiling WGAW members who are forging into the digital frontier)
(August 3, 2012)
Photo: Stefania Rosini
(L-R) Director Melanie Mayron, actress Amy Yasbeck and writer Sherry Coben confer on Little Women, Big Cars
Sherry Coben’s path into digital media was serendipitous, to say the least. Coben, creator of the 1980s sitcom hit Kate & Allie, was having a hard time finding a writing job in television four years ago, so she dusted off a spec script she had written years before about four soccer moms in New Jersey who are drawn into friendship through their daughters’ games. Helped by a friend who taught filmmaking at a Valley high school, she filmed the half-hour script with the idea in mind that maybe it could be a web series. She used her actor pals from a Hollywood improv troupe and paid them with lunch.
Through another serendipitous turn of events two years later Coben took a meeting with a development executive at Vuguru, Michael Eisner’s multi-platform content company. The executive read the 12 additional half-hour spec episodes Coben had written and greenlighted the series. “I explained that I thought women were underserved on the web and that no one had reached out to them,” says Coben.
As it turns out, she was right. Since premiering in May, Little Women, Big Cars, the web series that evolved from a 20-year-old spec script stashed in Coben’s drawer, is something of an Internet hit with a total of several million views. Last week it was picked up for a second season. With an ensemble cast that includes Amy Yasbeck, Ed Begley Jr., Julie Warner, Kristy Swanson, Romy Rosemont, Alexis Denisof, Krista Allen and Antonio Sabato Jr., each 8-minute webisode of LWBC on AOL On Parenting has more star power than many network shows.
Although writing for the web is a new experience for the longtime WGAW member, there is one aspect of her former life as network sitcom writer that remains essential to Coben – her desire to make sure that Little Women, Big Cars was Guild-covered. The series was produced by signatory Gregory Way Productions and, as such, was already in full compliance with all WGAW rules. But Coben wasn’t the only union member on the production. The series director, Melanie Mayron, is DGA, and the actors are all SAG.
While that doesn’t translate into big paydays for anyone – and the production budget is so low it’s unmentionable – Little Women, Big Cars is racking up good buzz and a lot of views. “I’m trying to make it funny but real,” says Coben, who’s happy to be writing again in an environment, she jokes, “where you can’t get cancelled.” Over the long haul, she’s hoping Little Women, Big Cars will help bring her more writing jobs. “I really like the idea of creating something and having it go from the page to the stage or the screen or the wristwatch or whatever it is people are watching it on,” she says.
For a quick overview of how to cover your writing services in New Media under a WGAW contract, take a look at the Guild’s easy-to-use ‘Checklist For New Media Projects’ by clicking here.