Katie Sheridan, co-writer and star of 2015 Skype-set web series Match Not Found, talks to us about bringing the series back during lockdown, having to find new ways to produce the show remotely, and advice for other filmmakers looking to create a video call-based series.
Hello Katie, thanks for talking to us. You’ve recently revived your Skype-set romcom series Match Not Found that originally began back in 2015, with award-nominations at Raindance and C21. Before we talk about the new episodes, can you tell us what the series is about? Hey! Yes, it follows the story of Kat, who at the beginning of the series has just been dumped and is now, despite feeling quite fragile, on an eventful quest to find the right man. Her friends step in to help and advise her but it soon becomes obvious they’re just as clueless and luckless in love as she is.
So at its heart, it’s an ensemble comedy about this group of friends who have no idea what they’re doing with their love lives, but are all trying to work it out together.
How did the original series come together, both in terms of production and cast?
I wanted to create something that I could act in but also have a go at writing, as I had the feeling that was something I would like to try. So I started off just writing a few monologues loosely based on my own dating disasters.
I’d worked with producer and director Phil Ox on the Nickelodeon show Genie in The House when I was younger and he very much encouraged me to go for it and develop it into a proper web series that we could work on. Alex Oates is one of my best friends, we’d been to university together and were housemates for ages and he happens to be a ridiculously talented writer. So I was very lucky that Alex offered to help and co-write the series with me and it all went from there.
In terms of cast, Connor Mills, Kirsty J Curtis, Nicholas Clarke and myself had all appeared in a play together which the lovely Rikki Beadle-Blair had cast us in and directed earlier that same year. So when Phil suggested we hold auditions for the regular roles in Match Not Found, I called all three of them in. They’re very talented and were a great fit for the characters and it was also nice that we already had a kind of group chemistry because we’d done My Girlfriend Is A Real Doll Face together, which was written by actress Lilly Driscoll. So down the line when we decided to write in Kat’s sister, I always had Lilly in mind for that part and we wrote it for her.
The same with Nicholas Clarke who had auditioned for Doug originally, which went to Connor. Nick was so funny in his casting that Alex and I decided to write something specifically for him, he’s too good not to have in the show.
Producing short films and web series via Skype and Zoom is currently all the rage in the lockdown world. What prompted you to use this format back when film crews were still allowed out of the house?
It came up quite organically. I’d already written those few little monologues about dating so when we then decided to expand it into a web series, that naturally lent itself to using that format with each episode opening up in this vlog style with Kat talking directly to the audience through her web cam. Alex and I then wanted to use Skype as a way to open it up and incorporate more characters, so that rather than just hearing about Kat’s friends, her dates and her world, we would be able to show it and setting it on Skype meant we could do that but in a very self-contained way.
From the start we knew we needed to create something we could film with a very small team and on a modest budget and doing it this way was perfect for that. I didn’t realise this format would have such a life span that we could go on to create 50 episodes, but it became quite a fun challenge of how much we could push the boundaries with it and we started to expand with filming certain episodes outdoors or at events like the Book Launch episode, so they generally got more elaborate as time went on.
The original series drew a sizeable following during the original 48-episode run. What can audiences expect from the new episodes? We wanted to tie up some loose ends as we’d left episode 48 on a bit of a cliff hanger, so that was important to us that we do that.
All the regular cast are back and we’ve stayed true to the original style and spirit of the series. We also have some of our semi-regular cast returning, including Blanche Anderson, Simon Pothecary, Oliver Malam and Scampi the dog, who belongs to my best friend Lisa. Scampi has actually just won the Palm Dog award in Cannes for her role in the most recent David Copperfield film, so we were lucky to be able to get her back for the special really!
The special is in two parts, which are a little longer than our usual episodes and focus on how the characters are managing in lockdown. There is also going to be a Skype wedding, which we always wanted to do at some point in the series, so it’s going to be a pretty special one for episode 50.
How did the decision to make new episodes come about and how did you approach them?
Well we had always intended to do more at some point, that’s why we left episode 48 on a cliff hanger but then we all got quite busy. Our cast and team are successful and it wasn’t always easy to find the time where everyone’s available to film round each other’s schedules.
Then lockdown happened and suddenly we all had a lot more time and it felt like a good opportunity to get the gang back together again and of course having always been a Skype based web series anyway, we were more than ready to film and get content out in that format.
Were there any new ways of working since you last filmed for the series? Yeah quite a few!
Normally, Alex and I would meet up in person to write episodes, usually at his house or in the pub! Whereas this time we wrote the new ones together over Skype, which felt quite fitting. Also, usually all the cast and team would come together to film and we would have various backdrops created in a couple of rooms of Phil’s flat to make it look like the characters are all in different locations.
Previously, we would also film with proper cameras, lights and sound equipment whereas this time round we had to rely on the actors to film themselves at home using whatever they had at their disposal. We all filmed ourselves as if it was a self-tape on one device and then on a second device we were all connected for real on Skype, so we could hear each other and play off each other’s voices.
What felt very consistent and normal though is that we have always been a very small, dedicated team who don’t need a huge crew around us to film in this format. Phil was still able to direct us over Skype which was great, our amazing editor Mayerly Marquez Ramirez was also there keeping an eye on continuity with the script, and Alex was there to read in if we needed him, so although we were filming remotely it certainly wasn’t a lonely experience.
What was it like reuniting with the team to put the new episodes together?
It was really lovely to be back with the team, it was like a reunion. It’s funny how when you’ve worked with a group of people over a long period of time, even if you then have a long break, when you come back together it just all clicks back as if you were never apart really.
Of course. it was a bit strange because normally we would all come together to film our episodes so it was a bit bizarre doing it remotely but also really great at the same time to have something creative to focus on during such a strange, unsettling time in the world. It felt very nice and reassuring to have the familiarity of the team back together.
What’s the response been like so far to the return of the series?
The response so far has been really lovely, touch-wood! I always felt bad that we hadn’t come back to it because we left it very much unresolved and we had built up quite a nice, loyal following who we would get messages from wondering where the follow up episodes were.
Of course, with it now being a couple of years down the line from when we finished series 3, I was nervous if those people would tune in again after this amount of time. So it’s been so great to see all the comments on our YouTube page and that we’ve had on social media from people who are excited that it’s back and are tuning in.
Someone the other day put up an Instagram story of them watching the first of the new episodes on their TV and talking about Kat’s Dumbledore quote. Stuff like that is just so lovely to see if something resonates with someone, it really means a lot to know that.
Do you have any advice out there for filmmakers thinking of shooting a video call short film or web series?
I would say filming things set on video calls is a very revealing format because there’s very little to hide behind or distract if the dialogue or plot isn’t strong, so make sure your script is really solid before you launch into filming.
There are a few limitations when you film something that is set on Zoom or Skype and I think it’s important to think about how you can flip that and use those things to your advantage. Alex and I had to get quite creative with where and how we set things. Phil and Mayerly were also very creative in post-production and with how they utilised music and sound effects.
Finally, if you film the way we do where the actors are looking directly into camera, it’s always nice if possible to do a rehearsal so the actors get a chance to play it off each other for real so they have more idea what they’re reacting to.
Katie on Twitter: @K_SheridanTweet
Match Not Found on Twitter: @MatchNotFound