I am an unabashed fan of The Baby-Sitter's Club and I am definitely not alone. It's no secret that Ann M. Martin's classic series was hugely popular in the '80s and '90s, and for good reason. The series followed Kristy, Claudia, Mary-Anne, Stacy, and Dawn, friends and classmates who decide to start their own small business babysitting the kids in and around their neighborhood. The series produced hundreds of books, and thousands of fans who are still as passionate as ever about the girls of Stoneybrook.
Enter Apple Juice Productions, founded by Amanda Taylor. Taylor, who studied to be an entertainment journalist before deciding to act on her lifelong passion for filmmaking, has taken the literary characters we all know and love and reimagined them as modern-day millennials in the web series, Stoneybrook, Revisited.
"It came about in kind of a funny way. We were talking about '90s nostalgia and how could we tap into that and I said, 'You know what I really loved? The Baby-Sitters Club,'" Taylor tells Bustle. "It was an easy sell. It's a lot of cool women, doing cool stuff, they created a company... it was something all of us at Apple Juice Productions could identify with."
And it's not hard to see why. Apple Juice Productions is run exclusively by women, including Taylor, producer and publicist Chelsey Saatkamp, and director of photography and editor Kailee Brown. Stoneybrook, Revisited also has all all-female cast and crew, including Taylor's co-screenwriter Rebecca Frost. Their mission — to create content "for fangirls, by fangirls" — was one that happened organically.
"I have two sisters, and no brothers, and have often just found myself surrounded by women, and I think that's pretty awesome," Taylor says. "So I thought, why not continue the trend? It's easy for me as a personality to convince a bunch of ladies to make something cool together."
But while settling on this overarching mission for the company came naturally, executing it is something the team strives for in every single project... and not without some pushback.
"We wanted to be more intentional about it. We wanted to make sure we were giving these opportunities to women," Taylor says. "But there are many times when we're looking for a female director or a female gaffer and we'll get men responding to the post with 'Well, I'm not a woman, but...' and the first requirement was to have a female gender identity!"
But Taylor and the team are focused on their dream of creating more great content for a by women, and they went above and beyond in making sure this was the case for Stoneybrook, Revisited... in more ways than one. Fans of the original series will remember that the girls each had very individual personalities, but there wasn't necessarily a lot of diversity within the crew. And while Apple Juice Productions stuck close to canon in their casting, it is refreshing to see the characters brought to life with diverse body types, styles, and even sexual orientations.
"I have a lot of friends who act, and guess what, they're all human beings who look different," Taylor says. "It was also very important to me... living where we do [in Salt Lake City, Utah] there's not a whole lot of racial diversity. So it would have been easy to cast women of a similar size or hair color, but because we make things for an online audience who are not necessarily from where we live, we want to make sure people are seeing themselves represented."
As for the plot, Taylor counts herself among the biggest of Baby-Sitters Club fans, and she turned to her encyclopedic knowledge of the series, as well as years of stored up theories, to inspire her ideas. She wanted to make sure that Stoneybrook, Revisited stayed true to the original spirit of the series, even while bringing the characters into more modern times.
"There have a been a lot of theories all over the internet, and a lot of what I read was pretty intense, and it got really dark. So I wanted to maintain that Baby-Sitters Club feel where it's a little silly and kind of cute," Taylor says. "We wanted it to maintain that girl power which might seem trite to adults who are like 'That's not real life' but I say, why not? Why can't that be real life?"
That tight knit friendship and feminine power definitely comes through in the new series, which follows each girl individually before the finale Super Special, which brings them all together again. But Taylor and the team didn't shy away from some juicy conflict either, saying, "We wanted them to be individual people dealing with real things, because they've finally aged out of the eighth grade."
Beyond Stoneybrook, Revisited, Apple Juice Productions is also working on a sequel to their popular Lily Evans and the Eleventh Hour, inspired by J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series, due out on October 31. It shows real growth in production value from their previous work, something Taylor says the team is focusing on moving forward as they experiment and continue to hone their skills. And though, as Taylor says, she and her team are "the bank," shooting their series completely independently, they're not letting that stop them from making their films bigger and better than ever.
"This is worth it to us. It's a great hobby, it's a lot of fun. We want to tell stories, [and] we want to have this feminist approach to making content," Taylor says. "We're a huge team of women who are interested in pop culture and telling interesting stories. It's been such a fun endeavor and its the greatest thing...it's all wish fulfillment for me."