Filmmakers to Watch – Last Life is just the beginning

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Elesha Barnette and Kathy DiStefano

Words of action = women of action.

Elesha Barnette and Kathy DiStefano are East Coast transplants living in Los Angeles who teamed up to create and become the life force behind the supernatural, action-packed thriller web series Last Life.

How did they meet?

They became friends in New York when Elesha working in “Corporate America” and taking film classes and Kathy was pursuing acting. Their paths crossed, and they quickly became friends. Not long after, they began writing together. When each of them ended up in Los Angeles, they kept up their friendship, and their writing. Together they formed their production company Puma Squad.

What sparked Last Life?

It was a winter’s visit to Big Bear.

“We were in Big Bear, skiing, but not skiing, and there was a little baby there. And this baby looked at us. He was staring at us, and was very aware of his surroundings, which is really not a baby thing to do,” says DiStefano. “He looked at us like he knew us, and we were like, this baby has been here before.”

“I’m pretty sure it was evil,” Barnette says with a laugh. “But it was the start of it.”

“I don’t agree with the evil part,” DiStefano injected.

“She [Kathy] plays a Bloodborne [on Last Life], but she’s more of an Alina,” explained Barnette. “She saw more good, and I saw him something more of a like a Sloan or a Taylor baby,” Barnette continued, referring to the characters created in Last Life.

Their experience with that particular baby sparked their imaginations. Both Barnette and DiStefano started questioning, “What if people do reincarnate?” to “What if you can remember your previous lives?” Seeds for stories were being planted, and they were both on the same page.

“Elesha did a lot of the Biblical story research. We wanted to know about the first souls — make it different, but keep it familiar,” explained DiStefano.

“I’m from a very religious background,” shared Barnette. “So many stories have been told and retold, but how do we know what the truth is at this point?”

“It was the Jewish mysticism that really rounded out our characters,” explained Barnette.

They began writing season one in October 2013 and started casting in February 2014. What they didn’t know, they made it a point to learn, and learn it well.

“I’m a perfectionist,” admits Barnette.

As a result, the first season premiered on YouTube in May of this year, and has developed an impressive following.

DiStefano, who also plays the lead character Sloan Fox, added that even though the two main characters in love are women, that that is beside the point. It’s a story about the souls that want to connect (or reconnect).

“Our fan base is on YouTube and on Tumblr. Mostly teenagers,” said Barnette.  From one of their young fans on Tumblr, they learned about pansexuality, a term neither one of them had heard of before.

“Basically, it means they don’t want to have labels,” DiStefano explained. She went on to say, “it means they are in love with the soul and are very free. People are people.”

“Miley Cyrus came out as pansexual,” Barnette said, “our show resonates with it [pansexuality].  It hasn’t quite hit main stream, but our show resonates with that group of kids.”

“We don’t want our story to be labeled. We’re anti-label. The story itself is main-streamed,” said DiStefano.

Earlier this year, they did a crowd fundraising video to get season two off the ground. Their fans jumped on board.  A few fans even volunteered their time to help make the project happen. They believed in the show so much they wanted to be a part of it any way they could.

Every episode of season one is impressive. The story is interesting and engaging. It’s beautifully shot and edited, and the actors are not only gorgeous to look at, but can really act (and chances are, you’ll recognize the actors, too).  Last Life is the type of show you’d expect to see on the CW or the SciFi channel.

Even the music is great. “Music is a big part of the show,” said Barnette, who has a background in music, having been part of a family pop band. “I played guitar and sang, but that music isn’t appropriate for Last Life.

“When I was nine years old I sat my parents down and told them I was going to be a director,” shared Barnette. “I ended up being so off track, but when I met Kathy and we started writing together, it pushed me to where I needed to be.”

Both these women are on the right track to making movie magic happen. They had an idea and are running with it. Last Life is currently filming its second season, with a release date in May 2016. A third season is also in the works, as well as a spin-off.  These women are definitely worth keeping an eye on.  www.lastlifeseries.com

 

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Puma Squad – l-r: Simone Warrick, Jessica Harcourt, Kathy DiStefano and Elesha Barnette

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