Recently I had the pleasure of chatting with Hope Royaltey, season one Executive Producer/Director of the web series Venice, to discuss her exciting new online ventures FlagshipTV, an audience driven online interactive network, and The P@ssionate & The Privileged, the first (to my knowledge) Twitter based Soap Opera. It’s full of your favorite soapy elements with plenty of high society family drama, steamy love scenes and of course the ever present secrets and lies. Surprisingly enough, the one big difference between a Twitter soap and aTV soap is the lack of limitations. The rules are out the door so be prepared for anything and everything including steamy loves scenes from both the straight couples as well as the gay and lesbian couples. This show is kickin’ open the doors to a thrill-ride meant for everyone!
Now I know you might be wondering how this could work, right? You may even say, “Tiffany, this is crazy! How can you have a Soap Opera over Twitter?” Well my friends, this is how you break it down. Since P&P is a Soap Opera played out solely over Twitter, the actors will interact with one another during the show as if they were together on a set. During the rest of the week the actors will tweet with the audience in character answering anything the audience cares to ask…nothing is off limits. The one catch is we will not know which actors are part of the cast or who they portray in the series…at least not until they are killed off!
However, being the crack reporter that I am, I was able infiltrate the FlagshipTV organization to learn the identity of two actors associated with The P@ssionate & The Privileged and will reveal their identities at then end of this interview along with additional information concerning the show and how you can join in on the fun!
So how did this Twitter project come about?
Hope Royaltey: As you know I had the great pleasure of executive producing and directing ten episodes of a series called Venice last year and just really fell in love with not just making a web series but the whole process of engaging and interacting with the audience. From the inception of the series through the launch to the series airing, the experience was extremely interactive and I learned so much and really fell in love with a lot of the social media mediums especially Twitter.
In Flagship I started to really push some of the ideas I had with Venice, initial ideas I wanted to do with traditional web series but getting that off the ground takes time. I’m developing several projects that I’m very excited about. I started after Venice and during Venice really developing great relationships with my followers on Twitter, I started hosting these crazy trivia games at an assigned time and found that doing something at an assigned time on Twitter was really fun and having people gather at eight o’clock to do an event…it was fun for me it was fun for the followers. So when this idea popped into my head of using Twitter as a medium not just to communicate information or promote a show but to actually do a show on Twitter, do something scripted on Twitter that would be at a set time that the Twitter audience would be the audience and it would be something that was live so once that thought crossed my mind it was almost like I couldn’t not do it. I was just so fascinated with the idea of how that would work within the parameters of Twitter, which has a very finite set of rules down to how many tweets you can do an hour.
Oh really? There is a limit to how many tweets you can send in an hour?
HR: There are!
I didn’t know that!
HR: Oh TTO! And I have experienced it and it’s just devastating. [we both laugh] So it was really this interesting, challenging idea and it was an idea that I knew that I could execute right away unlike a web series that has a lot of development time and requires frankly…money. I was just itching to create something that I thought you know what I’m gonna do this and see what happens almost to sort of bridge the time between a filmed show. But now that I’m into the throws of getting it launched I am just so excited about it, so excited to see how it works. I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve done a little research to see what else is out there. I know there have been attempts to do something scripted or where someone has one account that narrates a story but I’ve really thought about this and really push the limits with the medium in terms of how to actually execute this and push it in the most interesting way.
By doing so I decided a really cool way to do it would be to actually have all of the characters have separate Twitter accounts, have a narrator account kind of like an old-time radio show. The narrator account will announce the show, do the opening titles, do a little product placement and basically host the show and even sometimes tweeting out music. The characters will tweet their dialogue in real time as if they were speaking it.
Now is it going to be in twitter-speak or regular language?
HR: That’s a good question. It’s going to be in regular language. One of the restrictions is the number of characters (Twitter is limited to 140 characters per tweet) so there might be some ampersands going on in there but no there wont be a lot of “LOL”. It’s going to be as if you were watching the closed captions of a live show.
So it’s going to show up in Twitter as a conversation and have many characters tweeting along with the narrator. Is there a way to read all of the show in one grouping to make it a little easier to follow?
HR: The way it’s going to work is the audience can follow the characters and they can follow the narrator. So to ensure that people will see it the way that I would like them to see it, my company website (FlagshipTV) will host a really tricked out Twitter stream where the audience will be able to watch it live with only the characters in order. They will be able to tweet from the page and see all of the mentions and everyone who is talking about the show while the show is happening. I think it will be a really cool place to go watch it. This allows someone who isn’t on Twitter to go watch it.
People who don’t make it over to FlagshipTV or just want to watch it on their own, they can create a list (within Twitter) with all of the characters and the narrator. Also, if I have additional characters that are coming up I’m going to make sure to tweet that out to make everyone aware of it and put it on the website so that they aren’t missing the orderly talking. They can follow with their own lists or they can follow someone else’s list. There will be tons of options for the user to choose how they watch the show.
The interesting thing about the medium of Twitter is that it’s kind of a weird hybrid between prose and video because it does have the excitement of being live, you don’t know what’s going to happen next, you don’t know who is going to say what, you don’t what the ending is and the story will always change. You can look at the end of the book. But obviously you have no visual so in that way a lot of it is going to be left up to the viewer’s imagination. I hope it appeals to more than just people on Twitter, people who love a good story.
With the updated features on Twitter constantly changing, will you add any graphics or music throughout the show?
HR: Yes! I will be using visuals all through the show. I think it’s really fun to add visuals where I can. For instance, if someone reads a letter I will TwitPic the actual letter so the audience will actually be able to see a picture of the letter that that particular character is reading. As the plot thickens I may TwitPic teasery types of clues. I’m going to use TwitPics and music because I think it will be a really fun element.
Could you walk me through the live show? What happens during the week leading up to a show? Is there any interaction?
HR: The live show will start out once a week. If people like it I might go more than once a week but I’m starting out with once a week. I am hoping the episodes will be somewhere around ten to fifteen minutes long.
Now a really cool thing is that during the week leading up to the show, all of the characters will be tweeting on their own to each other and to whoever is following them.
So the character tweets during the week will or will not be scripted?
HR: Nooooo! They’re on their own! It makes me giddy and excited and a little horrified to think about how that’s going to work. I just thought it would be really fun for the actors and the people behind the characters to be able to be creative with it, to have their own voice. They’re doing the scripted stuff during the episode but then during the week those characters will tweet in character and if the followers ask them a question they’ll answer it, they’ll sometimes tweet to each other, they’ll probably give some tid-bits of information and its just a really cool way for the audience to connect with the characters all week. It’s almost a show within the show.
Which brings me to the actors. Can you tell me anything about the actors involved in the series? Has the cast been set completely?
HR: Im really in love with my cast. Im gonna keep the cast kind of top secret because I decided with this medium not being able to see any visual, I kind of wanted to leave that be and not have the audience put a particular face behind that character, to really let it be that person in their imagination. So the cast is gong to be top secret and the way that the audience will find out who was playing that character is if they are killed off and I’m not saying that any of them are but if they are then the last tweet from that account will reveal who was playing that character all along.
So if nobody dies this season we wont know who is playing who on the show?
HR: You’re not going to know who is who but I may actually because I’m kind of dying to say who the cast is…I may tip off a couple people who are in it but I’m not going to say who they are playing.
I’ll tell you all bets are off. It could be men playing women, women playing men, gay playing straight, straight playing gay…different ethnic backgrounds playing each other. Twitter is color-blind and Twitter is sexuality-blind and I like it that way because it really says something. It’s really just about these voices and the imagination.
So a really fabulous entertainment writer could have a guest spot and nobody would know she was actually tweeting as one of the characters?
HR: [laughs] Yes that could be a possibility.
And would end up being the one and only character killed off in the season!
HR: Yes and the possibly would need to write a detailed expose on their experience.
Yes exactly! [we both laugh]
SPOILER ALERT: Ok kids as promised here are two of your P&P cast members. First up, you know this funny lady from the crazy sitcom “Absolutely Fabulous” and of course the off-Broadway show “The Kathy and Mo Show”… you guessed it, it’s Mo Gaffney! Now for our final treat. You’ve seen him in Broadway’s Tarzan and we can’t forget his One Life to Live love triangle…yes, the very tasty Nicholas Rodgriguez!
Several new characters will be revealed within the next few weeks so be sure to stay on top of the clues, cast updates and the official launch of The P@ssionate & The Privileged by visiting www.FlagshipTV.
Interview by Tiffany N. D’Emidio