Go back to high school with a new comedy web series
By Cheryl Minns, Arts Editor
High school can be an exciting and confusing time for many young people, especially if you’re 28 years old and reliving the experience through your eighth-grade diary.
In the premiere episode of Alannah Turner’s new comedy web series, My Grade 8 Diary, Greer Wilcox (played by Turner) gets hit by a bagel truck and loses her memories from age 13 to 17—the high school years. The “fancy brain doctor” informs her that she should be all right since she didn’t lose anything significant.
“Nothing significant? High school is a mind-shaping, auspicious event in your history!” Wilcox narrates as her character receives the diagnosis.
In the show, Wilcox’s work friends suggest she check out her old diaries to help fill in the missing memories. In real life, Turner and her friend Gregory Brown, director of the pilot episode, started reading her old diaries and found them to be hilarious.
“He and I were sitting around, laughing at my high school diaries that I found when I was moving,” Turner said. “They’re so dramatic. I thought, ‘Somehow this has to be a show.’”
As Wilcox reads her first eighth-grade diary entry, she begins to recall her high school days, which are shown through flashbacks featuring the adult cast portraying teenage versions of their characters. Wilcox appears as an awkward 13-year-old wearing dental braces and her self-proclaimed “coolest outfit” on the first day of school, optimistically hoping to make friends and have a great high school experience.
“In that first episode, I didn’t spend too long being her, but I remember it was like a reawakening. It was like re-living that moment,” Turner said. “It’s not really based on my actual high school experience, but parts of it are inspired by.”
For the next episode, Turner plans to continue with flashbacks to Wilcox’s first day of school where the character meets her new high school friends, the Gaggle of Girls. Searching for answers about her past, Wilcox consults these women in present day about her high school history.
“This show kind of lives in the idea that there are three sides to every story. There’s your side, my side, and then the truth,” Turner said. “There’s this interweaving of them going back and rediscovering what happened in her history compared to what she wrote down.”
The pilot episode also introduces a mystery for the series when Wilcox discovers an unsigned letter from a close friend in her old diary.
“There is a bit of a How I Met Your Mother kind of mystery looming over, but it isn’t the centre point for the whole story,” Turner said. “We will eventually know what happened with that.”
The letter acts as part of Wilcox’s motivation to continue reading her diary entries and recalling her memories, even when she encounters unpleasant experiences from her past.
My Grade 8 Diary is part of the Telus StoryHive competition, which invited filmmakers in BC and Alberta to submit web series pitches for a chance to win $10,000 to produce a pilot episode. The pilot episodes are currently competing for viewers’ votes on StoryHive.com until March 26 in order to win the ultimate $50,000 prize to produce more episodes of the winning series.
“I make shows in hopes that people will laugh. I hope that there are people watching My Grade 8 Diary who find it funny. And if they do, they should vote for it,” Turner said, adding that she has enjoyed her time so far in the competition and hopes to continue.
Turner is also offering voters a digital copy of the series’ theme song, “I Lost My Mind” by Jasmin Parkin and Ryan Guldemond of the band Mother, Mother.
“Originally, I was going to put it on iTunes and sell it and then have all of the proceeds go to the brain injury/trauma centre at George Pearson Centre,” said Turner, who will be starting her master’s degree in speech and language pathology this fall.
“I’m becoming a speech pathologist and work with a lot of people with brain trauma and brain injuries. The show kind of pokes fun at memory deficit and I know that’s not a joke. I know that’s a serious thing. So I wanted to give something back,” she said.
As a special promotion for the show, Turner decided to offer the song as a free reward for viewers who vote for My Grade 8 Diary on StoryHive. Those who want the song can take a screen capture of their voting confirmation, submit the image to the My Grade 8 Diary Facebook page, and receive the song in an email.
To learn more about My Grade 8 Diary, check out the first episode on StoryHive.com and follow the series on Facebook.com/MyGr8Diary