RESPECT. Interview: “Pieces” Writer/Creator Kareem Baptiste Plans On Taking Street Web Series To The Next Level

Pieces

In this era in which everything seems to have gone digital we’ve seen the rise in popularity of the web series.  There’s been several web series within the last few years which place a focus on the street element of urban culture that have rose to fame and respectability, but none are quite like Pieces. Pieces is a web series chronicling the lives of a clique of strong women set to get theirs in the mean Brooklyn streets by any means necessary.  Their hustle of choice? Scamming.  And they do it well.

As fans of the series anxiously await the beginning of season three RESPECT. caught up with writer/creator, Kareem Baptiste to gain some insight on the action behind the scenes and also get a glimpse of his vision for the future of the series.  Pieces is currently in the process of crowdfunding to begin production for next season. Visit the Seed and Spark for the series to show your support and give the interview a look below. Enjoy!

RESPECT.: Are you influenced by any famous movie producers and writers in your script writing?  Maybe like a Spike Lee or Quentin Tarantino?

Kareem: That’s funny that you say that, like my idol is John Singleton.  People who made the classic movies, that’s really who I kind of study. Spike Lee is definitely one of them, and also my man Benny Boom.  He’s definitely a creative director and writer. His artistic point of view really stands out to me, I really pay attention to that.

RESPECT.: What inspired you to begin the writing process for Pieces?

Honestly, I just wanted to create something that was different.  There’s a lot of web series that’s out right now and it’s kind of in the same lane. So the fact that I made something that was for females with all female leading characters and from a female’s point of view, but they are running organized crime, I thought that that would really stand out, and that’s something that would cause a conversation.  Especially something like scamming, which hasn’t really been touched upon on a large platform yet. I figured if I touched upon that whether if it’s a good response or bad it’s something that would strike a conversation.

RESPECT.: When did you notice the series really begin to build up fans and support?

I would say our second season is when people really started binge watching and really seeing like ‘okay these guys got something, they not just telling a story, but they have visuals too.’ I would say season two is really when people started paying attention to it. When we added Bruh Man who’s a Youtuber and Instagram sensation, NuNu, Nellz from URL, so a lot of different types of people started watching as well.

RESPECT.: Are there any factors that you feel are pivotal to the series’ current popularity?  Like certain attributes the series has that’s really drawing people in?

I think what really draws people in is it’s intriguing to see females that’s empowered, even running the scamming game better than the men. So how we put the female’s position in power, we show them sexy and at the same time they’re business minded and professional. And even the fact that’s it’s more than scamming, it’s telling stories that’s really relatable to people’s everyday lives, from relationships, to friendships breaking up because of money. So we add real relatable issues and topics into our series.

RESPECT.: Yeah there’s definitely a lot more development to the characters than just the scamming aspect of the series.

And I feel that that’s really with the help of season two, because in season two we started doing character development and going to the background of their stories. So people really started gravitating to certain characters because they can identify with them.

RESPECT.: What was the process like selecting the cast for the series?

Well, initially we had a casting call at the Youtube building in Manhattan.  We didn’t give in depth information of what the series was about, but we gave like a brief synopsis, and a lot of people came out and tried out. We just picked the cream of the crop who we felt would bring out each character.

RESPECT.: Okay, and how long did that process take really curating the cast and making sure you have the right person for each character?

I would probably say like from the day that we had the auditions about two days.

RESPECT.: Alright, so you were able to put it together pretty quick?

Yeah as far as the cast, because that day we really seen people who stood out and were really serious about acting so we were like, ‘Oh yeah this is dope, we really got lucky.’ By choice we actually selected people who have their own personal brands. So for example, Killa is actually a music producer, so a lot of the scores and the beats and things like that he does them. It’s basically in house, which is like super helpful because he’s right there when we’re filming.  He knows the feeling of it when it’s time to do a score.

RESPECT.: Do any individuals involved in the production (writers/actors/videographers etc.) have previous experience within the film industry?

Well none of us really have experience, but I think I have the most experience. I’ve never did a web series before, but with my other brand Battle Cuts,a dance company, I’ve done a lot of visuals and music videos for other people. However, I’ve never stepped into the full fledged film world.

RESPECT.: Well you definitely have seemed to have success in your first attempt in the film industry.

I appreciate it. I’ve had a lot of help from my wife, because from a guy it’s hard to speak from a female’s perspective.  I always ask her, as far as female topics ‘what would be important to females? What would make them want to watch the series? How would females say certain things? What do they care about?’  So having somebody right there by my side who can really speak from a female’s perspective is really helpful.

RESPECT.: Okay, now I noticed that the first two seasons were completed without a budget. How did you acquire the resources needed for production of the first two seasons of the series?

I truly believe in having positive energy and things gravitating to you that way. So there would be people that I would beg as far as the location. I’d ask if people would let me use their location, or as far as equipment we didn’t have much equipment, so I just Youtube tutorialed everything on what’s the best do it yourself. I really cut a lot of corners to make it as professional as I could. Now that I look back at it in hindsight I don’t really know how I did that, because I had a basic camera, a basic T3I camera, and did what I could do with that. It came out really good I think, because I focused more on filming. I think a lot of the street web series don’t really focus on the filming, they focus on the story itself and then it kind of looks poor or sounds poor, so I really focused on that aspect to make us stand out.

RESPECT.: I noticed that you stated in a previous interview that you’re not too familiar with the  ‘ins & outs’ of scamming.  How did you go about getting the info needed to form the show around that aspect of the criminal underworld?

I watch a lot of behind the scenes with movies and a lot of these directors or screenwriters they go and do research and homework about whatever they are writing about or making a story about and that’s what I really took to. There was friends that I have that were involved in that[scamming] and like really went to jail or went away for some time, so I pick people like that.  Also, it’s kind of like the thing now, it’s the norm in the street, even songs.  It’s rappers basically putting their business out there.  It’s a reflection of reality really, so I just wrote about what I see.

RESPECT.: Which character dynamic did you enjoy writing the most in this series?

I think one of my favorite characters is Seven, because she’s the most honest out of everybody.  Whether she’s fly, flashy, overdoing it, or humble, whatever she does is an honest action.  Everybody else has some kind of deception except her.

RESPECT.: When do you plan on beginning production for season three?

Well, we’re having a crowdfunding campaign right now and we’re trying to raise 10K in order to get production done for season three.Our crowdfunding I think ends ends October 11, so we’ve been trying to reach out to different brands, people who want brand placement, and we have a crowdfunding on Seed and Spark.  If everything goes well we’ll have the production and just get to work after October 11.

RESPECT.: How has the crowdfunding for next season’s production gone so far?

We’re doing pretty good, we’re almost at our half mark, we’re halfway there.  We just need that extra push to get us over in the second half before October 11.

RESPECT.: What are your goals for the series as far as monetization, media outlets and things like that? Where are you really trying to take the series?

I already foresee the climate is changing as far as film and where content is really prevalent. I’m seeing that Netflix and Hulu and Starz and all these other platforms that are app based is really the way to go.  So that’s really where I’m pushing it and see it being most successful. That’s our ultimate goal, we strive towards that every day.

Twitter|@PiecesSeries

Instagram| @piecesseries

Website| PiecesDramaSeries.com