Compared to one of Anna Akana’s YouTube videos, her new Go90 series “Miss 2059,” produced by New Form Digital, is a large-scale production with a drawn-out shooting schedule. But by typical Hollywood film or TV standards, it’s a mad 100-yard dash across a tightrope — a 12-episode series with stunts, prosthetic makeups and special effects, shot over the course of 18 days.
“We’re shooting seven or eight pages a day, and that’s a lot of pressure on everyone, especially on the actors,” said Simon Ganz, who served as showrunner on the series along with Aaron Brownstein.
Set in the not-too-distant future, “Miss 2059” tells the story of Victoria Young (Akana), a beauty queen tired of living in the shadow of her sister Arden (Nikki Soohoo), a famous astronaut embarking on an mission into deep space. When Victoria mistakenly gets beamed into space in the place of her sister, she finds herself representing earth in the Galactic Protectorate tournament, and a furious Arden is forced to coach her through the competition, which will decide which planets will be destroyed by a mysterious enemy known only as the Vortix.
Akana, 26, is an actress, comedian and filmmaker who has racked up more than 1.53 million subscribers and 161 million views on her YouTube channel, which features comic sketches, vlogs and short films such as “Women Can Be Dicks Too,” “Pregnapocalypse” and “Why Girls Should Ask Guys Out.” She’s also had small parts in big studio films such as “Ant-Man.”
“Miss 2059” began as one of New Form Digital’s first round of incubator short film projects in 2014. Akana wrote, directed and starred in the short, titled “Miss Earth.” But when the project was ordered as a series for Verizon’s new mobile-first entertainment platform Go90, Oren Kaplan (“Laugh Trek,” “Razor Tales”) was brought in to direct, and the writing duties were divided up between Akana, Megan Rosati, and showrunners Ganz and Brownstein.
During production, Akana impressed the crew by doing many of her own stunts.
“Any challenge you throw at her, she can do it,” said Brownstein. “She does ninja rolls into a reverse backbends, and then she somehow goes to standing and does a cartwheel. She also had to learn to play a violin. Then when we’d have a day off from shooting, she had to shoot the videos for her site.”
Originally, the producers had planned to shoot “Miss 2059” on practical locations. But production designer Chloe Arbiture convinced them they could afford to build their own sets.
“You say, ‘Of course, we can’t build a spaceship,’” said Ganz. “But then you find the right person that’s driven and determined and knows just the angles you need and just the materials and has the right crew, and we have a spaceship set, and that’s pretty cool.”
The sets were built by a predominantly-female construction crew, which is virtually unheard of in the film and TV production world.
“I’ve done several short films and sketches where I will only have an all-female crew,” said Akana. “It’s very important to me to me to try to find a gender-balanced crew, if it’s not all-female. It’s also very interesting how hard it was to find females in various fields, like grip and electric, gaffing, visual effects [and] editing. So, when I do, I try to give them as much work as I can.”
While Akana wasn’t able to get an all-female crew on “Miss 2059,” women dominated the scene in front of the camera.
“There is only one male character in our entire cast,” said Ganz. “There’s maybe like a couple extra male extras and stunt people, and I think that’s really fucking cool.”