The following is an interview with Jessica Silvetti and Ethan Kogan regarding their award-winning online series, In Absentia. In this interview, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief Barbra Dillon chats with Silvetti and Kogan about the inspiration behind the anthology series, their shared creative process in working with each episode’s talented cast and crew, and more!
Barbra Dillon, Fanbase Press Editor-in-Chief: Your online series, In Absentia, is currently touring the international festival circuit. For our readers who may be unfamiliar, what can you tell us about the premise of the series, and what inspired you to tell this story?
Jessica Silvetti: The series was inspired by a mixture of intense discussions, disturbing dreams, and our imagination. But the catalyst was our short film, Poor Man’s Mermaid, based on the short story by Clay McLeod Chapman, which led us to venture into the world of the strange, eerie, and bizarre. This short film prompted us to venture into the universe of In Absentia.
Ethan Kogan: The show is a five-episode anthology series in the vein of The Twilight Zone and Black Mirror. It’s a mysterious, visually captivating series of contemporary, dark tales where the characters are confronted with the absence of both the material and the intangible. With In Absentia, we serve up a dose of drama, suspense, sci-fi, and psychological thriller.
BD: What were some of your influences in creating the show?
JS: The Twilight Zone and Black Mirror were influential. Since the series has been released, a number of people have told us it has a Lynchian feel to it. So, without having realized it, David Lynch has been an influence, as well.
BD: With the series’ anthology format, it provides an opportunity to work with a collection of incredible actors and filmmakers. As the series’ creators, what can you share about your experiences in working with the cast and crew on the production?
JS: We wrote all of the episodes ourselves. I wrote three and Ethan wrote two. We directed the series as a team and had the opportunity to collaborate with an incredible cast and crew. We shot everything in nine days, but spread out the dates within a couple of months. Being that the episodes are self-contained, each shoot was like approaching a short film. All of our actors were on set for their particular episodes, and the crew rotated depending on scheduling.
Our actors were fantastic. We’ve worked with a few of them in the past, and the rest were actors we had wanted to work with for a while – so when they all agreed to jump on board, we felt very excited that everything was falling into place. Working with the superb Yareli Arizmendi (Like Water For Chocolate) and Efrain Figueroa (Star Maps) – the entire cast brought so much depth and layers to each character – we are so happy they decided to come play with us.
EK: We also worked with two amazing DPs, Dennis Zanatta and Sam Rosenthal, who we really gelled with from the get go. They both clearly saw the vision we created. That made the process very enjoyable. Sam shot two of the episodes, and Dennis shot three. They each brought on their own crew, so it was a really cohesive set. Communication with all departments was a breeze with no complications. Part of the reason for that was the three amazing people who jumped in to help produce the series: Virginia Novello, Timothy Marc Hopper, and Ruben Rodriguez. The three of them brought great resources and support. We were really lucky to have a wonderful team whose passion for this project is visible on screen.
BD: During your time touring film festivals, In Absentia has garnered a great deal of attention through its various award nominations and wins. What can you share about your experience with the critical and audience response to the series?
JS: We have been so appreciative of the attention our series is getting and the audience that’s growing. When we first began filming the series, many people were surprised or confused that we were working on a dramatic/suspense/thriller web series, since people tend to think of web series as being comedic.
EK: With each festival the series screens at, each nomination the series receives, it only shows us that we weren’t so off base in creating a web series in this genre. Over the last year, we’ve learned of many others that are doing incredible things with shows on the web, and many are not only comedy. It’s an exciting time for sure and more festivals are opening up sections in this category. The amazing thing is that big networks are beginning to look at their own space for short form content, and the web series is just that. NewTV is going to be a game changer. We think another season of In Absentia is perfect for that platform once it launches.
BD: Do you have a certain number of episodes planned, and where will viewers be able to access the show?
EK: In Absentia is now live and available for free. This first season has a total of five episodes and can be watched at www.InAbsentia.tv. So, go! Enjoy!
BD: Are there any other projects on which you are currently working that you would like to share with our readers?
JS: We’re currently in development for a one-hour drama. It’s a f***ed-up fairy tale that we’re excited to get moving on. We’re in the process of pitching and having it read — working hard to make it happen. Also, we do have another full season of In Absentia ready to go, so if anyone has the funds – we’re happy to continue with the next batch of dark tales!
BD: Lastly, what would you like to tell fans who want to learn more about In Absentia?
JS: With In Absentia, we set out to craft a uniquely stylized production. Each story brings a distinct color palette – we sometimes even refer to the episodes based on their color and not the episode name: green, red, blue, white, gold. But we use this style to heighten the character’s emotional states. The characters themselves are a unique group from around the world. While the series is predominantly in English, we also feature actors speaking in other languages. Today’s content is so easily accessible, it only makes sense to appeal to a global audience. Because after all, fear, and fantasy are experienced by us all.
EK: We also came up with these visual bumpers at the end of each episode that give the audience a sneak peek into the world of the next episode. All in all, the show is infused with a strong nostalgia for classic TV, mixed with our desire in exploring where horror and wonder meet. That’s what really fueled us to make this series.