Interview with Sharon Belle and Maddy Foley, Creators of Web Series Step Sisters

Created by Sharon Belle and Maddy Foley, Step Sisters is a non-autobiographical web series about two women who sit and talk on the front steps of their house. Sounds simple enough, right? Well, in the world of Step Sisters nothing is ever simple. Conversations spiral out of control as Belle and Foley — who play roommates — deal with getting fired, escalating lies, and dating in Toronto.

What makes Step Sisters stand out is the way Belle and Foley manage to surprise their audience with every new episode — 16 episodes to date on YouTube. It’s hilarious to see how far Belle and Foley push their characters to get out of awkward situations and misunderstandings. And everything plays out in this often frenetic, yet well-timed, unfiltered dialogue that makes the friendship feel so much more genuine.

I had the chance to chat with Belle and Foley ahead of the season finale — airing Tuesday, May 29th. Here, Belle and Foley talk about filming during winter, the inspiration behind Step Sisters, and the future of the web series.

The chemistry between you two in this series is excellent. Your dialogue is just so funny. How long had you known each other before working on Step Sisters?

Maddy: We met about a year ago on the set of Allie and Lara Make a Horror Movie and became fast friends. We had a comedic chemistry immediately and just kept making off-handed jokes and one-liners that didn’t quite make sense… sometimes even to each other.  But we would still laugh.  Basically, what you see in Step Sisters is an exaggeration of our rapport.

Sharon: The funny thing is we didn’t even see it at first. I wish teaming up was our idea, but it was other people telling us that we’re funny, or that we should write a show together that really got me thinking about it seriously.

When did filming for Step Sisters take place, and how long did you shoot? I dig the winter setting, especially those shots where we can see some snow falling (hopefully the weather cooperated!)

Maddy: Yeah! We got really lucky with the snow staying fairly consistent.  We also did everything in one take (as you see in the style of our show) which helped a lot with the continuity! We took 4 full days to shoot the entire series – it was a pretty quick turnover.  We aimed for 5 episodes a day and ended up cutting 3 for various reasons.  We had a pretty tight schedule but it was definitely manageable and still was a lot of fun and gave us the opportunity to try different bits out.

Sharon:  The winter setting was tricky at first. After writing episodes we would revisit them and constantly be asking ourselves “But WHY are they sitting outside!” Just like working with such a small budget ($500) I think the challenge definitely made the show better. It forced us to be more creative and weird. It got really unbearably cold at times, but yeah that snow was a literal gift from the heavens.

The audience doesn’t really know what to expect from episode to episode. We go from pink eye in the first episode to 2-for-1 cavity deals, pigeon murder, and a very drunk Groundhog Day. Did you know from the beginning that Step Sisters was going to be so wacky or was it something you came upon as you got further into developing the project?

Maddy: Our writing style sort of lends itself to some wacky outcomes.  We start with little bits or jokes and start bouncing stuff off each other and then try to expand it into something remotely narrative.  So the story arcs come from us extrapolating from these weird little jokes and finding ways to sew them together.  With that, things get real weird real quick because you’re trying to connect things that aren’t naturally connected.  But we found it hilarious and just hoped other people might too.

Sharon:  Yeah we honestly just kept discovering the project as it moved along. It wasn’t even until people started watching it and saying things like “It’s so weird” or “It’s completely insane” that we began to realize the monster we had created. We actually didn’t think we were making something that crazy. On paper, I promise you, the show actually looks pretty tame. All that being said, we’re really happy with how it turned out and how it’s being received.

Tell me about the inspiration behind some of the episodes. I’m eager to know what inspired the pigeon episode and the episode where your characters do extra work. Is the latter based on personal experience?

Maddy: The inspirations varied so much, again, from little off handed jokes to full scenarios or exaggerations of things that have happened to us or sometimes weird thoughts we would have or just happy accidents from our meetings.  It’s really just a jumble of things. The extra work is definitely based on real life experiences.  I think that was more of a quick joke we made that led itself to a full episode because there’s lots of material there.

Sharon: We went through the writing process together, but we did attempt to split up the work as far as episodes go. So I would say that approximately 50% are from my brain and 50% from Maddy’s. So yeah the pigeon thing, that was my brain fart. I actually did run over a pigeon one day on my bike and it was horrifying. But like…what if it wasn’t? Recently we described our characters as the Id’s to our Ego and I think that fits really well with how we spun our stories.

Are there any future plans for Step Sisters? Can we expect to see your characters sitting on steps elsewhere in Toronto?

Maddy:  We hope so! We’re going to keep working on some other projects we’ve been writing but we definitely love Step Sisters and want to keep it going. 

Sharon: If I could sit on those steps forever and make fart jokes with Maddy I would be a happy lady.

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