↳ (4/7) Have you ever read a book in a single sitting? And then there’s that moment when it’s over, and it’s like that whole world of that fiction is still swimming inside your head, like…your brain is a sponge, just soaked in all the feelings and emotions of that whole adventure. And the scary parts and exciting parts, and …interesting parts all kind of blur together… - Jane Eyre
Author’s Note: The team and I are very happy with the story we’ve written. We believe it’s true to Jane’s journey, and it’s an adaptation that we’re proud of. Looking back on this year, there are minor changes we could have made for the sake of clarity, or flow, but if a genie granted any of us the ability to change any choices we’d made - I doubt we would have taken the offer. So – yes, I stand by our ending. But obviously, while our ending is intended to be realistic, I will admit that realism is not necessarily the most satisfying. In life we leave behind challenges, for a completely new set of problems.
This moment is one that has always existed in my mind. We would never film it for obvious reasons, nor would we necessarily want to. So I have written this moment down. It is for those of you who are romantics, for those of you who will find it hard to say good-bye to Jane, for those of you who are always craving more immersion, and for me. It is my love letter to Jane, and this year, and I hope you like it.
Also, I apologize preemptively. 1) Because I’m Canadian and 2) Because I am NOT a novelist.
Internal awareness of storytelling in webseries versus traditional media, or, What 4th wall?
In October 2014, Beatrice Duke, Hero Duke and Benedick Hobbes watched through (and livetweeted) their own videos and those from their friend Ursula’s channel. Except Beatrice, Hero, Benedick and Ursula are fictional characters, and the videos they were watching are the show Nothing Much to Do as we have been watching it for many months. The playlist that we use to track the channels became, for the characters, a playlist organized by Ursula. The mysteries of their lives were suddenly exposed. “Holy f*** this was online?!” Beatrice exclaimed during a particularly revealing moment on Ursula’s channel, suddenly realizing how much drama could have been averted by simply watching all these videos when they came out (as the viewers did).
Many modern webseries take advantage of transmedia and new media in general to further their story. In the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, much of the story revolved around the “secret” of Lizzie’s vlogs, and keeping them hidden from certain people. Slowly, characters became aware of Lizzie’s videos through different means, and thus were able to move the story forward. Caroline’s awareness enabled her to manipulate various aspects of the situation, Darcy’s exposure allowed him to better understand Lizzie and himself, and ultimately even the final moments of the show touch on the matter (however humorously).
The Autobiography of Jane Eyre took this a few steps further, having an entire episode devoted to Jane introducing her new friend to her story. This episode cast Jane’s previous videos as both a documentation of her experiences until that point and a subtle criticism of it. Mary questions certain plot points (“why is there blood?”), views the character development sharply (“oh, you like him”) and ultimately reflects the audience experience.
AoJE referenced on multiple occasions the complicated double-nature of Jane’s videos (when Rochester first discovers them, at the show’s end, etc.), but it also struggled at times with balancing realness and plot. Rochester’s insistence on uploading certain videos became suspect at some point and little moments that weren’t cut began to seem like they were truly geared towards an audience, not reflective of the vlogger herself.
Many modern webseries have stumbled quite seriously at this point, most obviously Emma Approved. In that show, the ambiguity of the filming and editing made certain scenes feel distinctly scripted and unbelievable. In essence, Emma Approved resembled The Office much more than it did shows like AoJE or NMTD - there are moments that clearly stretch the credibility of the medium, but the endgame addresses the medium (and some of its inconsistencies) explicitly.
The comparison to The Office is an important one for me. Throughout its (long) run, The Office gradually let go of the restrictions of the “documentary” style. There were scenes that could not have been filmed, cameras in places that made no sense, situations where it was no longer possible for the “filming” crew to remain behind, and ultimately the structure became a background idea. There were a few minor points at which the medium became relevant throughout the series, but a clear addressing of the “documentary” only arose at the show’s end. The discussion - of what’s edited, what ends up included in the story, the purpose, etc. - proved to be one of the strongest ideas the show ever dealt with. In addressing the character’s internal awareness of their own story, the show made its medium credible once again. The Office is one of the only shows that has ever explicitly dealt with the question (that I’m aware of) of who is telling the story and why.
Which leads me back to NMTD. NMTD distinguished itself by having different channels with clearly defined objectives. Unlike Emma Approved (which used a second channel for specific videos that were actually published, in a manner that ended up being extremely confusing to fans), NMTD made clear from the beginning who was watching which channels, and who was showing what to whom. There is a constant acknowledgement of where and why certain characters have not seen certain videos. Videos are edited with care according to the character uploading the video (and often explained in the video description). Problems are addressed within the story. While it’s legitimate to argue about the effectiveness of these excuses (and whether or not they don’t stretch credibility somewhat as well), there is no doubt that they clear up many of the confusing aspects that trip up bigger productions.
And then finally, moments before the show is due to end, the characters walk straight through the 4th wall and watch all the videos, livetweeting every step of the way. Like Mary in AoJE, they too question certain unbelievable aspects, but they also add extra commentary. They fill in the gaps (certain missing scenes that viewers had eagerly waited for), they speak to their audience, and they simultaneously remain in character the whole time. No 4th wall after all. More than that, the experience is an optional experience - many viewers do not track Beatrice’s rarely updated Twitter account, and will never read these tweets.
Part of the appeal of vlog webseries is their realistic nature: we connect on a personal level with the characters, convincing ourselves that they’re real people. The various aspects of transmedia flesh these characters out further, distinguishing them even more from traditional media. The “meta” moments in which the characters wink at the audience thus walk the fine line of acknowledging realism problems (pulling us out of the story) and telling the story as it ought be best told. Some shows are upfront about everything (interestingly, these are the shows with teenage characters, like NMTD or Green Gables Fables), while other shows live in a more traditional ambiguous realm (Frankenstein M.D.).
Most normal TV shows don’t have internal character awareness (Community is the obvious exception). Many webseries opt for the TV style as well, even if they add different tricks to make it feel more intimate (The New Adventures of Peter and Wendy, for example). My personal taste remains loyal to the new realism form, where it’s possible to simultaneously tell a story and have everyone aware that the story is being told. I’ve found it to be more interesting, and certainly more thought provoking.
The thing I love about Jane Eyre is that she is not your typical heroine. In any sense of the word.
She’s plain, soft-spoken, and virtually friendless at the beginning of the novel.
She’s clever, but doesn’t tend to show it.
Before the start of the book she has had almost no experience with the outside world.
She has incredible strength of character but it’s not immediately obvious. It’s a kind of quiet courage that’s fairly easy to overlook.
I mean her favourite pastime is drawing for Pete’s sake.
She is a secondary character. She is not the kind of person you base a whole book around, because, in novels, exciting things don’t tend to happen to people like her.
But her story is one of the most beautiful ever told.
She was a heroine I could truly relate to, but also admire. Someone who didn’t have it all together and who wasn’t perfect, but who knew what was right and trusted her gut. She believed in herself and what she was capable of.
She proved you didn’t have to be a gorgeous, sassy, sword-wielding, goddess to warrant your story being told. That you could be “poor, obscure, plain and little” and still have one of the greatest love stories of all time.
And that is not something to be taken for granted.
So while we’re in the throws of production for All’s Fair Play, and up to our
eyeballs in work, I still had to take a second to say it:
It’s been a crazy 8 months- and we’ve run so
quickly into producing the next series that while I miss everything
about that character and that show, I don’t always have the time to
dwell on it properly. But from time to time I’ll see another gif set or
run into a text post in the AoJE tag- with a very quiet “we miss you”,
sometimes just hidden in the tags of a post, and my heart just swells.
and her story were such a big part of my life and the lives of so many
people for almost 2 years, that it’s weird sometimes to be living
without her. But in a way she became so embedded in every aspect of what
I do, and so much of what I learned in those 2 years that for me at
least, she’s always hanging around.
and hopefully yesterday, (as Jane’s B-day is actually on Feb 29th) we
raise our glass to you girl and to everyone who cared about your story.
I know you’re happy and loved, so Thank You for giving us so much of the same.
Your friendly neighbourhood Showrunner just came across some amusing behind the scenes photos late this evening, and with minutes to spare, decided to share a few them for Throw Back Thursday - so enjoy ;)
The last picture is especially perfect, because this group became so much like a family on set it was impressive- and not to mention absolutely hilarious. They would have made an awesome sitcom.
Webseries have a reached a tipping point where crowdfunding can no longer sustain them
I have two tabs currently open in my browser for two different literary webseries seeking funding. I have four different shows on my feed right now which engaged in more-or-less successful crowdfunding efforts to continue airing. And of some of the shows I’m currently watching, I can already smell the future Kickstarter/Indiegogo pages that will crowdsource their continuation.
My first Kickstarter contribution (ever) was for the Lizzie Bennet Diaries. It was a purely calculated move - I didn’t care much for continued series developments (didn’t think about it, honestly), but I wanted to own something tangible from the show and liked the idea of having DVDs. The next one I became aware of - alas forgetting to donate despite my love of the show - was that of The Autobiography of Jane Eyre, when they sought help in continued production. The plea seemed entirely reasonable at the time, to cover production costs. Both shows made significantly more than they had initially asked for. The outpouring of support was extremely high.
Since then, I’ve seen so many more crowdfunding efforts. And frankly I find myself less and less inclined as time goes by, even for beloved shows. In the past year, I have spent considerable money donating to different literary webseries, gradually donating less and less as my own budgeting begins to factor into my ability to contribute. It’s starting to feel like the model is failing.
The two tabs currently open in my browser are not succeeding. They’re not reaching their goals, both of which are fairly modest/average. A few months ago, the popular Classic Alice similarly struggled with reaching its significantly loftier funding goal (coming just shy) and engaged in increasingly aggressive tactics in an effort to close the gap. That was the first time I found myself aware of my discomfort, though I realized in retrospect I had felt something similar with The New Adventures of Peter and Wendy when I had seen their high-priced goals.
And the discomfort is this: Crowdfunding cannot sustain literary webseries forever. While many independent, labor-of-love shows seek funding to cover basic costs - food, equipment, and travel costs - some of the larger ones seek tens of thousands of dollars to cover significantly higher production costs. Which is legitimate. Fans should not for a moment presume that content creators can survive on fan-love alone. Actors, producers, writers, etc deserve to be paid, same as they would for any job.
The question becomes who needs to be paying for it.
This is hard to answer. There are so few webseries fans and viewers in the world, it really doesn’t pay off. But like with many independent art forms, I’m starting to wonder if there isn’t the need for a bigger picture. Something… external. Many independent films receive funding from grants and organizations who specialize in helping these ostensibly “passion projects” get off the ground. Many artists receive support from various patrons or patronly institutions, whose sole purpose is to fund artists. Why hasn’t modern media caught up? Where is the “Webseries Grant”, which provides promising content creators with the $15,000 base cost they need to continue their work? Why isn’t there a broader recognition of the art form, with higher popularity shows essentially “covering” for tiny gems which have small viewership but excellent content? Why isn’t there a nonprofit “Webseries Organization”, which both helps content creators and also encourages their excellence through recognition?
I don’t understand the world of either the arts or art-funding well enough to be able to explain, even to myself. Maybe the model wouldn’t work, because of the vast diversity and breadth of the literary webseries of today. But it’s a conversation that needs to be had, and soon. More and more brilliant shows are cropping up and gaining traction (without necessarily increased viewership), but fans cannot keep supporting them forever. Something needs to change.
I just don’t really know to what it needs to change. Thoughts?