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Novel Idea

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, December 19, 2012

From the first moment you arrive at the Lizzie Bennet website, you know you aren't just there to watch a typical Web series. The website states:

"Welcome to the home of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries an online modernized adaptation of
Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice.

Developed by Hank Green and Bernie Su

You have two choices.

1. Enter the world of Lizzie Bennet by going to her

Tumblr or YouTube

2. Stay on this site and find out more about the show and/or catch up on the story so far.

Catch up on the story from the beginning"


It’s not often that classic literature is adapted into a Web series (or anything in digital for that matter). But that’s exactly what Bernie Su and Hank Green set out to do with their innovative video blog based on Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. It has been blowing up on YouTube, with more than 2 million views in its first six weeks, and has received numerous press articles, developing a large and loyal online audience. It was also one of the biggest hits at Vidcon this year, where actress Ashley Clements was recognized as one of YouTube’s hottest rising stars.


The Web series stays true to the Jane Austen novel’s main characters and to the story as a whole, but it does lean into the world of digital, and while the "foundational” narrative strain is exposed through episodic video, there is a proscenium of story dispersed to Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and other social platforms. This approach, while not entirely new, does set a new standard in terms of execution. Creators Bernie Su and Hank Green are doggedly determined to tell a great story, and leveraging digital platforms is a tremendous asset in extending the backstory, side-story, and another other ancillary stories that surround the world of Lizzie Bennet.


Su says of his new media endeavor, "Why digital? I guess because of the accessibility. Everyone talks about connectivity to your audience. That may be a canned answer but it’s true ... I like to tell stories. I didn’t come here to say it needs to be television, or it needs to be a film ... that doesn’t matter to me. I like to tell a good story, regardless of platform, but we connect to our audience pretty regularly on Facebook, Twitter, because we can. In this current marketplace it’s very freeing. I don’t have the interest to go onto a TV writing staff, not to say because I don’t want the money, but because the creative freedom here [in digital] is awesome.”

The effect of this freedom is pretty obvious. Lizzie’s YouTube channel boasts more than 93,000 subscribers and more than 7 million views. Her Facebook has more than 15,000 likes, Lizzie’s Tumblr has 17,805 followers and on Twitter, @theLizzieBennet has 15,000 followers. In total, they have more than 7.4 million views and get about 1.4 million views a month - without a single media buy to drive traffic. And on top of that, this Web series is actually paying its talent — not a fortune, but at least their model is sustainable and helping the cast and crew to make a living instead of hoping that sweat equity will pay off with a roll of the dice and a lot of production hours.



Point of View

Social media distribution is nothing new for content in the digital space, but smart storytelling that leverages these digital platforms is, as Su says, "smart.”


"The world is our stage and social media allows us to reach our audience. Pinterest was a big part of one of our campaigns. When we had two characters following each on Twitter, that was a big deal in our universe. I’m not going to say it’s the future. I will say that it’s different. It’s new. It excites the audience and it excites us.”


That excitement has translated into a core storyline that is exposed through the ongoing video blog. Each segment is short, just like a video blog would be in real life. Then the Lizzie team complements that content through various social methods, allowing the audience to see the story from multiple perspectives.


"I have this thing where I like to see points of view. In shows like 24, you are limited by what the editor shows you. For us, the audience can choose who they want to follow.”


This multi-perspective approach has its challenges, though. The writing team is constantly considering what is too "meta,” and what rules apply. Lines of where the "world” of Lizzie Bennet ends can quickly become unclear, and the staff must push the limits while still maintaining character and story integrity. Lucky for them, they have Jane Austen’s story as a template to work with all along the way.


Kate Rorick, one of the staff writers, is very familiar with complex storylines. Having served as a staff writer for Law & Order: Criminal Intent and as a story editor for Terra Nova, she knows how to manage story points and where to break certain moments. She also draws from her background as a romance novelist (under the pseudonym Kate Noble).


"To tell this story that has so many universal themes in modern day, you absolutely have to tell it using social media and transmedia to properly make these characters come alive. And that’s not something that traditional TV is currently set up to do as well as they could.”


When it comes to sustaining disbelief using all these "transmedia” toolsets, there is a constant conversation with the writers. It is part of the DNA of the show, because in their version of Pride and Prejudice, Lizzie is creating a video blog as part of the storyline. Everyone knows that she has follows and posts in the social space all the time. They are very aware that the fourth wall is entirely broken, and when they are breaking story, they are thinking a great deal about how they can leverage various tools for exposition. Rorick suggests, "We can break that beat with a ‘tweet,’ and we can post something on Tumblr that can set something into motion.”


Su explains, "When we are writing, almost every prop has to be considered as a potential transmedia piece.”


In one story, Lydia, Lizzie’s sister, posts a resumé online. Su has the prop department create a physical resumé as a prop. Lydia the character has social media at her disposal, and if she wanted to, could, for example, post it on LinkedIn.


"It’s a really silly resumé,” Su says, "but these are the things we consider.”


It has to be right for the characters though. The small, close-knit team carefully considers the ramifications of posts and tweets within the boundaries of the world of Lizzie Bennet and do not take leveraging social media lightly. If something doesn’t feel right or isn’t something a character would do, perhaps because it is too private to share, they keep it so.


Su cautions, "It’s a balance you have to find between being cool and posting something, and whether or not you should.”


A Little Too Meta

So is there the possibility that LBD could go too far down a digital path? The producers believe that there are several considerations that keep a balance with their experience. One big one is resources. Because they can’t make a Facebook page for every character, nor tweet every storyline beat, resources and budget become a natural limiter. When the story can expanse the entire Internet with many different social platforms, the curation of story material becomes a concern. It takes people and time to do it. They stick to the essentials and perhaps a "nice to have” once in a while. But otherwise, it’s all about driving core story.


Su notes, "When we launched, Pinterest hadn’t even hit its stride and leveraging it became kind of like an afterthought. Then it became the hot thing so we absolutely included Pinterest. But at the same time, one of the characters is a fan of Spotify, and we don’t have that. If we spend time to create these destinations, the fans would love it, but it comes down to "can” and "should.” I don’t know if an ancillary character’s list on Spotlify gives you anything. The Pinterest campaign, that gave us a ton. It is whether the return is worth the resources.”


When it comes to returns on investment, Hank Green believes in the quality and quality of fans. "We give the fans an opportunity to go deeper. Not all of them will, but the ones that do will become higher quality fans, people who are more invested in what you are doing, and that has value just beyond your two eyeball impressions. It has value in terms of merchandise, it has value in activating those people for various things like a new Kickstarter effort, and that won’t go well if we don’t have high-level, evangelistic fans of the show. If they become fans of the characters, then they become fans of the actors and of the creators and the writers and that gets deeper than a one-show experience. It becomes an investment.”


Su agrees and suggests, "We all want to make the show the best that it can be, but there is a life beyond the show. Investing in fans, keeps them involved.”


It’s paying off for them. They continue to see new fans come in droves. And many brand-new viewers (the series has been live since April) are binge viewing, watching two or three hours of content in one sitting.


Su says, "Episode one is about 50 videos ago, and it still plays as well as it ever did. In fact, it’s stronger now because there’s so much content that follows it ... Our daily view counts are where there were at the start, and growing.”


Su and Green want the show to be watched a year from now, five years from now. All the humor and all the heart of their show should come from their writing and characters, not current pop culture references. Instead of riding the wave of what’s trending, they want to set a trend by making content as good as they can.


Ashley Clements (who plays Lizzie) suggests, "The show is built that way and not only do we hear from viewers how they started and watched all the episodes from beginning to end, but now want to binge view when they re-watch all the episodes.”


Transmedia, Not Required

Su has a very strong opinion about transmedia, one he isn’t shy about explaining, "My view is that transmedia enhances but is not required.” He explains that should a social platform disappear, fall out of favor or be replaced by something else, his content would remain intact with the exception of a few pieces of ancillary content — all of which he indicates are archived as best possible on the main website.


Su continues, "A lot of my colleagues disagree with this. If you watch the episodes and never follow Lizzie on Twitter or on Pinterest and all that stuff, you will still get it all. You will have a great viewing experience, you can lean back, let the playlist run for 31/2 hours, and you will have a good time. Those that want to dive in can consume the ancillary content and it will help make the characters feel alive, but it is not required.”


Green and Su know that the major investment is in the episodes themselves. There, they are guaranteed a strong return on investment and aren’t shackled to emerging platforms that could disappear in the blink of an eye. And this, it would seem, is the thread running through their secret sauce: evident and consistent quality of story.


It sounds so simple, but with technology always beckoning producers to focus on the tech, the latest gadget, the most current platform, story can sometimes get lost. The producers of The Lizzie Bennet Diaries keep that in mind at every turn. For their fans, it’s working. The quality, the immediacy, and the interaction — all of it is paying off, not just for the show, but also for the entire production crew and cast who aspire for careers beyond Lizzie Bennet and have hopes that this show is their springboard. As Clements notes, "It’s incredibly rewarding to have this immediate interaction with fans. Because the show drives them to Twitter and drives them to Tumblr. As of this morning, I had more than 5,600 Twitter followers, and when the show started I had zero. Those are all fans, and those are hopefully fans who will follow me for the rest of my career.”


"It’s exciting to be part of an adaptation of a novel that I love,” says Rorick. "I’m just as eager as our die-hard fans to see how things are being adapted to the digital world. We are not just doing a modern version of Pride and Prejudice; we are doing a Web version of it that is very conscious that it is on the Web. It’s a little meta that the show is part of "the show.” The discovery of the vlog [video log] by other characters within the story is an event that is unique to our version of the story.”


Michael Wayne, CEO of DECA, who is partnering with The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, shares his enthusiasm for how well things are going, but makes it clear that he is in this for the long haul with the show creators. "Our relationship isn’t just with Lizzie Bennet,” says Wayne, "It’s a long-term deal. We got together with Bernie and Hank to build a long-term business here. Hollywood, in general, has always been about having the biggest possible business, from the audience to the actor to the producer ... I think it’s a hard thing for people that grew up with just movies and television to understand that this platform, this content and producer and writers and actors, are the exact opposite. The premium [experience] is in the connectedness and the one-on-one relationship. The Internet and YouTube have completely disrupted that entire way of producing and making content and storytelling.”


Su sits comfortably in his chair and looks at the crew in the room and pauses for a beat. "I like trailblazing, and I like doing things that people don’t normally do.”



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Guild and Grapes 2012 Recap

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, December 19, 2012

by Brandon Grande

On Friday, October 19th PGA Northwest, hosted their 4th annual "Guild and Grapes" event, in the heart of San Francisco. The day kicked off with a delicious luncheon on the patio of Sen’s Restaurant over looking the Bay, which was followed by an incredible exclusive behind the scenes tour and decadent dessert reception at Pixar.

Guests continued the adventure up to the renowned Napa Valley traveling in eco friendly style thanks to Bauer Transportation. Silverado Resort and Spa provided the weekend accommodations and Friday night’s reception and dinner at Raymond Vineyards was nothing short of spectacular. The fun continued Saturday with private tastings and custom tours from Keever Family Vineyards, Trinchero Napa Valley, Charles Krug, and Niebaum Coppolla. Along the tour TurnkeyHD provided a tasty picnic lunch while showing off their bio diesel production sprinters.

The weekend was a complete success and it would not have been possible without the generous donations of our sponsors Advanced Systems Group, DTC, Beyond Pix and The San Mateo/Silicon Valley Film Commission.

Everyone had a fantastic time while making new friends and connections reminding us of why Guild and Grapes is such a special event.

See also: Guild and Grapes preview and video


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Going Green

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, December 19, 2012

PGA Green: Do you consider it part of our responsibility as producers — with our access and reach — to take the lead with being green? Lesley Chilcott: Ours is an inherently wasteful industry. We create temporary worlds and we tear them down, so the trick is to try and minimize your footprint in any way possible. I do think that part of your responsibility as a producer is to give back or mentor. That can be volunteering at a non-profit, or sometimes it’s just easier to do little green things every day.

Tell us about your non-profit started it in 2008 to encourage people to convert your regular, now old, incandescent light bulbs to LEDs. Unscrew your regular light bulbs and screw in more energy-efficient ones. The site is also to educate that CFLs are a stop-gap measure until more great LED lighting is available. If you must use CFLs, then use the low-mercury options (two micro-grams of mercury or less). We provide links to both CFLs and LEDs that we like in the light review section. I bought 50 different light bulbs and tested them and found about 18 to 20 that I liked and that had a nice quality of light.

Do you use a carbon offset calculator on your productions? Yes, I use one from Native Energy. When we calculate certain things in our industry, we don’t often calculate all the pollution and waste we create. More so than other industries, we have the opportunity to reinvent ourselves every time with every new job. How are we going to do this and be mindful of the environment? Say we learn that people from different departments didn’t mind carpooling to the set or location — it saves us money and it’s less waste.

If there’s not a reduction in emissions, then are carbon offsets really a solution?If you’re just buying carbon offsets at the end of a job — then you’re not really doing anything. But if you’re doing everything you can to reduce your carbon footprint, and you buy carbon offsets at the end of the job, then that is effective because you’re thinking about ways to reduce as you go. I advocate the idea of having an Eco-Captain on every job. It can even be a P.A./Eco-Captain. One of the biggest successes I’ve had is to ask my crew on the first day of shooting, "What could we do differently? What can we give you to help you to use less waste?” And the Eco-Captain gives me a report at the end of the job.

Tell us a little bit about An Inconvenient Truth and carbon offsets.An Inconvenient Truth was the first movie to put carbon offsets in its end credits. What you want from your carbon offset company is a company who can prove that their donation actually made an offset project happen, as opposed to it was happening anyway and they gave it a little bit of money. It’s an eco project that would not have happened without the funding from carbon offsets. In the industry it’s known as "additionality.”

What’s the journey been like with An Inconvenient Truth?Laurie David, Lawrence Bender, Scott Burns, Davis Guggenheim and I had this project. Starring: Al Gore ... Subject: global warming ... Format: slide show. (laughs) No one, least of all us, expected this to turn into an Academy Award– winning movie, a screening at Cannes, standing ovations at Sundance. Now, six years later, the movie is required viewing in several countries—in junior high and some high school curricula. Other countries have always been ahead of us on reducing their carbon footprint and realizing their connection to the environment. They have instituted concrete steps to lower their impact.

Has there been a shift in awareness?When we came out with the movie in 2006, magazines were doing their first "green” issues and the timing was very good. There were new reports from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and multiple articles from The New York Times and people were more vocal about it. Environmentalists had been working on this for years, but in May of 2006, this sort of all came to a head. All of the polls indicated that awareness increased drastically. Now six years later, there’s definitely been a huge slip. What remains positive now is that most large companies have sustainability officers and people have realized it’s good for the earth and good for their bottom line to put green practices into their business plan. The cat’s out of the bag and can’t be put back in ... but there’s still a lot of work to do.

Do you see producers — especially those concerned about the environment — as pushing boundaries? I do. I am a person who finds producing very gratifying. I think that with all of the entrenched interests and historical ways of doing things, you do have to push boundaries in production and come up with less wasteful ways. One of the biggest conflicts right now is that all of the projects, no matter the medium, happen so last-minute. When things happen last-minute, you tend to skip the eco-step because you don’t have time; you’re busy just trying to pull off the job. If you have your standby things that you always do on a project no matter what, then continue to do those things — but take a few seconds during the job to ask what else you can do.

Is it personal accountability that ultimately makes the difference?It is — it’s definitely personal accountability, but I don’t think you should do it in a vacuum. You know if you have your Eco- Captain or you have a couple of other people who are just as concerned as you are, then four heads are going to come up with a better way than one.

Tell us about your work in documentaries — what inspires you?I think that when you have a chance to tell a story or someone’s story and you’re able to show a type of truth — a side of them that people didn’t know — or even an experience — there’s something so gratifying in doing that. Once you get to show somebody’s truth that maybe people didn’t know about—that in a way is the ultimate story.

What would be your ultimate green story?I would like it so that phrases like "greening your production” no longer exist. Ultimately, PGA Green and other initiatives disappear because being eco-minded is inherent in all of the decisions that we make. The Eco-Captain would be obsolete in 10 years because all of these things would be designed into what we’re doing ... not only because it’s good for the environment, it’s good for the budget too.

Thanks, Lesley!

Thank you! Please keep up the good work!


Lesley Chilcott’s 3 Easy Green Tips

If you are not already, try using a file-sharing program like Dropbox. If everyone has access to the same files for a particular job, it cuts down on printing needs, especially color printing, as all the files are accessible to everyone who needs them.

Elect someone on your crew to serve as the Eco-Captain; on longer jobs, you can rotate this role to different team members. Get feedback from your crew on what can be done.

Eat/serve less meat in catering and craft services. I’m not saying to eliminate it, just replace some of the meat options with healthier non-meat ones. This cuts down on food waste, food miles, and environmental impact.


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PGA Poker Tournament 2012

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, December 19, 2012

by Chris Debiec

On October 7, 2012, the PGA held its 5thannual No-Limit Texas Hold 'em Poker Tournament at Hollywood Park Casino in Los Angeles. The turnout was exceptional. We had more then 100 members and guests attend the event and over 70 players participate in the tournament itself. The competition was hot and heavy, but in the end, only 10 players were "in the money." The top three money winners were Gordon Bressack ($950), Aye Jaye ($1,470), and in a stunning reversal of fortune, Dan Kuba came from behind to win first place for a total of $2,780!


We could never pull off an event like this without our paid sponsorships. For the second year in a row, SafeCig, a great alternative to quit smoking, was a platinum sponsor, along with Andromeda Studios, the best little soundstage in LA. The silver sponsors were VER (Video Equipment Rental) in Glendale and Chainsaw Post in Hollywood. And we'd like to acknowledge Media Distributors and Culver Studios as our bronze sponsors.


In addition to the paid sponsors, we would like to thank Hollywood Park Casino for hosting the tournament, GDC Technology for the awesomely huge gift bags, and the comedic genius of our MC, "New Jersey's Bad Boy", Mike Marino.


Our catering was provided by Doughboys. Thanks to them for the delicious sandwiches, salads, and of course, those incredibly delicious red velvet cakes that I could not put down to save my life.


Without the help and continued dedication of sponsors like these, guild events like this could not happen.


The PGA events committee has some of the most dedicated members in the organization. We would like to recognize those who helped us put this event together.


Thanks to Vicente Williams and Leonard Koss, who joined me in chairing the event. Much appreciation to our illustrious volunteers: Briana Aeby, Karyn Benkendorfer, Mandy Carranza, Deen Dioria, Rikki Hughes, Joseph Morabito, Todd Serlin, and Rose Testa. And a big thank you to Michael Q. Martin for coming out and photographing the event for us!

The PGA would like to congratulate the winners on their valiant efforts. We look forward to seeing all of you next year at the 6th Annual PGA Poker tournament!





Left to Right: Leonard Koss, Gordon Bressack, Aye Jaye, Dan Kuba, Chris Debiec, and Vicente Williams

The final 9 players bask in their glory with the event organizers

Shuffle up and Deal.... the tournament begins.

The stakes are high as the players size up their opponents.

The SafeCig girls are always a favorite of the players.

The final 9 players received a personalized PGA chip case and goodie bag filled with the best the PGA has to offer.

The luckiest man in the world (Chris Debiec) poses with the beautiful Dealer Dolls and SafeCig girls.

Our MC for the day "News Jersey's Bad Boy" Mike Marino and event chair Chris Debiec ham it up for the camera.

Our wonderful host, the Hollywood Park Casino.

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Guild and Grapes 2012

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, December 19, 2012

October 19th through October 21st.

This Year: Napa!

PGA Northwest proudly hosts the 4th edition of its signature event. Engage in a unique, personalized look at San Francisco’s diverse and dynamic production community, enjoy special networking opportunities, and then partake in exclusive activities specially designed for you and your guest amidst the beauty of world-renowned Napa Valley.

Ask anyone who’s already experienced our premier event and you’ll only hear accolades. This year will be no different with our VIP networking luncheon in the heart of San Francisco, to our exclusive tour of Pixar and then off to the Silverado Resort and our very special custom designed weekend in Napa Valley.

This celebration of the Bay Area's charms and production community attracts Guild members and leadership from Los Angeles and New York. It is giving producers the chance to connect across regions where production takes place, hopefully generating new business, and long lasting relationships. Watch 2011’s schmooze-and-food fest enjoyed by all here!

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