“EVERYONE TOGETHER is a comedy series that brings together two dysfunctional families from different cultural backgrounds as they clash and bond over a new major family milestone each season. In the pilot, resentments and old wounds come to the forefront when siblings Lulu and Martin are forced to attend the week-long, campsite wedding of their younger sister, Fern, to Eli, the younger brother of Lulu’s ex-boyfriend. The first season continues over the course of Fern and Eli’s wedding week as both families, confined together in celebration, are forced to confront hidden resentments, fears, and insecurities.” The team behind EVERYONE TOGETHER which screens in the Episodic section of SxSW 2020 Film! On this interview are co-creator and lead actor Jessica Kaye, actor and co-creator Steven Klein and writer co-creator Kelsey Ledgin.
Editor’s Note: While SxSW was officially cancelled on March 6th, 2020, the below interview was one of many that already took place prior to the festival. To respect the creators, all already performed interviews are presented in their unedited entirety below. All of the below works WILL make their way out into the world in one way or another, and we will update this article with updated information when we have it. — JW
Welcome to the amazing SxSW and congratulations! Are you planning to attend SxSW?
Kelsey: Hi! Thank you! Yes. I’m coming and have no idea what to expect but am very excited.
You are back! Tell me about your previous experience here at the festival and what you showed.
Hello from us, too! This is Jessica and Steven, both stars and co-creators of EVERYONE TOGETHER, and we’ve both had feature films at SxSW before. Jessica wrote, directed, and starred in the feature film INHERITANCE, which premiered at SxSW in 2017. Steven produced the documentary PRINT THE LEGEND, which premiered at SxSW in 2015 and won a Special Jury Prize. We’re all attending, as are several more members of our team and cast, and we’re VERY excited!
What is it about Austin, either the festival or the town itself, that excites you the most?
Steven: For me it’s the indie, smart, edgy, quirky, off-kilter, surprising, etc. energy of SxSW, and Austin, actually, in that the city and its fest fit together so well, and the amazing audiences that brings.
Jess: Yes to all the Steven said! And also to second THE AUDIENCES! There is such an excitement from everyone to see all these new films and discover new voices. The energy is palpable. It is so exciting to premiere a film or pilot at the festival!
How did you first hear about the SxSW and wishing to send your project into the festival?
Kelsey: Let’s be real. SxSW is the one you want to get into. I first heard of Sx while I was visiting the University of Texas at Austin with my mom in 2005. Our visit overlapped with the festival and the energy of the city was infectious. I spent the whole trip pretending I was there for the festival and not a college visit. Now, I don’t have to pretend!
Steven: Because we had Sx alums on our team, folks were already talking about how much EVERYONE TOGETHER fits the fest in tone and style and indie spirit. Then, when we realized our production schedule made a festival premiere make sense, we targeted SxSW as the ideal fit. We’re grateful, proud, thrilled, and many more happy words that Sx chose EVERYONE TOGETHER, and we can’t wait to feel it bounce off the SxSW crowd.
Tell me about the idea behind your project and getting it made!
Kelsey: We are very open sharers who LOVE to analyze why we are the way we are. So our creative process was really just talking about what was happening in our lives and the weird ways it diverged from our expectations. We had a lot happening personally; I had my second child, Steven moved his father into a state assisted nursing home, Jess’ dad passed away, and we were fascinated by the way these major milestones actually played out in real time. We wanted to make a show that followed one dysfunctional family’s experience over a different milestone each season; marriage, death, divorce, and birth. The moments in every family’s life that permanently alter the core configuration, and force each person to confront suppressed desires and resentments. We figured in addition to therapy it’d be a good way to process our own family dramas.
Jess: Yes to all of what Kelsey said, and we also started by talking about our greatest fears in terms of our lives, like what version of ourselves would it be our greatest fear to become. It was fascinating and funny to look at the characters that emerged from these fears. We started to build Lulu, Martin, and Fern around this starting point and went from there. Some of the characters are still quite close to these ‘greatest fear’ versions of ourselves, and some have diverged quite a bit, but it was an interesting starting point to begin the conversation. Steven and I had also wanted to play siblings for awhile; since we had been mistaken for them in our social lives, especially at a certain point when we had almost the same haircut, we knew we wanted this season to center around a sibling relationship.
Who are some of your main creative inspirations?
Kelsey: Anything that challenges the way we look at ourselves or our culture. Mostly books come to mind; “Three Women,” by Lisa Taddeo. “God: A Biography,” by Jack Miles. “White Fragility,” by Robin DiAngelo. I’m also obsessed with Succession and Cheer, so there’s that.
Steven: I was first going to write about filmmakers and theatermakers who inspire me – of whom there are many, many, with Joe Swanberg and Phoebe Waller-Bridge among the most relevant for EVERYONE TOGETHER. A more truthful answer is that my main creative inspirations these days are the voices that bounce around in my psyche, the various repressed and vulnerable and afraid version of me that I’m supposed to try to pretend aren’t there. It’s also true that I’m creatively inspired by everyone who makes me carefully examine my life which includes great artists including Swanberg and Waller-Bridge, but it also includes my close friends including my co-creators and my wife and two kiddos.
Jess: I am definitely on the Phoebe Waller-Bridge train. I’ve been obsessed with her work for awhile now: it’s raw, yet meticulously crafted, personal, funny, and really freaking smart. Honestly, there are so many filmmakers, artists, collaborators and friends who have inspired me; at the moment though, if I had to name a few creative spirit animals I’d choose: Björk, Grimes, David Bowie, Ohad Naharin of the Batsheva Dance Company, Tilda Swinton, Isabelle Huppert, Virginia Woolf, Toni Morrison, Leonor Fini, Maren Ade, Guillermo del Toro and Andrei Tarkovsky.
How did you put this together from a technical viewpoint? What sort of cameras/lenses did you use and/or did you have any creative challenges in making it?
We shot over 6 days on the ARRI Amira using Canon lenses and then, after getting to a solid rough cut, did a half-day pickup to add a clarifying scene. There were no creative challenges at all. JUST KIDDING! Like nearly all the projects at SxSW, we had to stretch limited resources to pull off our vision, and it requires profound sacrifices and very hard work from literally every single person involved. Among the more amusing challenges: we shot at a hippie commune, literally, in Topanga Canyon last spring, and while that would have been a challenge in any case with a remote area, limited access to the production sites and so forth, we got the bonus challenge of about three straight weeks of rain just prior to production. It’s hard to describe how much mud there was everywhere, but suffice it so say our crew can now help you film something in any mud pit, anywhere.
After SxSW, where is it going next? Anywhere you would love to show it?
We shot our pilot as part of our process for developing and pitching EVERYONE TOGETHER as a series, so being at Sx is a validating bonus. Our next step is to take the pitch out to partners who can help us make the series.
If you know of anyone around you wanting to become a filmmaker/creator, what would you suggest to get their start?
Steven: Prioritize making something, anything, over being precious about what you make. Make bad things. Fail a bunch. But make, make, make.
Kelsey: Find people you can collaborate with! It’s more fun and less daunting.
Jess: Yes to what Steven and Kelsey said: make things and find people to make things with.
For more information on this film and to follow its progress into the festival world, point your browser to www.sxsw.com/film!