The creators of Lonelygirl15 are out to prove that their hit online series is not a fluke — and social network Bebo has signed up to bring viewers and sponsors to the team’s new project, a British spinoff called Kate Modern. The show, set to debut in mid-July, should carry on with interactive web drama where Prom Queen and MySpace left off. The creative and business sides are both pretty exciting; I’m not sure where to start.
Kate Modern, set in London, will star a 19-year-old female student who doesn’t originate from Lonelygirl explicitly, but ties into that show’s universe including its complex fictional religion. Bebo has brought on
Coke, Orange Mobile, P&G, and Microsoft to sponsor the series, and promises deep brand integration. Correction: Coke is not a sponsor.
Secondary characters will come from the 32-million-active-user Bebo’s geographic strongholds, for instance a “promiscuous Aussie friend” as Angel Gambino, Bebo’s VP of content, told me. In production right now, the show will continue with live events including concerts and “flash mobs” once it starts airing. An actual up-and-coming band is tied into the story line, with the intent of leaving viewers guessing what is real and what is fiction.
“We’ve spent the past year essentially through trial and error learning to tell an interactive show on the internet,” Lonelygirl creator Miles Beckett told me, calling in from London. “Like how do you incorporate interactivity without compromising a linear narrative that people can follow?”
At this point, he said, the Lonelygirl method is ironed out enough to be replicable and scaleable. Each week contains five videos with the story arc of a single episode. “We have very consistent conflict, resolution, cliff hanger at the end of the week, A-plot action, B-plot character and interpersonal development.” A team of ten to fifteen people is running production in London, with Beckett taking the executive producer role. To be sure, the admitted “control freak” isn’t moving back to California any time soon. But he praises his team, which includes writer Luke Hyams, the writer and director of interactive British hip-hop TV show Dubplate Drama.
I asked Beckett what it was like to create a show where viewers wouldn’t have to guess about it being fiction or reality, like they did before the Lonelygirl team was exposed last fall. He’s not concerned, said Beckett; the majority of Lonelygirl’s 150,000 to 200,000 active followers (with 20,000 to 50,000 of those “really hardcore”) came to it after the cat got out of the bag, Beckett said.
Bebo is putting up the budget for the show, said Beckett, and then sharing revenue with the Lonelygirl team, which has created a company to tie together its projects called Telegraph Ave. Productions. The social network will display Kate Modern episodes for 24 hours exclusively, after which embed codes will be made available.
I’ve written here about how impressed I was with the simple interactions playing out on MySpace between Prom Queen characters and viewers. Kate Modern is set to take that to the next level, with live events, tie-ins to the Lonelygirl universe and real people, actively maintained character profile pages on Bebo, and what will hopefully be innovative and unobtrusive product placement.
Having all the pieces so carefully and consciously fitted together in now way ensures the creative content will be compelling. Turning this all into a science could have the effect of sucking the life out of it. But it’s enough online video buzzwords to hope there’s a pot of honey nearby.