Quadruple Threat Mary Bonney Talks To Us About Her New Web Series ‘Break: The Musical’

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We talk a lot about the blatant inequality, sexism and discrimination in Hollywood, as shared by many who work in the industry. Whether it is Jennifer Lawrence or Robin Wright talking about being paid less than their male co-stars, the many female directors taking part in an ACLU investigation into discriminatory hiring practices toward women, or the numerous studies the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media commission to make studios and networks aware of the gender inequality on screen, there is an uprising taking place.

Along with awareness being raised about the problem, we have seen so many amazing women deciding to say “screw you!” to the traditional Hollywood pathways and create opportunities for themselves. You all know who we’re talking about. Mindy Kaling, Lena Dunham, Tina Fey, Amy Schumer, and many more who are breaking the mold which pretty much favors the good ol’ boys club.

In a way, this trend has sparked a trickle-down effect to perhaps lesser-known female creators (for now, at least) who are starting to recognize the value in creating opportunities for themselves. One woman who has seen this happening and implemented into her own career is Mary Bonney. Her new 5-episode web series ‘Break: The Musical’ is halfway through its season and we were excited to talk to her about Hollywood, discrimination, and why closed doors in the industry are no longer a deterrence to filmmakers like her.

And it definitely helps that she is a quadruple threat: she wrote, composed, sang, and starred in the series which is a musical. Mary plays Kate, a music journalist living in Los Angeles, who lands the interview of a lifetime with her rock star idol that changes both their lives. When Kate’s gossip-hungry editor puts a spin on her article, Kate’s integrity is put on the line and she is faced with a dilemma that will either make or break her.

The series also stars Brian Justin Crum (Finalist – 2016 ‘America’s Got Talent’), Whitney Avalon (‘Princess Rap Battle’), and Ian Harding (‘Pretty Little Liars). For any woman out there who has a dream or an idea that is yet to be realized, we know Mary’s experience will change your perspective and challenge you not to give up.

Congrats on the launch of your new web series ‘Break: The Musical’. What has been the reaction from viewers so far?

Thanks! It has been such a labor of love for everyone involved and I’m so excited to finally share it with the world! I was nervous because it’s a very personal story but everyone’s really liked it so far! The first ‘screening’ we had was for my boyfriend’s family last Christmas. That was particularly nerve-wracking, but they loved it, so sharing it after that became much easier!

We premiered this summer in Denver at SeriesFest. After our screenings, strangers would come up and tell me how uplifted they felt walking out or how much they loved the music. It was the most wonderful feeling, knowing that they didn’t have talk to me after but enjoyed it so much they wanted to. I’ll be holding onto that feeling for a long time!

Where did the inspiration for the story come from?

I’ve been a music journalist for over a decade and have gotten to experience music in such a different way then most fans. I’ve been to hundreds of concerts and watched bands come backstage after shows, completely exhausted to the point of throwing up. I’ve interviewed new artists nervously tell me, “Now don’t make me look bad!” and seen veteran musicians deal with questions about their legacy… and future. I wanted to share that perspective with people.

I also wanted to share this story from a female perspective. I’ve been backstage and had roadies, bartenders and venue employees call me a ‘merch girl’, girlfriend or groupie just for being a woman backstage. It’s a weird feeling, to find yourself automatically labeled (usually with a negative connotation) just because you’re female, especially when it’s a world you love so much. So I started writing and the story came pretty quickly!

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There are numerous web series online, but not so many musicals. Why did you decide to choose this genre?

Growing up, my dad played the ‘Phantom of the Opera’ soundtrack so loudly at night, it’d wake me up. My family and I would drive into Washington, D.C. to see touring musicals, I performed musicals all through high school, and I spent a summer during college in New York City seeing every Broadway show I could afford, so musicals have always been a very big part of my life.

My dad is also a huge music fan, raising me on sixties and seventies rock like Van Morrison, Bob Dylan and The Grateful Dead. He instilled a deep appreciation for music in me and this seemed like a good way to honor it. Plus, the story is about a music journalist, so doing a musical was a natural fit!

You wrote the series, composed the music, star in each episode as the lead, Kate, and also sing in the series. Can you walk us through the workload and schedule for creating content like this?

It requires a lot of talented people that I could trust completely, generous people who would help me out every way they could. The bulk of the work was done before cameras started rolling; my composer Matt Dahan and I wrote the story together as I handled the script.

Then, knowing where the songs would fit in, Matt composed all the music and lyrics. We decided the last song of the series would be one I wrote a few years ago that Matt had produced. We recorded all of my songs first, so I could just focus on the rest of pre-production like casting, locations, crew and so on. It took us about nine months from the day we started writing to the first day of production.

Once we got closer to production, the scheduling and logistics were handled by my amazing production team: our director Dale Fabrigar, Cinematographer Peyton Skelton, Line Producer Aida Lembo and First Assistant Director Will Lambe. It was hard to completely shut off the producer side of my brain during the shoot, but having such a solid team that I trusted so much really helped ease my mind.

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What will viewers learn about Kate over the course of 5 episodes?

They’ll learn why she’s hesitant to share her talents but how beautiful and empowering vulnerability can be! It’s scary to put yourself out there in any way, but I believe it’s the only way to truly get what you want. My most successful friends who are people who openly and confidently state what they want, so I think conquering how scary that vulnerability can be is really powerful! I think Kate will also show audiences the importance of standing up for what you believe in and the sacrifices that sometimes come with that.

Similar to the on-screen story of Kate being caught between two opposing interests, many women in Hollywood are often caught between a rock and a hard place getting their careers off the ground in this male-dominated industry. Do you have any personal struggles you can share?

Every woman working in Hollywood does! I’ve had some particularly bad experiences with sexism in this industry and, while the tides are definitely starting to turn, I think I’ll have many more. For a long time, though, I just silently dealt with it. There’s so much fear about speaking up because this industry makes you feel so replaceable. But in the past year, I’ve made an effort to stand up and speak out against sexism and have made a lot of progress.

I have an incredible friend who was being interviewed for an important job was asked a sexist question and she just ended the interview. That was it. She didn’t justify prejudice with excuses about how much the job could add to her resume or how that’s just “how men are”. She just walked. So I’m working towards that.

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For other women who are struggling to get their content or ideas out to the world, is the answer doing it on their own and creating new pathways, or trying to break down the existing barriers?

By creating new pathways you break down existing barriers! In today’s digital age, there is no excuse for not making your own content. It is so achievable if you find people as excited and passionate as you to help bring it to life. It’s up to you to prove you can do it – how else are other people going to trust you with their money to do it? Look at Rachel Bloom with the Emmy-AND-Golden-Globe-winning ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’, Illana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson with ‘Broad City’, Issa Rae with ‘Insecure’ or Quinta Brunson with ‘Broke’. These women developed their own content on the web first, using their uniquely different comedic views of the world based on their own personal experiences. Talk about boss ladies.

Over the last few years we’ve seen a huge movement of female-created and female-driven content in the mainstream, winning awards and racking up box office records, yet the male-female ratio is still abysmal. In your experience, what do you think it will take to change perception in the industry?

I am surrounded by strong, confident, driven women who are taking such an active role in furthering their dreams and helping woman find more equality, whether that be in the writer’s room, in front of the camera, as producers, you name it. They call out the BS when they see it and recognize that its within our power to change it by doing so. I think the more woman can speak out about the implicit sexism in this industry and why it benefits no one, ostracizes half the population, and is slowly but surely becoming a thing of the past, the more it will change!

I also think the internet is a beautiful thing. Just look at what happened when NBC tried to get a show about a mail-order bride off the ground? Or when Adult Swim’s Mike Lazzo tried to defend why Adult Swim has the lowest number of female writers on staff out of any network? Or when Kurt Metzger admitted to being a rape apologist while writing for one of the most feminist shows on TV? It’s much easier and faster to call out the bs now than it ever has been!

Once ‘Break’ has finished screening, what is next on the horizon for you?

Producing my own series taught me so many important lessons that I’ve been able to bring to other projects. I am coordinating a feature right now that wraps later this year. I’ve also been producing series written by amazingly talented, confident women. These ladies have such distinct voices and stories and I want to help get that out into the world! The goal is to produce content that I’m proud of, to work with people I respect, and to empower women along the way!

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You can watch episode one above, two and three below. To see the rest of the season, make sure you subscribe to the ‘Break: The Musical’ playlist. The final episode will be released Wednesday, October 19.

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