What is the most high-stakes text exchange you’ve ever been a part of? Hey girl, I bet it’s nowhere near as stressful as texting Ryan Gosling, as evidenced by the web series Texting with Gosling, created in 2014 by then-UT Austin MFA students Donna Hull, Chelsea Mahoney, Jessica Chou, and Rachel Kempf.
Texting with Gosling follows Felix, a young woman with the best and worst luck in the world. After attempting to rescue a neighbor’s dog from traffic and getting hit by a car, she is heroically carried to the hospital by none other than Ryan Gosling. They exchange numbers and she rushes home, which is where the series starts, with she and her three housemates spiraling into a ten episode descent into madness as they attempt to navigate the exciting terror of flirting with a celebrity via text.
We spoke to the four women behind the project, who together formed Period Piece Productions in order to produce Texting with Gosling as well as another web mini-series, Lessons Every Girl Will Learn.
What is Period Piece Productions, and how did it come about?
Period Piece is the production company we formed as the four women writers in our MFA Screenwriting class at UT Austin during 2013-2015. The four of us really wanted to collaborate on a writing project, and we were eager to make something that could be easily produced so we had not only written, but video samples of our work to show to future agents, managers, and collaborators.
What was the development process like for the show, in terms of collaboration?
For the writing process, we used to meet once a week at the bar near UT’s Radio-Television-Film building and figure out the outline for an episode, then one of us would go home and write the episode. We wrote two episodes each, and when we finished the first draft, we would email it around so the others could provide feedback and suggested revisions. Then, just before filming, we got notes from one of our professors, Cindy McCreery, and used them to punch up the jokes and solidify the final edits. We had also had the opportunity at that point to hear some of the series read by our girls and knew what was and wasn’t working
You successfully Kickstarted the series, raising over $5k for the production, which is pretty low in comparison to other series’ fundraisers. How did you manage to keep production costs low, and can you offer advice to other series looking to do something similar?
We had additional donations from a couple friends and relatives, but all told, I think we only spent around $7K on the series. We used one location, made most of the sets and props ourselves, figured out costumes from the girls’ own wardrobes, and got a lot of donations for food. Most of the funding went into camera and lighting, and we had a lot of talented crew members from UT who were willing to work for free.
Why Ryan Gosling?
The idea was to make a show about the most high-stakes text exchange ever, and Ryan Gosling is kind of like the Holy Grail of hot guys you need to not make an ass of yourself while texting. There’s a whole Internet mythology built around him being the perfect man, with the Hey Girl memes, so we figured we could tap into that.
What were the challenges of making this show (aside from raising money)?
Trying to write, produce, distribute, and promote an entire web series while we were all already sleep-deprived, exhausted grad students. Also filming inside a one-bedroom apartment during June and July in Texas—with the AC turned off for sound and twenty cast and crew members crammed into the apartment, it was about a billion degrees in there.
Who made the Verizondn thumbtack portrait, and how did they do it?
The four of us did—we got the biggest corkboard we could find, covered it in white paper, and projected a black-and-white, high-contrast image of Gosling onto it. Then we took red push pins and used them to fill in all the dark parts of the projection. I think Chelsea had the idea to do that, but I could be remembering wrong...
Is Period Piece still producing things together, or are there plans to continue producing things?
Not at the moment—the four of us are scattered across the U.S. for the time being.
What’s next for you, in terms of creative projects?
Rachel Kempf: I’m in Los Angeles, developing comedy projects for TV and film.
Donna Hull: I am currently in Austin, TX polishing writing samples and navigating what’s next on this journey of life.
Jessica Chou: I'm in Los Angeles as well, developing sci-fi projects for film and television.
Chelsea Mahoney: I'm currently living in New York, working on a new pilot while judging feature script submissions for the Austin Film Festival.
What are some of your favorite web series?
Rachel: My husband was a producer on a project called "Master Class" about a sadistic acting coach and his hapless students, which is super funny (and was also produced in Austin). As far as higher profile projects go, I liked “Awkward Black Girl” quite a bit and have recently gotten into “Eighty-Sixed.”
Chelsea: Broad City & Awkward Black Girl.
Donna: I honestly am not watching any but I’ll take some suggestions!!!
watch the show below and let us know what you think!