Meet Jessica Nahmias, the creative force and showrunner behind our Netflix series, Motel Makeover. She’s someone who saw what we were all about right from the beginning — she knew that The June was more than just a motel, and that there was a story to be told about how we took a leap by leaving our day jobs to pursue the millennial dream of entrepreneurship. With previous experience working on popular TV shows like The Bachelor, Bar Rescue, Where to I Do? and Love at First Kiss, we knew that she would be the right person to bring our very real story of redeveloping our Sauble Beach motel to the screen for the world to see.
Motel Makeover truly would not exist without this woman and all of her dedication and passion for storytelling and television. From the panic stricken phone calls about production and renovations being shut down due to the pandemic, to the 12+ hour days filming, and every single moment in between...thank you Jess, you are a force to be reckoned with!
Read on for some #BTS moments from the Director and Creator of Motel Makeover, Jessica Nahmias
How did you first discover The June?
I first discovered The June on Instagram. My friend Jackie owns a company called The Paper Bakery, and she does all of The June’s graphic design, so I found it through her. When The June started promoting the opening of the Prince Edward County property on social media I basically booked a stay as soon as reservations went live. I believe I was one of the first guests at The June that first spring it opened in 2017!
What originally inspired you about April + Sarah’s motel journey?I love any story about women following their dreams and forging their own paths career-wise. Once I found out that both of them left very stable jobs to take this huge risk to pursue their passion – and that they built this brand from nothing, completely on their own - I knew their story needed to be told.
Where did the idea of Motel Makeover actually begin?
In winter 2018 I was on location shooting in British Columbia and staying at a cute, renovated motel in the mountains. One night I went to a local bar, and the bartender asked where I was staying, and I told her. Her response was “that sh*thole?!” I explained to her that it had been newly renovated and really cute. Later that night when I went back into my room I started looking around, and thinking about how cool it would have been if the process had been documented. Then I remembered my stay at the original June the previous year, and instantly started going on a deep dive of The June’s Instagram page. I remembered April and Sarah’s story, and immediately asked Jackie for their contact info. We met a couple weeks later at a restaurant in downtown Toronto where I was fully prepared to tell them they needed to buy a second property so that I could make a TV show about it. Call it fate, or just good timing, but the first thing they said to me was “we’re thinking about putting an offer on a motel in this place called Sauble Beach.” The rest is history.
Was Motel Makeover always meant to be a Netflix original?
Netflix was always the dream for me. They take risks, don’t follow a prescribed format, and obviously have the biggest international audience in the world. Once I put together some materials and started pitching it around, I made it very clear to Proper Television (the production company I teamed up with) that Netflix was the goal – and they made it happen! That was an incredible call to get.
What were the biggest challenges in making Motel Makeover?
The biggest challenge was the pandemic. We got shut down in the early stages of production, and it was unclear if we’d even be able to finish the show. There were some really hard days where I truly thought all the work we’d put in, and frankly, all the work April and Sarah had put into the project itself, would be for naught. But on top of that, the first seasons of unscripted series are always really difficult. And what made this particular show even more challenging is that April and Sarah are running a real business. Unlike other renovation shows, where the renovations happen for television, this renovation was happening with or without cameras. As a production, we couldn’t control anything about the renovation, and if there’s one thing that productions and producers hate, it is a lack of control! But that’s what makes this show all the more raw and real.
Photo courtesy of Netflix / Proper Television
What makes Motel Makeover different from other renovation shows?
To start, our leads are women. Not brothers, not a couple, not a father and son, but two independent, strong, vocationally-driven women. Renovation shows tend to come from the POV of men or couples, and follow this perfect script, where the leads know everything and never make a mistake. What makes Motel Makeover different is that April and Sarah are incredibly vulnerable and real, and aren’t always sure of their decisions. You see them work through real renovation questions and challenges, and they were 100% willing to put it all out there. Also, as I already mentioned, this show is about a real renovation. That’s incredibly rare for the genre.
What do you want the viewers to take away from watching Motel Makeover?
There’s so much I hope viewers take away. Firstly, I hope they get to escape into the beautiful, neon-filled, rosé-colored world of The June. I also hope they’ll learn some amazingly clever design hacks and be able to apply them in their own homes. But mostly, I hope it inspires people – and most importantly, women - to follow their dreams and really lean into their careers, even if it’s a huge risk. If you’re bored with the banality of your desk-job, leave it! It’s scary, it’s hard, it’s intimidating, but if you put it all out there, and work really, really hard, you could be the next April and Sarah. I also hope our female viewers who’ve put their careers first, and maybe feel weird about that because social media tends to only fetishize motherhood, see themselves reflected in the show. There’s nothing more empowering than being your own boss and following your dreams.
What was your most memorable moment in creating Motel Makeover?
There are so many, but I have to say it was probably the night we wrapped production. The motel was finished. Guests had come and gone, and the entire crew was sitting on the Heydays patio, under the string-lights, drinking wine and eating delicious food. The cast and crew had all been through this incredibly difficult year together, and it made us really close. Everyone gave a little toast, and there were laughs and tears, and it made all the late-nights, cold pizza, and freezing toes worth it. There was also the time Sarah couldn’t say the word “peninsula” properly in a confessional, and we all laughed for about 30 minutes straight. April ends up saying it on the show!
Celebrating the last night of filming
Lastly, will there be a season 2?
As long as April and Sarah keep expanding their motel empire, I hope I’m there to capture it!
Have you watched Motel Makeover, Season 1 yet? Click here to watch it!