After completing the season two finale of popular web-series “Pieces”, I was totally anxious to hop on a call immediately to discuss it with writer/creator Kareem “Reem” Baptiste.
Born in 1984, the Brooklyn, New York native’s own personal story is quite the narrative. Growing up in tough East New York, his passion in sports Track & Basketball kept him off the streets, and another growing passion for Dancehall would lead to him and his friends starting a dance crew called “Unexpected”. Unexpected would unexpectedly become one of the biggest dance crews in Brooklyn landing Kareem and his crew on TV shows like “Flex N Brooklyn”, and other opportunities working with the artists like Missy Elliot, Elephant Man, Sean Paul, Wayne Wonder, performances on BET & MTV, and his popular dance battle brand “BattleFest”. Having a great mind for business and innovation, he taught himself how to do graphic design, film and marketing. And with film becoming his newest passion, he began shooting music videos and dance visuals.
Now, a father and husband in pursuit of new challenges, Kareem and his wife Garline formulated a plan for him to direct his very own web-series and growing YouTube sensation, “Pieces”. A story about a group of friends from Brooklyn (Hope, Max and Seven) who follow suit of ringleader and narrator, Hope White (Purrsian White) in taking over the credit card scamming world, bringing envy and unwanted eyes onto the program leading to distrust, deceit and even murder. Now gearing up for Season three and related projects, Kareem was ready to share.
What exactly was it that lead you to consider the idea of doing a web-series?
I think my passion for business, first. I get intrigued by different project’s as I’m always looking for something new and fresh to do. One thing about me that I noticed about myself recently is, I don’t commit to anything if I don’t feel like it’s not being done right now, or if I can’t contribute something fresh and new to the area in whatever I’m devoting my time into.
The combination of that and with web-series’ becoming really popular these days, I have always had a really strong passion for filming but never done a web series before. I’ve done like music videos or dance videos, you know different projects for other people but never a full-fledged web-series.
The common street cinema web-series that’s out right now is mostly about either drugs or violence; I hadn’t seen something from a female’s perspective about organized crime. In Brooklyn, credit card scamming is one of the main things that everyone either knows about or knows someone who is affiliated with; but no one really did a show or had a conversation about it. So I thought it would be cool to do it from a female’s perspective.
Were there any other writers on the project with you at any point?
I mostly wrote the story, but my wife helped out a lot in making the female perspective real. You always need a woman’s point of view, especially if you are writing from a female perspective. It was almost like a survey, I would ask her certain things that women might be interested in, certain things that females would care about, what they would say…
Where was the term “Pieces” derived from?
I didn’t create that term. It’s a terminology for a fake credit card with a real person’s information on it.
It’s a double entendre. It actually correlates with the Chess pieces, if you noticed that she(Hope) was a Chess player, so I chose the name Pieces. The credit card scamming thing was to just draw peoples interest, but if you really watched the show, it was about so much more than scamming. It’s about so many different pieces put together to tell the story. The terminology is from “Pieces” the credit card, but it’s also about the different pieces of life.
Explain the process of putting it all together, the story, the cast and crew.
Well, from Season one to Season two, I wrote the story. And as I was writing it and developing the characters, I came to realize that we needed to have a casting for for them. I didn’t think we could just find our friends to play and pull these characters off. So we had a casting and tried out quite a few people at the YouTube building. The characters that you know to be Max, Hope and all of these people, these were people who are actually really serious about acting, who came out and auditioned. Everyone auditioned for their roles.
How long did it take to finish writing Season-to-Season?
Well the first step is getting inspiration. I watch a lot of film – that’s just my passion, I love watching movies and stuff like that. Being inspired by different things sparks that bulb in your head, and I make a lot of notes before I glue everything together.
Season one took me like a month to write it, because I’d never wrote screenplays, movie scripts or anything, so I did research on how to write a script, etc. It took me a while to learn how to develop characters. The first time around it took me about a month, Season two it took about half of a month, and the same for Season three. I actually just finished writing Season three.
Were the characters based on real people?
Every one of those characters are a symbol of somebody that I know or people that I’ve come across that I thought stood out and would make a dope character. Maybe not scammers per say, but yes, the characters are actually based off of real people.
Who was your favorite character? Why?
Honestly, when I’m writing it, my personal favorite is Seven (played by Hazel Brown). She is such an honest person, whether you like her at one moment or hate her at another. Out of every character, she was the most honest one. She will pop off, she will show off, she has a sensitive side, in season two, you kind of get a sense of her background story and how she came from hardship, so that kind of molded her attitude making her the way that she is.
Speaking on the character of Max, she’s the new narrator in season two, what did it mean to Max to find out that Hope was the Boss all along?
Max and Hope grew up together as little kids, and in her eyes they were close and told each other everything. Max (played by Simone Morrison) felt like, since they got into something that is illegal, she should know everything that was going on. She felt like Hope kept something major from her and was real deceiving, making her think that everything from then on was a lie. Things like that happen in all relationships and friendships.
What about Max’s history made her that girl to be the first to pick up the gun?
She’s a hothead. To me, every gangster movie has that one person who is like the enforcer, I would say. That’s the role that Max takes. She’s the one that is extra protective over her friends and her family.
Is the App a real thing in the scamming world? Or was that a creation of yours?
I started to think as if I was a scammer and what I would do. I don’t really know the ins and outs of it, but I just figured the potential of getting away with that kind of crime is probably way more easier now, the app thing was just a way to modernize it. So no, it’s not real, and I hope I didn’t give anybody any ideas (laughs).
And the music, I noticed the music being great and particular, what was the process putting the soundtrack together?
Young Thrilla who actually plays the character Killa, is a music producer. He and I do most of the scoring for the series. I had a goal to collaborate with up and coming artist with original, dope music and blend it with dope visuals. I scouted and handpicked the music that helped to tell my story and fit the series.
After that cliffhanger at the end of season two, without giving away too much, what can viewers expect in season three?
Without giving away anything, I can surely tell you that, in Season three, you really get to see Max become a leader, and you’re going to see extremely what can go wrong in the scamming world, it takes a crazy turn.
With season one and season two being filmed without an actual budget; we used old cameras, the actors did it for free, we put together that whole series just because we love what we do. So for season three, we teamed up with this platform called Seed & Spark to raise $10K for production and film festival fees in order to take things to the next level. So we can actually have professional equipment and hopefully get picked up by a Netflix and things like that.
For more information on the drama web-series “Pieces”, you can visit www.PiecesDramaSeries.com, or follow them on Twitter & Instagram @PiecesSeries.
This world is a Chess Board, the Queen is the most powerful but in order to win you need to work all your Pieces.