Social media consultant and all around savvy-web gal Jennifer Van Grove is already well known in the San Diego blogosphere, and now a fictionalized version of her fast-paced life on the bleeding edge of all things tech is coming your way: Jenn2.0 is currently in production. For those who vlog, blog, tumble, and tweet, Jenn2.0 is the show for you. For those who don’t, this web series might help you get a clue. Tubefilter caught up with Jennifer Van Grove, the show’s inspiration, and Rob Lewis, the show’s creator, about the blurring lines between privacy and branding, social networking, and ‘info-tainment.’
Tubefilter: How did the show Jenn2.0 come to be?
Jennifer Van Grove: The idea for the show definitely wasn’t my own. Rob called me in the middle of a work day and said that he wanted to create a reality-based web series focused on me and my lifestyle. At first I was pretty skeptical and speechless, but as the conversation continued I thought it could be a really fun project to pursue. Of course in the months that followed the show changed from a reality show to a totally fictional show based on my real life, but it’s definitely been a fun and interesting process.
Tubefilter: What was your inspiration to approach Jennifer Van Grove about Jenn2.0?
Rob Lewis: I was in the research and development process for an online video site when a partner backed out. I decided to continue to immerse myself in San Diego’s local tech community and see who the players were. This led to a new Twitter account and a whole new social network with Jenn in the center. As a writer I enjoy the discovery of unique people and situations, and thinking about how I might tell their story. So, Jenn immediately hit my radar. She is the founder of the SDTweetUp, a social meet-up for Twitter users, and maintains a tireless online presence—building her network and her brand. Jenn represents a new demographic of young, tech savvy professionals living on the edge of the new social media trend and experiencing its every heartbeat. She has a colorful circle of real world friends and after stumbling into her world I was compelled to tell her story.
Tubefilter: What’s it like working on a project that is (loosely) based on you? How much control do you have about what goes in and what stays private?
JVG: It is incredibly strange at times, but a huge adrenaline rush at other times. The character of Jenn is definitely me. She lives a very mobile lifestyle, puts herself out there in new ways, and struggles to find a balance between her real life and online persona. During the pilot creation process, I sat down with Darren Elwood (the writer) and Rob and shared a lot of personal things about my life, including my love life (which seems a little odd in retrospect). We’ve talked about the challenges I face on a daily basis, the types of people who I spend time with online and off, and the personal goals I have. I do have some control over what makes it to the script. Really I’ve been focusing on how to keep the show true to the character’s life. I’d really be disappointed if the finally product wasn’t a very real representation of a real person, and I think the producers feel the same way I do. The guys are pretty flexible and if I feel uncomfortable about including something they’re always willing to listen.
Tubefilter: Tell us a little about what the process was like going from an idea for a reality show to a scripted show.
RL: The reality show logistics were just never right. Jenn is a young professional struggling to build a career and is always eager to work on video. But, her interactions with her social network and her business contacts are critical to her career. So, when we started to discuss ways in which we might integrate a camera crew into the events of her daily life, three things became clear. First, we would not be getting real, unencumbered emotional exchanges, second, the spontaneous nature of many events meant that scheduling a camera presence would be extremely difficult, and third, sometimes our lives are just boring. We considered injecting actors and our own fictional events into Jenn’s real life in order to keep the feel of a reality show. But the negative impact on Jenn’s career of any potential misunderstandings, and the unnatural presence of a camera crew at important events still just didn’t make sense. So we went completely fictional. The character ‘Jenn’ is a lot like Jenn, but now we have the freedom to take her life in different directions and see what happens. We can also alter her actions and her interests in order to maintain a broader appeal.
Tubefilter: You are a ‘social media consultant.’ What does that entail? How did you get into that field?
JVG: Essentially, I help businesses with their online community building strategies and techniques. I work with my clients to help them use social media for the purpose of connecting with their customer community online. My professional background is in online community management, so it felt like a natural progression for me to transition into an independent consulting gig. I’m an analytical person by nature, so I really wanted to find a way to connect my community building skills with my creative and strategic abilities.
Tubefilter: What kind of story lines can we expect in Jenn2.0?
JVG: Jenn is a really positive and optimistic gal, but that sometimes leaves her vulnerable to people who want to use her social connectedness for their own benefit. Jenn also has a lot of responsibilities, and she’s always going to find herself in a time crunch—whether it be choosing her professional obligations over her boyfriend or friends and family, or pushing herself beyond her limits. It’s safe to say that she’s going to struggle with time, her online identity (how much to share and how much to keep private), the pursuit of love and the online repercussions of dating someone in the same sphere, and an arch nemesis that has less than friendly motives.
Tubefilter: What are your plans for the show?
RL: We are taking our time and producing a very high quality pilot episode. Our director, Cody Long, is shooting in HD format and working hard to maintain a cinematic element that I feel is often lost on quick-turn webisodes. We are stopping short of committing to an entire season until we can prove that we have an intriguing story that will retain viewers and perform well as a vehicle for networks and brand sponsorship. Until then we’re not pitching anyone. We’re targeting a weekly format, released on a schedule in order to allow us to write in rapidly occurring trends.
Tubefilter: Where can we watch the show?
RL: Our pilot will be available in December on the major UGC distribution networks such as You Tube, Veoh, MetaCafe and in HD where possible on sites such as Vimeo. If the series is picked up by a network, they’ll of course decide distribution. If we obtain direct sponsorship, we expect to work with content distribution services like TubeMogul to continue to make the show widely available. Jenn2.0 is a drama with elements of comedy that happen around the characters. But most importantly it’s, as our writer Darren Elwood refers to it, “info-tainment.” We are going after the latest trends in online technology, specifically social media, and exploring what happens when you integrate them into your life. Live, learn, and laugh. It’s a good model.
The show, produced by Josh Allard, is currently in production and you can watch every step of the process at: www.makingjenn20.com