Talent On Tap – Krista Hovsepian – Wholesome Foods, I Love You… Is That OK?

Art still imitates life and sometimes it does it in a grocery store or a yoga studio. Both places are quite opposite in purpose but they both bring people together. Do you notice that the crowds in grocery stores vary according to the district or city? There is a distinction and sometimes it can lend itself to meeting people from interesting walks of life.  If you’re single, do you hang out in the bakery section or the shampoo isle? I enjoy meeting new people and spontaneous social interaction. The grocery store doesn’t discriminate between your gender, your weight, your choice of liberties or your career; it just wants you to keep coming back. We go for the products and stay for the atmosphere? I can sometimes confuse the grocery store to the night-club and when I hear a Funky town playing over the industrial ceiling mounted speakers I start scanning the isles for dance partners.   That cute girl in shampoo/body-wash just smiled at me, does she want this dance?    

 

So, maybe I read too many romance novels, drink too much diet coke and go grocery shopping more when I’m in between relationships. Guilty as charged but I know I’m not alone. If you hope to bump into somebody interesting, to learn something, to expand your business network or to cut the boredom and really feel alive then go to the birthday card section of your grocer and wait for your golden opportunity… or you can join a yoga class. Keeping an open mind and letting life unfold is really the premise of the brilliant and socially addicting web series, Wholesome Foods, I Love You… Is That OK? Krista Hovsepian wrote, created ex-produced and is the lead actress (Yoga Instructor) in the series. 

 

This award winning and multi-nominated show with over 500,000 views is spearheaded by Waterloo export Krista Hovsepian and I talked to her about her all Canadian cast as well as finding out about her love of chili peppers and ice cream. She lives in Santa Monica and recently experienced a potentially devastating earthquake. I had to ask and she was very honest… it was terrifying. We moved onto the interview.

 

“How did you come up with the title?”

“I love Wholesome Foods and love organic markets. I tend to write in lengthy paragraphs, so why not have a long title with as much punctuation we can fit.”

 

“How did you come up with the concept?”

“The more time I spent getting to know people in LA and the LA market, I kept hearing how it was a time to be creating your own content. They’re really into personal branding and the market is very saturated there. Casting directors in particular are saying they want to be able to think of you as the neurotic yoga teacher, the lawyer or the cop when they’re getting to know you so you can become that go to person for that specific niche. I thought to myself, how can I heighten my personality and create something I can bring my essence to. I can shop it around and say this is who I am and this is what I do.”

 

“You have a large cast of women vs men on the show as well as in the crew. Was that intentional?”

“It was. In a sense, I was raised by a lot of women in the theatre community and the arts that were fierce feminists. I was interested in that from a young age so I don’t shy away from the f-word (laughter). I’m also an active member of Women in Film. It was important to me to create a female centric story while bringing as many women on board as possible.”

 

“Where is the series shot?”

“The grocery store is in Waterloo and the rest was shot in Toronto.” 

 

“How do you fund the productions?”

“This year we ran a Kickstarter Campaign, which nobody on my team recommended.  It turned out to be really stressful and very difficult asking people for money, as you can imagine. It’s important to me to be very open, honest and transparent. There are artists out there that are curious how these things happen. We raised 35% of our goal within 24 hours, from friends, family, networking and private investors. We thought it was absolutely amazing and then it suddenly flat-lined. We still had a month left in the campaign so we kept pushing it. We gained traction here and there but we were really struggling… and then, my grandfather who’s always wanted to go into show business and lived in Brantford Ontario and a genocide survivor saved it. He loved the fact that I was pursuing filmmaking, photography and storytelling. He passed away during the campaign, which was incredibly heartbreaking and difficult to get through but it was also serendipitous.  He left me with the exact amount of money needed to complete the campaign and shoot the show.” 

 

Krista adds, “Once investors see you can reach your goal and produce a quality show, they are more comfortable investing on your next project.”

 

You can see her grandfather’s name listed in the credits and Krista giving thanks to his incredible contribution. In his loving memory, Jack Hovsepian. They are all so very grateful. Krista also has a father that works in finance and was inestimable with some precious financing advice that yielded more results than rising bread. They not only reached their goal but their cup runneth over slightly. Good karma at its finest with Krista stating, “it was meant to be.” 

“Is this your first series?”

“Yes.”

 

“What would you consider the biggest message in the show?”

“Overall at its core, it is a love story but it’s also about how life can be messy and complex. We’re all human and we all have those weird awkward moments and it’s totally okay.”

 

“How has the audience reaction/feedback been like?”

“It’s been so positive across the board, even people I don’t know, relative strangers and people in my building I bump into in Santa Monica. We’ll start talking and ask what each other does and the show will come up. They’ll be really enthusiastic about watching it and tell me about it when they see me next… that’s been very cool. However, the coolest thing has been hearing back from real dudes and bros that they have been watching the female centric show. It was surprising to find that our show was not just targeting a female audience. I train in Mua Tai and my trainer who’s an MMA fighter watches the show and will quote dialogue from episodes (laughter).”    

 

“What does a second season look like?”

“One of the things we were discussing was making the new season only 6-8 episodes. We’ve discussed potentially having character specific or character centered episodes from their POV and having them interact with characters they’ve never interacted with before.”   

 

“You’ve won many awards in your career, which one means the most to you?” 

“I’d have to say, being nominated for best actress is always really nice. I’m crossing my fingers for the news on the International Emmy Nomination. We should know quite soon. I have a couple friends that have been nominated for their web-series but that time has not yet come for me.  I try to put it out into the universe and let it go. By not thinking about it and accepting that it comes down to a yes or a no, allows life to go on easier.” 

 

“How involved with yoga were you before taking on the role as yoga instructor?”

“I’ve been practicing yoga 4-6 days a week for the last 15-16 years. I was a synchronized swimmer before that. They’re different in the sense that the swimming was more competitive and there’s a team baseline. Yoga is mindfulness, self-awareness and introspection but movement wise, it’s pretty similar.”

 

“What’s your favourite part about writing?” 

“I don’t know which writer actually said it but there’s a quote that goes, ‘I hate the process of writing but I love having written.’ I haven’t had children and I don’t want to diminish the experience… but it’s like birthing a child; you’re trying to birth this idea and it can be drawn out and painful for awhile but then you get into the flow and you write something you’re so proud of.  With this project, it was so cool and such an honour to be able to write for some of my closest friends.”

 

“Would you prefer to explore a Haunted castle or Disneyland?”

“I do like witchy things but good witchy things… so I’m going with Disneyland.”

 

“Are any of the characters based on real people in your life?” 

“Yes, absolutely (laughter). My character is loosely based on me but there is some crossover. I went to grad school in Berlin and my mom is German. I’ve also had awkward moments at the supermarket. She’s survived an earthquake and I’ve survived a few head on car accidents, a massive hurricane in Mexico and had to be evacuated by the Mexican military after a few days without food, water and electricity.  My character was fired from a job on Christmas Eve and I had a manager that was sponsoring me drop me from his roster via email on Christmas Eve while I was having dinner with family. I also wrote some of the characters, such as Alex based on knowing Samara Stern for 10 years and infusing some of her tendencies and the cadence of her speech. Cartwright is a super heightened version of actor Chris George. There’s a scene where my character raps with his character and it happens to be one of Chris’s original raps. So it’s definitely peppered with personal touches and real life.”     

“How long does it take to shoot one episode?”

“We shot based on location and not necessarily in order. For the 14 episodes we had 10 shoot days. Most of our days were 6-8 hr. days including a lunch break and we shot almost everything with 3 cameras so it moved pretty fast. Most of us had been working together for years and already have a good rapport.” 

 

“How did you come to be mentored under Sara Finn, casting director for Marvel?”

“The Women In Film LA and the New York chapter both have these amazing mentor programs. The website lists their most competitive program and you send in your portfolio, a letter of recommendation from someone in the industry and basically a statement indicating why you think you’re ready. As soon as I saw that I applied immediately. I received an email one-day stating that I’ve been selected and found out who our mentors are. It was incredible to have a woman in her position to be so generous with her time. There were four of us in the group and we’d get to sit in her office and discuss the direction we wanted our careers to take. She’s an incredibly kind, soft spoken and super smart woman.”  

 

“Hot peppers or ice cream?” 

“Can I put hot peppers in the ice cream; like a chocolate chili sort of thing. It’s so good topped with chili peppers. So far I want both options.”

 

For the record, I had no idea people were mixing the two but now that I am I’m so much more curious about the undiscovered stimulating match.    

 

“How would you say the show has evolved since the first episode?”

“I think for me personally there was a huge learning curve. I’ve been wearing so many hats and getting 3-4 hours of sleep, so there are things that have gone wrong on the set. When you’re shooting an Indie project and have people reducing their rates or volunteering their time, you might have some cancelling for full rate work or other crew members and cast deciding that a line or shot isn’t necessary and leave it out. Further down the road, there’s a ripple effect and it doesn’t work or an episode doesn’t make sense anymore. We’ve come up with creative ideas to address it in the new season as well as telling them that I’m comfortable with collaborating, as long as I’m present and able to articulate why it has to be this way.”

 

“Is it your hope that this show could be transformed into a TV network series?”

“I think it would be great to build upon the concept. A feature would be cool but I’m such a fan of half hour sitcoms. I grew up watching them and I really love that format and medium. I think it’s goofy observational comedy that would fit very well.” 

 

“How did you secure the grocery store location for shooting?” 

“It was surprisingly easy. We first approached Whole Foods and we originally wanted to call it, Whole Foods… I Love You, Is That Ok? and they told me they were very supportive of artists but they couldn’t have us in for a night shoot. They were concerned about getting in the way of the customers because those stores tend to be quite busy. We turned to our backup plan and changed the title a little before going to Waterloo and approaching Wholesome Foods and they said sure, we can let you in at 7 and how many days do you need? They signed the paperwork and charged us a location fee. From there we were good to go. The owners are musicians and artists so they were pretty cool and very supportive.”

 

“What size of crew did you use?”

“We shot both shows with a skeleton crew because of budgetary constrictions. When owners and managers of yoga studios and other locations are kind enough to let you film in their space, we didn’t want crew-members all over the space. We wanted to use the bare minimum. We had our director on set daily, as well as our co-producer, our cinematographer and always our soundman. We knew we had to have good sound because it’s hard to work around it in editing.”    

 

“Where did you cast your actors?”

“We formed an Actra coop through the union. The main purpose of the project was to come together in a collaborative nature and try to form a collection. They were actors that my co-producer and I had been working with for 5-10 years. They had approached us; they loved the project and wanted to be involved. I wrote some of the characters with the actors in mind. Part of the coop program is, we wave the day rates of the actors and they become shareholders.”  

 

I love the concept of this show… is that ok? Please watch it on Youtube, Amazon, 

Prime (US/UK), Seeka TV, Vimeo and become a fan.  After all, it’s Canadian!

 

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