These days at the box office, it seems that size matters. Whether it’s the latest Marvel film, or even the female-centric “Beauty and the Beast,” movies often mean big budgets and bigger returns. Unfortunately, these properties sometimes sacrifice something hugely important as they emphasize scale: Character.
Thankfully, this month’s women-centric and -created VOD and web series picks put the focus back on character, women characters in particular.
Telling the story of a senior women’s basketball league, “Coming Back to the Hoop” is an uplifting sports documentary with a feminist twist. Director Jane Pittman tells the story of her history with basketball, and explores the way the sport fosters a feeling of community for those who play it, no matter their age.
“One Under the Sun” is a sci-fi movie, but one that keeps a precise eye on the woman at its center. The film follows Kathryn Voss, the sole survivor of a space mission gone wrong, as she’s hunted by the government after returning to earth with extraordinary powers.
In “Reckless Juliets,” one of the web series offerings, four teenage girls have their friendship tested by unexpected tragedy. Creator Skyler Barrett walks a fine line between dark comedy and compelling drama, which helps set this coming of age story apart from the young adult fare that wades into melodrama or emotional manipulation.
Tackling memory loss, “After Pluto” tells the story of a successful author who loses the last 10 years of her life after a tragic accident. Written and directed by Lane Allison, who also stars, the dramedy series examines the way memory impacts every part of a person’s life, from their relationships with friends and family to their own self-worth.
“Her Story” is a delicate, romantic drama that follows three women, two of them trans, in Los Angeles. The series is true to the complexity of trans experiences, but doesn’t let its characters be solely defined by that part of their identity. Instead, the characters have full, complicated lives in which all aspects of their identity — including gender, race, and upbringing — intersect.
Here are our VOD and web series selections for April.
“Coming Back to the Hoop” (Documentary) — Directed by Jane Pittman
“Coming Back to the Hoop”
Documenting director Jane Pittman’s return to the basketball court as a senior citizen, “Coming Back to the Hoop” uses the game to explore the way a sport or team can give a person purpose at any age. Pittman believed her basketball career to be over in high school, but now, 43 years later, she’s regained a passion for the game she once loved. As Pittman joins other senior women on the court, “Coming Back to the Hoop” tells an inspiring story of female athletes who have decided to “wear out before they can rust out.”
Rent or buy “Coming Back to the Hoop” on Amazon.
“One Under the Sun” — Co-Directed by Riyaana Hartley; Written by Katherine Tomlinson
“One Under the Sun”
“One Under the Sun” uses its sci-fi premise to tell an engaging story about a mother trying to return to her daughter. The film follows Kathryn Voss (Pooja Batra), an astronaut who returns from a disastrous space mission with an extraordinary gift, one that makes her a fugitive from the government. As she tries to return to her terminally ill daughter, Voss’ situation becomes increasingly fraught. This smart screenplay from Katherine Tomlinson is matched by deft direction from Riyaana Hartley, and both serve a compelling story about the deep bond between a mother and her child.
Rent or buy “One Under the Sun” on Amazon or iTunes.
“Reckless Juliets” — Created and Written by Skyler Barrett
Following four teenage girls, “Reckless Juliets” examines the harsh realities every teenager deals with as they begin to break away from the world their parents created for them. When tragedy strikes Carmody (Britni Raine), the leader of the group, the girls’ friendships are tested as she slowly starts to spiral out of control. Created by Skyler Barrett, the show has a dark comedic edge that prevents the show from getting too self-serious without ever doing a disservice to its characters. As its name suggests, “Reckless Juliets” isn’t afraid of the volatility of teenage emotion.
Check out “Reckless Juliets” on YouTube or the series website.
“After Pluto” — Created by Lane Allison and Sara Lafferty; Written and Directed by Lane Allison
“After Pluto” tells the story of Truman Welles (Lane Allison), a successful author who is forced to reboot her life when she loses the last 10 years of her memory. The series deals with the inseparability of memory and identity, as Truman is forced to grapple with relationships that she no longer remembers. Allison, who also writes and directs the series, managed to bring the series to life with only four days of shooting, and an incredibly small crew. In spite of its small scale, “After Pluto” is interested in the role memory plays in our lives, and what we would do if we could no longer rely on it.
Check out “After Pluto” on YouTube or the series website.
“Her Story”—Directed by Sydney Freeland; Written by Jen Richards and Laura Zak
Even as it examines the fluidity of gender, “Her Story” remains rooted in its romantic story. The web series was created by Jen Richards and Laura Zak, who also star. “Her Story” follows the pair, who are both trans women, as they open themselves up to the prospect of love. The show treats its romantic stories with delicacy and care, and is true to the humanity of the characters, rough edges included.The series has been widely recognized since its release, earning an Emmy nomination and a win at the Gotham Independent Film Awards.
Check out “Her Story” on YouTube.
Character First: April VOD and Web Series Picks was originally published in Women and Hollywood on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.