We spoke to Ashlei Shyne, the creator behind brand new queer web series, #TMI. This new series is currently appearing at film festivals, so you'll need to be patient to watch the full thing. It'll be worth it!
This interview took place as part of a discussion panel on Queer Womxn Web
Series, which you can watch in full here.
How did #TMI come about?
It was a 3 minute sketch, I don’t know how it’s become about 7 episodes! I felt as though in the comedy community, BIPOC’s just aren’t represented as much or were the butt of a joke. As a bisexual woman that is black, I was just like ‘maybe I can tell a particular story that would change the landscape of comedy and the way that people see LGBTQ+ people. How we just lift regular individual lives and how it can be beneficial, especially to people like myself that have come from the Midwest that don’t always get to see themselves on TV.
There’s a stand out line in the pilot episode where bisexuals are referred to as ‘part time queers’ - do you feel like this is a statement used by other people in the queer community?
I came out a little bit later in life, in my late 20’s, so I struggled with trying to see myself in any of these films or television shows. When I did see a bisexual character they were always being ridiculed or they were always cheating on someone. When I was coming out, dating was just horrific because people were just so mean about being bisexual. I decided that I was going to do a web series and really highlight what it’s like for a black woman just trying to be one with her sexuality and be ok with being bisexual but also seeing how other people treat her and how her family treat her, how her friends identify. I’m not doing a lot of explaining like most people do, I just let these characters be. We’re in situations where you have to come to terms with why you feel a certain way - why do you think bisexuality is part-time or doesn’t exist? Because bi, pan and fluid people really do and I think it’s time for them to have a platform to really tell a story authentically. I mean have to thank Lex because she gave a platform for bisexual men in her series and you don’t see it. I think other filmmakers are starting to do that and hopefully it will translate to the mainstream.
Do you have any advice for writing?
My suggestion for writing is definitely write from your experiences and don’t be afraid to tell your story. I have spent a lot of time writing sketches and so I have to tell stories very quickly which has helped with the smaller platform as far as a web-series goes. What is the story, what is my objective, what do I want to get out? I want to make sure that when we talk about diversity that everyone is uplifted and accounted for. A lot of people who were part of this project just wanted to help elevate the voices of people whose stories aren’t told as often.
What I want to see mainstream media is more diversity and inclusion. Hire us, put us in the writers room, have us direct. If you really want us to be included, then we should also have a seat at the table.
Are there any queer characters or creators that have influenced you?
For me, Desiree Akhavan has been extremely beautiful in creating bi-visibility. I remember meeting her at The Bisexual screening that was having in West Hollywood and I remeber her saying distinctivley that ‘she can’t be the only one’. That sparked a fire in me to be like ‘you shouldn’t be sitting out here the only one telling bisexual srtories’. That’s what made me have the courage to be like I’m doing this for my younger self who never saw herself and maybe that will inspire other people to come forward to tell their own stories. There is a list of amazing people that have helped me just discover myself as an artist. People that are on this panel today! They’ve come before me and because of the success of their shows, I’m able to be here on this panel.