Web Series: <I>Southern Comfort</I>
Issue: February 1, 2018

Web Series: Southern Comfort

KNOXVILLE, TN — Southern Comfort is a new series of comedic Web shorts that launched on YouTube on Valentine’s Day. The series stars the comedic duo of Dolly Partners, made up of Kristen Ballard and Malorie Cunningham, and centers around two young women, who decide to separate from the men they married shortly after high school. Their attempt to live independently in their small hometown of Marigold, TN, is met with disapproval from the locals. Much of the series plays on the misrepresentation of women in the South.

Cunningham, who is based in New York, created, wrote and directed the six-episode series, in addition to serving as one of its stars. The entire series was shot in just one week and was made possible by the collective talent of many of her friends and fellow college classmates.

Anna King, who is based in Greenville, SC, went to school with Cunningham for a time at North Greenville University, and was initially brought on board to serve as the series’ script supervisor, before ultimately being asked to handle editing duties. King went on location to Knoxville, TN, back in October for the week-long shoot.

“During our first meeting, they had mentioned taking notes for the editor,” she recalls of her role as script supervisor. “I said I was an editor, and know what they are looking for. The next day, Malorie asked if I wanted to edit it myself and I said, ‘Yes, absolutely!’”

Production involved a one-camera shoot, with Serenity Ewing serving as director of photography and Austin Rye directing. The project was shot using a Canon 7D and captured in high definition.

“I was staying with the Serenity and we were like, ‘It would be really cool to have this episode be symmetrical. And it would be really cool to have this episode be mostly long takes,’” King recalls. “We drew a lot of influence from Tarantino and Wes Anderson. It didn’t really happen as much as we wanted to, for a number of reasons, but it was still fun.” 

The series begins at nighttime, with Avery (Cunningham) calling her friend Rae (Ballard) to help her with a flat tire. She later reveals that she’s left her husband and is staying in an apartment nearby. While the storyline transpires over the course of several weeks — all during the fall — each episode gets brighter than the previous, with Episode 6 being the brightest. 

“They all kind of have a very different feel, but have a similar cohesive feel at the same time,” says King of the six episodes, which are rolling out on YouTube weekly. After spending a week at the shoot last October, she worked throughout December and January to cut the series, as well as a promotional trailer. Each episode runs approximately five minutes, though they weren’t confined to a fixed length. She cut the project using Apple’s Final Cut Pro X in the native HD resolution of the shoot.

“I am an editor full time for both photography and video,” says King. “I primarily use Final Cut, but can use Premiere too. For this, I used Final Cut, because I am much quicker with it.”

In being a comedy, much of the music is light, though one episode called for a specific feel. 

“Malorie came to me at one point and said, ‘I want this part of this episode to have this intense spy music,’” King recalls. “That was the only one that was precise. The rest of them I went with feel. It might be a really hokey episode, so I put some dopey music in there that hits the mood. We didn’t want to get too serious because we are handling a lot of really serious issues in a really funny way. Trying to find music for that was kind of taxing at [times].”

Cunningham funded the independent effort but was able to draw on the production and post talents of her close friends. “She came up with it, created it, wrote it, everything,” says King. “It was her baby. We definitely cut costs where we could. Bringing your friends in also helps. Everyone is so talented. I don’t think it’s apparent that it was on a budget? It’s a short film, but it’s not like it was cheaply produced.”

While the one-week shoot was intense, along with the subsequent edit, King says the team had “a great time and meshed so well together…It says a lot about Malorie too. We all wanted to be there for our friend and really believed in what she wrote. It was a very awesome week.”