health

An Interview with Angela Gulner of “Binge”

A pleasantly surprising number of our readers here at Hipster Mother are childless. Thanks for being here! From those of you who’ve shared your reasons for reading, I’ve learned that you come for the existential dread and stay for the parenting mishaps. Some of you have shared things you struggle with — from postpartum depression, to eating disorders, to chronic pain, to self-harm, to too much awesomeness. (No one’s mentioned that last struggle yet, but I assume it’s only a matter of time.) 

Because of what I know of y’all, deciding to cover Angela Gulner’s new darkly comical pilot, Binge, was an easy “yes”—even though it’s nothing to do with parenting. Fortunately, she was kind enough to  grant an email interview, even though this is ostensibly a mommy-blog. (Side note: Anyone else find that phrase patronizing? Or just me, and just when dudes I used to date are like, “Oh, I see you’re a mommy-blogger now?” Anyway.)

The project premieres today, November 29, and it’s yours for the watching! See the full episode here. Angela stars in the pilot, which she co-wrote with Yury Baranovsky of HLG Studios.

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Angela and Yuri on set in amazing, matching robes.

I’d recommend this show to anyone except my husband, who is a sympathetic vomiter. He also hates to vomit more than anything else maybe in the entire world. If you, however, are not Andy and you like solid comedic performances, excellent music, and shit that’s a little dark. This is for you.

My very lightly edited interview with Angela is below. She opens up about what it took to get this episode made. I’d hoped to get enough information for a few pull-quotes, but she gave me the gift of interview gold. Enjoy!


photo-nov-16-6-09-38-pmKATE: When did you start working on this project? What made you decide that this was the right time for it?

ANGELA: I started working on BINGE about two and a half years ago, shortly after I was discharged from treatment at The Bella Vita, in Pasadena, for bulimia. I was coming off of 10 long, eating disorder-filled years, and was looking for a way to simultaneous drop back into the creative world and move forward with my life post-rehab. Yuri and I had been friends for a few years, and he knew all about my experiences with and recovering from bulimia. I’d often entertainment him with the darkly hilarious stories of my time suffering from the illness, and my time in treatment. We both share a love for irreverent, uncomfortable humor, and I asked him to write the pilot with me. He agreed — and about a month later, we had a draft complete.

We spent the following two years trying to get the script into the right hands — and while we were successful in getting some great meetings and securing representation, the Hollywood machine is a super-slow moving one, and we stopped being willing to sit around and wait.

2016 has been a pretty shit year across the board for basically everyone I know, so this summer, we decided we’d give ourselves the gift of making this thing we both loved so much. We had a super short time frame to work with, between the team’s busy schedules, and basically no budget. But Justin Morrison, Dashiell Reinhardt, and the support team at HLG were incredible. They shared Yuri’s and my passion for the material and put in crazy long hours to give us the pilot we are so proud of today.

Thanksgiving — and the Holidays as a whole — are incredibly difficult for those struggling with eating disorders. We couldn’t resist the irony of releasing it now, when these communities need laughter, understanding, and connection the most. Especially after such a horrifying election, we need art more than ever. Now is the time to lift each other up, and to make room for messy, diverse, and female voices.

photo-nov-16-5-56-19-pmKATE: Do you have a “day job?” What do you do when you’re not filming fabulous pilots?

ANGELA: I wait tables! It’s as glamorous as it sounds. I also work with Much Ado About Shakespeare, a program that teaches Shakespeare to home-schooled kids. It’s freaking awesome, and I’m a huge Shakespeare nerd, so it really soothes the burn of the food service industry.

I also write basically constantly — when not with Yuri, I write with my amazing feminist writing partner Lindsay Stidham (of Sundance and Slamdance fame). We are currently developing our feminist satire feature film with a digital production company, and aim to start production on it mid-2017.

And I play the slots — I mean, audition, when I’m lucky enough to get the chance to. Maybe some amazing casting directors will see BINGE and hit me up…????? 😉 Here’s my IMDB  and personal website for funsies.

KATE: What audience would you most like to reach with this?

ANGELA: We made this pilot for young women, young woke men, and those struggling with or recovering from eating disorders. I think they’ll be really jazzed on it, give us support, and want to see more. We need those likes, clicks, views, and shares in order to get the attention of the gatekeepers of the industry. Folks who like GIRLS, BROAD CITY, CALIFORNICATION, ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK, INSECURE, LOVE, or LADY DYNAMITE — they’re our target for BINGE. 

But I think it would be a huge bummer to miss out on those audiences we didn’t specifically target. There is such little real, honest, open talk about eating disorders done in mainstream media, and I’d love to reach those demographics that may not know much about these illnesses. I think much of what we depicted will shock those groups (hell, maybe even shock everyone), and I think that’s a good thing. An important thing. This pilot really isn’t an exaggeration. I didn’t have an affair with my own therapist, but everything else you see happened, and then some. And mine is only one experience. These behaviors and patterns and cycles might be happening under their own roofs, to their daughters and sons, and they may not have any idea about it. We specifically did not want this show to be an after-school special, or feel preachy — but we do think most people will learn something by watching. 

And then, of course, we hope to reach those ever-sought-after Queens of Hollywood. Hey, Netflix! Hi, FX! Well hello, Showtime! Nice to meet you, HBO! Didn’t see you there, Amazon! You’re looking fabulous, Cinemax! Yo yo, Hulu!

A girl’s gotta dream….

KATE: Who helped you make this? What was the process? 

ANGELA: Yuri is part of HLG Studios, a digital production company that has had some very cool success. They own a lot of great equipment, and have access to amazing, generous friends who sometimes lend them equipment for free (THANK YOU!!). That’s a huge win. 

We had no budget, so we worked strictly from favors. Little Fish Theatre in San Pedro and Vanishing Angle Studios in Atwater Village were amazing to us, and let us shoot in their spaces for free. Our production designer Marie Jach  and her roommates were trusting enough to let us shoot in their living room until 5am. We shot outside my apartment until we got yelled off the street. Stuff like that. We scrapped things together.

I can’t brag enough about our DP, the FABULOUS, GENIUS Justin Morrison, who often worked alone, set up his own lights, never tired, constantly cracked jokes and stayed positive. He worked like a mad man and did a BEAUTIFUL job. One night, he and I shot all night, just the two of us. He spent hours rigging a camera to hang up and over the top his car with duct tape and C-Stands, and we just drove around my neighborhood shooting beautiful shit, hoping we wouldn’t get pulled over or hit a mailbox. 

We also had the support of some amazing HLG besties — Arturo Ochoa, Matt Wozniak, Spencer Sacks, and many more I’m sure I’m forgetting right now.

We shot about six days, completely bare bones, with whatever help was available to us at the time. It was a crazy, intense, whirlwind of a process! But an absolute joy. I am so grateful for all of the time, energy, talent, and passion that this amazing group of people put into this project. It really makes my heart swell. This was the most fulfilling creative project I’ve ever worked on.

And I would be absolutely remiss if I didn’t talk about the music provided to us.

Up until a few days before we locked a cut, we had no music. None. It was really important to me that the majority of the music be created by a female musician, but we didn’t have time or money (and I, personally, know nothing about music), and so we weren’t sure what we were going to do. And then, the magical place that is Facebook put me in touch with B. Squid — a stunningly talented and unique female hip-hop artist. She was so kind to donate her new album to us. As you can hear in the pilot, she absolutely makes the world of BINGE what it is. The show wouldn’t be the same without her. She has such a distinct sound and style — and it melds perfectly with the tone we sought to create. She gave us so much texture and life. I truly don’t know how we got so lucky. I can’t thank her enough. Buy her album immediately — she’s a badass genius, and really gave us such a huge gift. 

Our other two musical providers are close friends of HLG, and just as talented. Emma Fitzpatrick of The Mots Nouveaux provided beautifully upbeat music to bring out the irony and humor of the piece, and Vlad Baranovsky — Yuri’s brother — gave us an indie love song to help bring forth the protagonist’s isolation. 

These three musicians, man …. I’m grateful for them beyond words. 

KATE: What other projects are you working on right now?

ANGELA: I’m developing the feminist satire I mentioned above, #SUPER$LUT, (you can view our teaser online!) with Lindsay Stidham and a digital production company (their name is in transition right now, or I’d tell you which one!) We hope to start shooting mid-2017. And I’m always writing. Lindsay and I have a pilot about a ghost-seeing former child star we’re hoping to get off the ground, along with a feminist bio-pic we’re stoked about.

HLG Studios, and Yuri, are always up to trouble — they’ve got a plethora of hilarious scripts at the ready (hit them up, producers!), and do all sorts of branded content when they aren’t doing narrative. You can check out their company reel here.

Most recently, they made the show DAN IS DEAD with Maker Studios — the eight fully shot episodes are currently looking for their home. The series stars Drake Bell, and me! 


Keep up-to-date on with Binge on its Facebook page or at www.bingetheseries.com. Many thanks to Angela Gulner for making neat content and then talking to me about it.

Murder Veins 2: Revenge of the Great Saphenous

Charlie’s on day 2 of summer camp (woooooooo! Best $150 I’ve ever spent!) Yesterday he went swimming, which I didn’t know was going to happen or I would have properly fretted in advance of the trip to the pool. The day school didn’t pull one over on me: I signed a theoretical release form saying it was okay to take him on whatever field trips may happen this summer, up to and including a pool visit. I packed him some swim trunks and sunblock on the off chance they might come in handy this week.

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Me with correctly timed Valium and the dope shades they give you before they turn on the lasers. Procedure #4 of 10.

I’ve been going through a bunch of vein surgeries. I’m halfway through a set of 10(!) of them, and I’m in an insurance-mandated, three-week rest period between the “Cut & Thread & Zap” and the “Just Cutting or Whatever Because I’m Not Going to Google What a Phlebectomy Is Before I Get One Because That Sounds Gross.” There are five of each genre. There should have only been four of the Cut & Thread & Zap.

It was advertised as an easy procedure.The room wasn’t big enough to accommodate me, three health-care practitioners, that big blue sheet (like from when I had a C-section), the zapping machine, and a husband to hold my hand. So the husband fell off the guest list. Hell, there wasn’t room for my purse. I put it, along with my shoes, on the medical scale wedged behind the operating table.

Maybe 45 minutes into it: “Katherine, we are going to stop. We will try again in a couple of days. I will write you a prescription for Valium, and your husband can come in here with you.” I’m super-tough in a lot of circumstances, both physically and emotionally, and I’m often surprised by what things hurt so much that I break down. Getting a catheter woven into the vein that runs from my knee to my groin, even with a few shots of novocain, broke me down in all the ways. Apparently my veins are thicker than most (though the assistant with the thick European accent said they were “very sick,” and it took some back-and-forth for me to understand what was going on). “You mean it didn’t work?” I asked.

I was nervous, and that made the vein seize and stutter (and another word I can’t come up with right now but means both of those things at once). Crying didn’t help the matter, and I fucking cried. Those factors, in conjunction with a general Bad Case of the Leg Veins, meant they only got the catheter about halfway in, all told. Okay. Okay. Okay. Okay. I said it over and over, until it made sense that none of what I had just gone through will make me any better.

Two days later, we tried again, with a husband and some Valium. I took the medication too early, I think, because I was stone-cold sober and anxious as fuck by the time we started. But I had Andy holding my hand. We got through it, and the doctor noted what a remarkable husband I have, because “none of the other husbands do that. Well, okay, one other one did.”

By the fifth surgery, we had it dialed in. It hurt, but whatever. I took my Valium at the right time, so I found the affair stressful and painful, but there was nothing akin to freaking out. To keep my mind off the leg stuff, Andy had his phone and was searching Zillow for houses in L.A., where we’re moving this September. Occasionally he’d say, “This one has a pool. That would be nice.” Whenever he said “pool,” I saw an image of Charlie’s little blond mop, his shoes and clothes still as on he floats face-down in the water. “I don’t think I want a pool.”

Andy dropped off and picked Charlie up from summer camp yesterday. All at once, I got the report that it was Pool Day, and that Charlie had literally jumped right in. He had a great time and talked about it all day and as he was falling asleep last night. Got a little sunburned on his lower back. Big success.

How did he know to jump right in? How did he know how not to drown? How do pre-school teachers not feel terror with the notion of just taking a big group of two-to-five-year-olds to the pool for a little swim? How was he not scared?

Maybe he takes after his dad.

When I picked him up today, Miss Ann let me know that when it was time to pick up toys, and they turned the lights off and sang the clean-up song, he got very upset and started hitting himself. His teacher said she walked him over to the toys and helped him pick them up, but she seemed concerned about the hitting. I said that over the last month or so, when he’s been very upset and seems like he wants to hit or bite me, he instead bites himself… kind of hard. He’s doing a good job of being gentle with everyone else, but he seems like he’s turning his frustration inward. Miss Ann said I should talk to his pediatrician.

Maybe he takes after his mom.

Diagnosis: Murder Veins

This summer, Andy and I will be celebrating 15 years of togetherness with a Jamaican vacation. Also this summer, we’ll lose Andy’s good, employer-sponsored health insurance. Armed with these two pieces of information, I booked myself for a consultation at a vein clinic. You know, one of those places that will laser away your unsightly leg veins and maybe make insurance pay for it. Motivation: Look good in a swimsuit. And maybe stop ruining wedding photos with my my renegade legs.

I’ve long wondered what’s to be done about the state of my veins. They’re pretty impressive, and there’s a family history of women getting their veins “stripped” in Ye Olde Olden Days. I don’t know what that entails and I refuse to Google it, because ew. I haven’t worn shorts since 9th grade, and even then it was with opaque, mustard-yellow tights, because I know what looks good. Mini skirts have been out of the question, mostly because the last time I could get away with wearing them, I probably thought they were sinful. (I might still think they’re sinful.)

Neither my puritanical upbringing nor my feminist conversion give much allowance for vanity. Blow-dryers? I don’t understand them. Eyelash curler? Forbidden. Exercise? Never touch the stuff. Teeth-whitening strips? Fuck you. I classified fixing varicose veins the same way I think about getting a breast lift: Maybe a good tax write-off if I decide to go into professional stripping, but otherwise not easily justifiable. They still bothered me, but not enough for me to take any particular action. For years, my doctors would say things to the tune of, “Holy shit! Look at your fucking legs!” And I’d say, “Yes, doctor, what’s to be done?” Responses were as follows:

  1. “Insurance won’t cover it until you’re out of your childbearing years, because the veins will just come right back when you get pregnant.”
  2. “I can write you a referral to a specialist once you’ve decided not to have any [/more] children and/or gotten an IUD.”
  3. “Now that you’re done having kids and you got this IUD, lose some weight. That might help.”
  4. “Good job on losing that weight! Tough luck on those veins, though. This is just what happens when you have a baby.”
  5. “Have you tried compression tights? They’re fun for summer!”
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Advice I support, in theory. In practice, let’s go see a doctor.

But recently, the vanity kicked in, and damnit, I want to wear a sinful miniskirt on a Jamaican beach without feeling like my legs are ruining everyone else’s vacation. Off to the vein specialist!

My doctor, a man with 30 years of experience as a cardiac surgeon and, most recently, 10 years specializing in vein repair, looked at my legs and whispered to himself, “Wow.”

“If you’re saying ‘wow,’ I feel pretty special.”

He assured me that I am special. And more pressingly, so are my monstrous veins. Insurance will cover it immediately. If my insurance company resists, he says, all he would have to do is send them a picture of my legs to prove that “this is no joke.” If I don’t get the valves in my veins repaired, a blood clot is imminent. Because of where the failed valves are located, that clot will be very dangerous, likely moving into the heart. Oh, and P.S., you’re supposed to take care of your veins before you get pregnant, you silly goose.

I … see.

Of all the health shit I’ve dealt with up to this point, my goddamn varicose veins — that like four doctors told me to cover with self-tanner and stop whining about —  were going to be the thing that orphaned my child? Are you fucking kidding me?

I go in for four surgeries (outpatient, minor, using lasers) next week, with a phlebotomy (gross-sounding, not going to Google it) likely to follow two weeks later.

Good thing I’ve gotten to a point in my life where I want to look good in a goddamn swimsuit.

Greetings, from Fabulous Bed!

This is a post explicitly about my health. If you’d rather not know what goes on inside my skin, for, like HR reasons or your own personal comfort, maybe skip this one.

One of my biggest concerns about becoming a parent was the physical toll. I didn’t know if I was up for it, and, frankly, I might not be. I have what is known in the scientific community as “Health Stuff”:

All of these are invisible illnesses, or they would be if I hadn’t started rockin’ the cane a couple years back. The cane has been hugely useful in indicating that it’s not just laziness that keeps me from wanting to stand on the Metro or be the one to move the boxes full of anvils. Any of these things might be fine on their own, but they don’t play nicely with each other. The modified posture I’d taken on from years of pelvic pain is the likely trigger for the spine fracture, to which I apparently was already predisposed, but if I’d spent the last 15 years doing ab crunches instead of trying to avoid putting any unnecessary pressure around my bladder, the vertebrae would probably have stayed put. There’s no way to put the bones back where they belong; I can only keep it from getting worse. The fibromyalgia diagnosis was kind of a breakthrough, because it changed the way we were treating the interstitial cystitis, and now, thank fuck, the IC is in remission.

I overdid it with walking last week (while carrying a foolish choice of shoulder-bag), and then I further overdid it when I leapt to catch Charlie as he fell off the coffee table. I did mostly manage to keep him from hitting his head on the hardwood floor. To be on the safe side, I asked Andy to give Charlie his bath last night, because the inevitable catch of the slipping toddler who doesn’t listen to my commands of “No crazy-legs in the tub!” would have been an issue. Andy and I got Charlie in his jammies together, and then I laid down and Andy delivered Charlie to me to nurse to sleep, so that I didn’t have to do much lifting or bending. I took some Advil and had some wine, and when I woke up, I felt like my self-care combined with asking for help when I needed it had won the day. And then I leapt out of bed and after Charlie to close the bathroom door and the baby gate, lest Charlie beat me to either one and manage to fall down the stairs while drinking out of a bottle of bleach. As soon as my feet hit the floor: NOPE. Nope nope nope nope nope. Nope.

Greetings from fabulous Bed! Wish you were here.

Greetings from fabulous Bed! Wish you were here.

I did beat Charlie to the bathroom door, and Andy had already closed the baby gate. I am home from work, because my back is not participating in my life today. I’m very glad that I have live-in child-care in the form of Andy’s dad, because I would not have been able to get Charlie dressed and out the door if I had to take him to a daycare provider. Then, in between when Andy left for work and when his dad took over, Charlie fell off the nightstand, which yes, he was standing on, because that’s his whole thing. I caught him, because that’s my whole thing. (I initially thought my thing was to keep him from getting on top of the night stand to begin with, but that’s easier said than done. We’re working on it.) Catching him hurt. Now I’m in bed. I intend to stay here, except for when stretching or lying on the floor seems like a better course of action.

This is the part of having a kid I was worried about. When Charlie was an itty-bitty baby, except for when I was in early C-section recovery, there weren’t a lot of acrobatics or feats of strength involved in his care. When feats of strength did come into play, my challenge was in having the correct posture for slow, deliberate actions: Laying him in his crib, picking him up off the floor, carrying him in his carrier (which I did as seldom as possible, because shit, those things are heavy when they’re filled with baby), cleaning up baby barf, picking chokable items off the floor. That style of care was challenging, but manageable. Now Charlie has the strength and speed of a tornado, but with half the judgement. Because my medical conditions are all basically managed, I haven’t really missed work for them this decade, apart from scheduled doctor’s appointments and physical therapy to keep things managed. But I’ve been catching a lot of falling objects lately. Actually, just one falling object: my 26-pound toddler. Over and over again.

I would like a body that’s more participatory, but this is the one I’ve got until science allows me to have my brain transported into a mechanical suit, like Krang from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I’m glad I have help. I need it.