Web series integrates social media with video storytelling
By Cheryl Minns, Arts Editor
Anne Shirley, the title character in Anne of Green Gables, may seem old-fashioned, but add a computer, cell phone, and other modern day conveniences and she’s just like any other teenager.
Writer Alicia Whitson, lead actress Mandy Harmon, and producer Marie Trotter brought Anne’s story into the 21st century when they created the Green Gables Fables web series. The show follows the spirited redhead and her lively friends as they document their lives through videos and social media.
“Many of the experiences Anne undergoes in the book are easily transferable to the modern era,” Trotter wrote to the Other Press. “We found that technology provides more platforms for her story and more opportunities for unique adaptation.”
The web series is delivered in a transmedia format, where the characters not only appear in YouTube videos but also publish their own tweets, Instagram photos, blog posts, and more. The idea is that viewers feel connected to the characters and can follow all of the story’s details in real time.
“Using a variety of social media accounts makes Anne’s world as realistic as possible, and fully immerses Green Gables Fables in the tech-savvy 21st century,” Trotter wrote. “Transmedia creates a story universe that supports the video content. Fans can interact with characters as events are happening, and sometimes even have a role in shaping events.”
The team created more than two-dozen accounts for the series and its characters, using the online presences to expand on the characters’ personalities in ways the original book couldn’t.
“Developing each character’s social media presence creates many challenges for us, as we must determine how active the character will be, how much they’ll interact with viewers, and what kind of content they’ll post,” Trotter wrote.
For the first season, content was created on a week-to-week basis with a new episode posted every Wednesday in 2014 until the finale on February 11, 2015. During the show’s production, the creators communicated online from separate locations, with Whitson in Kansas, Trotter in Toronto, and Harmon in Utah with the rest of the cast. Instead of setting the show in the book’s fictional town of Avonlea, Prince Edward Island, the show is set in the real town of Avonlea, Saskatchewan, because it was easier to dress Utah landscape as Saskatchewan rather than as PEI.
Now the web series is ready to produce its second season, which is based on the book Anne of the Island. In order to make the season authentically Canadian, the cast and crew have decided to film the episodes in Toronto this June. This will mark the first time the team will be together in one location for production, which will take place over a month instead of the week-to-week schedule of the first season.
To fund this ambitious endeavour, the team turned to Kickstarter for financial support.
“The main goal of the Kickstarter campaign is to raise money for season two, so we tried to keep the rewards simple and reasonably priced,” Trotter wrote. “We decided on a combination of content rewards, such as videos and scripts, and merchandise rewards, such as T-shirts, buttons, and posters.”
The rewards ranged from postcards signed by the cast ($15) and button sets ($20) to personalized voicemail messages ($100) and cast videos on fan-picked subjects ($150–$300).
The campaign reached its $10,000 funding goal on February 22, only four days after the campaign launched on February 18. The funds are intended for production costs ($1,000), transportation and accommodations ($5,000), food budget and emergency fund ($1,600), as well as the Kickstarter fees and rewards ($2,400). The campaign concluded on March 20 with over $15,000 from more than 350 backers.
“We were so pleased! It was very reassuring to see such a tangible mass effort on the part of the fandom. They really demonstrated their faith in us to create another adaptation of a story we all love,” Trotter wrote.
Anne of the Island is the third book in the Anne series, but will be the focus of Green Gables Fables’ second season. To bridge the gap between seasons one and two, and to cover the second book, Anne of Avonlea, Green Gables Fables will be offering a transmedia adaptation of the story that will take place on social media.
“Fans will definitely be surprised at how some of the story events from Anne of Avonlea are adapted for the modern age,” Trotter teased about the upcoming event.
To watch the web series and follow the transmedia content, check out the show’s official website at GreenGablesFables.com