There’s plenty of TV programming geared at women, but how much of it transcends the stupefying formulas and ginned-up cattiness of reality TV and the self-improvement trough of afternoon talk? Surprisingly little. That's why filmmaker Jill Soloway (Afternoon Delight) and web entrepreneur Rebecca Odes (gURL.com) are collaborating on an alternative. Wifey.TV is a video aggregator and original source of “TV” content for women who work, have dynamic lives, and creative, offbeat aspirations. As Soloway and Odes like to say, their audience is “aspirational about ideas instead of things.”
The site’s launch has been low-key, with Soloway and Odes talking it up on social media. “That’s it,” says Soloway, who has been contributing Vlogs during her recent trip to Eastern Europe. “The sensibility of Wifey is, quite simply, stuff that Rebecca and I like.” That stuff ranges from the serious (a filmed ode to motherhood) to the serious but funny (videos in which women of color discuss the dearth of black women on Saturday Night Live), the dirty (a stand-up comic on her porn film) and the downright absurd (a viral video of a baby who cries like a lady).
So far original content is sparse. They hope to raise money to produce their own but in the meantime they're collecting from elsewhere to make Wifey a one-stop shop for everything that matters to women. And they have great aspirations. “We'd love to be a place where someone can ultimately say, ‘The only thing I watch is Wifey,’ and know that everything that's part of the public conversation is there.” Here, the Los Angeles-based pals talk about the site’s creation.
Soloway: "You’ll never find something on Wifey that is designed to make you feel bad about yourself so that you buy something to solve an imaginary problem. That’s the thing about Esquire Channel that I’m jealous of–-sure there are great fashion ads or shoes for dudes--but the assumption is you’re smart and you want your brain stimulated first."
Odes: "There's nothing out there that we can actually relate to--media that shows women as actual human beings, not caricatures. Lifetime, We, Oxygen just don’t bring to mind smart, edgy, irony. They play to traditional models of what it means to be female. They're great at what they do, but they just aren't representative of all the voices of women today. The media that is out there that’s made for women seems to funnel them into categories vis-a-vis their relationships to men, beauty, weight, being an object, being seen instead of being seers."
Soloway: "Those channels are for women, but they seem to program to something that resonates with no one we know–-a cloying movie or a reality cat fight. Sure, women may watch, but we’ll watch and feel unproductive."
Soloway: "When Rebecca and I met we realized we had this incredibly aligned sensibility. We laughed a lot and...realized we have complementary skills. A short while ago we started brainstorming what eventually became Wifey. We honed the vision and built the site [with tech help from Craig Kanarick, who cofounded Razorfish, now runs Mouth.com and, not coincidentally, is married to Rebecca]."
Odes: "We developed the structure of the site and evolved the brand in a long, slow back and forth. Now that we've got a clear idea of the brand, we both just cull whatever we think works and communicate about it when we have something to say, by whatever communication method is handy. We collaborate a lot on the curation of the content and the writing."
Soloway: "As artists, we all dream that there's no one vetting, approving, or noting the content, nothing between ourselves and the audience. And of course, as a content creator having a brand is a dream come true. We believe our sensibility could be a powerful brand with a real audience. There's so much feminist [talk] bubbling up right now about these huge political questions like consent and desire. Besides being a place for great content we want to be a place [for] these conversations. We have very little dogma so we don't take sides or get strident. We just put up something and if it catches fire or inspires, so be it."
Odes: "The benefit of being digital is that we don't have to know the answers to a lot of these questions yet. One thing I've learned from my experience in digital media is that there's no point in calcifying your concept before you see how it works. When you work iteratively, as opposed to toiling away in isolation and then submitting your piece for approval (or not) you don't see the response as the enemy of your creative vision."
Soloway: "I think iterative is the new perfect. In terms of filmmaking, Woody Allen said 'it’s never done.' It’s one way when you write it, something new when you cast, new again when you direct, and yet again when you edit. And then it changes in the room with the audience, and changes with each audience in each country. I feel that way about all kinds of creativity. I hate the notion of perfect or done."
Odes: "When you're interacting with them on a day-to-day basis, the audience is a fundamental part of the process. We started gURL as a straight editorial website. The community functionality--which was really a proto-social network--was something that grew out of the audience’s desire to connect with each other. I believe in the connecting power of meaningful content, and that’s what we’re looking to create here."