Creative Partnership Between Two Moms
by Rohana Kenin
When my co-writing, co-producing, co-starring partner Laura Frenzer and I decided nearly two years ago to write and produce the comedy web series 47 Secrets to A Younger You, which premiered on YouTube in September 2015, we had never produced a film or web series before. Nevertheless, we were 100% confident we would succeed, and that there was an audience for our brand of humor, centered on working moms facing every day disasters and middle aging not so gracefully. We’re very proud of the reception the show’s first season has received. In it’s first few weeks it received the “Made In New York” honorable mention at the Brooklyn Web Fest and was an Indiewire Women and Hollywood September 2015 web series pick. Webveeguide.com says the show is “like watching Broad City in the future” and Neil Genzlinger of the New York Times, recently wrote, “two of the most amusing moms to found [on tv] lately are on 47 Secrets to A Younger You.”
From the beginning of our friendship, Laura and I have been collaborative partners. We met in our Brooklyn apartment building ten years ago as parents with two young children each and quickly discovered we were both actors with a quirky sense of humor and a drive to make our own work that allowed space for parenting. That idea developed almost immediately into co-producing 6 summer seasons of an acclaimed family-friendly short version of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (I directed, Laura acted) that was enjoyed by thousands of kids and their families. All the while, we were helping each other with childcare, our own kids (now ages 14, 12, 11 and 10) were growing up running up and down stairs between our 5th and 3rd floor apartments, and we were having “family” Sunday dinners together that were also play dates and production meetings.
Over those six years we developed a shared ethos that doesn’t place hard lines between the different aspects of our lives – that is being working women, actors, mothers, and producers are integrated, rather than separate elements of who we are. That’s really important when working on long-term demanding project like producing a web series. When you’re balance production work on top of other work schedules and parenting responsibilities, your partner needs to be ok with kids being part of the bargain – maybe a dinner pizza meeting with the kids watching a movie in the other room, or business calls being interrupted with shouts of “mommm!!!” That time also provided us with a shared creative, administrative and parenting vocabulary for our producing partnership, and a lot of great material when our collaboration grew into a writing partnership as well.
We began writing well over a year ago. We started with lists of little moments we thought were funny, which we then developed into sketches. Then we realized we had enough material that we could shape it into a narrative comedy about two middle-aged working moms, and that grew into 47 Secrets to A Younger You. After readings of the script with friends and revising several times, we took a deep breath and committed to each other that we were going to produce a web series.
The storylines for the first season are really basic: my character, Karma, is struggling with a work deadline and ignoring her family, and Laura’s character, Julie, is trying to find a date. How the characters approach their difficulties is more important than the storylines themselves. 47 Secrets to A Younger You is really about how all the small stuff that we’re not supposed to sweat is actually able to completely derail the big stuff. So no aliens or international spy rings, just having too much to do, kids, not enough sleep, kids, laundry, kids, lice – you know the usual, the things that we all recognize.
Although new to filmmaking, between the two of us, Laura and I have nearly 50 years of experience in acting, voice-over, improv comedy, and as producers of theater, music, and other live events. We also have a wealth of professional filmmaker friends and colleagues who were very generous in answering our many questions. We wrote for over a year, began our preproduction work (finding our awesome director/editor Ryan Blackwell, getting insurance, setting up payroll, becoming a SAG-AFTRA new media signatory, and more) and in May of 2015 ran a month long Indiegogo campaign that exceeded its initial $18,000 goal (that netted us about 60% of our total budget). In June 2015, we shot all 6 episodes in just 9 days. Then we went into several months of post-production, working with Ryan and Hyperbolic Audio in preparation for the series premiere on September 17.
Some people have seen the show as truly autobiographical – two moms with two kids each, juggling the craziness of parenting in cramped Brooklyn apartments and holding down their jobs. That’s an easy mistake to make, since our characters do experience some of the same challenges that we have, and our own kids and my real life husband, Sean Kenin, are cast in those roles in the series.
The big difference between Karma and Julie and Laura and myself is that Karma and Julie are still in the “can’t see the forest for the trees phase” of their 40s. They are often enabling more than really supporting each other. Laura and I are more interested in actually supporting each other to create something together.
Laura Frenzer and Rohana Kenin are co-writing, co-producing partners for the new comedy web series 47 Secrets to A Younger You.
Rohana Kenin, an Equity and SAG-AFTRA actor, has been performing in theater, film, animation, and improv for decades. She’s worked in production for an equal length of time, from starting out with Target Margin Theater and Moises Kaufman downtown in the 90s, to producing numerous sold-out New York String Orchestra concerts presented by Carnegie Hall, chamber music concerts at Mannes School of Music – The New School, and 6 seasons of free theater and music events in Prospect Park with PLG Arts.