Getting a Grip on Anxiety with Gremlin Girl

Franny is an independent, seemingly confident woman with neurotic anxieties that manifest themselves as Gremlin Girl. The webseries by Emily Rifkin and Rebecca Warm is a humourous look at the personification of anxieties and they were kind enough to answer some questions I had about their endeavour.

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Gremlin Girl is a webseries that’s currently on YouTube that follows the life of Franny, who must deal with the personification of her anxieties; the eponymous Gremlin Girl. The series is delightfully simple in its premise and creators Emily Rifkin and Rebecca Warm do a wonderful job of taking such a serious topic and putting the right kind of comedic spin on it.

Both alumnae of Northwestern University and working in the entertainment industry of Los Angeles, Gremlin Girl is their initial collaboration on a webseries and draws on their experiences and expertise in more ways than one. In an email interview they answered some questions about the series and the process of making it.

Gremlin Girl and Franny

What inspired you to team up and create an animated series?

Gremlin Girl started as a single panel comic Rebecca created on Instagram to express being challenged by her fears and anxieties and more so, to find humor in it. She brought the idea to Emily after a close friend forcefully nudged her to, considering Emily’s background in animation. Emily immediately related to it (obviously), despite Rebecca’s self-deprecating Gremlin Girl repeatedly asking “But do you get it?” She did, and saw the depth in the concept, visualizing it as so much more dimensional than a single beat storyline.

Did you find that working as a team was beneficial, and if so, how?

Absolutely! We complement each other so well. Between the two of us, Rebecca is a wizard with words, and Emily…uh…mmm…you know, blah. (see? She words no good). But in all seriousness, Emily brings the story to life in a cinematic way. Clearly, one of the major benefits of working together as a team is that we have a ton of fun together. Rebecca works from her writing and comedic acting background and Emily supports it with her animation and filmmaking experience.

Did the idea/concept strike you out of the blue or was there a period of development?

It was a mixture of both. The idea of Gremlin Girl originally came to Rebecca in a real-life conversation with her boyfriend, when she was trying to articulate what it felt like to be overpowered by the grip of anxiety. “It’s like a monster, like a little gremlin.” She recognized that that fear-driven gremlin came from an infantile part of her mind. It wanted to protect her, but, paradoxically, it was destructive. Thus, we have Gremlin Girl. Once we teamed up, developing that concept into a show took many conversations, cups of coffee, and artistic research. We hit the ground running with enthusiasm. We started constructing episodes based on our personal experiences. Ideas kept coming from left and right.

Your backgrounds are clearly a valuable asset to creating a series. Have you faced any challenges that you did not expect though?

We’ve faced so many challenges. The first challenge was overcoming our own Gremlin Girls who tell us we’re not funny enough or can’t draw! As a two-woman team, it’s been an incredible learning experience. One major challenge in creating this cartoon is that drawing is HARD. 

We’ve embraced our lack of professional drawing abilities and decided to go with stick figures, intentionally developing an overall homemade look. Our studio is also homemade (aka, Emily’s bedroom), and that has caused some technical challenges, particularly with recording. We had to re-record our entire first two episodes because we noticed (only after we thought they were completely finished) that the microphone picked up the computer fan!

In addition, we both have full-time jobs with different schedules, so it’s challenging to be in the same place at the same time. Between creating, publishing, and promoting the show, we’ve come to realize how much work it is for just the two of us. Also, Emily is constantly spilling tea on her sketchbook.

The series does more than simply tell a story, but instead plays upon the notion that the audience harbours the same fears and anxieties that Franny does. Did this present a challenge in the creating process or did it make things easier?

It makes things easier because we pull from our own thoughts and experiences and expect our audience to have similar fears and anxieties.  For example, many people can’t fall asleep because they’re replaying the mistakes they’ve made or anticipating the ones they might make. Everybody has his or her own doubts and inner critic.

The general lack of content for and by women creators is gaining awareness and slowly being rectified. How do you believe your series contributes to improving the situation for both creators and viewers alike?

Women and other marginalized individuals have always had stories, but not necessarily had access to platforms on which to tell them. Luckily for us, we’re in a time when we can self-publish on the internet without needing permission (or a budget). We decided to just go for it and use the resources we have. Emily’s bedroom became our office/recording studio and Instagram became our public relations manager. We hope we can be an example for other creators in the sense that if they have an idea– just make it! Their stories have value and we want to see them.

You mention that the series is a labour of love. In what personal way does it represent one for each of you?

We have invested an immeasurable amount of time, energy, heart, and soul into Gremlin Girl. This show requires: conceptualizing episodes, writing the scripts, editing the scripts, storyboarding, creating a visual language, character design, background design, final drawings, clean-up in Photoshop, dialogue recording, dialogue clean-up, editing, animating, self-doubting, songwriting (with the help of a super talented composer, Scott Passarella), SFX and foley, rendering, re-rendering when we notice a blink is out of place, making business cards, networking, GIF-making, social media promoting (Instagram, Facebook, AND Twitter), learning Twitter, website-building, cheerleading, brand development, behind-the-scenes documentation, copyright retrieving, Youtube channel managing, writing and designing press releases, and doing it all over again. We know creating any show entails all of this, but as a two-person operation, it’s a LOT of work. However, this show means SO much to us on a personal level; we can’t NOT make it.

Gremlin Girl creators Emily Rifkin and Rebecca Warm

Thanks Emily and Rebecca! Check out the first episode of Gremlin Girl below and more info on the series’ website.

Watch the first episode of Gremlin Girl here!

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