Atlanta creators write new comedy series “Sink or Swam”

Photo by Jessica Dynelle

On the hour-long car ride coming home from a work trip in a nowhere town in Georgia back to their home in Atlanta, Patrick Cavillo and Ana Bernot-Reilly revisited their time, cackling with one another about the almost-comically bad work trip they just experienced. Cavillo, a non-profit clinic worker who travels to different civic groups explaining the cause in hopes of donations, just stood in front of a crowd of elderly women at “The Olive Tree,” a knock-off Olive Garden, giving a motivational speech for the clinic he works for.

While the two laughed in the front seat of the car reassessing the weird banquet room from 1997, the old folk of the Lion’s Club nodding off and the bad Italian food served at the event, the two creators realized the inspiration for their long-thought-about project stood right in front of them. For about five months, Cavillo and Bernot-Reilly brainstormed ideas for the series the two strived to create. After the comically-bad “Olive Tree,” experience, Bernot Reilly turned to Cavillo and expressed interest in loosely basing the series off his job interacting with random people that do not care. 

Once the idea was thrown out there, the two set off working on putting tangibility to the thought and began writing the script for the series. The two bounced back and forth, building a solid storyline and writing a pilot for the show, which then turned into a second episode. After several sleepless nights and creative outbursts, the two co-writers had finished outlining an entire seven episodes of the series they called “Sink or Swam.” 

“We kind of created the entire story, and then through that, we started putting pieces together,” Cavillo said. She [Bernot-Reilly] wrote the first episode, and it’s a collaborative thing, and the second episode I did. We have an outline for seven episodes.” 

The story, quirky, comedic and relatable, describes life’s ups and downs through the eyes of the main character J.J. Estrada, played by co-writer Bernot-Reilly. Estrada, a Mexican-American, people-pleasing, motivational speech-pitcher, struggles to make her way through a company run by her rich, white privileged boss, Audrey Jacobsen. The storyline consists of many ups, downs and plot twists, but overall the theme revolves around a heartfelt, fun and dark comedy where audience members rooting for the underdog might be surprised towards the end. 

Over the last couple of months, the cast and crew of the show have been working hard to raise a decent amount of funding to begin working on the pilot, as well as a little bit extra for things such as a bigger production, more locations and more equipment. The crew started fundraising on Seed and Spark, a fundraising company that focuses on web series and pilots and were able to raise over $10,000 for the show, meeting and exceeding their original goal for the series. 

The cast, crew and production team of “Sink or Swam,” plans on creating a fabulous pilot to pitch to distributors who will then pick up the project and cultivate more funds for the show. As this is Cavillo’s first ongoing project, he plans to work as hard as he can to create the best pilot possible, and then he plans to play the rest by ear. 

“I want for people to want to see more,” Cavillo said. “I want to see it gain a following. What I hope to see happen is to make a really good pilot, people follow it, people fall in love with the characters and people want to see more. I want it to be unique, and I want people to say ‘oh this is an interesting story. I want to keep following this.’” 

To receive updates on “Sink or Swam,” audiences can check out their website or their Instagram, @sinkorswamseries, where the cast, crew and production team will post updates on filming, release, footage and more. Filming for the pilot is scheduled for Nov. 16th through Nov. 22nd.