Oklahoma City web series highlights the local dating scene within the black community

<em>On the Scene</em> is produced by actors pictured and filmmakers in Oklahoma. (R. Tolar / So Focus Photos / provided)

On the Scene is produced by actors pictured and filmmakers in Oklahoma. (R. Tolar / So Focus Photos / provided)

Oklahoma City is anything but homogenous, yet even its locals aren’t aware of the diverse urban culture sitting right under their noses.

New web series On the Scene showcases the city’s black community through complex interpersonal relationships and romances amidst the city’s growing arts and culture scene. The narrative is fictional, but its setting is authentic to the core.

“This series was inspired by years of observation,” said On the Scene creator and writer Nicole Jocleen. “Simply watching certain patterns in social situations led me to create fictional characters and situations.”

First premiering in October 2015, On the Scene is loosely based on Jocleen’s self-published novel. The dramedy revolves around a group of men and women and their relationships and emphasizes the city’s thriving black community.

“When I first wrote the story for the novel, I didn’t have a specific setting in mind for the characters,” Jocleen said. “Later, a friend suggested I turn the story into a video series, and I knew placing it in OKC would give the show something completely new.”

Conveying the city through visuals rather than words presented exciting creative ventures for Jocleen. Like so many successful artists and writers, she didn’t seek out filmmaking; it found her.

“I went to school in Baton Rouge for a journalism degree but couldn’t find any jobs once I graduated,” Jocleen said. “In 2010, I decided to start writing stories about two different communities that have more in common than people would think: churches and urban arts and culture scenes.”

Journalistic principles — recording and reporting human behavior — still apply to Jocleen’s story. Although it deals with universal relationship issues, the series is unprecedented for OKC’s filmmaking community. On the Scene incorporates live events, concerts and public spaces into each scene, making for fresh stories.

“People outside the state still have this preconceived notion that Oklahoma is all rural country,” Jocleen said. “When it came to making the series, I knew I had to show how OKC is a relatable, globalized, urban city just like other major cities in the U.S.”

Homegrown support

The series could easily offer a new perspective of Oklahoma Citians’ hometown. Filmmaking is a relatively new venture for On the Scene’s production crew, yet their knowledge of the community renders the city both familiar and novel.

“Before Nicole reached out to me, I’d only worked on music videos and weddings, but I always wanted to try my hand at directing TV or movies,” said On the Scene director Jay Rid of VideoHero Productions. “We’re small in numbers and new to filmmaking, but that’s allowed us to improve on our craft.”

Budget restrictions and technological limitations often lend to original results. For example, all audio for the series is recorded on location, without environmental manipulation or traditional film set protocol. As a result, the series features a wide range of local music artists like Jabee and Cooki Turner and is set in venues like 51st Street Speakeasy and Studio XII.

“We’ve definitely learned how to improvise on location,” said Bre Black, director of photography. “Since we do film in parts of the city where we know other people, sometimes they’ll see us on a shoot and interrupt the scene. That’s OK, though, because it means more and more people are becoming aware of what we’re filming.”

Community support significantly built On the Scene’s backbone. Instead of holding formal casting calls, Jocleen said her love for networking and social media helped create the show’s cast and crew.

“I love staying active and in the know when it comes to events and supporting other black artists in OKC,” Jocleen said. “So when it came time to assemble a cast for the series, I used Facebook to connect with both actors and non-actors in the city.”

Featuring a cast of about 12, On the Scene includes characters who experience the highs and lows of dating in OKC, the trials and tribulations of complicated families and friendships and the inherently unique experience of living in tornado alley.

“The show has so many different archetypes that either contrast or mesh well with other characters,” Jocleen said. “Some are manipulative, yet some are innocent and naïve, and that’s what creates really interesting storylines between the characters.”

The series exists as part of Better Black Media Group, which supports creative endeavors in the black community.

“The great part about doing a web series is how accessible it is online,” Rid said. “We hope it reaches more black filmmakers and inspires them to start creating their own work.”

On the Scene has found its niche in the onslaught of internet web series through unexplored settings. Accessibility is key to the show’s marketing plan for exposure. Rid said putting all your work online for the public can be humbling.

“From season 1 to 3, there is an obvious improvement in production quality,” Rid said. “I have to admit I’m a little embarrassed about the first season, because we’ve become much better filmmakers since that time.”

However, Jocleen has no shame about the crew’s initial amateur undertakings.

“I feel such a sense of pride when I watch the first few episodes,” she said. “They are far from perfect, but they show what is possible in just one year’s time. We’re all incredibly proud of the series at the end of the day.”

Watch seasons 1-3 of On the Scene at onthesceneokc.com.

 

Print Headline: Setting Scene, OKC serves as the setting for a web series about dating in the black community.

Jessica Williams

This article was written by an Oklahoma Gazette contributor. To reach an editor, please email jchancellor@okgazette.com with this story's headline in your subject line.

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