A Conversation with Summer Blake, Creator of forthcoming Web Series Insignificant Other


I was able to speak with Northwestern alumni Summer Blake about her new comedy web series Insignificant Other. This series follows two exes as they continue sharing an apartment even after their break up.

First off, I’m always interested in seeing how people find comedy as their main creative outlet. Mostly, because comedy is hard. How did you come to love writing comedy?

Divorced parents. Anxiety. Depression. Getting picked on in school. Having a head that was too big for my body, bucked teeth, and incredibly hairy legs that my mom wouldn’t let me shave when I was eleven. Comedy’s just a way of coping with life, which can be such a huge bitch sometimes.  It’s like a neurotic’s meditation practice. When things were rough at home I would binge my family’s collection of Simpsons DVDs. Then I moved on to Seinfeld. Arrested Development. I actually have a tattoo on my back that’s a reference to AD. It taught me that having a dysfunctional family is yes, at times a bit sad, but anything sad or painful or embarrassing can be funny. And that’s pretty much my motto to this day.

So while this web series is a comedy, there is also a realism in how it deals with the central romantic relationship. Though it is definitely not a rom-com, if anything it seems like the anti-rom-com. Why did you decide that this story needs to be told now and how is it relevant to your own life?

Oh god, love and the lack thereof is everything. It’s EVERYTHING. It’s comedy, it’s drama. It’s the highs and the lows of life. Funny enough I stole the idea from my friend Mary who was living with her boyfriend for a month after they’d broken up. Those year-long leases are a bitch. Especially in the coastal cities it’s impossible to afford rent. I pretty much go on dates now trying to sniff out whether I can stay with the person long enough to be my bedmate and pay 50% of what I pay now for silver lake. (Maybe I shouldn’t admit that. I think the trick people into liking you is playing hard to get and not ‘ready to wed.’)

Since the time I asked permission to use my friend’s story, I’ve come across the same premise in actual life like two or three more times. Living with your ex and hating them! It’s rampant! Like the millennial version of kids putting too much strain on marriages.

But I think above all else, this is a comedy about growing up and learning that to find yourself you often have to let go of people or habits that define you. And that process rarely happens overnight. What will Gerry and Carl mean to each other in ten years? I’m not sure I know the answer. Only that love fades, but I don’t think ever completely evaporates.

What was the process like for creating this series, especially as the auteur (writer, director, star) of the piece? What did you learn along the way and what might you do differently next time?

The fact that we even made the damn thing is a huge success. But aside from that, I learned so much as a relatively new director. I learned both the power of compromise, because filmmaking is inherently such a collaboration. And also the power (which I’m still working on, because I’m a people pleaser and it’s difficult) of sticking up for yourself. Females so often are taught to be peacekeepers and agreers. To not stir up tension or be too assertive. My co-director and DP are two of the smartest motherfuckers I know - and also two of the loudest and most aggressive in their decisiveness and vision. If I was gonna get a word in or make a change, I had to stand my ground. That was difficult. Not just being a female filmmaker, but also just as a person working with their friends….who are all working for free!

In the future, I think I’ll probably stay away from acting and directing simultaneously. I don’t know how so many big hollywood icons do it! Your brain is split between two opposite roles on set and you are only able to give 50% of your brain to each. Acting is all about presentness. About being true to your scene partner and listening to their lines in order to give an organic response. But when your eyes are drifting to the monitor and you’re thinking about when to call cut, you start to phone in your performance. Thank god, my co-director, Sam Freedman (shout out, I love you) is a total pro. Our second round of shooting went so much more smoothly when we more established our roles.  He’d set up the shot with Ryan our cinematographer, while I’d run lines with the actors.


Yes, I can definitely see how serving in so many roles would be difficult but manageable during pre-production and post-production, but insane during the actual production. Any insight into how you made things work on set?

Being on set - at least when you have an all-consuming no-time-to-breathe role as director/writer/producer/actor - is about as fun as life gets for me. With a mind that runs a mile a minute and destroys my soul with anxiety when sitting at a 9-to-7 desk job, being consistently under pressure to get the shot, get it right, then set up the next one, is like heroin. Time passes so quickly you wouldn’t believe.

Of course, filming isn’t without its stresses. We shot the entirety of episode 3 in a day and by the end I think we all wanted to kill each other. First there was the taping of a camera to the hood of a car to film a driving-and-talking scene, which, suffice to say, when you’re working without insurance, might just be the most stressful thing you can do to yourself. Then my co-director lost his backpack on the beach. (Funny story, he was pulled over later that day making an illegal u-turn, and the officer who gave him the ticket found his backpack that night.) But it was all worth it because a) we got some amazing footage. And b) we saw Caitlyn Jenner in a starbucks!

I got to watch the trailer and was very impressed by the cinematography, especially the beach scenes. How did y’all achieve such beautiful shots?

Thank you! We three (me, my co-director, and my DP) are all such film kids deep down. We may not have learned anything relevant about being a professional in the industry in college but we DID learn how to shot list the hell out of a scene.

I can’t emphasize enough how important good pre-production is to the success of a project. It’s a bitch to spend hours around your kitchen table doing preliminary concept meetings, shot listing and scheduling meetings, etc etc - especially when you know the project you’re creating is in a sense, super amateur. But taking the little steps seriously is what gets you a decent looking hour of content on a miniscule budget.

Not to say we didn’t fuck up. We totally did. Our third weekend of shooting we completely forgot to take times of day into consideration and ended up taking six or so hours to tape trash bags to the windows. Then take them all back down again. I’m sorry to our actors. They were wonderful and very patient. I love them to death.

Astrology sign?

Cancer sun / Taurus Moon / Leo Rising 

(my shrink thinks the latter one is super important for some reason. I think I have to keep paying her to find out why.)

Those are good signs to have! Especially the Leo Rising (though I am biased.)

How did you all find the music for your series? Where can we listen to it after we watch the series and become obsessed?

I don’t know too many indie bands, so I reached out to people who I thought were more in the know. My friend/roommate Sadie, for instance (who’s also helping out with our publicity) is big into smaller labels primarily in Chicago, and an ex who works as a composer who knows several indie acts around LA. And then for some finishing touches I dug deep for hours on Spotify, searching for artists who are up and coming and had the right sound for the project.

Our list of amazing performers includes: Beach Bunny, Huxlee, Space Cadets, Doso, Tealideal, and Maddie Ross. Our composer, Chris Anselmo (look him up on wikipedia he’s gonna be a huge deal!) also wrote some of the music, as did our incredible sound designer, Laszlo Bereti.

Where can we find the series?