Thank you to The Video Ink for an awesome review of our first short season! You can read the full feature after the jump or at their website here.
Allen Weiner / May 26, 2015
It’s rare, even in big-budget silver screen fare to see children/young people portrayed in anything other than caricature form. Perhaps its ability to show two young girls as real people with powerful yet believable personalities is what makes “Olive and Mocha” one of the better (if not best) video series of its kind.
The story of how this Kickstarter-funded web series came to be is nearly as interesting as the handful of episodes that have made their way to YouTube. Writer/director/producer Suzi Yoonessi has created two versions of the show—the first one in 2011 developed for Universal Cable/NBC. The rights later reverted back to Yoonessi and writer Molly Hale, and after a failed attempt to work with a different studio, it was time to go the crowdfunding route. The $20,000 ask is to fund the series, but if $250,000 winds up in the till, a feature film will make its way to viewers.
Behind-the-curtain machination aside, “Olive and Mocha” has three crucial elements operating in harmony: great acting, insightful writing, and a great production feel. Played with a knowing innocence Olive (April Marshall-Miller) is counterbalanced by her worldly pal Mocha (Sophia Laurelin), and together they embark on life’s traumas. What takes the series to a new level is the unabashed approach to the narrative and dialog so brilliantly acted by these young women. For example, the episode, “Playing House” takes a run at love, marriage, pregnancy, and failed relationships — all in the span of two hours and 50 seconds. Seeing what might be considered adult issues through the eyes of Olive and Mocha adds deeper perspective and sensitivity than most network dramas.
Yoonessi hopes to produce four episodes of “Olive and Mocha” with Kickstarter money, and clearly she and Hale are on to something here. By the way, Yoonessi is no rookie at filmmaking and streaming content. She directed the first episode of Amazon’s wonderful kids series “Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street” and the award-winning film “Dear Lemon Lima,” which is available on Hulu and Amazon Prime. The ability to show kids as something more than stick figures is a gift, and “Olive and Mocha” is a manifestation of that latent.
On a final note, if you harken back to the original episode of “Olive and Mocha,” you will notice different young women in the lead roles. Given the time span between the two versions, Yoonesi said, she had to find new actresses as the original players had gotten too old for the parts.