Before tonight’s Season 2 premiere of UnREAL — last year’s hit summer drama about the backstage machinations of a Bachelor-style reality dating series — take 20 minutes to check out the short film that inspired the series, Sarah Gertrude Shapiro’s Sequin Raze, available for free for the first time.
Shapiro, who created UnREAL with Marti Noxon, was a one-time producer on The Bachelor. After years working in (and becoming disillusioned with) reality television, Shapiro wrote and directed the short film in 2012, at the American Film Institute’s Directing Workshop for Women. Sequin Raze premiered at SXSW in 2013 and Shapiro used it to pitch UnREAL to Lifetime. The series bears all sorts of traces of the short: In Sequin Raze, Ashley Williams plays Rebecca (the equivalent of Shiri Appleby’s Rachel on UnREAL), a slovenly producer skilled at manipulating contestant Jessica (Anna Camp) even as she’s visibly disturbed by what she’s doing.
If you’ve never seen UnREAL, Sequin Raze is a good intro: Visually, it looks like the series, although it has a slightly more menacing tone and, with fewer cast members, feels much more intimate. The film is mostly a two-hander between the fantastic Williams (who apparently wasn’t available for UnREAL; I wonder if The Jim Gaffigan Show has been a worthy sacrifice!) and the equally compelling Camp. If you have seen UnREAL, you’ll recognize the scene from a very similar one in the first season.
Don’t forget to tune into Lifetime at 10 p.m. tonight (Monday) for the Season 2 premiere, and check back tomorrow morning for our review of the episode!