A Truly Outrageous Jem Kickstarter
By Crystal Harrell
Jem was a popular animated series of the 80’s that paved the way for strong female protagonists who did more than just cheer from the sidelines. The show followed Starlight Music executive Jerrica Benton as she transformed into her alter-ego, a pop star named Jem, with the help of a computer with holographic capabilities called Synergy. With her band, the Holograms, Jem showcased just the right amount of girl power, while also incorporating elements of action, science fiction, and catchy music in the series. Due to Jem becoming such a cult hit since its cancellation in 1988, Hasbro Studios and Blumhouse Productions produced a live-action film loosely based on the franchise in 2015 called, Jem and the Holograms. The movie was a box office failure with poor reviews from critics and an even more disappointed reaction from fans of the original series.
Which brings us to the new Kickstarter initiated by the women of CREATURE—an all-female new media production company focusing on comedy, geek, and gamer culture that formed in May of 2014. Their goal is to raise enough funds to create a fan film that will make Jem-lovers proud. Instead of neglecting the animated series’ quirky elements like the theatrically-released movie did, Truly Outrageous: A Jem Fan Film! will remain true to the spirit of the show and actually be set in the 80’s. Palm Springs Comic Con got the opportunity to interview co-founder of CREATURE Charley Feldman about the project.
Can you go into detail about what inspired you and the women of CREATURE to create this Kickstarter?
Charley: I’ve joked about this before, that Jem Reacts (a YouTube video posted by CREATURE) fostered the nicest comments section in the history of YouTube--which inflated our egos irreparably! But viewers of ours and fans of Jem came out in force to encourage us into a film. So we saw that, and wondered if we could, knowing what is really involved (the time involved and the financing). And the more we thought about it, the more we got excited about playing around in that creative sandbox. After I came up with the story, it just had to happen. I personally just want to see this story play out live as a fan of Jem. It's a LOT of fun.
Tell us about your history with the animated Jem TV series.
Charley: I am a late Jem fan. I know I knew who she was when I was little because I got this hand-me-down doll from some much older neighbors of mine. She was enormous! And towered over my Barbies--definitely the first drag queen I ever loved right there (and there have been many)! But I actually watched the show when Urban Outfitters started carrying it on DVD, around the time I was in college. I binge-watched it I think every day for a month with friends because it was just so wonderfully campy, and bright and optimistic. And it’s so clearly coming from a strong female voice in Christy Marx; that woman basically wrote a lot of people’s childhoods from Jem to G.I. Joe and beyond!
In your opinion, how did the theatrically-released Jem film "totally miss the point"?
Charley: Hmm, I don’t want to dwell on this because we had our fun with Jem Reacts. And the movie meant a lot to people, and brought many new viewers into being fans of the original cartoon. That seems like a positive, overall! Someone just made a choice over there to modernize it and to not embrace the outlandish quality of the cartoon. The IDW comic did that, and I think it’s stronger for it.
How would your fan film differ from the theatrically-released Jem movie?
Charley: We would be different in several ways. Our story takes place firmly in the 80's, the spring of 1988, putting it in this alternative timeline right before the final episode of the show. We are also fully embracing the science fiction aspects of the original. For instance, Synergy is shaped like a woman, there will be lifesaving holograms, etc. Basically everything a studio would pull their collar over and be worried about viewers “getting” about the original, we’re doing!
When does the Kickstarter end and what is your goal?
Charley: Our Kickstarter ends noon PST on February 20! Our goal is an absolute minimum to create Part 1 of the two part story. I can’t emphasize enough that our goals ARE the stretch goals we laid out in our campaign. To do even Part 1 right, we need roughly 18k. And to do Part 1 and 2 (no waiting on a cliffhanger!), we’ll need close to 50k! It’s a tall order, but those who know production budgets will know even this is small compared to most well-produced short films
How long would the fan film be if all necessary funds were collected?
Charley: This will depend on our stretch goals being met. If we do the full story, it will be a full 30 minuts. Part 1 will be around 12 minutes if we only hit our minimum.
Can you give potential funders some inside information about the original songs you're producing?
Charley: We are partnering with our amazing friend, Glowbug, who helped create the “Totally Missed the Point” song we used in Jem Reacts. He is unbelievably talented and comes from a very 80's point of reference. Each of the songs we’re writing together reflect either the sound of the Holograms (more pop-friendly) or the Misfits (edgy, and better…depending on who you ask!)
Can you share the name of your favorite song and why it's your favorite?
Charley: My favorite song is probably “I’m Okay” from The Bands Break Up. It’s actually sung by this husky-throated Kimber, which is hilarious. But it’s so catchy and triumphant! Debbie Gibson or Tiffany would have flung themselves over a mall railing to sing this kind of song!
Describe how you and the rest of the cast and crew feel about sharing this project with fans around the world.
Charley: We would be beyond thrilled if this caught on with not only fans of the show, who are remarkable, but with new viewers. It’s an outlandish premise, but a really relatable story about the families we’re born into and the families we make for ourselves, and how important friendships, specifically female friendships, are to help women navigate a world that’s often not hospitable to our hopes and dreams.
In your own words, can you tell fans why they should participate in the Kickstarter?
Charley: There’s thankfully a lot of press right now regarding women in the industry trying to carve out a place for our voices to be heard. The statistics are staggering in regards to hiring practices and projects greenlit with any sort of female focus. We are an all-female-crewed production, with a great female focus and message and meaty roles for a diverse array of women. This is kind of unheard of right now in the higher levels of the industry. It’s not a film that would exist if we weren’t trying to make it. Not to sound too grandiose because this will be a very fun, oftentimes silly, movie. But I think the success of this would go a long way to show that there is an audience of women AND MEN who want this sort of filmmaking and want to support this sort of project.
Glowbug's music: https://glowbug.bandcamp.com/