Several APU students are partnering with others in the Los Angeles area to launch an original Web series called “Closet Space” that will focus on LGBTQ youth and their experiences coming out. The anticipated release date for online viewing of the pilot episode at closetspace.tv and on YouTube is Oct. 11, which is also National Coming Out Day.
“Closet Space” is the story of two 17-year-old high school students, Jake and Tara, who come from very different backgrounds. Jake questions his sexuality in a highly conservative Christian household, while Tara is a nonreligious, newly “out” lesbian. This 10-episode series will follow both of their stories and examine how race, gender and religion intersect with sexuality.
“It portrays how Tara, who is coming out in the first episode, lives her life and develops her identity, while Jake lives his life and refuses to develop his identity,” said Daniel Robison, senior sociology and theater double major and co-creator of “Closet Space.” “It’s their stories intersecting, becoming one story.”
Robison also is one of the two writers of the show, as well as the lead actor who plays the character Jake. He collaborated with APU graduate Karisa Quick, the other writer, to create the series.
According to Robison’s biography on the “Closet Space” online site, he came up with the idea a few years after he and Quick came out to each other.
“There he realized that most of the pain and psychological trauma he endured could have been prevented if he had found even a few resources to help him navigate through that lonely and terrifying time; some sort of degausser that could bring peace of mind amidst a red state of chaos,” the bio states.
Last summer the two writers brainstormed to create an art piece that would illustrate the struggle that they had each endured in their coming-out processes.
“We weren’t sure if it was going to be anything, but [Karisa and I] both knew we were passionate about writing, and I knew I was passionate about acting,” Robison said. “We wanted to explore some sort of project where we could [portray] people who have gone through [the coming-out process].”
Chanelle Tyson, a New York University graduate, is the director while Ashley McCormick, an APU graduate, is the producer. Robison met Tyson and McCormick through a mutual friend at Azusa Pacific. Upon learning about the project, they agreed to contribute.
The most difficult challenge has been finding the resources to put the project together, according to Robison.
The production team currently is funding “Closet Space” with donations and their own paychecks. Once the pilot episode premieres, they will release a kick-starter page online. Full details will be on the website at closetspace.tv.
“We’ve changed words into a complete story with picture and humor and heart,” Robison said. “A lot of times, people have ideas that they try out but give up on. [However], we’ve tried and are doing it, and it’s about to take off.”
The majority of the characters in the show are played by actors from casting websites like LA Casting, CAZT.com, and casting agencies in Los Angeles; however, some of the actors are friends of the creators, or the co-creator Robison himself. He identifies well with what the character Jake is experiencing.
“Some parts of the show are literally reflections of my high school experience and part of my college experience,” Robison said. “We’re worlds apart now in difference, but I was very close to him in the past.”
Robison said Closet Space’s mission statement does not portray any sort of agenda. The goal is not to be biased toward the LGBTQ, Christian or secular communities, he said.
“The main idea about ‘Closet Space’ is to portray truth as [honestly] as possible,” he said. “You can definitely make up your own mind when you see it. There’s no spin on it. We’re just telling our story.”
According to Quick, the series was created to reach out to people who are in similar situations as Jake and Tara.
“[The difficulty of] finding yourself when nobody wants you to be yourself is a major theme and is something that a lot of people face,” Quick said. “[It’s] not even just LGBTQ people, but everyone has to go through that in some way.”
Senior sociology major Jordyn Sun is a photographer for ‘Closet Space’ and said she hopes it will resonate with LGBTQ people within Christian communities who have felt hurt by Christian institutions and the Church.
“I just hope that people will watch it and get a good laugh out of it [while knowing] that they’re not alone,” said Sun, who identifies as lesbian.
“Closet Space” also aims to help heterosexual viewers understand what people go through when they are gay, particularly when they are also Christian, Robison said.
“We’re not trying to change [anyone’s] mind, but we want [people] to understand where everyone is coming from,” Robison said. “I think we portray all sides of what people come from pretty well.”
So far, responses to the show have been positive, largely due to the fact that the viewers who have seen the pilot episode are friends and family of the production team and cast. Based on over 600 likes that the effort’s Facebook page already has, Quick is expecting the show to be a success in the future. If the pilot is as popular as expected, a screening at APU with a Q&A; session is a possibility.
The production team hopes to create a second season if funding continues to grow.
“The story’s not over yet; there’s only so much you can do with 10 episodes, and we have so much more to tell,” Quick said. “We really do want to continue on and keep [creating more episodes].”