I’ll admit it, I really love vlog-based shows. lonelygirl15, Ask a Ninja, and opinionated kids with web cams everywhere genuinely did kick-off the web-tainment revolution, and continue to push the envelope with easily accessible web tools.
Meet Me in the Graveyard is no exception. On first glance, you have a show primarily based with in the vlogging format familiar to lonelygirl fans and critics everywhere–an attractive young woman creating a video blog. A format that immediately sparks interest based on it’s familiarity, or perhaps the very nature of voyeurism that comes with surfing the web. I think I probably first fell in love with the girl plus diary format when watching Winona Ryder frantically keep notes about her serial killer boyfriend in Heathers.
Like Heathers the tone of Meet Me in the Graveyard is decidedly dark, albeit less comedic. Actress-producer Milly Sanders is our protagonist Viola vlogging and chatting from a mental institution when she stumbles upon Ace who is vlogging from a half way house. It’s glorious Gothic love at first site.
The show, which started on MySpace, built up a fan base on YouTube and has since found a home on TheWB.com brings enough cinema veritae clout to fool many a YouTube surfers to buy into the story as real. Saunders spoke to Tubefilter via e-mail to dish on the show’s creation and progress.
Tubefilter: How did the show idea come about?
MS: The summer I wrote Graveyard I was living in Georgia while my boyfriend was living in Los Angeles. We wanted to do a creative project while we were apart so we created two angsty teenagers (who lived at our respective addresses) and wrote love letters in character back and forth. And too, because of the distance, we did a lot of video chatting which made me realize the frustrations and the possibilities of seeing someone that you love solely on-camera.
Also, I’m very interested in the element of longing in love stories, which video chatting certainly (at least for me) created. So I came up with the idea of two off-kilter, lonely, and creative people writing love letters via the internet. I thought it would be perfect for a web series.
Tubefilter: How did you decide to explore such dark subject matter?
MS: The gothic nature of the piece comes from my deep interest in horror and fantasy. I love that fine line between sanity and insanity, and the supernatural and the real. And too, I love how darkness and sweetness can come together to create something startling. I love writers like Kelly Link, Edward Gorey and Shirley Jackson. I think the juxtaposition of positive elements such as hopefulness, naivety, and an unceasingly bright outlook on life with the sinister elements of suicide, ghosts, and unforgivable betrayal makes the piece more interesting and perhaps ever-the-more creepy.
Tubefilter: What has the audience response been like?
MS: People have really loved the series. We have a lot of devoted fans who we are very grateful to!
Tubefilter: Can you tell us if your on-screen love has really off’d himself?
MS: There is quite an on-set debate about this. Adam Saunders (Ace) is convinced that Ace is dead, however I contend that Ace lives and dines daily in his prison cafeteria. As the writer I feel like I should have ultimate say in the matter but my co-star claims the character I play (Viola) has skewed my outlook, and the writer-me no longer has a rational say in the matter. He’s known me a long time. He may be right.
Tubefilter: Did you do any kind of special research to prepare for the emotionally grueling role of the series?
MS: Much of the research I did in preparing for the role of Viola was re-imagining the world I’d written as the actress. As a writer you can say, “Why don’t I have Viola’s pregnant mother commit suicide while she’s in the womb? Her rich father neglects her? I’ll throw in a wacky abusive doctor? Oh, and some bully inmates to boot? And that’s all well and good. Writing (for me) happens in the mind, but acting means bringing the world into your heart and your body. As a writer you build a world for a variety of characters, but as an actress you take on one person’s perspective and re-build a world that’s far more personal–you have to believe that the events and character relationships are real.
For any role that takes a lot of time and emotional energy, but doing the imaginative work Viola was doubly challenging, partially because I wore so many hats on Meet Me in the Graveyard. Working to achieve a state of actor-amnesia where Viola’s thoughts were the only thing on my mind meant forgetting what I knew as a writer and the conflicts that constantly arise as producer, and remaining focused on the world of Viola?s emotions and perspective. It was definitely challenging, but I learned a lot.
Adam Saunders: Well, the short answer is, sure. Any time I’m preparing for a role I’ll spend a ton of time imaginatively feeling out, learning, and living in the backstory of that person’s life. In Ace’s case in particular, there was a fair amount of emotional backstory. What was his life like as an alcoholic, what was it like with Mrs. Powell, what were the nights like alone in that halfway house — and most importantly — what was it like experiencing what he had done to that family. All of that was grueling and all of that was very emotional for me, as it had to be for Ace. It definitely took some time to make sure I went about honoring those experiences in a truthful way. But the good thing is, once you’ve gone through it, once you’ve really experienced it emotionally, you dont have to ever go back to it. Its there, its part of his fabric, its part of his makeup. At that point I just had to show up, and speak the words. Milly did a great job of giving me
some great words to speak, so, once the work had been put in, I really just needed to focus on getting those words right, and everything else just sort of poured out organically.
Tubefilter: You achieve quite a unique perspective with each character…
MS: Yes.. I selected two directors for this project, one for Viola’s episodes (Matt Thiesen) and one for Ace’s episodes (Benjamin Epps). I wanted each character’s world to feel unique. Employing different directors meant having distinct visual styles and independent perspectives on Viola and Ace’s world. I have worked with Benjamin Epps, Adam Saunders, and Matt Thiesen on many projects and I must say it’s a gift to work with artists you deeply admire. Any success of Meet Me in the Graveyard is due to wonderfully talented cast and crew.