When Alexandria Carr was growing up, she didn’t have an outlet to deal with her depression or learn about her sexuality. No one on TV seemed to face the same struggles she did.
But now, the Oklahoma native is finding ways to tell her community’s story through YouTube. Her web series "Scandalous Tales" is the first LGBTQ web series in Oklahoma, she said.
“Oklahoma, you know, it's a red state, and it's the Bible Belt ... I guess I wanted to give us a voice,” Carr said.
The homemade show follows a group of friends as they find love, discover their sexualities and deal with topics like mental illness and religion — all on the streets of Oklahoma City. Its season 1 finale gathered over 28,000 views, and a second season will be released in November.
The idea for the web-based show began online about two years ago.
One day, Carr was tagged in a Facebook post that said while major cities like Atlanta or New York had LGBTQ web series, Oklahoma City didn’t. Although Carr mostly writes poetry and was nervous at first, she agreed to give screenwriting a try.
“I was like, ‘You know what? I'm going to push myself and I'm going to actually do this, like, for real,’” Carr said.
Other people were tagged in the Facebook post as actors, and the team set up a casting call. "Scandalous Tales" soon assembled a group of about 20 people, who produced the first six episodes in 2017.
Ron Marshall plays the character Jacob, a closeted bisexual man who is married to a woman. Marshall was drawn to his character because he’s known a lot of men in the same situation, who feared rejection if they came out to their families, he said.
“It's basically to kind of show the world that everything that ... heterosexuals (suffer from) — the LGBTQ community suffers from those things,” Marshall said. “Things (like) depression, anxiety, acceptance, wanting a family.”
While YouTube is a good way to reach people, "Scandalous Tales" doesn’t make much money. Everyone involved in the show volunteers their time, and the crew has to get creative finding public places to film in Oklahoma City: restaurants, strip clubs and parking lots are all fair game for a set.
“I think it's like maybe $7 every thousand views,” Carr said. “But it's tricky. If you say certain words, if you show certain things or if your music is not own, you can't get paid for it.”
It’s common for writers and actors to invest hundreds of hours in making a web series for little to no profit, said Robin Nystrom, who co-hosts "The Web Series Podcast."
But web series can also provide a way for anyone to tell their story, unlike traditional streaming or TV, Nystrom said.
“That allows people from all walks of life to ... film projects, and just put them up online and build their own audiences,” Nystrom said.
Balancing a full-time job with screenwriting and other projects is hard work for Carr, who said she is busy 98 percent of the time. As for Marshall, sometimes he and other actors don’t leave set until 1 a.m., he said.
But sharing stories about the LGBTQ community — especially in Oklahoma — is important to both of them.
Viewers from Germany to the Virgin Islands watch the show, and Carr said it prompts them to do research on her home state.
“It's funny because we were invited to a workshop in Atlanta that another LGBT web series had put on,” Carr said. “And the first thing that they asked me when we got there was, 'Your web series is in Oklahoma.' We're like, 'Yeah.' And they’re like, 'Where is that at?'”
Recently, Marshall bumped into a fan in a clothing store who told him that her ex-husband had been in the same situation as Marshall’s character: attracted to men, but married to her. Watching the show had helped her find peace and understand her ex-husband better, Marshall said.
“That was the one thing that really touched me,” Marshall said. “I thought, 'Wow, I thought that my character would resonate with other men that are bisexual ... but not to a woman that was married to someone in that situation.'”
Since starting "Scandalous Tales," Carr has had viewers from all over share how they’ve been impacted by her web series.
“We've had so many different people email us or inbox us on Instagram or Facebook, and they're just like, ‘Watching your series helps me come out, watching your series helps me cope with my depression, watching your series, this and that,’” Carr said. “And that right there itself is why I'm doing this: my want to reach people.”
The cast will celebrate season 2 of "Scandalous Tales" with a special release party on Oct. 19.