- Associated Press - Sunday, February 14, 2016

WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) - It’s not easy writing, producing, directing and financing a 10-part web series - especially when you have a full-time job and also go to college.

But that’s exactly what Wilmington filmmakers Ana Quiroz-Samayoa and Yari Olivo-Camacho did and now viewers are eating up their crime drama, “Maintain” with 21,000 people watching the first episode since it made its debut less than a month ago.

What started as a project for their film class at Wilmington University has mushroomed into the multi-part series, which releases its sixth episode March 1 (youtube.com/lasmijasproductions) with fans hoping to learn new clues about the murder mystery.

The series is a rarity in that it is helmed by a pair of Latina filmmakers in their mid-20s - something not usually seen in Hollywood, never mind Delaware.

Even though Quiroz-Samayoa, 24, and Olivo-Camacho, 25, met in a Wilmington University film class, they already had plenty in common: both grew up in New York, moved to Delaware with their parents in 2001 and had a love of film.

On the day when they first met in class, it wasn’t hard to find each other.

They were the only females and only Hispanics in the room.

“We hit it off quickly. I’m very happy that we met because I hadn’t been able to find any other mijas anywhere. It was meant to be,” says Olivo-Camacho, who founded Las Mijas Productions (lasmijasproductions.com) with Quiroz-Samayoa in July.

Even though working with an all-female crew is uncommon - Andrea Higgins, a Delaware native now living in New York is the associate producer - actor Nicholas Pontrelli, the 24-year-old star of the web series, says he didn’t even notice until toward the end of the production.

“In the last few weeks, I kind of looked around and thought, ‘I’m the only man here.’ I didn’t really even pick up on it. The only thing I really realized was that I was working with good, kind people and they just happened to be female,” says Pontrelli, who has performed in shows at the Wilmington Drama League and Delaware Children’s Theatre and who moved from Wilmington to Los Angeles two weeks ago to pursue an acting career.

The series tracks Danny (Pontrelli), a down-on-his-luck college student who gets help finding a job from a college professor (Dionne Williford) before being drawn into a bloody scandal.

Quiroz-Samayoa and Olivo-Camacho decided to release their project piecemeal online instead of as a film, jumping on the anti-traditional trend of streaming online, releasing a new episode nearly every week. And for those who have not been watching from the beginning when it began a month ago, the series morphs into a binge-watching experience leaving you wondering how it’s all going to turn out.

“Everything is going online, but a lot of the web series are comedic. So this was really experimental. We wanted to create a drama that would drive people, but we also had the challenge of making each episode five to eight minutes,” says Quiroz-Samayoa, who works as an administrative assistant by day.

The seven-month project to shoot and complete the series cost around $2,000, which came out of their own pockets. The shoestring budget was kept down by shooting at friends’ houses and donated locations in Wilmington, Hockessin and New Castle.

After more than six years of full-time work paired with classes for both Quiroz-Samayoa and Olivo-Camacho, each now expects to graduate this summer and both are already brainstorming new ideas for their production company.

But for now, the focus is on shepherding the final episodes of “Maintain” online and taking in the reaction.

“We weren’t expecting to get as much of a reach as it got. It’s blown our expectations,” says Olivo-Camacho, also a clinical information technology specialist.

Adds Quiroz-Samayoa: “This was always originally our senior project for school. It’s not like we thought it would go viral or anything - we literally hoped that our friends and family watch the show.”


Information from: The News Journal of Wilmington, Del., https://www.delawareonline.com

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