Transmedia storytelling, or storytelling that spans multiple platforms while telling a single narrative, is one of the most impressive ways that web series set themselves apart from traditional media. By their very nature, web shows are consumed in a more personal and interactive manner. Creating "in-world" social media accounts is a natural extension of that, allowing for a greater level of fan engagement as well as a fuller understanding of the world in which the characters exist. The extra content also gives the creators more space to flesh out characters and conflicts beyond the 5-7 minute core episodes.
Classic Alice follows the titular Alice Rackham (played by series creator Kate Hackett), an academically impressive college student who gets a bad grade (a B-) on an English paper because she wasn't sufficiently emotionally-connected to the material. And like anyone in the wake of academic failure, Alice responds by deciding to live her life according to classic novels, starting with Crime and Punishment.
Creator and star Kate Hackett and her team surpassed "above and beyond" with their transmedia experience, weaving an intensely-detailed online world for the series. They had two in-world podcasts hosted by the characters, handwritten diary entries, a cookbook, a website for the fictional university the characters attended, accounts for the fictional university's fictional school newspaper, and of course, a variety of Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads, Google+, Instagram, Facebook, and Tumblr accounts. For context, by the time the series ended, they had 39 active Twitter accounts and 12 active Tumblr accounts. I got in touch with Kate and she was more than happy to shed some light on the incredible amount of behind-the-scenes work, as well as whether she would do it again in the future.
Bri Castellini: When you were developing the idea that would become Classic Alice, did you know you were going to have transmedia?
Kate Hackett: Yeah, which is the way to go. Transmedia isn't something you can just plop on top of an existing project it has to be very carefully woven through so you're both telling an independent story and adding to the existing one without trampling over any media.
BC: Why was it important to you (and the story you were telling) to involve such extensive transmedia?
KH: It was a great way to publicize, which isn't a very friendly answer but it'strue! It was also a way to experiment with different methods of storytelling in a contained way: we have to tell one story, so how do we do that on different platforms?
BC: you're the series creator and sole writer, but I know you had help with transmedia producing can you explain how those roles broke down?
KH: For the first book, I did it all I did the transmedia and the writing and the scheduling and all of it. The second season, Dana Shaw (who is now working on Personal Space) came on and helped me write & plan, but I think I still did all the scheduling. For the third season, Dana and I handled the major characters (Alice, Andrew, etc.) and Kate Welsh came on to tackle some of Brodribb's narrative and probably something else. For a while, Kate and I were doing the bulk of the "flavor" stuff, but as the season went on we had a team of helpers working on the off-screen characters. For those, I just gave an outline without spoilers & said: ok go!
BC: Did you get a lot of fan engagement with the transmedia?
KH: Anything with Alice & Andrew would go bananas, so their podcast was a big one (and the dumb photos they took). Cara would get a lot of "yeah girl!" kind of stuff, but I think it was Alice who had the most relatable accounts. Which makes sense, she's our protagonist. Twitter was always our big hub (beyond YouTube). I also staked out the YT channel & replied to pretty much every comment, but as the show got bigger it become harder & harder to keep up. Twitter too I noticed I wasn't able to do a ton beyond the scheduled tweets in S3, partially because of the narrative's turn, partially because I'm one person & I had a pretty serious relationship at the time.
BC: What was your favorite transmedia project for the show, and why?
KH: I thought Alice's Tumblr was often under appreciated. I wished more people had interacted with her there because I could really write more and give more detail that way. I also really loved the diaries because they came at a time when I think it really served the story to give the audience a look into everyone's head that they wouldn't get via the videos.
BC: Were there any ideas you had for transmedia that didn't come to fruition? Any that you wished you could have done but didn't get to?
KH: I don't think so! I may just not remember, but I think we did a pretty good job covering everything I maybe would've loved to do a cooking show with Cara because we established that she's a garbage cook and that makes me laugh.
BC: From a creator perspective was it worth it?
KH: Oh sure! I think people got something out of it and it was a creative experiment for me too really getting into that many heads at once was ... something else. It exercised my braiiiiin.
BC: Would you consider doing transmedia, even to a lesser extent, for your future projects?
KH: Only if it serves the story. I haven't really felt anything I'm working on requires transmedia right now, but I'm not against it.
BC: Any advice to other web series creators who are thinking of doing transmedia as a part of their storytelling?
KH: Plan! Plan, plan. Plan. And then get ready to throw out your plans.
February 16, 2017