Sarah Ramos Explains How She Gave Life To “City Girl,” The Rom-Com She Wrote At 12 Years Old
Please watch “City Girl,” it is very good.
When Sarah Ramos was 12 years old, she wrote a romantic comedy about a 28-year-old boutique owner’s scandalous relationship with her migraine doctor. Now, at 25, with the help of Islands’ Nick Thorburn, Alia Shawkat, Esther Povitsky, and other people who you know, she’s brought the story to life in a series for Super Deluxe. It is incredible and I love it so much please watch it right now, here are the first three parts, I’m not sure why it says episodes 1–6:
I “spoke” meaning emailed questions to Sarah, who is my friend which I mention for the journalistic purpose of full disclosure, about what? What is this, and how:
Kelly: So, you found this script you wrote when you were 12 and decided to make it as an adult. Did it take much convincing to get other people on board with the idea?
Sarah Ramos: Oh Kelly, it took YEARS to get anyone on board with the idea. My boyfriend Matt Spicer and I found the script in the closet of my childhood bedroom in 2013. (I’d actually been looking for a murder mystery soap opera I remembered writing, of which I sadly only found a few pages.) Some Hollywood people told me not to make it because it wouldn’t “move the needle,” which is a fun Hollywood phrase. But Matt and I made two episodes anyway, enlisting my actor friends (the original Trish was Aubrey Plaza, the original Aaron and Monica were Dustin Milligan and Amanda Crew) and buying clothes and accessories at Target and Claire’s. In that version, we filmed the doctor’s office stuff at my actual doctor’s office. We tried to shop around the first two episodes, but no one cared. I mentioned it at a dinner with my friend Hillary Power, who was then working at BuzzFeed Video. Nothing happened until she moved to Super Deluxe three years later. I had just given up and assumed it was just a fun thing that would never properly happen. But they totally got the humor and wanted to make it, so we re-shot the pilots and a bit more, and that was that.
Kelly: The aesthetic is perfect. How did you…do it? Or decide on it? I know that’s dumb. How did you get a pink kitchen? And the clothes…that long terrible skirt style that everyone had…how did you do it? How did you do it.
Sarah: I knew I wanted to set it in 2003, because if that’s when I wrote it, that’s when it would be set. I was an obsessive fan of the Olsen Twins (going on a cruise-level fan), but I was too shy to pull off their outgoing 2000s style. I wanted to give my characters the confident flair I never had. We also used Lizzie McGuire, White Chicks, and young Reese Witherspoon, Kirsten Dunst, and Ashley Tisdale on the red carpet as style inspiration. The Instagram @twogirlsonepizza was a great source of all things 2000s.
But the amazingness of the clothes is really entirely due to our costume stylist Cocoa Rigal. She is a pixie evil genius who found a lot of the clothes at various Goodwills. We had a TINY budget. I think she spent most of her money on eBay-ing a pair of baby blue Uggs that you don’t even see but that I kept for myself. And a pair of giant, chained up JNCO jeans for Casey’s co-worker Aaron (Benji Aflalo).
The set design came from our brilliant production designer Heather Farah, who had previously worked on Katy Perry’s “Roar” music video. I knew immediately that she was the one for me. After we talked about inspiration, she found out about Kitten Kay Sera, the owner of Casey’s apartment set, which she calls “The Pink Palace.” She did a photoshoot there with Paris Hilton for Moschino, which is obviously fabulous. Kitten strictly dresses in all pink and is quite the charmer, so I cast her as Dr. Foley’s nosey neighbor Mrs. Baxter.
Kelly: As a 12-year-old, what kind of movies were you watching? What informed your writing?
Sarah: Due to my aforementioned Olsen twin obsession, I’d certainly seen every one of their straight to VHS movies. In every one they travel to a foreign city (Paris, Sydney, London), fall in love with new hot guys, and get into some crazy antics, like getting put in the witness protection program for some reason. I also remember walking out of the theater after seeing Legally Blonde and feeling 100% changed. I knew that I somehow had to do that with my life. I definitely wrote the part of Casey Jones for Reese Witherspoon. But I was also obsessed with anything Kirsten Dunst: Bring It On, All I Wanna Do, Drop Dead Gorgeous, and less so, but obviously Get Over It and Crazy/Beautiful. I remember not liking Mona Lisa Smile even though it had the triple whammy of Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles, and Julia Roberts. I was like… what the fuck is this boring movie?
Kelly: “Rap music” plays a large role in solidifying your character’s illicit relationship with her doctor, as well as the end of her relationship with her ex. Were you very into rap music as a 12-year-old?
Sarah: You know Kelly, I was also a passionate fan of Eminem’s album The Eminem Show. But it should be noted that there was no specific song in the original script. It literally said “RAP LYRICS TBD” — I had picked up a lot of screenwriting lingo as a child actress. So the song in there now is Despot’s “House of Bricks” which is perfect and which he graciously gave us for a tiny fee because he’s close friends with Nick Thorburn, who played Dr. Foley.
There’s a lot in the “City Girl” script that I’d clearly internalized from the ether — like the fact that rappers kill people and that bothers some reporters (?), that women eat salads, that people are insecure about how old they are, and the homophobic idea that gay people are flamboyant givers of makeovers who wreak havoc on doctors’ offices. There’s still half of the 50 or so page script left, and it plays a lot with drag and sexuality. Unintentionally, of course.