Since the late 1800s, the fabled American Academy of Dramatic Arts (AADA) has gifted the world with a roster of luminaries schooled in the conservatory’s craft of storytelling as the purest form of human expression. From vaudeville to the golden ages of film and television, its students have found permanent places in our minds and hearts with their performances on the stage and on the big screen.
Today’s entertainment world, however, is on the cusp of a revolution. A young Taos graduate of AADA, Melia Paulden, is poised to lead the charge with her new production company, HardlyFamous Productions. “With Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and even YouTube gaining traction and producing content, the days of network television and studio-based entertainment are over,” Paulden said. “The future is in the internet community.”
That is precisely the community to which she now belongs. “After graduating from Taos High School in 2013, I packed practically my entire life into my car and headed to Los Angeles,” Paulden said. Her audition for acceptance into the first year of AADA’s program was favorable, but hardly guaranteed her continuing enrollment.
“The second year of study was by invitation only,” Paulden explained, “and the workload was grueling, but you have to keep up to their standards in order to be selected for continuing studies.” She indeed did just that and earned a prestigious Associate of Arts degree, yet the next leg of her journey was rather unexpected.
"My academy friends and I sat for hours talking about the madness of our living arrangements in the off-campus community housing for students, about our thrust into a so-called adult life," Paulden said. "We were working multiple jobs to pay the rent and make ends meet. On Thanksgiving in 2015, we pondered and laughed about where we were, but that proverbial light bulb went on. What if we were living the quintessential millennial sitcom about relationships, love, politics, comedy, but, most of all, life? The possibility was so enormous that in one night, we sketched out a draft of what would become the first episode of '#Unsupervised S(eries)'” – and the start of their company.
The name of the show itself is telling: a nod to “what happens when adults start adulting without adultier adult supervision. The hashtag is a nod to our millennial heritage,” Paulden noted.
Paulden and production company co-founders Zoë Carlson-Meyers and Marcus Karlsson — fellow graduates who are equally responsible for making the company an interweb force to be reckoned with — have turned the first season of “#Unsupervised S(eries)" into a cult classic with a wide audience. Currently available for viewing on YouTube, Paulden noted that its audience is attracted to the portrayal of millennial life in a “relatable comedic way.”
Carlson-Meyers added, “It’s more than just a sitcom-style series. It’s funny … [but] at the end of the day, it’s about relationships and friends … and how they work things out. … There’s so much heart to these characters and you really get to see that.”
Having funded the first season out of their own pockets, the co-founders now face the challenge of obtaining continued funding for season two. “Currently, we’re in the middle of an Indiegogo campaign to help make the season possible and promote the series,” Paulden said. “And recently, we met with Neil Russell, a Hollywood veteran. On his advice, we’ve reached out to successful ad agencies and started to make waves with future investors. Our end goal for ‘#Unsupervised' is Netflix. We don't have any plans of slowing down or stopping until we’ve reached our goal, and even when we do, the sky’s the limit for what happens next.”
Though relocated to Los Angeles, Paulden remains close to her family in Taos and credits her upbringing for giving her the foundation upon which to build a future that is full of possibilities.
“Being a Taoseña to me means you have passion, love and value in yourself and where you came from,” she said. "I believe that everything happens for a reason. And this is something that my team members believe in as well: being able to pick yourself up and dust yourself off while sticking to your values and goals enough to keep going, even when things seem impossible. I credit a great deal of this mindset towards being born and raised in such a nurturing community. From the people to the mountains, Taos has always held a special place in my heart. It's where I am from, it’s where my passion and my life began. For that, I will always be grateful and keep fighting to make my hometown, myself and everyone who has supported me in this journey proud.”
Ultimately, she said, HardlyFamous Productions is about “changing the face of the entertainment industry – not just in what’s produced, but also in who’s involved. We really are by the people, for the people. We are the people. And there’s nothing we can’t do when we’re unsupervised.”
Watch the first season at youtube.com/watch?v=lL68MX4wQWg.