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'The Haven' using Web Series to Launch Chicago TV Pilot - Women in Film

The Haven written by Mia McCullough. Tasha Crystal
The Haven written by Mia McCullough features Sage Lorinne Miskel as Tasha (daughter) and Alex Dauphin as Crystal (mother)
What do you do when you have an original TV pilot that explores a world and characters different from traditional Hollywood scripts? You do like Mia McCullough and Elizabeth Laidlaw and create a web series!

THE HAVEN is a web series covering an extensive period in the lives of the clients and staff of a domestic violence center. The staff forms the main cast. The clients are secondary characters. 

Web series is a great storytelling tool for exploring characters and worlds. Compared to a TV show, these short format made-for-the-web productions often require fewer resources to produce. These scripts, which are usually under 30 minutes/pages, allow screenwriters to tell stories by and about underrepresented communities. Best of all, the finished content is immediately available to that community — #RepresentationMatters. 

Mia and co-producer Elizabeth Laidlaw knew that if developed and produced in the traditional Hollywood/LA-focused system, the project would likely evolve into something totally different from the original pilot. More importantly, the creative duo was unlikely to realize their dream of making an hour-long drama that's shot and written in Chicago.

All sorts of insane things happen at this fictional center for victims of abuse. The web dramedy (drama + comedy) covers domestic violence, drug abuse, and -- depending on who you ask -- supernatural beings. 

Mia worked for a domestic crisis line on and off for 15 years. She's learned that some victims don't realize that they can leave until they see it on TV. 

In an interview for WDSE WRPT, Mia told Cathy Wurzer, "...There's just not enough modeling happening on television for women. They can see women getting beaten up, but they can't see people moving on with their lives and what that looks like."

Screenwriter Mia McCullough makes heavy subject matters more palatable by adding dark humor into the mix.

Stories about such a world aren't typical. Usually, domestic violence is presented in a sort of "tragedy porn." Mia was very adamant about not creating "domestic violence porn". The shown scenes happen after the violence occurs. The Haven is not depressing or man-hating. Lots of people - not just female romantic partners - experience domestic abuse. 

In an episode of The Plot podcast hosted by Sean Douglass, Elizabeth explained that "There have been a number of television shows are shot here in Chicago. But, for the most part, they are not really chicago productions in any sense. ... Most of the series regulars, all of the guests, casts, and a lot of the recurring are cast out of town, -- the small parts are left to the Chicago actors."  

The Haven is not just a story about domestic abuse; it's a project with a mission to showcase Chicago's amazing creative talent. The production features mostly femme talent on screen and behind the camera.

Inspired by ER, The Wire, Nurse Jackie, Orange is the New Black and other dramedies, The Haven presents the multiple facets of the domestic violence issue. The storytelling goal of The Haven is to provide a better understanding of domestic violence. 

While the creative teams wait for the perfect collaborators to help realize this project as a 1-hour scripted series, they're following this strategy:

  1. Write a 1-hour pilot with a Chicago focus.
  2. Reformat the script/story into a web series.
  3. Shoot the cheapest episode first while being mindful to pay their mostly femme cast and crew equitable rates.
  4. Use that first episode to raise money for more episodes.
  5. Shoot more episodes and raise more money.
  6. Promote and network.
  7. Repeat steps 5 and 6 until they find the perfect collaborator(s) who will help them write and shoot The Haven as a hour-long television series

Help Mia and Elizabeth achieve their goals by watching and sharing this amazing Chicago-made web series. The Haven was included in Open Television's Cycle 4 programming lineup. You can watch full episodes of The Haven at haven or

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