The award-winning web series Blue stars Julia Stiles as a single mother moonlighting as a call girl. It’s a case study of a successful drama series on the web.
Blue premiered on WIGS, one of the first premium original content channels funded by YouTube and launched in 2012 by director Rodrigo Garcia (Albert Nobbs, In Treatment) and Emmy Award–nominated director/producer Jon Avnet (Black Swan, Less Than Zero).
WIGS focuses on stories about women. A valid critical question on why it took two male producers in Hollywood to create a successful digital channel aimed at women could be asked. Still, the fact remains that Garcia and Avnet proved that a digital channel with a female character central to all of the narratives can be successful.
Below are excerpts of my phone interview with Garcia and Avnet:
Can you talk about why you decided to launch WIGS, an original content channel aimed at women?
GARCIA: Jon [Avnet] and I had lunch a few years ago where we were discussing, why on earth the stuff that was on the Internet had to be—especially back then, we’re talking 5 or 6 years ago, it was such low quality—why can’t it have a certain level of quality storytelling. We wanted to tell stories. Both Jon and I had had success separately and together that had women in the center [of the stories], and we wanted to base our channel on that. Not only did it interest us, we thought the female demographic was a fast growing one on the web, but very underserved with original programming. So we decided to cast our lot about the lives of women and female characters and Blue was one of the first ones we worked with.
And what was the inspiration for Blue?
GARCIA: I am always interested in families where the family members keep secrets from one another. They live and love each other, but also hide things from each other and I thought Blue’s lies were a good starting point for a series.
You have penned scripts with very strong female characters starting with Things You Can Tell Just by Looking At Her and now Blue. How are you able to write such great stories about women?
GARCIA: I’m interested in women, their choices and how they live their lives … I like how they face their struggles, that they are more emotionally exposed than men. I’m not a woman and have no idea what it’s like to be a woman. I have a strong imagination as to what it could be like and I base the characters on that. But beyond whether they are female, it’s their plights and their problems and their family relationships, their secrets—that’s what interests me. I think it’s just a matter of how can I dramatize these ideas best, and often for me it’s with female characters.
Why do you think you have been able to get such great actresses like Julia Stiles (Blue), America Ferrara (Christine) and Jennifer Beals (Lauren)—actresses used to working in TV and film—to be involved in a web series?
AVNET: Rodrigo and me have done so many movies together where there is a female lead. Or what I would say you follow a story into a female character. We have worked with so many women over so many years … the women would read [our scripts] because we’ve worked with them already or because their agents have, or somebody would take the time to read what we sent over. Our material is character-centric … How many women [actors] get to have those kinds of roles?
There is some great stuff on cable and great actresses doing phenomenal work, but it’s not the majority of the stuff that is out there. We’re still in a relative paucity and so people read our stuff and at first were like—a web series, really? Then after we had done 10, 15, 20 of them, the actors became our agents. Julia said to America, this is really cool. It expanded whom we did and didn’t know and now the actors and agents are aware of it and seeking opportunities or very open to it.
Can you talk about the partnership between the WIGS channel and the Black List script site? Are you looking for more female storytellers?
AVNET: We want material. We want women writers, yes. We want women directors, yes. In our first cycle, half the directors [on the WIGS channel] were women. Would we like to do even more than that? You bet. Anyway we get great material is great for us … we want to open up the door to potentially newer talent, voices that haven’t been established yet.
Listen to the full audio interview. Blue’s third season is available now on Hulu and Hulu Plus. Writers and producers, you can submit your scripts to the Black List before May 1, 2014, to be considered for the WIGS Channel blind script deal.
Agility in recognizing the opportunities digital media presents for female writers, directors, producers and executives to increase female representation both in stories and behind the scenes is paramount as digital media grows.
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