In light of “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” recent Emmy win for Outstanding Creative Achievement in Interactive Media, I thought that this would be an appropriate time to revisit the origins of the Transmedia Web Series and how it has evolved to where it is now. This article was original published in Quarters Magazine.
Once upon a time a teenage girl filmed herself talking to a camera about the mysterious religion that her family belonged to and then put those videos on YouTube. Hundreds of people watched these videos, and became engrossed in this girl’s life. And they then bombshell dropped – her audience found out that they were watching a fictional story. That series was Lonelygirl15, which is widely recognized as the first online video series of its kind and the predecessor to today’s web series. As the series went on and branched out more and more social elements, including blogs, twitter feeds, and even social media profiles, were added to the storyworld to create a transmedia experience that drew the audience in and touched various parts of their lives. It was a “social show” that was ahead of its time.
This type of storytelling starts with first person vlog style narrative (in which an individual talks directly to the camera, breaking the fourth wall) where the character tells the story from their point of view. At times the character is joined by other characters that give insight into their sides of the story. If the audience feels compelled to delve deeper into the story they will find various other social media that belong to the characters. This social media will have been “seeded” with back history and additional insights. This type of storytelling starts with first person vlog style narrative where the character tells the story from their point of view. At times the character is joined by other characters that give insight into their sides of the story. If the audience feels compelled to delve deeper into the story they will find various other social media that belong to the characters. This social media will have been “seeded” with back-history and additional insights
Fast forward six years. The world of entertainment has been changing. It is not uncommon to follow characters from your favorite TV show on Twitter or like them on Facebook. Web series are an art form with ever increasing quality and popularity. The stage has been set for a new type of entertainment that can capitalize on all the places that an audience may frequent.
Enter The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. If you are familiar with the novel “Pride and Prejudice” you may recognize the name in the title. The Lizzie Bennet Diaries is a modernization of this Jane Austin book that is told in Vlog style episodes, across multiple Twitter feeds, Tumblrs, Facebook Pages, Pinterest, and even Lookbook.
The series was created by Hank Green (The Vlog Brothers, www.hankgreen.com) and Bernie Su (Compulsions, www.berniesu.com). It stars Ashley Clements as Lizzie Bennet, Laura Spencer as Jane Bennet, Mary Kate Wiles as Lydia Bennet, Julia Cho as Charlotte Lu, and Maxwell Glick as Ricky Collins. Other cast has not been announced. The series is produced by Jenni Powell (The Guild, Video Game Reunion) with Jay Bushman (Dirty Works, SXSWesteros, SXStarWars) as the Transmedia Producer.
The most encouraging thing about this series to people who are advocates for the transmedia approach to entertainment is the overwhelming audience outreach. The series currently has almost 74,000 subscribers on YouTube, individual episodes are consistently hitting upwards of 75,000 views, and the channel has acquired over 3,000,000 total video views. While the people involved in the series knew they had hit on something great they didn’t realize how great until the cast appeared at the online video convention VidCon.
Each time the actresses walked the expo hall floor a line would appear for them. The screening panel for the series was closed due to capacity 45 minutes before the panel began. This is even quicker than Felicia Day’s Geek and Sundry panel filled. The cast (including new members) did an unscheduled signing after the panel that had a consistent line for their two hour signing period. These young audiences that they have acquired follow the characters on their social media, watch all the videos, buy the merchandise, and most importantly – are advocates for the show.
While Lonelygirl15 may have been ahead of its time, The Lizzie Bennet Diaries has found the right time. Kids are growing up attached to their electronic devices, be it a laptop, smart phone, or tablet. They watch TV when they want it, how they want it. Appointment driven television is becoming part of the past. They both seek out things that interest them, as well as invite those properties into their lives and social landscapes. They are looking for entertainment that does not just end with a single show at a specific time, but is spread out across multiple, different touch points that interact seamlessly with their daily life. This is an compelling direction for the future of entertainment.
If you would like to see what all the fuss is about you can check out the “out of world” website that lays out the story in chronological order at http://www.lizziebennet.com/story/.
Be warned, this type of entertainment can be addictive and once you go down the rabbit hole you may find yourself not wanting to find your way out.
Interested in dipping your toes into the future of storytelling? If so, make sure to check out my other articles here on Ms. In the Biz that will give you an introduction to the new wave of storytelling. A lot of women, such as Andrea Phillips, are dominating the world of transmedia and the ever evolving world of storytelling. There are many events across the country (and world) for those interested in exploring the world of Transmedia, such as Transmedia Los Angeles, Transmedia SF, StoryCode, and NYC Transmedia and Cocktails. These events are a wealth of knowledge, and your opportunity to talk to people in the field. And don’t forget to follow me on twitter @AngeliqueToschi and keep checking back for articles on the future of storytelling!