Sunday, January 18, 2015

An Interview With the Creators of Green Gables Fables

Hello, dear readers.

As some of you may have noticed, there is a new sort of classic literature adapting that, starting a couple years ago, started sweeping the world-- well, the YouTube world.  Literary vlogging.  Sort of.  In any case, a book being adapted to be told in the form of short (about 3-8 minutes) videos put on the internet.  Most of these series are kind of interactive-- all the characters have social media accounts and fans can keep up with what they're doing in-between videos and sometimes actually 'talk to them' and get replies.  (I know all about doing that.  It's fun. :D)

Most people trace it all back to The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, which 'aired' (or whatever the Internet equivalent would be) in 2012-2013.  That company, Pemberley Digital, followed it up with Welcome to Sanditon, Emma Approved, and then-- going out on something of a limb after all the Jane Austen-- Frankenstein, MD.  But although their other shows (especially EA) were widely popular, Pemberley Digital was suddenly not alone in the production of that particular genre.  Other entrepreneurs all over started latching onto the idea of updating classic literature and giving the story to the viewers in another format-- a more personal one.

I scoffed at the idea at first.  I don't like it when people update Jane Austen, or really any good classic lit novel.  It just can't be done without turning out horridly.  Buuuut I began to change my tune a little and now I think the realm of web series is rather fascinating (although there are plenty of series that I don't condone or patronize).  All that to say this-- more recently I became interested in some of the slightly smaller web series, the ones actually put out by a group of 'ordinary' people, but that were still making an impact on the internet.  One of them is Green Gables Fables, a modern adaptation of Anne of Green Gables.

Along with this interest came a desire to know more about the people who put it all together, and I started talking to them a little on Twitter, where I found out that the three girls who run the show all live in different states.  (Well, one of them lives in Canada.)  I kind of perked up at that because of all the long-distance, met-over-the-internet relationships in my life (that I certainly wouldn't have foreseen five years ago).  Soooo short story long, I asked if they might honor me by answering some questions on my blog, and they kindly agreed.

And now without further ado (wow that phrase is overused...) let's meet the primary crew for Green Gables Fables.  First of all, I've asked them all to tell a little bit about themselves and their part in the show.

Marie Trotter
I’m a well-organized but slightly crazy theatre person and web series producer. I currently study English and Drama and am hoping to work in film or theatre direction in the future! As the producer, I run the show from a business and management standpoint. I cast and hire actors, create schedules and outlines, coordinate filming, supervise costuming, and people-manage: this part is especially fun because everyone on our team lives in a different city! 
Producer is my main job, but I’m also the transmedia director, and I occasionally write episodes. I also avidly follow everything said on social media about our show, because I’m a huge GGF fan. I love our show more than Narcissus loves his own reflection.

Mandy Harmon 
Well, I play Gilbert, actually. 
Just joking. I play Anne, and I'm also director for Green Gables Fables. As for my life outside of Anne, I really love to read, learn, and watch television and cook Indian food (often at the same time).

Alicia Whitson
Hi! I’m Alicia Whitson and I’m the head writer of GGF which means I write scripts and occasionally have ideas about characters and how to modernize things. Sometimes the ideas are even kind of entertaining!  l love to read and write and I say I love stories in all forms so I can justify how many TV shows I watch. My obsessions change a lot, and there are far too many of them to list them all, but I really love super heroes. Those are great. Also girls with guns. I want to work in publishing after college or work with teenagers or go to grad school and become a professor (or do all three!)

And then I asked them some more stuff. ;)

How do you know the two other girls in the creative team?  Do you have any aspirations for meeting in person?  Feel free to elaborate. :)

Alicia: I met Mandy on a Goodreads forum for young writers five or six years ago. We became super close through a roleplay; our characters were madly in love but pretended they hated each other for months. (We’ve always been big fans of the love-hate relationship.) We’ve been great friends ever since! I met Marie through the show, she sent an email and asked if we needed any help and since then she has become a huge part of our team and another amazing friend. Mandy and I have been talking about meeting in person for ages (and it will happen someday!) and since the show has started we’ve all three wished we could meet up and do show-related things, but also just hang out and do all of the cool things friends who see each other in person get to do. Hopefully that will happen sometime in the near future.

Mandy: Like Alicia said, we met when I was 12 years old and, in a way, we grew up together discussing books, life, making our own characters, and being dramatic about the future. But none of us have met in person and I'm really looking forward to meeting both Alicia and Marie, our #1 fan and fantastic producer. This show wouldn't be what it is without any of them and I can't wait to physically smother them in hugs.

Marie: I met Mandy and Alicia because of this show. I saw something on tumblr about the web series, and, being a massive AoGG and web series fan, I looked it up. Immediately hooked, I sent them a lengthy, fangirling email on their website. I offered my help, and joined the team as Canadian consultant and transmedia director. And now- I’m producer! Crazy. None of us have ever met in person, but I definitely want to! I’d love to meet these amazing ladies and give them both a very well-deserved hug for all their hard work, and they’re also just super cool friends who I really want to hang out with.

What previous experience or knowledge do you have with your role in making this series (that is, producer/writer/actress), and how has it helped you?

Mandy: As lead actress, I've been inspired by the books by L.M. Montgomery's  (not just the Anne series), and I swooned with my aunt over Gilbert Blythe in the Sullivan series and both have built up what I do today with a modern twist. 

As a director, most of my previous experiences with this has been through a couple plays and some random leadership positions I've been in throughout my life. Although in all honesty, this is the first I've ever done something like this, and it's been an adventure all the way. 

Marie: I come from a theatre background, and I also ran a student newspaper for three years- so I feel that these combined skills have given me a pretty good basis for producing. I studied leadership and management for a time, which has been beneficial. 

Alicia: I’ve been writing “novels” since fifth grade- the first novel I finished and am actually still proud of was my sophomore year of high school. Since then I’ve written several other partially finished drafts, short stories, terrible poems, and another complete draft. I definitely think that all of the practice I’ve had writing prose has helped me with the writing I do for the show; I’ve gotten good at getting into characters’ heads (which is a little concerning at times when I’m writing things that are a bit more angsty than Green Gables Fables) and my dialogue has become more natural than some of the dialogue in earlier stories I wrote. Writing vlog-style scripts is definitely a different format and it’s been challenging at times, but I love it just as much as writing prose. Being able to collaborate with actors and other writers is a beautiful thing.

Tell us about your background with L.M. Montgomery.  How many of her books have you read?  Which is your favorite?  (Or if that’s too hard, top three. :) )  What about movie adaptations—are you a fan of the classic Kevin Sullivan productions, and if so, has it influenced you in any way?

Marie: I first read Anne of Green Gables in fifth grade, but before that, I grew up listening to the audiobook whenever I was sick with the stomach flu. Fun times. I’ve read all of the Anne books, but my favourites are definitely the first three. I really loved the Megan Follows/Jonathan Crombie miniseries, and I watch it at least once a year. I also adore the musical!

Alicia: I think I’ve read all of the Anne books… is it bad that I’m not sure? My second grade teacher had a giant bookshelf and me being the book-obsessed girl that I am, I read almost every book on the shelf, and she definitely had at least the first three books. I think Anne of the Island is actually my favorite, because when I can distinctly remember reading it when I was young and feeling so grown up because of all the talk of college and future plans. And the romance, of course. I love the Kevin Sullivan adaptations and my writing has definitely been influenced by that version of Anne, although I think we’ve managed to portray our own unique Anne as well. I also used to watch this cartoon series on PBS every Sunday morning. I’m sure if I went back and watched it I would find it ridiculous, but I was obsessed.

Mandy: I believe I've read all of them, but don't pop-quiz me because it's been ages. The first one was always my favorite when I was young, however, because I always wanted to get into silly shenanigans like Anne but I was a cowardly eight year old and the scariest thing I did was hide in the bathroom quietly and read until 4 in the morning. 
And I'm a HUGE fan of the Sullivan productions, even if the last ones deviated from the books (to say the least). I like to look at them separately. But both the books and show have influenced me greatly.

Question for Alicia-- how much do the actors and their own real-life quirks influence what you write?

I haven’t actually met any of our actors in person, so it’s hard to know what quirks they have in real life. I’m sure I’d be extremely surprised to find out what everyone is like when they aren’t in front of a camera because they all become their characters so well and that’s who I know them as. But I have started to find myself writing to the way they each play their characters. For example, I noticed that Eliza delivers sarcastic, deadpan lines really well so I started giving Jane more lines like that. 

Do you have all the scripts written, do you do one at a time with a deadline, or did you go more in spurts now and then? 

One at a time with a deadline is generally how scripts get written, but occasionally we’ll try to get ahead and Marie and I will write and edit several at once. 

Who had the idea for the show originally?  How did the pieces fall into place, and how long had you been planning before the first episode was broadcast?

I came up with the idea for the show. Mandy and I been discussing making some sort of web video project together for a long time, but it was always in vague terms. Summer of 2013, I was watching the miniseries and realized that Anne would make an awesome vlogger and I immediately texted Mandy freaking out. We had a lot of intense discussions about how it could work and we started buckling down and focusing our planning in October. So depending on your definition of planning, we’d been planning from anywhere between a year and three months.

Did you pretty much write the synopsis, or did you all work together on that? 

It has definitely been a group effort. To be honest, I feel like the basic synopsis was mapped out for us already by L.M. Montgomery because our adaptation of the first book was fairly straightforward. For the most part, we followed the book chapter by chapter, only cutting a few that weren’t necessary or didn’t translate well to the modern day and adding episodes when we needed more character development. 

Marie, what are some of the biggest challenges you face with long-distance producing? 

Communication is a huge challenge, because most of the people on our team live in a different time zone from me. Even scheduling an episode shoot is complicated by the fact that I have to rely on email or Facebook messaging to find out everyone’s schedule, find a suitable location, arrange transportation for those who need it, and coordinate costuming and props. The Internet is fantastic, of course, and I’m able to do the majority of the work I need to do via online communication- but I do feel limited. Scheduling meetings to discuss script or character is also difficult- because of the time zones and our school commitments. I recall a meeting where I was literally running on and offstage during a rehearsal to talk to the other GGF team members in a Google Hangout, on my phone. 

We’ve all heard the possibility of a season 2.  But what about another series?  Are there any other stories you might be interested in doing? 

Season 2 is definitely a possibility, and we’re in the midst of planning that right now. I know that we’d all like to finish telling Anne’s story, but we haven’t discussed many other adaptation choices after that. I think it’s something we’d be interested in. However, we’ll first need a suitable break after GGF is done to relax, regroup, and plan. And catch up on sleep. We’ve learned so much from making this show, and I think we’re well equipped to tackle another one- but we haven’t decided anything yet. I personally would be interested in adapting a play in the web series format- Shakespeare or another playwright. I haven’t thought about it too much, to be honest. 

Who manages the social media side of things, or do you all chip in?

I run all of the social media accounts, including the official GGF pages and the character accounts. I also have help from my transmedia assistant, Lucy, in some of the longer Twitter interactions and plot events. The actors help out by generously providing personal or staged photos for Twitter and Instagram. 

Mandy, as the main character, you’re the ‘face’ of this show.  Is that more exciting or daunting?

Both! I don’t think about it too much, in all honesty. Should I be?

You're right, it's probably better not to!  Now, what did you expect when you went into this?  Is your level of ‘fame’ now more or less than you’d anticipated?

 SO MUCH MORE. My face is watched by a small army! See, when Alicia and I first founded the project, we were doing it entirely for fun and because we wanted to create something we would like. I expected my parents would watch it...yeah, that was it. Thanks dad and mom for being there.

Tell us about your previous experience with acting—or just how your interest in playing a role like this began.

I have always enjoyed acting--even threw my own plays when I was younger in front of my extended family (yes, Jackie and the Chiliestalk was a thing)--but besides a few other plays, this is my first experience acting in front of a camera.

Okay, that's all I've got!  Thank you very much for the interview, girls. 

Interested in learning more about the show?  Check out their website: 

And of course, their YouTube channel: 


Aibhilin (Evelyn) said...

Oh My Melody! You are SO lucky to interview these people! :D Great Job!

Jess Dunlap said...

Awesome! That's brilliant! I love to hear about things coming together, this is particularly awesome because Alicia was met over the internet, that's totally way cool.
GGF is one of my favourite series so far. ♥


Naomi Bennet said...

Oh my goodness! You interviewed the Anne of Gables Fables people!

I love Anne of Green Gables; in fact, before I discovered about this series, I wrote a modern retelling of AoGG. It's a great story to retell. :-)

Anyways, thanks for doing this; I really loved reading all their answers. And it's SO cool they are long-distance-friends. Girls, we can relate. :-)

~ Naomi

Hayden said...

Wonderful interview! I loved reading it :D

Sara said...

Thank you for writing about this. I didn't know about this web series before. I am watching it now and so far it's adorable!

21 and Dashwood said...

Oh my goodness how have I just now found your blog?! I love it! Thank you for sharing this interview - so fun : )

Sarah Munson said...

This was such an interesting post! I was skeptical of vlog adaptations initially, too, and I had to watch a few episodes of the Lizzie Bennett Diaries before I could accept the idea. Now I enjoy several. I haven't watched the Anne series yet, though! It's definitely going on my to-watch list.
I love that the ladies working on it connected across states and even countries through the internet! I never expected to make friends online, but through different fan groups and blogs, I've connected with several. That's my favorite side of social media. :)
Anyway, thanks for sharing this fantastic post! I'm looking forward to reading more of your blog in the future!

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