“I think there’s this amazing trend happening with women, [where] we’re told to take up space, and we’re told to be loud, and go for what we want, and say what’s on our mind and that’s so great, but it’s also easier said than done because there’s a balance there.”
By: Sarah Chew
Dawn Hughes and The Rise of Eve Fantastic is an upcoming hybrid web series/web comic by Sketchy Content Productions. The story follows Dawn Hughes, a meek senior at Atwood School for the Arts who wants her chance to shine. Facing a crush who doesn’t know she exists and a mean high school queen, Dawn creates her superhero alter-ego: Eve Fantastic. But, when Eve takes things too far Dawn is left to make amends and figure out who she really is.
Sarah Chew sat down with Yona Strauss, the director and writer of the film, and Veronika Slowikowska, the lead actress who plays both Dawn Hughes and Eve Fantastic, to find out more.
Sarah Chew: What is the film about?
Yona Strauss: The film is about a really meek high school wallflower, Dawn Hughes, and the interesting thing about her is that she’s not just timid, but actually very arrogant. She thinks that she’s smarter than everybody, but nobody’s paying attention to her. So she has this really sarcastic persona, but ultimately she really just wants to be noticed. After being ignored by her crush, and bullied by the school’s diva for the last time, she creates Eve Fantastic — which is like her superhero, really brave, exciting alter-ego — to finally take control of her own life.
S: How did you come up with the story?
Y: I guess I kind of started writing the basic ideas of the story last fall, so like September of 2015, when I was at a party. I just felt like I knew all these people in a very professional capacity, you know? I was at a Ryerson party, everybody wants to be competent and a good person in RTA and everybody wants to work together, but then you go to a party, and people are different. They show different sides of themselves — they’re a lot more outgoing or a lot more rash than they would let themselves seem at school. And then just through a lot of personal experiences of showing different groups one side of myself and acting completely differently that day, that hour. Just the idea that we don’t often get to live out our whole identity: we usually have to do it in segments according to where we are and what we want from people.
S: So it’s like a movie of duality.
S: What would you say the genre is?
Y: It’s definitely a comedy, but it’s like slapstick and comic book-y, so, I mean what would you call Scott Pilgrim vs. the World?
Y: Absolutely. A coming-of-age, superhero comedy—
Veronika Slowikowska: —meets, like, Princess Diaries.
Y: (Laughs) Exactly.
S: Why did you choose to make your lead character female?
Y: They say write what you know, so it never occurred to me to make a male protagonist. Also, there’s a great quote from The Girls that’s actually the foreword of our print comic. It very loosely says, “While the boys were figuring out the person that they were going to be, the girls were trying to catch up to what they wanted them to be.”
I think there’s a billion films about boys figuring out who they are, and it’s very serious and dramatic, and it’s a million things in one, and you don’t get that as much with female coming-of-age stories. I think girls especially are often forced into acting a certain way to be taken seriously, or to feel desirable, or to not seem threatening, whether or not that actually is who they are.
S: Can you explain the difference between the two characters, Dawn Hughes and Eve Fantastic?
V: Dawn is more introverted, but she also is extremely sarcastic. [She] definitely has an I’m too cool for school thing. Low-key doesn’t really care about her appearance, but it’s all hidden under insecurities that she has. And then Eve is just the complete opposite — likes to take up space, isn’t afraid of it, very forward, very powerful, a little sexy, and I think that Dawn has never really explored that side [of herself] before.
There’s this one scene that stands out: the make-out scene. Where it’s Dawn, she sees this boy she likes, and she turns into Eve to hook–up. That was a scene I think was just really well-written, and a really great idea, because I think we all have that side of us. You almost become a different person when you want to do something that’s out of your comfort zone.
S: How long did it take for you to become Eve Fantastic?
V: A long time. We always were rushing. (Laughs with Yona) Probably an hour and a half?
Y: The perfect winged eyeliner always takes time.
S: Oh, for sure, for sure.
S: What kind of impact do you think Dawn or Eve will have on women today?
Y: I think there’s this amazing trend happening with women, [where] we’re told to take up space, and we’re told to be loud, and go for what we want, and say what’s on our mind and that’s so great, but it’s also easier said than done because there’s a balance there. Eve is the epitome of those things, and sometimes she gets her way and it works out perfectly, and sometimes she’s an asshole. I think she’s figuring out that new space for women.
I hope that women take away that it’s okay to make mistakes when they are discovering their new place in society, and the lack of boundaries to what they can do. But that it’s not always easy, and you’ll make mistakes, and the same way men are given that same opportunity to try and fail, so should our female audiences.
V: Yeah, and doing stuff that you’re comfortable with, you know, it’s not just to do stuff because it’s bold, or brave, or somebody will look at you for doing that, or dressing a certain way, but being authentic to who you are. You can be a strong person without being the centre of attention, or speaking your mind all the time.
S: What would the main message of the film be?
Y: You should embrace all sides of yourself. I think, on a superficial level, Dawn becomes Eve to be bold and noticed, but Eve isn’t Dawn. That’s not who she is, and that’s why she makes so many mistakes along the way, because she’s trying to be true to herself, but it’s not really working out because she doesn’t know who she is yet. And yeah, that you can make mistakes along the way, and how Veronika put it, is that you don’t have to be the centre of attention to feel noticed — you just have to be yourself, and then people will know you.
S: Why should people watch your film?
Y: Because it’s two mediums!
S: Can you explain that?
Y: It is, overall, a comic book [and] a web comic. So you go on our website, and you flip through the pages — as you would any web comic — and you read the panels. Six of the panels throughout the web comic can be activated with a little play button, and then they play six [short] live-action episodes. The same experience happens when you buy our limited edition print comic, instead of pressing play there’s a QR code. You just scan it on your phone, and then you can watch it.
S: How is the [Ryerson] screening going to work out?
Y: Ideally, we’ll have as many actors as [possible] come and read their roles for the comic part, so we’ll display the pages up on the screen, because everybody reads at a different pace, but everybody listens at the same pace. Either they’ll be reading it in person or we’ll do recorded segments so you can follow along with some pages on the screen and then press the play button, and then everybody can watch a couple of the shorts.
S: Where can people find the web comic and films?
Y: On our website, or you can buy the print [version]. We’re going to be doing pre-sales at our launch party on March 2, at The Great Hall, and you can also get pre-sales in the Rogers Communication Centre (RCC).
S: Last question: what was your favourite part of filming?
V: Making my best friends.
Y: Honestly, kind of. We used to joke with Veronika all the time, “So we snuck a little ‘best friends’ clause in your contract, hope that’s okay.” That’s the best part. We became really close, the cast and the crew, and I don’t think that happens very often.
V: Yeah, on work ethic levels, and just like the same ideas—
Y: —same sense of humour, across the board.
S: That’s hard to find.
Y: It is hard to find!
V: So maybe we’ll do something in the future.
Thanks for speaking to us, Yona and Veronika!
The launch party for Dawn Hughes and The Rise of Eve Fantastic will be held on Mar. 2 at The Great Hall, which is at 1078 Queen St. W.. Doors open at 7:30 p.m., and you can buy tickets here.