Missing Something is a new web sitcom which, in the words of its creators, “follows a group of 20-something Londoners facing a quarter-life crisis and was devised, performed and filmed by a group of 20-something Londoners facing a quarter-life crisis.” Think Spaced meets Girls with a bit of Nathan Barley thrown in. The Brixton Bugle arts team caught up with director Yaz Al-Shaater to find out what we’re missing.
The web series is something of a new animal in the media landscape. You can watch Missing Something for free on your laptop, phone or tablet, whenever you want, in whatever order you want. “When we told people in the industry what we were doing their ears pricked up, it’s something that a lot of people are interested in,” explains Yaz. With BBC Three soon to become online-only, Yaz and his team are following a trend, with networks slimming down their broadcast media and moving content online.
Missing Something is very much a series about the online world, both in terms of its format and its themes. The characters are always tweeting, texting and Googling and the protagonist Leila works for a trendy mobile startup. The show reflects the digital habits of the millennial generation, says Yaz: “we’ve grown up with the Internet but we also grew up a bit without it, and there’s a feeling that we haven’t quite figured out the best way to use it yet.” The show also explores the chaotic experience of being a young person with creative ambitions in London: “They say that the 30s are the new 20s, so where does that leave the 20s?”
Brixton features as a recognisable backdrop to the series. This was partly born out of convenience, with most of the team based locally, but was also a deliberate move. “We wanted to include the area as a character,” says Yaz, “it’s so distinctive if you know it, but so visually stimulating if you don’t.” I wonder if the young characters reflect people of the area. “To an extent,” admits Yaz, “but what we consciously wanted to do is say that this isn’t East London. Creativity and pretension as positive and negative things appear all over London.” The team are hoping to include more local people and businesses in the next series, and they have plans to invite locals to a live event which will be filmed as part of an episode.
Season one was funded through a campaign on crowd-funding site Kickstarter, with rewards that let backers influence the story, feature their pets, and even hide items for other viewers as part of a virtual scavenger hunt. Hitting their £7,500 target was a highlight for Yaz, who was gratified that “the story we wanted to tell was something that people wanted to see”. The project now has 20 to 30 people working on it, largely for free, and they are busy getting ready for the second series.
The first season has been well received by critics, with The Guardian, Female Arts and Raindance highlighting it as female-fronted web series to watch. This is part of a wider dialogue that they’re taking part in, explains Yaz, about women in the media. He and star Leila got “wound up by the fact that there are still so few shows out there with a female lead that aren’t aimed at women. That was something that we set out wanting to challenge.” He’s happy to see that this was picked up on by the industry.
So what Yaz tell budding filmmakers in Brixton hoping to get noticed? “I would definitely recommend a web series to young filmmakers, writers, anyone doing something creative,” says Yaz, “creating something that is online and serialised is a great way to express yourself.” People shouldn’t underestimate the work involved, he adds, but it can be a much freer way to create and get your work out there: “you’re free of traditional confines, and it’s a way to get something made that otherwise wouldn’t.”
Head to www.missingsomething.tv to watch series one.