Teal Sherer, a paraplegic actress tired of waiting for Hollywood roles, created one for herself last summer when "My Gimpy Life" premiered to critical acclaim on YouTube. And thanks to a successful KickStarter campaign that ends Friday, the award-winning comedic web series will return for Season 2.
"I was really frustrated because I wasn't auditioning a lot and wasn't working, so one of the reasons I wanted to create my own show was to have kind of a showcase for myself," Sherer (left) told TheWrap. "A second element is that I always wanted to share what it's like being a girl on wheels, and do it with comedy. I don't think people with disabilities are seen enough in the media, and instead of waiting on someone else to give me that opportunity, I decided I would do it myself."
Eight-hundred-and-forty backers (and counting), who contributed more than $50,000 for more episodes, seem to agree that Sherer's unique perspective is one that is all-too-rarely explored in scripted programming. Or they just think the show is funny.
"My Gimpy Life," which is written and produced by Gabe Uhr, chronicles the awkward adventures of a disabled actress trying to navigate a business -- and a town -- that is largely inaccessible to those in wheelchairs. Past episodes have shown Sherer auditioning in a dank alley because of a steep set of steps, and squeezing a wheelchair through a crowded restaurant during a blind date. And there's plenty more awkwardness to explore.
"People would randomly ask me if I could have sex and stuff, like stairs not being accessible. You see it throughout the show," Sherer said. "I just thought, 'Gosh, these are just such interesting stories. Why aren't these in a show?'"
Sherer has wanted to portray a disabled leading lady since a car crash left her paralyzed from the waist down when she was 14. But it wasn't until she nabbed a starring role in Felicia Day's popular web series, "The Guild," that she realized the impact an online show could have.
While Sherer admits to being disappointed by the number of people tuning in to watch "Gimpy Life" (episodes haven't toppped 50,000 views; "The Guild" attracts millions), she is proud of the show, which has won two International Academy of Web Television Awards.
"Our show has become academic. Colleges are using it in their disabilities studies classes, which is pretty cool," Sherer explained. "I've been flown out to New York to Queen's College to do a screening and talk with their kids and they paid me and for my travel. Interesting stuff like that has come from it that I didn't necessarily expect."
When Sherer couldn't find financial sponsorship for a second season, she called upon her audience for help. And they answered, pledging more money than she sought.
"I was hoping after we did Season 1 that producers would come running to us and would want to give us money to make more," Sherer said. "But no, that did not happen, so this is our only option if we're going to do more of our show."
Kickstarter campaigns from celebrities like Zack Braff have earned criticism from fans who feel that millionaires shouldn't ask the public for money. Sherer said a few people also wondered why she needed a campaign when she already had a series.
But Sherer stands by her decision to crowdfund and supports the practice, in general. In fact, she even donated to Braff's campaign, and praised him for going to great lengths to take his fans on a behind-the-scenes "production journey" on his second feature, "Wish I Was Here."
"You're basically putting it into the hands of the fans and saying, 'Do you want this?' And the fans choose if they want it or not, and if they want to give. Nobody's forcing anybody to give their money," Sherer said. "I've noticed that from doing a Kickstarter, how much stronger our community has become. ... Fans have gotten really excited about it and become very vocal about their love for the show."