Eight years ago, when the finale of The L Word left lesbian drama-enthusiasts speculating on who killed Jenny and wondering where they would go to see some semblance of their own relationships reflected on screen. In the last five years, the answer to that question has become YouTube, the home of some brilliant web series created by those without immediate access to Hollywood or its money. Skye’s the Limit (STL) is one such show, though not often mentioned in the same breath as other online series of its caliber. (Let's change that.) Created by writer/producer/director Blue Talusmah, this new kid on a largely gentrified block has already made a huge impact.
The title character is a young woman in the middle of a major transition. Having recently lost her job, Skye is trying to find her way when an old crush and fellow Howard alumna comes to town. What ensues is a thought-provoking, surprising storyline in which the main characters go inside themselves as often as they go behind each others’ backs. Talusmah, however, doesn’t believe in drama for drama’s sake. Here, she tells EBONY.com about her smart audience, emotional responsibility, and using film as a medium for telling the stories that heal.
EBONY: Can you give our readers a history of your web series?
Blue Talusmah: We launched January 31, 2012 and our season was supposed to end in June 2012 but funding caused a serious delay (the first season actually ended in May of 2013). We're a three season storyline and all the really good stuff hasn’t even happened yet. The production team and I have footed 90% of the fees (for the first season) and we get about 10% from donations. We need to flip those ratios to come back a second season. I had a conversation with our cast and said "our fans have to bring us back."
EBONY: How do you approach production given your budget limitations?
BT: I'm very driven by aesthetics. I’m a visual/tactile learner so if something doesn’t appeal to all five senses, I’m out. I made the cast shoot every scene a dozen times just so we could get different angles, like a “real” show. Being on YouTube isn’t an excuse not to give it your all. My Howard University intern once said some scenes made her think of the sort of “grown folks” elegance she wants when she gets older and has a home of her own, and that was the point. I think some film makers, especially in minority or marginalized groups, get so caught up in keeping it real [that] they forget to be aspirational.
EBONY: I really appreciate the complexity of Skye and Jay’s relationship. In another writer’s hands, they might be reduced to stereotypes: the player and the naïve girl. As the season progresses, it seems that Skye avoids this naiveté with the help of her friends.
BT: The thing about Jay is this: Jay loves Skye as a person but doesn’t fully know what to do with that. I think many of us get accustomed to shallow relationships so when we meet someone who we connect with intimately we almost have a knee jerk reaction to push them away or keep them at arm’s length. We all say we want love, but from my experience healthy love actually scares the pants off of people. And Skye represents the woman who is so busy seeing someone's hurt she ignores their choices. Whether Jay loves Skye romantically or not, deep down, her choices towards Skye were selfish. My whole production team is based on a mission to spread the word about "emotional responsibility," but be so entertaining that you don’t feel preached to. "My audience is smart." I always sit down with that in mind. I didn’t want to talk down to anyone or come off self righteous. The Mother Indigo scene actually happened to me. I’ve literally had that conversation. I almost cried writing it.
EBONY: What attracts you to this medium as a way to spread that word?
BT: I was born an empath, which simply means I feel things so intensely it literally takes over me. Good energy or bad, I’m super receptive to it all. Being like that meant that I always saw "too much" and felt it was a burden. What I now see as a gift used to feel like a curse. Then one day I grabbed a yellow notepad and at 8 years, [I] old just started writing. The more I wrote the lighter I felt. But I would see things vividly like a movie in my head, so I became obsessed with film. I do this because I’m compelled to. It’s a calling. It’s a blessing when you find out that you can do what you love and feed those around you at the same time.
EBONY: I was already a fan of STL but I appreciate it even more having spoken with you. Is there anything more that you want us to know about your show?
BT: So here's the thing I want folks to know about our show: I’m a super demanding director, so my cast and crew is only made up of super courageous people who are willing to constantly take leaps of faith. Also, I’m using a marginalized group to tell a universal story. These aren’t all gay issues or black issues. They are part of the human condition. Lastly, if you don’t like something going on in your life you can always write yourself a new story. By the end of season 3 of STL I want everyone who watches the story arc to walk away having stopped to reflect at least once, having laughed at least once and yes maybe even having flinched a bit. We're trying to encourage folks to communicate better and have courageous conversations. Our community needs that.