Web Series


This is a very interesting piece of work and is definitely worth a look by those who are fascinated with the creative process.

The Artsiders is a documentary project by Chris Olsen which examines the lives of several artists from various genres and features them discussing what inspired them to become artists, what inspires them to continue along that path, and all aspects of their creative process. It is an ongoing series but this particular DVD (I rented it from Netflix but it is also available online) is the full length original project that started things off.

The artists run the full gamut of artistic genres: visual artists, dancers, a percussionist, even a voice-over artist. They all discuss their lives and their art with candor, providing insight into what drives the creative mind and just exactly what the life of an artist entails (hint: it isn’t generally wealth and glamor). Personally I love listening to artists discuss their process (even if you don’t particularly like them or their art there is always something to be learned) so this film was really in my wheelhouse, but even those not totally obsessed with art will find it fun and edifying.

For years there have been calls for “A National Dialogue on Race Relations” but until now there has been very little progress on getting this great conversation started. A new web series produced in Chicago is out to change that, and will also add some talk about gender roles, generational politics, class struggle, and perhaps even sexuality.

I have much to say about The Great Melting Pot, but first just watch it:



The Great Melting Pot is the brainchild of Wendell Etherly, a playwright/filmmaker raised on Chicago’s south side and in the nearby suburbs. The project grew out of a play he felt compelled to write the night Barak Obama was first elected President. Wendell recounts, “I remember looking over at my wife [author and publisher Lesley Etherly] and asking, ‘what does this mean exactly?’ I wasn’t by any means ignorant to the magnitude of the milestone itself, but the effects of it concerned me for many reasons. Would this moment in U.S. history cast the delusion of a post-racial society into stone, thus providing a much needed smokescreen for those who do in fact discriminate and oppress others for no other reason than racial prejudice?”

He was also concerned about what this perceived watershed moment (where racism was suddenly magically washed away by the election of one single person) might mean to his career. “As an artist of color who produces strong social content, are my chances of being produced even slimmer than before?” He knew that socially relevant material would always be viable, but how would those people whose opinions shape what material gets produced in the American Theater/Entertainment scene feel about this moment? “And my concerns proved to be legitimate when the literary agency that represented me at the time suggested I start ‘creating work that was more reflective of the era,’ as if capitalism, racism and classism suddenly became obsolete.”

After shopping the play around Chicago’s theater scene and getting a tepid response, Etherly felt compelled to adapt the script into a short screenplay and produce it himself. “Initially, I hadn’t intended the project to be anything more than a short film, but after watching it several times, I grew interested in telling these stories through a series of events. At that point I decided to create an ongoing discussion about race and the current social climate of this country through the lens of my principle characters as they maneuver through their day to day encounters with racial prejudice.”

The second episode of The Great Melting Pot is currently in production, with seven more episodes coming after that. Anyone interested in helping fund this project can visit www.gofundme.com/thegreatmeltingpot and those desiring more info about the series can go to  www.thegreatmeltingpot.com where they can also leave questions and comments regarding the pilot.


The nice dinner that Caren (left) arranged so her friend Debbie (right) could meet her children doesn’t go quite according to plan when Debbie’s daughter and Caren’s son get into a debate.


Things I LOVE about this pilot:


Realistic and well drawn African-American characters-

I had almost forgotten what it was like to see black people in a show who spoke and acted like actual people instead of cardboard cutouts. TGMP really points up what a lean period we are in right now for portrayals of middle-class black intellectuals in the entertainment media. And to be frank- how few honest portrayals of white people there are these days. I imagine an African-American kid might grow up thinking that all white people must be vampires or zombies.

The concept that not all African-Americans believe the same things-

This is something that shouldn’t seem so ground breaking in this day and age. There is no homogenous Black Opinion any more than there is a White Opinion. As TGMP points out; parents argue with kids, siblings argue with each other; etc etc. As the old adage goes “There are as many black points of view as there are black people.” This fact often seems to have fallen by the wayside in mainstream culture and politics.

The idea that people can have a heated disagreement about something important and it is not the end of the world-

One of the biggest stumbling blocks to getting this whole much ballyhooed “National Dialogue On Race” up and running in this country is that many people are so afraid of conflict that they flee from disagreement as if it were a bomb about to explode (perhaps partly because of the “everyone yelling at once” paradigm of debate fostered by the news media). TGMP illustrates how we all need to gird our loins here and get talking about things. It’s OK, we can all survive a heated word or two.

A civil discussion can’t happen without the discussion part- so let’s get to it.