Astoria filmmaker Taylor Coriell was having brunch at The Strand Smokehouse on Broadway one day with local writer and actor Jasmine Romero when they met a table of fellow brunchers, one of whom was an exterminator.
“Do you know of any girl exterminators?” Coriell and Romero asked him. He said no.
And that’s when the idea for the web series “You’re the Pest” was born.
That’s why it was “only fitting to set the whole thing in Astoria,” Coriell said of the comedic web series about two former friends who took over their parents’ extermination company in Queens.
The “You’re the Pest” team shot the pilot episode of the web series in December 2015 and released it online in September 2016. Now, they’re raising money on crowdfunding website Seed&Spark to shoot the rest of season 1, which will be six episodes in total. Their goal is to release the rest of the episodes starting in April 2018.
With three days to go before the end of the crowdfunding campaign, the team has raised $4,336 of its $5,000 goal.
The 5-minute pilot shows NYPD wannabe Alex O’Malley (played by Coriell) and former Miss New York Marissa Morales (played by actor and co-producer Adriana DeGirolami) learning that they have inherited an extermination business after their fathers’ untimely (and comedic) deaths in a skydiving accident.
The response to the pilot was “pretty overwhelming,” said Coriell, the lead actor, executive producer and co-writer of “You’re the Pest.”
“We got a lot of views on [the pilot] right away, and then over the last year, people just keep asking about it: ‘Where’s the rest of it? We want to see the rest of it. It was such a fun idea and so well executed, and you guys were so funny,’” Coriell said. “It just seemed like all of the elements spoke to a lot of people, and that’s ultimately what made me buckle down and decide, ‘OK, there are actually people who want to see the rest of season 1 and see what happens to these two characters.’”
Coriell, who has lived in Astoria for more than four years, knew that “You’re the Pest” had to be filmed in her neighborhood since it’s so distinctive looking.
While a lot of filming certainly takes place in Astoria, especially with its film studios, “Nothing is ever set in Astoria,” Coriell said. “Plus with our whole mission of diversity and accurate portrayal of stuff and Queens being one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the country, I was like, ‘We have to do this here.’”
One scene from the pilot was shot by City Fresh Market on 21st Street and Broadway, where former Miss New York Marissa Morales was conducting a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“She had on a sash and a tiara and there’s this whole film crew sitting outside in front of this City Fresh, and people are walking by … weirdly trying to figure out why there’s a beauty queen in front of the grocery store and why she’s opening it like it’s not been open for years and years and years,” Coriell said. “We have a lot of funny outtakes of people walking confused through this shot.”
They shot the exterior of the extermination office at Joy’s General Auto Repair on Broadway.
“He very generously let us use his beautifully graffitied door to shoot in front of,” Coriell said.
In the pilot, you can also see a scene shot in Astoria gym Synergy. Other Astoria businesses pitched in, too: food was provided by Bel Aire Diner and Brooklyn Bagel. The rest of season 1 will feature plenty of other local businesses, but Coriell can’t reveal which ones quite yet.
“I think the community has been really welcoming and supportive,” Romero said. “One of the things we love most about living in Astoria is that it feels like a small town. In shooting the show, we wanted to keep that feeling of community and have Astoria almost be its own character in the show.”
The two writers are passionate about bringing stories to the screen that we don’t normally see and writing multifaceted roles for women, people of color and the LGBTQ community, Coriell said. “You’re the Pest” centers around two very different women who become both exterminators and business owners. Coriell said that she hopes young girls like her nieces, ages 3 and 6, will see “female characters with agency” in media like her web series and know from a young age that they, too, could be business owners.
“We wanted to write characters that were like our friends; women who struggle, who don’t have it all together, who rely on each other, and who don’t have a security net to fall into,” Romero said. “Astoria is where most of our friends in that situation live.”
The Seed&Spark crowdfunding campaign will run until the afternoon of Friday, Nov. 17, and Coriell said that any donation amount helps. Those who want to support “You’re the Pest” can also do so for free by becoming a “follower” of the show on Seed&Spark. You can get a peek into the characters’ fictional lives by following their Twitter and Instagram accounts (@omalleycat06 and @forevermiss2012 on both platforms).