Amsterdam Ave. is a new web series written, produced by, and starring Dionne van den Berg and Pooja Tripathi. It is set to be released this November.
The series follows the stories of Maya and Kyran, two young women following their dreams in a new country. Kajal spoke with van den Berg and Tripathi about the series.
Kajal: How did the two of you meet and start working together?
Pooja Tripathi: We met seven years ago in a club in Saint Tropez. Dionne was living in the Netherlands and I was going to school in Pittsburgh and we were both studying business at the time. We stayed in touch – Dionne ended up moving to New York for acting school and I was working in fashion.
Dionne van den Berg: After acting school, I moved to LA. I was auditioning and because I was a foreigner and couldn’t go on the regular auditions through agencies, I had one particular scary experience that made me feel very unsafe. Having had that experience, I wanted to write more and produce and be able to choose with whom I work. I ended up making a short film with a crew of female filmmakers, which led me to founding Fountain Ave Productions with the mission of having female filmmakers. Pooja came to LA and helped me cast a short film, and we wanted to write together. Amsterdam Ave is the biggest project we’ve done so far, and about 90 percent of the crew is female.
Pooja: All the key positions are women – us as the writers and producers, our director, our cinematographer. We noticed that a lot of our crew love the experience. They have been on many projects that are male-dominated, and we hear over and over that they feel safe, more respected. They feel heard, there isn’t as much of a hierarchy. More of a collaborative effort without quite as much ego involved.
With the female focus, is there also a focus on bringing in women of color?
Pooja: Yes, definitely. That’s very important to us. Same with LGBTQ.
What are some of the themes that you address in the web series?
Dionne: Following your dreams, breaking societal expectations, creating your own path as a woman, living abroad, being mixed in with new cultures you haven’t been in before.
Pooja: We wanted to show that if you don’t relate to that traditional path, there’s another path for you. Particularly if you come from an immigrant background.
It sounds like some of the series is based on your own lives.
Dionne: It’s definitely true. Like Maya, I also came from the Netherlands to New York to go to acting school, the difference was that I was not engaged. She had the overall feeling of what it’s like to go to US acting school as a Dutch person from a Northern European country that is more introverted, where people don’t have as big personalities and where people are told more to fit in with the rest. To then come to the US and be pushed around by big personalities and having to find your own voice, having to confront your own insecurities and privileges and disadvantages, all that is in the story.
Pooja: Like Kyran, I was working in fashion in the corporate world. While I am not a DJ in real life, something I really relate to in Kyran’s story is the experience of having a path set ahead of you all your life and expectations to follow a more traditional career path. Like Kyran, I broke free from that and it was a whole process. I think a lot of people can relate to when you take a risk and do something that doesn’t fulfill the expectations of those around you.
How does it feel to have written and created this? Especially since it’s so closely connected to your personal stories – does it feel cathartic, does it feel scary?
Dionne: Because we are going to places where we are from for the screenings, and because it is so specific to our own experiences, it is definitely cathartic and also a bit scary. Overall creating this has been an amazing journey.
You can follow the series on YouTube. Episodes will be posted started November 7.