I’ve been talking about my web series, Mezza Morta, all over social media–but I’ve never actually mentioned it on my website. Seems counterproductive, doesn’t it? Definitely, but the truth is… I’ve been trying to find a way to introduce the project on here. Mezza Morta isn’t just a web series I’m trying to make. It’s a form of therapy for me because the last few years have been very difficult.
People usually show their best lives on social media. They need to give the illusion that everything is fine, and that their life is great. Hell, I’m guilty of it. My overall social media presence has dwindled over the last few years because I’ve run out of fake fun and positive shit to say. As Jo Pincushion, I was living the life of a creative geek engulfed in the latest pop culture phenomenon. I was showing people what I thought they wanted to see in the hopes that they’d be interested in my artistic ambition one day.
Then I moved to New York and all of the plans that Jo Pincushion had erupted into a giant dumpster fire. Everything that could’ve gone wrong went wrong. I lost money, friends, and my entire career (both freelance and acting) went back to 0. I was starting all over in a new city. Making friends has never been an easy task for me, and my mental illness was about to make it a whole lot worse.
A little thing called the 2016 Election happened. I’m sure you can all relate to the nightly cry sessions/screaming into your pillows. My relationship with my family became extremely difficult, (guess why) and I was reminded once again that it doesn’t matter how many years of experience a woman has because the under-experienced man will always get the job.
While living in Astoria, the only thing that kept me sane was the improv classes I was taking at UCB. I wouldn’t even get out of bed to go to an open mic, because most of the sets I saw consisted of people fretting over the election. Things were bad, and when things are bad that’s when my mental illness sees a golden opportunity. I fell into a deep depression. So deep, that after my grandmother passed away I had to reach out to my old therapist so he could help me find a therapist in NY.
I’ve had the name Mezza Morta bouncing around in my head for years. While I was helping my family take care of my grandmother (who suffered from dementia) I would ask her, “Mom-mom, how do you feel?” and she would look at me with this are you fucking kidding me look and say,
“Mezza morta.” Which in Italian means half dead.
I thought that was a cool name for a character, but I could never figure out where she came from or who she was.
Until November 2016.
As I was pushing myself to the limit on the stationary bike in my living room the day after Donald Trump was elected, tears streaming down my face– I thought about how hard I’ve worked over the past decade. How I seem to keep staying stationary as opposed to moving forward in my life. I thought about the numerous heated arguments that took place over the last few months with my parents. And as a woman, I collectively felt the glass ceiling stay intact–creating a giant welt on our skulls.
I hated the internet and what it had become. I hated Facebook for what it did to democracy, and how I needed to be on it 24/7. I was tired of the beauty tutorials, quick gimmicks, and click baiters. I couldn’t quit it either, because it was paying my bills. I pursued this survival job to gain freedom but found myself imprisoned by my phone.
Things weren’t sunshine and rainbows, and I was tired of putting on the social media “living my best life” dance. In class, I was being encouraged to perform at the top of my intelligence and being true to myself. So, to top it all off, I was in the middle of an identity crisis as well. I’d gone by a fake name for years to make someone else happy. I did a lot of other things to make other people happy, but it never made me happy. It just drifted me away from who I was and what I wanted, and I found myself not knowing anything about myself anymore.
So I pushed Jo Pincushion off a cliff (you’ll never find the body!) and started going by my real name, Jo Anna Van Thuyne. It was all fun and games in my 20s. Now it was time to really figure out who I was and what I wanted. I knew that creating something would help with my depression because it always has. The problem, most of my resources lived far away or weren’t speaking to me entirely.
Either way, I was determined to do something. I thought about my idols and what they might do during these tumultuous times. I thought of Mel Brooks and asked, “What would Mel do?” and I knew…
He’d make fun of Hitler.*
I had the name and basic concept for Mezza Morta for years, but the 2016 Election really helped me to see the full picture. Of course, she’s created by two Russians infiltrating American democracy with youtube! And of course, she’s just a regurgitation of every viral hit. She’ll be told what to say, dressed to their liking, and used solely for their personal gain. She’ll be made of multiple women because the perfect woman doesn’t exist! Oh–and she’ll be blonde!
Mezza Morta is a representation of my reaction to the world around me. I wrote the entire first season in the summer of 2017 and enthusiastically launched a GoFundMe Campaign. I raised $130 in 11 months.
What, you’re not impressed?
Launching a fundraising campaign after moving to a new city and starting from scratch is not an easy feat. I was genuinely thankful for the donations I received from my dear friends and family. I continued to take classes at UCB, and I even organized a practice group. I was feeling better with therapy and improv. I was progressing. Even if my GoFundMe campaign wasn’t. I even launched new a podcast and started talking about Mezza Morta briefly every week.
After a particularly difficult winter this year, (Oh honey, that is a whole other story) I was tired of sitting around waiting to create something. I wanted to show NYC what I was made of, but the opportunities just weren’t coming. So I had to do what I’ve always done…create my own.
I got myself out of a lot of stressful situations lately. I’d like to give credit to my producer training. In April, I wondered why wasn’t I using my training to make Mezza Morta a reality. I am a producer. I can do this! I just needed some determination.
I was determined to get all the props I needed, and I did. I committed to building the set in my basement. I did it. I gathered the crew, scheduled the shoot, made the shot breakdown and storyboards, and rehearsed the character.
So, with the help from, Steve Saturn, and a whole lot of planning and saving– we shot the prequel to Mezza Morta on June 22, 2018, with a great skeleton crew in our basement. It was a whole lotta work, but also a whole lotta fun. It felt good to get my directorial debut in the can, even if it was only for a 4-minute concept video.
I hope this prequel will get more people interested in bringing Mezza Morta to life because after the fun I had on Friday I’m determined to shoot the entire first season. Creating this piece has helped channel my frustrations, and I felt genuinely better after being on set again.
My hope is to release the prequel in the next month or so. Then, I’m going to work hard to promote the project and get the first season greenlit and shot. I would love to be able to show you the first season soon, but the only way that can happen is with your help.
If you haven’t already, please donate to and share my GoFundMe campaign. We will be updating the page once the prequel hits the internet, but your help can make post-production a breeze: https://www.gofundme.com/mezzamorta
Follow Mezza Morta on Instagram! The more followers we get, the more likely a YouTube Channel would want to pick up the series: https://www.instagram.com/mezzamortawebseries/
Tell your friends about Mezza Morta! I’m always so thankful for the support I receive from the internet, and it keeps me going. I can’t wait to show you what’s been cooking up in my brain. You’re going to love it. Thanks for letting me vent. Stay tuned for more updates.
*Granted, Mel Brooks did say that he waited til Hitler was dead.