Summary:

Jane Austen scholars know “Sanditon” as a posthumously-published unfinished novel, but for Lizzie Bennet Diaries fans, it’s the springboard for a new bridge series that promises unprecedented audience interactivity.

domino gigi darcy pemberley

When the blockbuster web series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries partnered with DECA last fall, part of that deal was the promise of literary adaptations beyond Pride and Prejudice to satisfy its now-rabid fanbase. Thus, launching today is Welcome to Sanditon (AKA Sanditon), based on an unfinished Jane Austen novel — and looking to include said rabid fanbase directly in the story.

Created to fill in the gap between Lizzie Bennet and the next full-length novel adaptation, Sanditon features the return of Lizzie Bennet co-star Allison Page as Gigi Darcy, who’s spending the summer in the small coastal California town of Sanditon, working with the local community to launch a beta version of an app called Domino.

When the concept of the “Domino app” was introduced in the Lizzie Bennet narrative, it was on the surface a story device meant to explain how a particular character was successfully tracked down and brought to justice. But now, the format of the Domino app serves as a revised take on Lizzie Bennet‘s vlog-style storytelling, with the app enabling members of the Sanditon community to collaborate on videos. The first episode showcases this new approach, with Gigi sharing screen time with the town’s mayor and local ice cream shop owner.

But Domino’s reach expands past its presence on YouTube, thanks to a partnership between LBD production company Pemberley Digital and Theatrics.com. With the launch of today’s episode came the launch of Domino Beta Platform: Sanditon, where, in just the first few hours online today, over 30 new profiles (AKA “personas”) have been created, each by audience members looking to participate in the story.

People are playing in Sanditon outside of the Theatrics platform — a Twitter list created by the official Sanditon account currently lists over 300 “townspeople” beyond the official cast of the series. But the Sanditon team will be able to communicate privately with those participating on Theatrics, meaning that they’ll be able to keep the fan community abreast of upcoming plot points, allowing everyone to engage fully with the story.

Jay Bushman and Margaret Dunlap, who are co-showrunning Sanditon, were “looking to extend the opportunity for fans to engage in the story,” Theatric’s head of new business development Nick DeMartino said. The problem with that kind of fan engagement with a pre-established narrative like, say, Pride and Prejudice, is well-known.

However, Austen’s Sanditon is famously unfinished. “They wanted to continue to be respectful of the spine of the story,” he said, “But here the story’s cut off at the neck.”

The first Sanditon resident, whose video was posted this morning, features Sarah Richard-Preston, who was one of those who pledged to LBD‘s record-breaking Kickstarter campaign.

At her donor level, her character is guaranteed to be included in the main story, but there’s also potential for other personas to be included down the line, depending on how the Sanditon community develops.

According to DeMartino, Theatrics’ involvement with Sanditon is its first venture into consumer-facing platforms — prior to now, it has focused on a white label offering, giving entities like USA Network for collaborative storytelling ventures.

“What we’re trying to do here is build customers and get feedback on how the platform is working for them,” DeMartino said. The plan is to then broaden to other tool-based programs for creators interested in the platform — as well as brands.

“All brands are storytellers,” DeMartino added. “They have to be.”

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