Like many touchy subjects, love has a sorted history. The third season of Jack Tracy’s popular web series, History, premiered this Valentine’s Day. Aiming to answer the age-old question “What is Love?” this season will feature six half-hour episodes that follow protagonist Jamie (played by Tracy) as he discovers how the examples set by his parents framed his expressions of love and what he values most in relationships.
The story picks up a year after the close of season two. So, if you are the kind of person who loves to Netflix and chill, History is the perfect show for you to check out. I had the pleasure of chatting with Tracy about the new season.
Congrats on the third season of History! What was your inspiration for the show, and why did you want to start it?
I wrote the script for season one of History while I was going through the events that formed the basis of the story. At the time, I was working for a big law firm here in New York. I was in a relationship of five years, lived in the Upper West Side, went on vacations. I made money, and from the outside, it probably seemed like perfection, but I was deeply unhappy. I was unhappy with the relationship; I was unhappy with what I did for a living; I just was not finding any satisfaction or joy in my life.
It all spectacularly blew up at one point in time when my relationship ended, and then I had to leave the apartment, and my other apartment fell through. I was homeless for a period of time; I left my job for another job; my friends stopped talking to me—everything changed in a heartbeat. As I was going through all these emotions, I started tinkering with the idea of doing screenwriting, and there was this voice in my head that said this was the right thing, write down everything now while it is happening.
So, I made season one while it was all happening and then put it away for a year after I got a new job. Things were getting better, and I thought this was something I could possibly produce. I bought a consumer DSLR, fluorescent lights, got some friends to volunteer, and we did it.
That’s awesome. And this season aims to answer the age-old question, “What is love?” Do you have answer for that?
I do, but you will have to watch the show. Love for these characters, and it’s really the center of season three, is how all of us individually experience, express, and receive love based on our history. We see how love was experienced, expressed, and received by our parents or whatever loving relationship you saw growing up. It forms the basis of your ideas of love. So, for these characters, we see their different concepts of love based on their individual histories and how it creates problems and obstacles. This season, for Jamie, he discovers what is really the most important thing to him, what love is for him.
Is that how that question ties to issues faced by the LGBTQ community today?
What I strive to do with everything I do, History in particular, is tell a universal story through an LGBTQ lens. These characters are gay, and they have their point of views that may be shared by a certain kind of gay person. They are professional, mostly white, gays in New York, so they have experiences that are different from other gay men and other LGBTQ people. The idea is to explore the concept of how we as people individually learn what it is for us to learn, to love and be loved. It has nothing to do with LGBTQ. We’re just telling a human story through the lens of our community.
Ahh, I see. Fantastic. And you play Jamie, correct?
How do you personally relate to your character? Is he based off your own life?
Most of it is. It really dilutes through the seasons, as I sort of start branching out. Jamie has started to become more of a distinct person. There is still a lot of overlap, but I always found in storytelling that, the more specific you are, the more it is universally received. More people will relate to it. The more I tell what is actually happening and craft the stories, it connects with more people because it feels more authentic.
You tackle tough issues like gender roles, toxic masculinity, and rejection. Do you think these issues are still prevalent within the queer community?
I think they are, but I think it’s getting better. We still have a long way to go, but it is getting better, because those ideas that cause us problems now as adults that were implanted within us in our youth, they are changing. I was, of course, picked on in school, but my parents didn’t throw me out of the house. I didn’t feel the need to turn to drugs and develop a substance abuse problem. I didn’t have survival sex.
A lot of those things happen to people who are taught to hate themselves as children. I fortunately did not go through that, but when all of that is implanted, and then it lives with us and becomes problems with us as we grow, it’s difficult. It’s getting better. There are more and more communities throughout this country, and the majority of the world is behind us. More kids are realizing that they identify as part of the queer community, and it doesn’t come with this massive, eternal judgment or shame or feelings that what they are is wrong, because there are more communities that don’t implant those ideas.
Overall, how has History been received by audiences?
The fact that we are in season three is really a testament. I started this with no plan. It was just, ‘Here’s some stories; I miss acting; I think I can pull this off; let’s see what we can do.’ And we did it. Almost immediately after it premiered, I started getting emails. Not even just YouTube comments, but lengthy emails about how moved someone was or how they feel this was their story. I submitted it to a couple film festivals, and it started winning all these awards. I was like, OK, we may have something here. Let’s put a little more money into it.
Then, season two launched, and we gained 1,000 subscribers in a month. More letters and more words. I’m like, ‘OK, there’s a real audience for this. There are people who like this.’ For season three, I can no longer pay for this entirely on my own, or I will go into bankruptcy, so we did a crowdfunding campaign. If we raised X amount of dollars, I would do another season, and we did it. So, there’s season three.
I can watch on YouTube and see in my statistics how people watch the show. I am very proud of the fact that, with my show, no one feels mediocre about it. It’s either not their thing, or they will sit and watch the six hours of History in a weekend. If people like it, they binge it. We have really been buoyed by the fans, and it’s surprising the amount of people who connected with us.
If there is a season four, what direction would you like to see the series headed?
I am trying to think how I can tell you without ruining it [laughs]. Every season comes with a big reveal or surprise, so the next season would spring off the natural consequences of what happened at the end of the previous season. Season three is our biggest surprise, I think, to date, and hopefully the fans will like it.
How do you think History stands out from other LGBTQ web series?
I will be honest, and this is going to make me sound terrible in print, but I don’t watch many of the other LGBTQ web series. I did not create History to make a business compete in the market. I just wanted to tell my story, my personal, individual story. If anybody ever came to me and said History is just like another web series, I can credibly say that I actually have never seen that. I am just telling my story. I am not going to change what I want to do, even if there is literally another show that does exactly what I do. I still want to do what I do. I didn’t want that to dissuade me.
So, I have not watched a lot, but I can tell you that I have had multiple, other directors and creators of their own web series reach out to me saying they have seen my work and asking to collaborate or for advice. I think what I am gathering is, even though we are a really low-budget production, when people see it, they see the work that went into it. There are sets that are literally crafted from nothing. We have walked into an empty warehouse and made a Chinese restaurant out of things we ordered on Amazon and returned the next day, things we found on the street, different camera angles and positioning people to block things.
I think people see the details—the fact that every computer screen is designed so that it relates to the character, mock Facebook pages, text messages, hookup apps—they see how much love and time and attention goes into it. We try our best to make it look like you just caught something off Netflix.
You have also been working on your debut film, Snowflake.
That is in the film festival circuit right now, and I am hoping that any moment now, I can tell you when our world premiere is. We have gotten a world premiere; they just want to announce it before I can. So, we are going to have a world premiere at an LGBTQ film festival, and I feel really excited about it. It has already won a bunch of screenplay and acting awards. Fingers crossed that we will hopefully get some level of distribution. If not, you will see us on Amazon Prime soon.
Are there any other projects you would like to announce or talk about?
Sure! In addition to History, which is our flagship show, it’s the most watched out of all my things, Necessary Outlet Productions is about becoming a trusted distributor of quality LGBTQ content. We have two comedic web series that are up. Big Law is about a gay man and a trans woman who are paralegals at a law firm, and Millennial Memoir is about a 26-year-old gay reality dating show contestant who decides it is time to write his memoir.
We have my first album, Older, which came out last summer, and my second album is coming out this summer. I am working on that now. Then, we’ve got a serial dramatic podcast coming out this spring. It’s untitled at the moment, but it takes place during the course of a shooting at a gay nightclub. Lots and lots and lots of stuff. If you like History, if you like Snowflake, if you like Big Law, you are going to like everything else, and hopefully you will support us as we continue to make more and more and more universal stories that are told by LGBTQ characters.
History is produced and distributed by Necessary Outlet, a film production company founded and owned by Tracy, and is available worldwide on YouTube and Vimeo. For more information about History or Necessary Outlet Productions, visit necessaryoutlet.com.