Baristas: a millennial archetype

New web series takes the camera behind the counter

Like many millennials, Kristen Einarson spent some time working as a barista. Little did she know that her work experiences would inspire an entire web series.

“When I started at Starbucks, I was like ‘these are hilarious characters who come into my location,’” she says. She wrote character breakdowns long before she pitched her recently-released web series, Your Neighbourhood Coffee Shop, as her Independent Professional Project for her final year in Creative Communications at Red River College.

The series details the kind of situations that baristas deal with on a day-to-day basis over three episodes.

“The barista is the very underpaid therapist,” Einarson says. “They’re the bartender, but for the morning.”

“Showing something from the barista’s point of view (isn’t) something that’s necessarily done all the time,” she says. “I thought there could be a market for that.”

It also adds to the pool of women-made and Canadian content.

“I think women are really underrepresented as directors and as writers … I think that we have an interesting perspective, and I’d like to see more female writers and directors, and I’d like to see more Canadian content. I think we shouldn’t be ashamed of Canadian content,” she says.

Olivia Ulrich, a University of Winnipeg theatre graduate and current barista/server, starred in the series. She says that the script was fun to work with and easy to connect with.

One specific example of barista-specific phenomena the show explores is “the crushtomer.”

“I think anyone who’s a barista usually has one (customer) that they’re kinda crushin’ on, so I was like ‘that’s relatable … I’ve been there,’” Ulrich says.

In fact, Einarson’s current partner is a former customer.

“Sometimes, if you give someone free coffee for a couple years, they ask you on a date,” she says. “That was the inspiration for episode one, which was how I would act when he would come in. It was not graceful. It was not cute.”

Another main topic explored is the way people treat baristas.

“People aren’t very nice to baristas,” Einarson says, pointing to the classism and racism (as well as the pre-coffee grumpiness) that some customers directed toward hers or her coworkers.

Some people “just treat you differently. They get a power high from it,” Ulrich agrees. She adds that the series does a great job of tackling the topic of “the angry customer” in an exaggerated and comedic way in episode three.

“I think everyone should have to work a service job, for a while anyway,” Einarson says.

Einarson wrote, directed, edited and produced the series and operated the camera. She borrowed equipment - three cameras, four lights and a boom - from Red River College. However, gear isn’t necessary to making a good film project.

“Realistically, if you have an iPhone, or a phone that can record audio and video, you can make a web series,” she says.

“It was a lot of female power in it,” Ulrich says of the filming process. “That was great to see from a film perspective. It was very cool.”

Your Neighbourhood Coffee Shop is available to view online for free on YouTube and Stareable.

Published in Volume 72, Number 20 of The Uniter (March 8, 2018)

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