Society often dismisses the problems of millennials as trivial and not worth noting -- as if the trials and tribulations of life only bare down on us in our more advanced year. With her stellar web series Single and Anxious, creator, writer, and director Christina Faith brings the lives of twenty-somethings into the forefront, allowing her characters to grow, expand and be their authentic selves.
Single and Anxious follows a group of friends, Karissa (Milaya S. Gregory) and her drug-dealing boyfriend T (Branden Brook). Amaya (Daarinah Saafir) and her cousin Tasha (Fann Sanders), Sebastian (Don Cephas) who is struggling with his Christianity, Santos (Jerrick Medrano) and Je’Kob (Brandon J McLean).
Described as Girlfriends meets A Different World with just a hint of The Wire, Single and Anxious which just dropped its second season earlier this fall is Faith's brainchild. “When I think about anxiety, I don't think about anxiety from the perspective of, 'I just want to be in a relationship'," she explained to me. “My thing is, anxiety comes from being in relationships with people that may not be the best fit for us -- or at the wrong time. Single and Anxious came from my singleness when I was single and [it] bothered me all the time. I got tired of writing about singleness from the biblical perspective, and I thought, ‘Let's just make some characters.’ So the book and the show both have the same name, but they approach anxiety from a different perspective. Karissa is anxious to keep the perfect life [which] you see from the first season. Then, in the second season, you see she's anxious from the perspective of, 'I don't want the perfect life. I just want to do what I want to do.' So it's just a play on words."
With literally no budget to speak of, Faith had to get extremely creative when it came to getting Single and Anxious on screen and out to the general public --but she wasn't deterred. “Creative Thought Media (CTM) is the production house that me and my husband along with our Director of Photography started," she said. “By trade, we do still photography. I was doing a 16-part documentary for PBS, so I was getting a lot of money all at once. This allowed us to update and purchase our equipment so we wouldn't have to borrow. We knew that our biggest problem when it came to creating independent content was literally, the equipment. The music that we used the first season — one of my homies scored the entire first season. We had some original indie artists that I've known. Philly is full of music artists, and a lot of us are all friends. I got the music for that season from them. Then the second season, we really took everything that we learned from the first season to up the ante as much as possible.The second season we had nothing. Like when I say, ‘We had no money,’ we had nothing. We used the creative economy of collaboration. One of my closest friends, she's like a musical genius that would be a great A&R if she could get a job. I was like, ‘Why don't you music supervise?' So we went online, and we just found some of the dopest artists ever and sent some emails. Pretty much everybody that we really wanted, except for like one or two artists, agreed.
For the score, we had done a short film and I found this guy in the UK to score that. He scored it for like twenty-five bucks. And so I hit him up about Single and Anxious. He scored thirty pieces of music for $150. That is how much money we spent out of pocket. The food -- we had someone sponsoring us, so they covered our food on set for a few days. Then when we didn't have any sponsors, I was just like, "What you got on my $40?" Everybody put in $5. It's because people believe in a project. It's the first project I've ever done where so many people are just willing to help — that doesn't happen.”
For Faith and CTM using their platform to tell stories, goes well beyond putting forth Black characters that have never been seen before. It’s also been about giving back to Philadelphia and giving opportunities to a new generation of creatives. “I teach high school," Faith explained. “So a third of our crew is under 18. I spend the weekends with them at the program that I teach for, and they come to my studio, and I teach them about documentary film, and editing, and stuff like that. So then they end up becoming production assistants on staff. The first episode was edited by an 18-year old. He just started his first year in college. He spent from March until now with us every day after school learning how to edit and learning how to write because he wants to be a director and a writer. We try to reach out to people. The industry is so closed in. You don't really get the help you need; you don't get the feedback you need. So for me, I've had to learn how to do it through YouTube and Google and just picking stuff apart. When it comes to the cast, a lot of them are writers. I'm like, ‘Well, let's get you writing credits now. Let me teach you what I know, and then we'll both know and figure out how this works.’”
The city of Philadelphia is also a major character in the webseries. “Philly is a place that you love to hate," Faith said thoughtfully. "It's very intentional that I chose Philly. I'm actually from Jersey, but I became an adult in Philly. One of the biggest things that people talk about is, ‘Philly doesn't support Philly.’ It's such a nasty problem; it just doesn't make sense. We have a city that everyone knows, but we don't know how to use this city. So for me, it was, ‘How do we make Philly look beautiful?’ We figured out how to make the hood look beautiful. That's a really important thing, figuring out how to tell drug dealers' stories who have backgrounds, who have families, who are the way they are for a reason. How do I tell the story about a good girl that's in love with a drug dealer while making sure she has a backstory? There's a reason. For me, all of it makes some kind of sense in the way that we look at people.”
Aside from being a creative force, Faith also has a Masters of Divinity. With Single and Anxious she wanted to use progressive faith to talk about life’s complicated choices. “So I'm a believer, “ Faith laughed. “I'm a Jesus-freak type believer. But I find that movies don't reflect the process of becoming a believer or the struggle of faith, or how people become who they are. So for me, my thing was, ‘How do I make something that is edgy?’ How do I show people's struggle? Not just the redemption story. It's very intentional for me to figure out to introduce people to the faith that I now have? I wasn't raised in church. I don't have that background. How do I make it more palatable? It's not like our grandmothers' and grandfathers' church time where everyone was respected. If I say I'm a Christian, people automatically start filtering themselves. Or they get immediate stereotypes. I'm like, "I'm none of those things." Like, break out the bourbon, let's have a cigar, and let's talk. In general, I want to wrestle with my faith in film, and I want to wrestle with the concepts that people have about my faith and about themselves in it. I also want to figure out how to serve nonbelievers and believers at the same time. I don't want somebody who's not a believer to watch our stuff and be like, ‘Yo; I hate this. Why is Jesus everywhere?’ I hate that when it's like Jesus is everywhere. That's not even how life is. So it's a struggle for me. Half of the cast and crew are believers, and half aren't. So we're all learning how to do life together within our own contexts.”
Faith has apparently put her pulse on something that people have by dying to discuss because the feedback on the series has been phenomenal. With sold out screenings, and festival showings, Faith is now embarking on a campaign to get Single and Anxious on Netflix before she begins filming an even edgier season three. She hopes to begin filming in the Spring. “The first episode is written, “ she revealed. “We're actually talking about starting to film in March. We want to be editing hopefully in May. What we like to do is figure out when certain shows are going to drop and then start dropping -- not with them, but either right before them or right after them. It's such a grind but there are so many people doing the exact same thing. So for us, we're just trying to figure out how do we do something a little bit different. And even if we don't get picked up right away, that's fine. You'll know our name by the time we get to you.”
Click here to get Single and Anxious on Netflix.
Aramide A Tinubu is a film critic and entertainment writer. As a journalist, her work has been published in EBONY, JET, ESSENCE, Bustle, The Daily Mail, IndieWire and Blavity. She wrote her Master’s thesis on Black Girlhood and Parental Loss in Contemporary Black American Cinema. She’s a cinephile, bookworm, blogger and NYU + Columbia University alum. You can find her reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, read her blog at: www.chocolategirlinthecity.com or tweet her @midnightrami