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Filmmaker Martell discusses web series Damaged Goods
by Matt Simonette
2019-09-11

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A Chicago-based filmmaker and production house head is preparing for a second season of his web series about the lives of young Chicagoans of color—and discussing possibilities for transforming the program into a television series.

Director Vincent Martell, who heads up the local production house VAM Studios, launched the six-episode Damaged Goods in spring 2019. The drama centers on four young Chicagoans—most struggling in the gig economy, all LGBT persons of color—as they both try to make a living, confront personal challenges and take part in the city's vibrant nightclub scene.

It took about a year and half between when Martell and his colleagues conceptualized Damaged Goods and the final product was unveiled online.

He explained, "That process involved many, many rewrites of the scripts, in addition to me trying to create a visual language for what I wanted this story to look like—a visual deck with a color palette and wardrobe choices, and art direction examples. I really wanted to craft the world. As aesthetically fitting for me as it was, it was pretty tough."

Though Damaged Goods's characters endlessly struggle, Martell was adamant that the spaces they occupied came across as bright and colorful.

"It's a story about me and my friends, and the things that we've experienced in the LGBTQ nightlife community, in addition to random experiences that we've had in the underground arts community in Chicago," he said. "That world for me is colorful, vibrant and effortlessly cool. When crafting that world, we wanted to make sure that all the music in the series was from Chicago queer artists. All the production designs and art design elements were from Chicago artists. All of our locations were places we had lived in or thrown parties in. Making it feel as personal as possible was our approach there, to make the world of Damaged Goods feel like our everyday world."

Martell said the title Damaged Goods was very deliberate and fit into a larger commitment to show young LGBTQ persons of color as nuanced and multifaceted. He acknowledged that his characters' lives were "messy," but added, "There's beauty in that. There's beauty in us showing marginalized communities as somewhat flawed, because that's just human. … It's me kind of celebrating and reclaiming that."

VAM Studios was incorporated in 2017 but Martell said that he had spent years "plotting what a 'progressive' production company would look like." He further explained the company, which has also produced music videos, promotional films and documentaries, "in essence, symbolized being inclusive and intersectional. That's what I wanted this series to feel like as well, that the team behind the camera matched the team in front of the camera. That's something that's really beneficial for us."

For now, most of Martell's attention is focused on pre-production for season two of Damaged Goods. He expects filming to begin in early 2020.

"We're in the process of finalizing the script and getting the cast locked. In addition to that, when we released season one, we got a lot of different attention from major networks, who were interested in Damaged Goods becoming a TV series. So we're also trying to figure out what that would like as well, in addition to season two of the digital series."

Season one of Damaged Goods is available at vamstudio.net/DAMAGED-GOODS .


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