Writer-Actor Shantell Yasmine Abeydeera on How Niche Streamers Create Community

Shantell Yasmine Abeydeera is an L.A.-based writer, performer and content creator. Her latest series, "Dating In Place," will be available on Revry, an L.A.-based, ad-supported, niche streaming service focused on the LGBTQ community.

Revry is one of many niche streaming services competing in an increasingly crowded market, where audience loyalty and good relationships with artists are key to success, as we probed in an earlier piece on what it takes for a niche streaming service to survive.

Revry is free and accessible to more than 250 million households and devices in over 130 countries. Its offerings are divided into several channels, such as "Revry News" and "Revry Live TV." "Dating In Place" will air on the channel " OML on Revry," which debuted earlier this month to focus on queer female programming.


It is a collaboration with OML, a boutique media company formerly called One More Lesbian, of which Abeydeera is also the director of content and partnerships.

dot.LA recently caught up with her about her new show, her thoughts on the value of queer spaces in the streaming world and how niche services can help build community around content.

OML on. Revry - Official Teaser

dot.LA: Do you consider yourself a queer-oriented artist?

Abeydeera: I consider myself to be a storyteller, first and foremost. But being queer is a very important part of of my storytelling journey, mainly because of the lack of representation that was available to me when I was younger. I wasn't seeing stories where I was represented on screen. And that's because of the fact that I am so unique, in being multi-ethnic, queer, very feminine-presenting, a lot of things that we just don't really on screen.

I was always really, really thirsty to see that kind of representation. I started creating queer storylines, and once it started being received by the queer community, I saw that there was such a need for it.

How does a platform like Revry allow you to get those kinds of representative stories out there?

I think it's huge, but there is definitely a struggle. Platforms like Revry obviously don't have the money behind them, the way that the mainstream streamers like your Hulus and your Amazons do. So it's harder for them to produce shows that are the kinds that bring in the audiences that become loyal.

What's really smart is that these guys are focusing a lot on short-form content, which is far more attainable for content-creators as well as for the platform. So, say for example, "Dating In Place": 10-minute episodes, 10 episodes of the series – that is far more affordable than 10 episodes of a half-hour series where you go from the show costing $20,000 to costing $150,000. It's easier for queer content-creators to fund short-form content.

In that sense, do you see Revry as a stepping stone to working with a different, perhaps larger distributor?

I would like to see the development of platforms like Revry. My hope is that these platforms develop and form the viewership they deserve, so that then they're able to become partners in creating more content. I'm not necessarily thirsty to go and work with a big machine, but I'm not totally against it either.

Are you worried about potentially pigeonholing your career by focusing on queer content or working with a queer-oriented distributor?

No, I don't really worry about pigeonholing my career, mainly because I think there are many different incarnations of queer stories that can be told. For a long time, queer people weren't able to tell their stories. I think we're going to start to see an expansion. So I'm looking forward to telling stories that just merely have queer characters in them. And where we're not necessarily calling it queer.

How do you see "Dating In Place" playing a role in that trajectory of telling broader queer stories?

One of the interesting things in "Dating In Place" is that we don't actually ever refer to any of the characters as being queer. We never talk about it. I think that's a big step. And there's never any reference to there being any issues with parents or families when it comes to these characters' sexual identity.

The issue was just that these two girls met, they were going to go on a date, and then the pandemic hit, and now they're in completely separate countries, and they're dating online and falling in love but they've never seen each other or touched each other.

If not for OML on Revry, what do you think would have happened with "Dating In Place"?

A lot of what happens to short-form content is it goes to festivals and then it goes to YouTube. And especially for queer content, that's kind of the death for the content creator, because queer content on YouTube is quite famously de-monetized. So the money that you're making on the clicks of queer content is, like, minus cents in comparison to other content that can maybe make like a dollar, or whatever. So I think without a platform like OML on Revry, a show like "Dating in Place" would have just gone on YouTube or Vimeo.

How else would you say having your show on OML on Revry is beneficial to you as a creator?

The thing that I will say about the queer community, especially – consumers of queer content – is that they're very loyal. Once they become interested in your content, they are then interested in you and invested in you. As an artist and as a creator, that's really all you can ask for: people that are going to be there to view the content that you've made, and people that are going to be there when you make more.

I'm really excited for this platform to exist for this audience. Before, a lot of this audience, the fandom audience, kind of would just be scrolling through YouTube, clicking on tiny thumbnails trying to figure out, is this a queer-inclusive show? And now, hopefully, they will migrate over to a platform where they know that all of the content is queer-inclusive and queer-positive, and has been made for them. Hopefully, now this audience will find a home.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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On this week's episode of LA Venture, hear from Marcos Gonzalez, the managing partner at Vamos Ventures, a seed-stage venture fund which invests in Latino and diverse founders. Over half of L.A. County is Latino. A relatively new fund, investments are in the range of $100,000 to $500,000. Seems like a great time to be investing in this community! And, Vamos is hiring...

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El Segundo-based telemedicine technology provider Cloudbreak Health and Florida-based UpHealth Holdings, a digital healthcare provider, announced they will combine and go public via a SPAC in a deal that values the combined companies at $1.35 billion.

Named UpHealth, Inc., the new company aims to streamline online health care by becoming a single provider of four different services: telehealth, teletherapy, a health care appointment and management system and an online pharmacy.

UpHealth runs healthcare platform Thrasys Inc. and MedQuest Pharmacy, along with two other behavioral health companies. The merger with Cloudbreak, which under the pandemic expanded their interpretation services to remote medicine, will give the new company a foothold in almost 2,000 hospitals.

"What we wanted to do was form a business that could really be a digital infrastructure for health care across the continuum of care, right from home to hospital," said Jamey Edwards, the co-founder and executive director of Cloudbreak. Under the agreement, he will become the company's chief operating officer.

GigCapital2 expects the merger transaction to close at the start of Q1 2021. UpHealth will be publicly traded under the ticker "UPH" on the New York Stock Exchange. UpHealth's integrated care management platform serves over 5 million people, and is expected to reach 40 million over the next three years, according to the company.

Jamey Edwards, Cloudbreak

Jamey Edwards, co-founder and executive director of Cloudbreak

COVID-19 caused a meteoric growth in the use of telehealth services. In February, 0.1% of Medicare primary visits were provided through telehealth. In April, that number was nearly 44%, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

"Key stakeholders have seen and responded well to the benefits that telemedicine can bring, but they need a more comprehensive, integrated solution," said Al Gatmaitan, who has been named the co-chief executive officer of UpHealth. "This is what UpHealth focuses on, the adoption of digital health solutions well beyond the pandemic crisis."

The deal with the blank check company GigCapital2 gives the two digital health companies access to a wider network. UpHealth and its family of companies operate in 10 countries and their pharmacy has 13,000 e-prescribers in the U.S.


UpHealth will use the Cloudbreak platform as part of their global telehealth services to provide patients with round-the-clock care under a variety of specialties, including telepsychiatry and tele-urology. UpHealth also has contracts internationally, to provide country-wide care in India, Southeast Asia and Africa.

Edwards joined Cloudbreak in 2008 when it went from public to private. It has raised $35 million in venture funds, most recently in the first quarter of this year scoring $10 million from Columbia Partners Private Capital.

Ryan Edwards, the co-founder of Happier Camper, said he's asked all the time if his company leans on influencer marketing to promote their vintage-style trailers beloved by millennials.

With a waitlist six months out and demand growing from hotel-weary travelers, he said it isn't a priority yet.

"We almost don't need to," said Edwards.

That's because the $25,000 to $50,000 custom trailers have been a hit with a loyal fan base, and rising demand during the pandemic has only helped. Orders for compact trailers at the lower price end, including Happier Camper's 75-square-foot camper, are growing as newbie road trippers look for COVID-safe travels.

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