Learning to trust yourself is a major lesson when it comes to working in TV. You have to believe that you know best how to tell the story, and that you have the ability to best do so. For first-time showrunners Evany Rosen and Kayla Lorette, this was a huge takeaway from their experience bringing the new Crave original series New Eden to life. For Rosen, a writer, story editor, and actor on Baroness von Sketch Show, and Lorette, an actor and performer known for Kim’s Convenience and voice-over work on Gary and His Demons, New Eden was a trial by fire.
The long-time friends came together on the 8-episode fictional true-crime documentary series that follows the New Eden community as it deals with issues related to communal living, alien goddess worship, and murder. Oh, and by the way, it’s a comedy. Rosen and Lorette spoke to us for our Women Behind Canadian TVseries and shared how they found their footing showrunning for the first time, and in the process, learned to trust their guts. They also look at New Eden as a love letter to the Canadian comedy scene, and detailed how they also tried to have a very female heavy crew behind the scenes.
This interview has been edited and condensed
The TV Junkies: Did you both always know you wanted to work in television? Can you share a bit about your backgrounds?
Kayla Lorette: I don’t think I had any specific aims for television as a younger person. I knew I was interested in performing and started doing improv in Grade 8. I loved being on stage and live performance. That organically led to this because you can’t make money doing improv. Through doing other jobs, wanting to perform, and many other things I got here, but it definitely started from a live performance space as a cool teen.
Evany Rosen: My journey is similar, but slightly different. I’ve always wanted to get into writing for television, and that’s where my background is. Performing came more second nature to me, and I started out with a sketch troupe in college called Picnicface. We made a TV show, luckily my first job out of college, but it immediately got cancelled. I moved to Toronto and got into writing for TV, and then I get lucky enough to perform with talented people like Kayla. That dragged me more into the performance side of things.
KL: Evany, you really gave her a much better background. I just stopped at high school. [laughs]
ER: You’ve done a lot of stuff! You’re on Kim’s Convenience!
TTVJ: Evany mentioned you guys meeting and now working together. How did that happen and what brought you both together on this project?
KL: Evany and I met at Improvaganza, a festival that Rapid Fire Theater in Edmonton does with all these workshops. This is not a good origin story, but we remember it because it was the day that Michael Jackson died.
ER: We were both in stalls in the bathroom and saw it on our phones.
KL: It’s not a good story, but that’s how we first met. [laughs] We didn’t bump into each other again until Picnicface made the movie Roller Town and I was in it. We worked together in the film and developed a friendship. It wasn’t really about working together, but we just became very, very close buddies. Other than an improv show, New Eden is the first project we’ve done together.
TTVJ: When you were pitching this project and looking for a home for it, did you ever find any opposition you were two young women pitching the show?
ER: It was actually pretty positive. If there was opposition, they rarely tell you that to your face. They don’t really go ‘But you’re women!’ [laughs] We were lucky because we had been performing that improv show together, had been friends for so long, and knew the story so well by the time we pitched it. We had worked a lot on crafting the story together. So with our improv background, knowing each other’s rhythms so well, and knowing the story so well, it made it a lot more comfortable to pitch, even in intimidating places.
KL: For the most part, to a fault, I think the industry is looking to fill and check the female box with content. So at this stage it is kind of an advantage. Everyone wants female voices and different stories, so I think we came in at the right time for that. I’m sure there’s some opposition to us being younger women, but we’ve been pretty lucky on our journey.
TTVJ: What is New Eden about? Can you explain the world you’ve created in the show?
KL: New Eden is a fictional true-crime documentary that centers around two women who started an all-female commune that developed into a cult. For us, we really wanted to send up the true-crime genre and do it very authentically, so that was the starting point in building up the world and story of this crime.
TTVJ: I recognized a lot of faces in New Eden from other Canadian TV shows I’ve watched. Can you preview the cast a bit?
ER: We really wanted to look in a lot of different places for our cast. We were incredibly lucky and are so happy with our cast. We had some theater actors that had never been on a set before, but who are unbelievable on the show. Then we had people like Caitlin Howden, one of our oldest friends, and we wrote the role of Sharon specifically for her. It was a real mixed bag.
One thing we’re so proud of and love is that the show is a love letter to the Canadian comedy scene. Almost all of the journalists in the show are played by comedians, and all our writers are in the show. We really found space to bring a lot of the members of our community to the show.
KL: We’re definitely ambitious with how big our cast is, in terms of most Canadian shows in their first season, and we had a lot of people say ‘It’s this many characters? Ok!’ We were able to work with such a wide variety of people that we love and admire. It was one of the most satisfying elements of being showrunners.
TTVJ: How did you land on Aleysa Young directing all of the episodes?
KL: We knew we wanted her, but were meeting with other directors. The whole time we kept thinking ‘It has to be her. It has to be her.’ She’s just perfect and was such a great collaborator. She’s just a genius and we love her.
TTVJ: Was it important to get women in other behind the scenes positions on this project?
KL: We strove to have as many women as possible, especially heading up departments and creative teams. Our writers’ room was mostly women, we had a female 1st AD, but it was also important to find men who were really able to understand the project and work with us. We had a great mix, but it was important for us to have a pretty female-heavy crew.
TTVJ: You’ve both been on other series, in front of and behind the camera, but what’s your first experiences as showrunners been like?
ER: We learned so much! It was a real trial by fire in a lot of ways, but we knew we wanted to approach it the way we always have, and that’s being very collaborative. That’s how our relationship is and how we work with others. We tried to then lead by that example, and coming into the showrunning environment, we tried to encourage all departments to work collaboratively. We also tried to be really open about asking questions on things we didn’t know. That worked really well for our progress.
KL: It does seem like it’s a female leadership trait to be collaborative and work as a collective. There was something lovely about not totally knowing what we were doing the entire time. We just led with what felt right, how we wanted to run a room, and how we wanted the set to feel. Not having any definite framework for how we were going to be showrunners led to us doing what we wanted, and it created spaces that were comfortable for collaboration and creativity. So I feel appreciative of the greenness at points, too. It was exciting.
TTVJ: Were there any big challenges or things you would do differently the next time?
ER: If I’m honest, I think next time we’d be more confident in, and assertive of, the style we know works for us and our show. Some of the biggest pitfalls we had were moments where we were led astray or talked out of operating how we like to operate. The lesson was actually that we should’ve stuck to our guns. It’s an interesting lesson. With that openness and the willingness to ask questions, the lesson wasn’t that we were being overconfident, but that sometimes we could trust ourselves more.
KL: Definitely having to learn to trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, or you don’t want it to be that way, just keep asking questions, and have more confidence in your process.
TTVJ: Learning to be confident in your own abilities and trust your instincts is something I think that’s relatable in any job, no matter what industry you’re in.
KL: It’s crazy because you do have to keep yourself open to the wisdom of people that have done it so many times. But the industry has changed a lot, and sometimes those people who have been in it for 30 years and know the way they want to do it, and that doesn’t work for you. It’s hard to trust your gut and say, ‘I appreciate your wisdom and knowledge in this case, but it’s not how I want to do it.’ That takes a lot of confidence. I don’t feel bad that we felt that sometimes. I think we had to, but it was definitely a good lesson.
ER: It’s definitely important with this show that’s quite unique and structured very different than other things. It’s quite dense and complicated in terms of being a period piece. It’s always finding that balance from gaining wisdom from people who have done it before, but also being able to say it’s not like a normal show. We had to find some new avenues and ways of doing things.
TTVJ: Along those same lines, do you have any advice for people looking to get in the industry or move forward in their careers?
KL: Know your taste really well and trust that it’s good. Hone it and take in as much as you can culturally. Then you’ll be able to trust the product that you’re creating. With New Eden, we knew exactly what the show was and why it was good and funny. That gave us the confidence to make what we wanted to make.
ER: Also, use what you have at your disposal, at whatever point you are at your career, to learn your tastes. Try out different forms of comedy, try standup, try your hand at writing, and try just as many things as you can as you hone and develop your own taste. If you are in a place where you’re going to pitch an idea, make sure that it’s ready, that you’re confident in how you are able to talk about it, that you can talk from a lot of angles, and bounce it off other people before coming into a network space. Use your resources, your allies, and use your peers. They will only help you get better.
KL: It’s really powerful to know the edges of your experience: what you know and what you don’t know. You have to be comfortable with the not knowing and asking for help. Confidence is important, but it’s important to know your edges and experience as well.
TTVJ: What’s next for you both?
KL: We’d love to get a second season, and since it’s an anthology, it’d be a whole new world and story. We’d have to build up a whole new world from the ground up. That would require us getting our brains in a space to do that. What’s nice about it is that Evany is just one of my favorite people in the world. So sitting around and talking about a new show is a pleasure. It’s such a delight to work with her in that way.
TTVJ: That’s awesome that the show is an anthology. I don’t know that I was aware of that fact.
ER: The one thing we knew we wanted to be true about the show, and it’s how we pitched it, is that every season would be a new fictional, true-crime documentary. We always knew we wanted two women at the center of the crime, not necessarily both implicated. We also wanted to explore, in terms of the documentary, whose lens this is, and whose story is this to tell. That’s very important in this season, and as we start to think of subsequent seasons that is where we start from. Who is telling this story? As well as why and when?
Editor in Chief Bridget Liszewski comes from a long line of TV Junkies who fostered her love of television from a very young age. She's channeled that passion into covering both US and Canadian television shows, and is thankful everyday for the invention of the DVR. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame, she loves college football and is a fan of sports in general. Bridget is always up for talking TV and you can follow her on twitter at @BridgetOnTV.