AFTER PORTLAND DIRECTOR Zach Schultz released the feature-length film Arctic Sounds and the short film Doing Very Well in 2013, he wanted a project that would be quick—something he could film at home, edit while shooting, and get done before starting another movie. A year and a half later, the webseries Two Kates is just wrapping, still shooting cutaway scenes while preparing for the final two episodes to be released this summer. "My thought when we first started it was that it would be really simple," Schultz says. "Then I got excited about it."
In the show, a greeting-card artist named Kate (played by Kate Knappett) decides to deal with her anxiety by cloning herself, seeing it as a way to be more social and productive. When the show begins, the plan seems to be working—the Kates are making dinner for a friend, packing orders, and creating a work schedule through their thoughts while practicing guitar. But soon, the fun of having a clone gets buried by the Kates' now-doubled poor self-esteem and obsessive tendencies.
Schultz geared the show toward Knappett and, while the Kates share some real-life personality traits with the actress, they're largely based on his own personality and experience with anxiety. Wanting the characters to also be able to evolve naturally, Schultz only established the show's basic arc at the start. After each episode, he and Knappett would discuss what was working, think about an emotional development for the Kates that felt genuine, and from these conversations, Schultz would write the next episode's script.
While Knappett generally saw the role as cathartic, she admits there are challenges to sharing the name and certain traits of the characters you play. As the show got more dramatic, Knappett began to bring the role home with her. "I felt irritable with myself," she says, laughing. "I'm really sensitive."
Though its premise might give it a sci-fi tinge, the clones are the only heightened element of the world. As Schultz and Knappett decided the Kates' relationship was the show's focus, "we had to make the decision that it would be like, 'okay, this is just something that happened,'" Schultz says.
So while not the focus, the clones are a big reason why an otherwise minimalist show with short episodes (five to 12 minutes) has been so time consuming. Schultz achieves the clone effect through tediously stitching together shots of Knappett playing each Kate against a stand-in. But for a show with a fair amount of post-production magic, it has a surprisingly natural look. "Some people have asked me if I have a twin," Knappett says.
Five episodes into the series, Two Kates' sixth episode comes out on July 13 and the season finale arrives on September 7, with a one-night screening of the whole series at a local theater planned for this fall.