Lissette Camacho reflects on her experience as the showrunner of her award-winning LGBT+ web series, Here We Are.
Pictured above: Camacho on the day of rehearsals.
I gravitated towards the entertainment industry because of my love for film and TV—I was mesmerized by its magic and curious about how everything was made. I also loved writing and, since my freshman year of high school, had been writing everything from poetry to short stories to screenplays. After attempting a graduate degree in medicine, I pursued my passion for writing for film and television and received my master's in Screenwriting at the New York Film Academy, LA Campus. There, I received the training necessary to begin working in the film industry.
As the creator, writer, and executive producer of Here We Are, I held a lot of responsibility as the leader of the entire production team. I oversaw the journey from script to screen and provided the majority of the finances for the show. It was a whirlwind of a learning experience. No matter how much you think you're ready for something, you can be far from it.
A showrunner controls the show's vision and is the last person to see the script before production starts. My team came to me regarding decisions on cinematography, locations, casting, as well as day-to-day challenges that needed fixing or some attention in pre-production.
You're tested every day as it gets closer to the first day of production, and especially each day of the shoot. You hope for the best and prepare for the worst. Nothing will ever happen as planned. There will always be surprises on set, especially with me playing the show's lead character. I had no idea how hard acting for the camera was, which led to multiple takes of certain shots. That takes time, and time spent comes out of the budget. This role was my acting debut, and no matter how hard I prepped, nothing could have prepared me for the real thing.
Here We Are is a summer web series, and shooting five episodes in four days at the start of winter in California was a challenge I never thought I would face. My team and I were supposed to shoot in July but getting locations on the beach was a big hurdle during the summertime. None were within our available budget, and we were also struggling to find my co-star in the midst of it.
In June, my producer and I tried IndieGoGo; it was ultimately unsuccessful in funding the entire project, so I had to continue working my day job as a medical assistant/front desk receptionist. Every paycheck I received went straight into the production fund. Month after month, we tried to make it "the month" to film Season 1, but we couldn't find my co-star or a location. We went through an extensive search for both actresses and locations, and during that time, we went through an immense amount of drafts of the show's script.
By November, I had accumulated $10,000, and I thought that was enough for the production based on our budget and started the script from scratch with my writing partner. It happens that you get lost in the same script. You try to find what's wrong and keep trying to fix the problem, but it's already destroyed, so sometimes it just helps to start from scratch.
Towards mid-November, we found my co-star, but two weeks later, we had to pivot and replace this co-star and a supporting actress due to unforeseen union issues. We found their replacements near the end of November. Everything looked like it was falling into place until I arrived in California for rehearsals and the shoot, and unexpected expenses put us $5,000 over budget. I worried that I had failed before it started, but my family came to my aid, and I'm paying them back every day. I am so grateful to my family and friends for their love and support and making my dream production come true.
As showrunner/executive producer, you must be open to constructive criticism. You have to be flexible with the shots you initially imagined because the shots may not be feasible for the camera or the budget, and at the end of the day, you are responsible for paying everyone. It all falls on you, as the boss. From this experience, for my next production, I will make sure to come up with $10,000 more than the actual budget because something will always come up before, during, and after production, and you need to be prepared for those surprises. Looking back, despite the challenges I faced along the way, it was a magical experience.
Here We Are, an LGBTQ+ web series, releases in Summer 2022 on YouTube. The series tackles mental health and sexuality with a diverse cast and crew. We want to help young people, especially in the LGBTQ+ community, to embrace who they are and know that they are not alone. You can follow @herewearewebseries on Instagram to stay updated.
Editor's Note: The official release date of the first episode of Here We Are is June 12, 2022. Since Camacho wrote this article, her web series has earned several accolades and awards, including the following:
Lissette Camacho is an award winning screenwriter based in Hotlanta with an MFA in Screenwriting degree. Her Latinx background gives spice to projects that have been selected in various film festivals. She aspired to become a medical doctor until writing for TV and film became her ultimate passion from wanting to see herself represented on screen. She strives to break stereotypes and showcase the realities of being a minority in society. She enjoys writing drama and comedy for TV and film for underrepresented communities. She also enjoys the collaborative process, from developing a story idea to bringing it to the screen and stepping in wherever help is needed. She wants to explore writing poetry and short stories more within the Latinx community to seek out how far we have come and to express the growth from the past to the present.
Images courtesy of Lissette Camacho.