Creators Georginna Feyst and Natalia Bortolotti take flight by landing laughs with their globe-trotting misfits in the original mockumentary web series, Americans Abroad.
Before making her way to Los Angeles, Feyst had successful IT career in Detroit, Michigan. She studied music at Wayne State University and San Jose State University, and was part of the spiritual healing new-age movement for more than 10 years. Later, she went on to study at Foothill Theatre Arts Conservatory in Northern California and eventually settled down south. She has been building a solid reputation in the indie world and more recently established Real Art Daily (RAD) Productions as a way to create meaningful projects that entertain, inform and awaken.
Bortolotti is a celebrated music producer/mixer, songwriter, singer and score composer, who has toured with top artists such as Maroon 5, Train, Sheryl Crow, Gwen Stefani and more. Her work has earned numerous awards from Billboard, ASCAP, Song of the Year, Songwriters Hall of Fame and many others. She is the founder of the musical artist development and recording studio Nebula Artist Development, which has teamed up with Feyst’s RAD to create several upcoming projects.
The first to take-off is the 7-episode web series Americans Abroad. Conceived while the duo where vacationing in Italy, the series captures a clueless on-camera travel show Host (Feyst) and the off-camera quips of her unpaid Intern (Bortolotti). These unlikely travelers dive into chaotic life-lessons on a no-strings budget.
indieactivity: How did you get into the business?
Natalia Bortolotti: I was composing for short films and also doing voice-over. Georginna and I decided to work on a web series together, so I brought my creative writing background to the table because I’ve always been a writer. Through working on the web series, I’ve found a new passion in comedy writing.
Georginna Feyst: I moved to California from Ferndale, MI to create a career in Film & TV. I went to Theatre Conservatory for 2 years and started acting in Theatre and Indie Shorts. In 2017, I started my production company, Real Art Daily (RAD) Productions, with a theatrical production of Jean Paul Sartre’s “No Exit. Now we have 4 projects in various stages of production, including a music video in post-production, a short I wrote and am producing, a feature that’s in development and the comedy web series “Americans Abroad” that we’re launching this week!
indieactivity: What made you want to create your own projects?
Natalia Bortolotti: I’m an artist that loves to work in multiple artistic mediums. Filmmaking is a new medium for me. I’m enjoying the process of being a part of the entire project from start to finish, including writing the theme song for the series.
Georginna Feyst: When I was in theatre school and playing the role of Inez in “NO EXIT’, I had the creative vision to produce that play, and cast myself in the part. Eight years later, I did it and it was the debut for my fledgling production company. It’s an industry trend now, that many actors are creating their own work. As an actor, there’s very little creative freedom or executive decision-making you get to have on a project.
I find that creating my own projects, including writing and acting in them, allows me the creative freedom, executive power, and opportunity for voice and expression that are really fulfilling for me. We love working together. We work really well together creatively and we’re able to work off of each other’s ideas to continue to make the comedy stronger and funnier. We’ve been working on ideas for comedies for a few years now and we decided to run with this one. It just grabbed us and wouldn’t let go!
indieactivity: Briefly explain your new web series “Americans Abroad.”
Georginna Feyst: It’s a mockumentary style travel series. The lead character is hired as the host of a travel show and then she discovers her crew consists of one unpaid intern and no budget. The comedy is fueled by the host’s endearing cluelessness and the intern’s sarcastic commentary.
Natalia Bortolotti: Midway through the series, when they run out of what little budget they had, the intern has to convince the host that they are abroad, when they’re still in the United States. The audience gets to be in on the joke, through confessionals and other BTS reveals.
indieactivity: Where did you discover the idea?
Georginna Feyst: We discovered the idea for this series when we were in Genova, Italy during the Summer of 2018. We went there to check out a friend’s yoga studio we were considering buying. During the trip, the potential business acquisition was a no-go, but we had a great vision for a web series about 2 clueless Americans traveling abroad and making funny uninformed observations about foreign environments. I had to, initially, convince Natalia that we absolutely had to seize the moment and begin writing and filming. Once she got on board, though, with camera in hand, our momentum was unstoppable and this inspired vision grew up into a full-fledged digital series in a little over a year.
Natalia Bortolotti: The idea sparked when we couldn’t find the kitchen in the apartment we were staying in. We finally found it in the closet and we were so tickled by it that the “Kitchen in the Closet” scene of our Pilot Episode (Genova, Italy) became the first scene we filmed. Some of the jokes in the series are based on our own travel experiences, like the time a budget airlines wanted to charge us hundreds of dollars because our bags were too heavy, so Georginna wore 12 layers of clothing to get on the flight without a fine.
indieactivity: What were the first steps you took to make it happen?
Natalia Bortolotti: We started tossing ideas around and happened to have our camera, so we began shooting. Neither of us had technical filmmaking experience, so we built that into the storyline. Hence the unpaid intern who’s supposed to be the cinematographer, but has never seen a camera before.
Georginna Feyst: As we started filming, more and more ideas came to us and we ran them in a DIY guerilla-filmmaking style. It was a blast and we even got to work with some delightful small business owners who were locals.
indieactivity: Anything you wish you could “do-over” on the project?
Georginna Feyst: I wish we would have gotten more takes, b-roll establishing shots, and room tone recordings, so we had more to work with in the editing suite, but somehow, we were blessed with all the footage we needed.
Natalia Bortolotti: I wish I’d developed my DP/camera skills and knowledge more before we’d started, but it helped make the series funnier that the intern was supposed to be the camera person and didn’t know what she was doing.
indieactivity: How do you balance both acting and creating?
Georginna Feyst: I love both acting and creating. It gives me the freedom and power to make decisions on the spot and adjust performances and writing spontaneously when a new choice reveals itself on set that serves the story and comedy better.
Natalia Bortolotti: Being both the creator and actor, I know this character so well that I can really step into their shoes. I feel it makes the acting more organic.
indieactivity: Any tips for other actors looking to create their own projects?
Georginna Feyst: DO IT!! If you’ve got a great idea, get the people together who share your vision and go for it! It takes a team and it’s so fun working on a shared vision with other inspired creatives!
indieactivity: What do you want to change about the film business?
Natalia Bortolotti: We’d like to see more women, especially women over 40 and LGBTQ representation in film and TV.
Georginna Feyst: We also want to see more women represented as real people, in all shapes and sizes. Sexism isn’t just reflected in film/TV with fewer parts and less interesting and significant roles for women, but also in the casting of women who are primarily skinny and beautiful. We are hoping things will change for the better as awareness around diversity grows and we’re intent on doing our part!
indieactivity: Who is your creative idol and what do you love about their work?
Georginna Feyst: Our creative model for this series is Jennifer Saunders. We LOVE her work with “French & Saunders” and “Absolutely Fabulous”, and we think she’s one of the best comedy writers and actors of all time! We’re so grateful to her for inspiring us and our show. I personally aspire to find my niche as a female comedian and grow to become a powerhouse of talent like Jennifer Saunders.
Natalia Bortolotti: We love Jennifer Saunders’ bold, daring, ludicrous comedy. There are parallels between the character of Edina Monsoon in “Absolutely Fabulous” and our Host in “Americans Abroad”, including her endearing cluelessness, the way she treats her intern horribly and her entertaining, physical comedy. If Jennifer Saunders ever watches our show and laughs even once, we can die happy.