Max Freeman and Margaret Singer are the textbook definition of an odd couple.
Over a 10-year partnership, this Brooklyn-based filmmaking duo has acquired four languages, a photography business, and one web series together. Their queer-themed web series, The 3 Bits, is self-described as the type of show that will make their mothers “cry and wring their hands and wish we’d turned out better.”
Here are some things you need to know about the show and its creators:
1. Max and Margaret met at church while they were both living in Boston and, for a short time, actually dated.
When the two met, Margaret had already been married once — at 19 years old, to a man. About a year and a half later, that swiftly fell apart as her husband became the first person she came out to. “I think there was a wide range of emotions,” she said. It was hard … I just imagined that once I told everyone, my siblings wouldn’t want me around their kids, my parents were going to want me to move, my friends in Utah would just disown me — none of which happened.”
After a few months of dating Max, on Valentine’s Day, Margaret had to let him down easy. “I was like, ‘All right, this is getting out of hand. I need to tell you something. I’m gay.’”
2. At the time, both of them were living closeted lives within the Mormon church.
When Max left his home in Utah for Boston, he remained an active member of the Mormon church. He began pursuing a Ph.D. in literature and poetry — all the while staying in the closet regarding his sexuality.
“Part of the problem is that Mormonism is an all-consuming system, so all of your friends are Mormon, all of your family is Mormon. It’s almost impossible to imagine a life outside of it, just because it constitutes everything.” Max explained. He was, according to Margaret, “super Mormon, like the Mormon Man.”
3. Together, they made the decision to simultaneously leave the Mormon church and come out of the closet.
Max left the church so fast it nearly gave Margaret whiplash. “I took the Mormonism off like a Band-Aid. I had a dark night of the soul, where I was like, ‘All of this is crap, I don’t believe any of it,’ and I just ripped it off,” said Max.
The two were “newborn babes” on the scene. “We’d never had a drink! I’d never smoked a cigarette. I’d never held hands with a boy,” explained Max. They split their first bottle of wine together and started a new life out of the closet — and away from the church.
4. They didn’t want The 3 Bits, a “Girls-esque series” about young queers in Brooklyn, to be boxed into a “sitcom stereotype.”
The episodes are divvied up by the three main characters — three siblings — so you can see the story unfold from different points of view. Two of the siblings are queer, and one is straight. Having three main characters to focus on instead of only one or two allowed for a bit more elbow room creatively and prevented the writers from feeling “a little claustrophobic.”
5. In order to create The 3 Bits, they had to let go of their zombie-film aspirations.
“We were so naive,” recalled Max. “When I say we wanted to make movies, what we did was like, sat down and wrote an awesome screenplay together. We kicked it out super fast. We still love the script, it’s like a zombie — it’s a horror movie. And we were like, ‘This is rad.’” Soon reality slapped the two hopeful filmmakers in the face, and so it was on to plan B.
Margaret and Max realized that between the two of them, they had the necessary skills to put together a web series. “We were like, ‘We are photographers, we will shoot it ourselves’ — which seems like maybe a good idea, but actually I think it slowed us down a little bit, because we became, like, director, actor, lighting, shooting. We were taking our DSLRs, and trying to do the show ourselves. That just made for shitty videos. Then we wrote a short and we had a producer look at it. He was like, ‘Awesome, you should be a web series instead of a short, no one watches shorts anymore — they’re elitist and stupid,’” Margaret said.
6. Margaret didn’t plan on acting in the series originally, but they realized it would be an easy solution to their need for actors.
Without a casting director, they turned to sites like OkCupid and Facebook to find actors. Although Margaret ended up loving the acting role, Max won’t be making his debut anytime soon. As Margaret put it, “Max doesn’t want to. We’re just going to have to force a bottle of beta blockers down his throat.”
7. A lot of the series’ content comes from real-life experiences, such as being so broke you can’t go on a date.
“When we moved to New York, we were super, super broke, because we had just left our studio in Boston, we were doing photo studio work … And we had expensive rent — we were super broke, like really broke. Max was going to go on a date with this guy but had zero money in his bank account. He only had a giant jar of coins,” recalled Margaret.
Max jumped in: “So we’re like literally taking this jar of coins all over the city, trying to get it — like, we go to a Coinstar, and it’s broken. A 30-year-old man trying to change his coins for a date.”
Look out for a Coinstar episode coming up soon.
8. One of the web series’ more daring scenes, in which cocaine is snorted off a baby, resulted in a call from the NYPD.
“The character, Madison, has an inner conflict: In her head she’s a wild party girl, but she’s actually a bourgeois mom and wife. When an anonymous comment on her blog pinpoints Madison’s delusions, she uses her baby as drug paraphernalia to prove that she’s not lame. Which, of course, she is,” explained Margaret.
“They were worried that we were endangering a child,” said Max. “[An officer] called and said that he wanted to clarify that it was not a criminal investigation, it was a inquiry. But he repeated this five times and the more he said it, the more I felt like I needed to call a lawyer.” Once it was all sorted, the officer simply wished them the best of luck with their show, which he finally grasped was simply fiction.
9. The 3 Bits show has no problem with nudity and would like to have more, but YouTube restrictions are a constraint.
“Our attitude toward it, though, is — why does it have to be called for? Why do we have sex and nudity in this special category of, ‘Yeah, you show people eating breakfast because whatever, but sex, it has to be really called for,’” said Max.
Margaret added, “That’s just not how we feel about it.” Max went on to note that the two are considering collaborating with a porn company that would show the more explicit content, although they won’t name names yet. “We hope mostly that it’s fun. We want the politics to be sexually radical,” said the filmmakers.
10. The two filmmakers consider themselves soul mates, just non-romantic ones.
Leaving one community and entering into an entirely different one, the two have formed a bond that seemingly transcends romantic love. As Max explained, “We sometimes call ourselves non-romantic life partners. We live together, we work together, we date other people — but we totally see each other as family. It’s a permanent thing.”
This special friendship is perhaps one of the biggest reflections of their lives that is illustrated in the series. “Friendship is maybe the most important thing in the web series, and that reflects the kind of relationship that Margaret and I have — where we have, I think, a really unique family structure that we kind of arrived at at our own. It’s not a marriage, but it’s important and valuable,” said Margaret.