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Brooke Lemke Talks ‘Safe Word’

Almost exactly one year ago, I wrote a piece about an upcoming web series by Brooke Lemke and Rachel Grubb titled Safe Word. The multi-episode series was being described with provocative words such as “fetish” and “taboo-laden,” so of course I was intrigued.

Then, as so often happens, the project seemed to drop off the map, with no word at all on its progress. But I can now announce happily that Safe Word is finished and the first two episodes are posted at Blip.tv/SafeWord, ready for your twisted viewing pleasure.

I recently touched base with Lemke about Safe Word, which she now describes as a “dark comedic thriller,” though, based on the first couple of episodes, it still covers some relatively spicy territory, which apparently has its roots in reality.

“All the episodes of Safe Word were written by Rachel and directed by myself,” Lemke told me. “This was the first time I had the honor of directing something Rachel wrote. It originally started off as an incomplete feature script idea inspired by an event that happened to Rachel and then taken to the extreme. Rachel had 42 pages written and didn’t know how to make it feature length, so she shelved it.”

It appeared that Grubb’s feature was dead in the water, but then fate intervened. “In the summer of 2011,” Lemke said, “Ryan Kiser approached us about doing a SAG New Media web series. That’s when I suggested to Rachel that we make her feature into an episodic project, so Rachel rewrote it to fit an episodic outline.

“The first episode leans towards comedic,” she continued, “because it was very very important to me that the audience enjoys [the main character] and finds humor in him, because the series is going to become darker and uncomfortable real quick in episode two and I don’t want him to be a ‘stereotypical freak.’ He has comedic and fun qualities that stem from a dark past. That’s why we classify it at as a dark comedic thriller.”

Lemke had been focusing on producing the last few years, but she realized that she wanted a change. “I told Rachel I had no desire to produce and act; instead, I wanted to forfeit acting in Safe Word to direct it.” Apparently, it all worked out, because there are now eight episodes in the can, produced by and starring Kiser, directed by Lemke, and written and produced by Grubb, who also stars.

This division of duties between Grubb and Lemke is a sign of things to come. Safe Word is being produced under the aegis of Silent-But-Deadly Productions, the all-female company they formed five years ago. SBD was founded to provide jobs for women in crew and production positions on projects with strong stories portraying strong female characters. But, now, SBD is closing its doors, following the decision by both its partners that the time has come to follow their heart into new career paths.

“Rachel and I have decided to close SBD so we may move forward with our dreams in the capacity that we want,” Lemke said. ” I started off acting in the industry and quickly fell in love with being behind the camera. I want to reach the Directors Guild of America level as an assistant director and director, and Rachel wants to focus on writing.

“We started Silent-But-Deadly Productions in 2007 when we wanted to control the projects we were a part of, and we did. Rachel and I made projects we also acted in, and we learned so much through the past five years. Most importantly, being a producer gave me the chance to explore as a director. I was able to find my voice as a director and to live my love of telling stories.”

It’s a bit sad to see SBD cease operations, but the two filmmakers remain good friends. And Lemke is definitely excited about what the future holds. “I’m working hard at clocking my production assistant days on union television shows so I can become an assistant director while also writing a feature-length script and shadowing DGA directors to help me hone my skills as a director.”

One thing is certain: the Lemke and Grubb partnership is not dead. “We both plan on working together in different capacities,” Lemke said, “but we both agreed that just because we are good at producing, it doesn’t mean we have to continue to do it. We’ve put in the years to become good at what we really want and we don’t have to be producers to make our dreams happen now. It’s time Rachel focuses on her writing, and it’s time for me to focus on clocking my days to become an AD and to get my projects out there to become a director.

“We have it in us and we hope Safe Word is a good final SBD project to help launch us to the next level toward our own goals.”

~Theron Neel

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