Busy boys Miles Beckett and Greg Goodfried, the brains behind EQAL and the online web phenomenon lonelygirl15, have been blowing up lately. Having recently launched a community-sourced web series LG15: The Show Is Yours, creators of the LG15 Universe have announced a license agreement with a Polish media company for a new story in the LG15 canon: n1ckola—all this on the heels of another announcement for a multi-platform mystery web series in partnership with CBS Interactive Harper’s Globe, which will complement Jon Turtletaub’s new prime time television series Harper’s Island premiering on CBS in April.
Harper’s Globe will be launched on March 18 in anticipation of Harper’s Island with original web episodes that will support the on-air storyline with overlapping characters, locations, and plots. Beckett and Goodfried, who created hit online shows lonelygirl15, KateModern, and LG15: The Resistance were tapped by CBS in May 2008 to conceptualize, develop, and produce social shows related to CBS’ television series, and act as a consulting partner to CBS Interactvie and provide the network with a first look at new multi-platform show concepts.
“Harper’s Island sounded really cool to us from a creative standpoint, Beckett told us. “We thought that the mystery elements would go really well with an internet audience and the concept really fit our sensibilities—the show has a lot of lonelygirl elements from a narrative standpoint.”
“Jon [Turtletaub] and some of the other producers on the show came from doing Jericho and they saw with Jericho the power of an internet audience” added Goodfried, ” and they certainly wanted this time going forth to start from scratch making sure they were catering to that audience and getting them the right content.”
“Harper’s Island [see trailer above] is a really unique show, so I was thrilled when the network and the studio decided to break new ground and exploit all platforms of the show from the start,” said Turtletaub. “Putting CBS Interactive together with EQAL gives the show an innovative and entertaining online presence a full three weeks before they launch the on-air program. The multi-platform, interactive elements at Harpers Globe expand the whole experience of our show, which I feel is beyond necessary in the world of such rapidly changing media. We have to make our show an internet event, as well as a broadcast TV event.”
When EQAL came on board to develop Harper’s Globe, Harper’s Island was only a pilot script and a short presentation, according to Beckett. “In our very early meetings, they planned their series around what we were going to do with the web series—certain things that happen in the TV show and that happen in the web series are the result of our creative conversations together.”
Harper’s Island marks the first multi-platform series—unlike Heroes or The Office “webisodes”—for which both platforms are being developed in conjunction. Goodfried told us, “the one fundamental difference between this and what I think other people have done in the past is that in the past there would be shows where they would write all the TV episodes and shoot all the TV episodes with one team and then another team went and did a web series that kind of played into it and catered towards it. Here we have the opportunity from day one when they were breaking the story and we are able to be a part of that process. So while they were focused on writing a fantastic TV show they were also able to add certain hooks to the television show that would make the web series more integrated and more relevant.”
The star of the web series, Melanie Merkosky, who played Jennie on lonelygirl15, will also be featured in some of the episodes on-air, and there will be quite a bit of character crossover from TV to the web and vice versa. EQAL will be using other web talents in the show’s production, including company producer Matt Seigel and 2009: A True Story director Tony Valenzuela. “We really believe there are different talents at work for the production of web series. We want people that have experience doing that and that we think are really good at this medium,” Beckett said.
The show will have many of the same visual and narrative elements of LG15: The Resistance—primarily a hand-held ‘Cloverfield’ style first person camera technique with interactive elements that shape the story. “How to use interactivity in a way that doesn’t destroy story has been the hardest part on this journey of lonelygirl and KateModern,” said Beckett. “With all of the shows we have done there is always that tension between having lots and lots of participation but not destroying the foreshadowing and types of setup and dramatic tension you need for good narrative.”
Now Polish-based producers Agora and A2 Multimedia have signed on to produce a new series in the LG15 Universe, n1ckola, with sponsors Microsoft, Hasbro, Polkomtel and Samsung. Over 100 episodes will be produced and released in Europe, expanding the lonelygirl15 franchise’s global reach. Episodes air beginning January 26.
“I think we haven’t even begun to scratch the surface, and on the technology side of things we are years behind things Greg and I have discussed and pictured,” said Beckett. “We now have the building block and that infrastructure in EQAL to begin accomplishing those dreams. We have a couple of original shows we’ve developed that are TV plus internet plus mobile and it’s all combined together from the get go. I’m really excited about that seamless interplay where you can have a show that is this amazing TV show and you can just watch the show if that’s what you wanted to do but that TV show is also piped directly to a website and videos from that website maybe even end up in the TV show because you have a rapid production cycle and it’s tied into an iPhone application and an RSS feed. And up until now nobody has been doing this because there weren’t companies that were able to manage all that and for EQAL that is the company that we are building and that is what we want to create.”
“TV is still an enormous place and I think the real home run here for Harper’s Globe would be audiences watching the TV show and loving it and then taking it to the next level online—we’re not trying to do something that replaces television, we’re trying to make something that makes the television experience even better.”