By Ashley MackinLa Jolla filmmaker Kai Collins and her writing partner, Deena Adar, will premiere their comedic television pilot “thirtyish” at the NewFilmmakers L.A. Film Festival on March 23. It was created through their self-established production company Quiet Duke.
“Ideally, we’ll use the pilot as a calling card to get people more familiar with our writing and our brand of comedy, and we’d love to sell the project,” Collins said.
The pilot explores the humor behind not meeting the expectations some set for themselves upon entering their 30s. Collins describes “thirtyish” as HBO’s “Girls” meets the 1987 drama “thirtysomething.”
“We’re writing about situations that are recognizable, and maybe the humor is coming from how awkward and uncomfortable it is, or how (you might think) ‘uh, I’ve been in that situation’ or ‘I’ve dated that person’ or ‘that is me,’” Collins explained. “We’re trying to reach beyond your standard sitcom and draw upon really personal experiences, as well as experiences of friends and family who are close to us, who’ve shared what they are going through.”
What they might be going through is a relationship falling apart or parenting struggles or, as Collins puts it, “just having a sense of realizing you’re a grownup and wondering how that happened.”
The impetus for the cable-network hopeful was a frustrated conversation between Collins and Adar about a project they were working on that wasn’t going anywhere. Worried they were on the wrong path, they started discussing the expectations, dreams and hopes they had for where they thought would be — and how they weren’t meeting them.
They immediately started writing the pilot for “thirtyish” based on the questions they were asking themselves. Questions like, “Why does it take three months to get together with friends — when everyone is so busy with kids and work — and we used to just ride our bikes over to our friend’s house and get together.”
“So it went from us tearing our hair out in the morning, frustrated, to a matter of hours later having a complete pilot outlined,” Collins said, They had actors committed to the project soon after, and took that as a sign they were back on track.
Having written viral videos and short sketches in the past (some have received thousands of hits by viewers and are available at
quietduke.com/work), Collins took this as an opportunity to express her smart sense of humor.
“We try to transcend limitations and boundaries and what you might expect two 30-year-old women to write about,” she said, “We’re really drawn to reaching beyond the typical setup of set-up-punchline.”
She said her evolved sense of humor came from watching people and the encouragement she got while at Muirlands Middle and La Jolla High schools.
She participated in drama programs at both schools, but it was at La Jolla High that she worked with now- retired drama teacher Walter Stewart. Calling Stewart “my favorite teacher — ever,” she said, “In terms of the quality of instruction I was receiving and the materials he encouraged us to pursue, it was a great experience and definitely instilled a sense of creativity and love for the theater.”
Collins carried those lessons to college, studying theater and participating in improv troupes such as Chicago’s Second City. She now lives in Los Angeles.