Jan. 10 2019 09:48 AM

'This is our mainstream. These are our stories.'


Sav Smith and Stephanie Onderchanin are producing a web series centered on the drama and lives of Lansing’s eastside neighborhood LGBTQIA community. While two episodes have been shot so far, a fundraising campaign has been launched on IndieGoGo and a benefit show is booked to crowdfund the first season’s completion.

While a romantic relationship didn’t bloom after the two met through the dating app Tinder, a creative one certainly did. Smith, a musician and filmmaker, and Onderchanin, a standup comedian, spent a lot of time talking about producing an online show similar to HBO’s “High Maintenance” — a string of vignettes about the customers of a marijuana delivery service. They agreed upon the anthological presentation and took a stab at exploring their own community.

Enter “Such Busy Queers,” a six-episode, fictional mini-series written by the pair based on their experiences with the people they’ve befriended in Lansing. The first season takes viewers into a single neighbor-hood; telling the stories of its inhabits one house at a time. The first two episodes focus on Smith’s character, who’s just moved back to Lansing to stay with their sibling, Mariya.

“Each episode is about a different house and a different set of characters,” Smith said. “Eventually through telling each isolated story, you get crossover from people going to each other’s houses and being a part of the same community.”

The cast of “Such Busy Queers” comprises Smith, Onderchanin and several Lansing locals playing semi-fictionalized versions of themselves.

“We gave all the actors the option to either make up a name, or use their own. Most people just chose to be themselves,” Smith said.

“It’s a story about the communities we exist in,” Onderchanin added. “We made an intentional effort to find participants who are not prioritized in media representation.”

While a show like “High Maintenance” takes place in the sprawling metro area of New York City, “Such Busy Queers” is strictly Lansing. Smith said the decision the keep the sets small gives the show a stronger, intimate connection between the viewer and the characters — making it a more accurate representation of the real life friendships it’s based on.

Another vital aspect of a show like “Such Busy Queers” is simply its ability to accurately depict the trials faced by members of LGBTQIA communities. Smith recalls feeling isolated by a lack of familiar characters or stories during her time as a film student at Michigan State University.

“I think it took me a lot longer to find the words to describe myself, because there was a lack of representation,” Smith said. “I just wasn’t presented with the things that I needed to know. I just didn’t have the vocabulary.”

Smith added that the goal wasn’t to create a show filled with cliché LGBTQIA narratives often shoehorned into larger shows as one of many subplots.

“That’s just normalizing queer and trans people of color. None of the storylines in the show are like, ‘Oh, this trans person just found out they’re trans!” Smith said. “Instead it’s just, ‘This is a trans person, this is what their life is like, these are their friends and this is what they do.”

“There’s a lot of people who are not represented and are surrounded by media that doesn’t represent them, or poorly portrays them,” Onderchanin added.

Onderchanin hopes the series can expand beyond Lansing by generating more online interest — hopefully attracting the funding necessary to shoot a higher budget production. The IndieGoGo campaign, which is just around $1,000 shy of its $4,000 goal, should receive an extra push from Thursday’s benefit show.

“There’s a lot of brilliant people who don’t have the means to make stuff, so please support their work because it needs to be made,” Onderchanin said.

“Such Busy Queers” Benefit Show Suggested donation: $5-$15

7 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 10 The Avenue Café 2021 E. Michigan Ave., Lansing www.avenuecafelansing.com (517) 492-7403