Two-Time Big Break Quarterfinalist Finds Success with LGBTQIA-Affirming Webseries
August 31, 2023
Life is good for writer, producer and actor Frank Arthur Smith. He’s engaged to be married to the love of his life, Matt Hartman; has a supremely organized apartment, thanks to appearing in an episode of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo; he’s had two scripts advance to the Quarterfinals of the Big Break Screenwriting Competition and he’s currently writing, producing and staring in a webseries called Open to It that’s screened at Outfest, features stars from RuPaul’s Drag Race and whose stars have over 5 million followers. All Frank needs to do now is buy a lottery ticket and he'll be set!
But being lucky in love and having a hit webseries doesn’t come easily. It takes hard work, endless patience and a pair of sturdy shoes to pound the pavement. I chatted with Frank to find out more about the importance of creating content that represents the queer community in an authentic way.
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Originally from Massachusetts, Frank studied neuroscience and French at the University of Pennsylvania with a plan to go to medical school that didn’t quite pan out. “I had a change of heart and realized I wanted to be an artist,” says Frank, who says his parents grudgingly accepted his new objective only because his sister is an actress and she gracefully paved the way for him to also pursue his Hollywood dreams.
In the 10 years, Frank has been in Los Angeles, he’s had a whirlwind of jobs that allowed him to work in entertainment and to travel the world. Starting in the mailroom at UTA, he knew he wanted to work in TV. Luckily, he became an assistant on multiple shows including Genius (the first season about Albert Einstein) for National Geographic. But he started writing TV specs and soon, he and his writing partner at the time were selling projects to forward-thinking studios like Vice TV and they even did a rewrite on a horror movie.
“From there,” says Frank, “I was working on a Disney channel show called Raven’s Home. But at that point, I was finally like, I do love the kids’ space, but I wanted to make something a little more authentic to who I am. That's when Open To It came about.”
Creating the Webseries
Frank’s webseries Open To It, in which he stars and uses his meticulously organized apartment as the set, is currently streaming three 16-minute episodes (with a total of 9 shot and edited). Shrewdly produced on a shoestring, the show is about a young gay couple who experiment with trying new things. The first episode, also starring the handsome Tim Wardell as Cam, the other half of Frank’s romantic duo, is super sexy while never losing the awkward humor of a threesome (with hottie Jason Caceres as Princeton, the zealous third man). Just as things are heating up in this steamy triptych, Cam starts to experience digestive troubles (damn that ceviche!).
The best part of the show is the authentic portrayal of a loving, until-now monogamous couple who knows they won’t be young forever and do their best to have a little adventure – even if certain body parts – in this case, Cam’s stomach – aren’t cooperating.
Creating Great Characters
What’s lovely to see is how reassuring Cam is to Greg, as he prepares for Princeton to arrive. All the “what ifs” are wreaking havoc in Greg’s neurotic brain and Cam gently calms him down with compliments and a passionate kiss. Frank says it’s important to him to show the strength of Greg and Cam’s bond in the show.
“Especially in the independent queer comedy space, non-monogamy is often portrayed as this dark, sad conceit. And I was interested in just showing a different perspective where it could be fun and hilarious,” says Frank.
But don’t expect to see frolicking throuples in every episode. “The theme of the show is that with any adult consenting couple, as long as they communicate and care for one another, any relationship format is valid. So “Open To It” can mean you do something pretty innocent together or it can mean you're swinging from the rafters. It's about what works for your particular relationship,” he says.
After achieving internet success, the hope is to develop the show for TV or streaming in the near future. Frank is currently fundraising to create another season of episodes because he believes it’s important to represent positive and diverse queer relationships in the media.
“I've had people say both that they understand the concept of open relationships more clearly now that they've seen the show and people who are already in polyamorous relationships say they feel very seen and appreciated by the show, which I'm very happy to hear. And we've gotten over 1 million views on the first three episodes online,” he says.
A Community Effort
Beyond just showing a wide spectrum of adult relationships, he wants to also tackle challenges facing the LGBTQIA community at large.
“One storyline is about a drag queen story hour that gets interrupted by protesters and how our queens and characters need to stand up to them just like they do in real life,” he says. Another storyline brings in a Deaf character. “We get to see what a love triangle looks like between him and two hearing people,” he says.
It seems there’s no stopping Frank and his ability to create edgy, humorous content with a lot of heart. But it’s about more than entertainment for him. “In this political moment where people are trying to get people not to say gay or to say that drag queens and the art of drag is somehow harmful, it’s good to show a more positive, authentic perspective,” he says.
To watch the show or learn more about upcoming episodes, visit opentoitseries.com.
Written by: Shanee EdwardsShanee Edwards is an L.A.-based screenwriter, journalist and novelist who recently won The Next MacGyver television writing competition to create a TV show about a female engineer and was honored to be mentored by actress/producers America Ferrera. Shanee's first novel, Ada Lovelace: The Countess Who Dreamed in Numbers was published by Conrad Press in 2019. Currently, she is working on a biopic of controversial nurse Florence Nightingale. Shanee’s ultimate goal is to tell stories about strong, spirited women whose passion, humor and courage inspire us all.