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‘Someone Great’ Director Jennifer Kaytin Robinson on Reimagining the Rom-Com

Jennifer Kaytin Robinson Someone Great
Courtesy of Sarah Shatz

Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, creator of the MTV series “Sweet/Vicious,” recently made her feature debut with “Someone Great,”  now streaming on Netflix. The film follows three friends as they navigate relationships and work in New York City.  Here, the writer-director opens up on reimagining the rom-com, and women changing the face of Hollywood.

The three young women in “Someone Great” have relationships with a diverse group of people. Was this important to you?

I think that romantic comedies especially have been kind of homogeneous in the way that they are made and presented. I wanted to make sure this film was inclusive of everyone, so that everyone watching it could see themselves in it.

In a lot of ways, this movie breaks the romantic comedy formula. How would you classify it?

I classify it as a rom-com where the rom isn’t com. It’s a romantic comedy, but the romance and that kind of central story is among the three women. It’s still a love story; it’s still a romantic comedy. It still has all those elements. It just isn’t about a couple. It isn’t that story of a woman either leaving a man and finding a new man or having no man and finding a man. 

Is there a character inspired by your life experience?

Jenny [played by Gina Rodriguez]. I was a music journalist. I got to New York when I was in my early 20s, so there is a lot of stuff that’s been inspired by my journey. And while it’s not autobiographical in any way, I’ve put so many different pieces of me into this film to make the whole that it has become.

Did your work on “Sweet/Vicious” inform the process of making this movie?

Absolutely. I would not have felt comfortable or ready enough to step into the director’s chair had I not been in the creator role on the series. “Sweet/Vicious” was my film school. I didn’t go to college. I came out here when I was 16. I’ve been in and around the industry for 10 years. And then when I got to make the show, I was really involved: In television, the creator/showrunner is a lot like a director in film. You’re making those costume decisions, those production design decisions. You’re looking at a budget and you’re casting. So much of that is what led me to feel prepared to step into this role in making “Someone Great.”

How have you seen the industry changing for women both in front of and behind the camera?

All of our department heads were women. Our three main characters were women. I’m a woman. I think that what’s changing is women like me and women like [star and producer] Gina. There are more people who are in these roles, and they can then turn around and say, “This is how we’re going to hire. This is what I want. This is what I want my set to look like.” And it’s not just about being inclusive of women; it’s about being inclusive of the LGBTQ community, and people of color, and making sure that everyone and every walk of life feels represented. We’re seeing a sea change in this industry; we are seeing that there are people rising who now have the ability to open doors to make sure that this industry is as inclusive as it can possibly be. It’s a shame it has taken this long to get here. And we have a long way to go. I think it’s a really, really exciting time.

Things You Didn’t Know About Jennifer Kaytin Robinson

AGE: 31 BIRTHPLACE: Miami FAVORITE BAND: LCD Soundsystem (the movie takes its title from one of the group’s songs) BIGGEST DIRECTING INFLUENCES: Mike Nichols, Nora Ephron CAN’T WAIT TO SEE: “Booksmart” FAVORITE PLACE TO CRY IN NEW YORK: The L train DREAM COLLABORATOR: Frances McDormand