“Carmilla” Web Series Producer Steph Ouaknine Talks Streaming Media

Now that we’re 18 episodes into Carmilla Season 2, we can’t help but feel something BIG is on the horizon. Last season, we saw our heroines overthrow a vampire tyrant and bring a nasty-looking angler fish onto the campus of our beloved Silas University. How will they blow our minds this season? Maybe the utter destruction of the human race, or worse—the permanent end to our OTP (one true pairing) Carmilla (Natasha Negovanlis) and Laura (Elise Bauman)? What a nightmare that would be! *sobs uncontrollably at the thought*

LaFontaine (Kaitlyn Alexander) and Laura (Elise Bauman) play a game.
LaFontaine (Kaitlyn Alexander) and Laura (Elise Bauman) play a game.

Before I continue to geek out about all the saucy things happening on the show, here’s the 411 on Carmilla. The web series, which is based on J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s novella of the same name, kicks (mostly undead) ass and takes names. It burst onto the scene in 2014 and immediately built quite the following (for all you noobs, the Carmilla fans are called Creampuffs). And since BookTrib is a huge supporter of high quality Web content (especially when it comes to vampires and meddling humans) we jumped at the opportunity to talk to series producer Steph Ouaknine. Really, it was a no brainer. Ouaknine discusses Season 2, Smokebomb Entertainment, the award-winning digital media company based in Toronto, and delves into transmedia (a concept that is changing the way we produce and consume entertainment).

Eighteen episodes in, Season 2 has yet to disappoint. With a whopping 36 episodes to get shit done, can our Silas U faves defeat Mattie (aka Carmilla’s conniving sister)? Can Laura and Carmilla overcome their differences and save the campus? Will LaFontaine and J-P ever kiss?! These are all questions Ouaknine did not answer. Looks like I’m going to have to wait and see with my fellow creampuffs.

MCKENZIE MORRELL: How does this project compare to some of the others you’ve worked on?

BTS: Producer Steph Ouaknine behind-the-scenes of Carmilla season two, filmed on location at The Darling Mansion in Toronto.
BTS: Producer Steph Ouaknine behind-the-scenes of Carmilla season two, filmed on location at The Darling Mansion in Toronto.

STEPH OUAKNINE: “Carmilla” was our first shot at a vlog-format series, and the first of Smokebomb Entertainment’s original series that was always intended for worldwide, non-geoblocked distribution on YouTube, as opposed to a streaming service launch or broadcaster site. That makes a huge difference when building a global audience and doing outreach.

MM: Can you talk a little bit about Smokebomb and the whole idea of finding a sweet spot when it comes to transmedia?

SO: Our approach to transmedia boils down to character. It’s easy to fall into a rabbit hole with endless loops of worldbuilding and obscure feeds, but why create all this material if no one will be compelled to dig into it? We like to focus on character feeds that service and bolster the story on the main platform. It adds character depth we can’t do on screen.

MM: When getting the series off the ground, did you follow any other webseries models?

SO: Definitely. Bernie Su of Pemberley Digital (The Lizzie Bennet Diaries) was a major influence, as he was the first to pull literary figures and use the medium so authentically and organically to retell a classic story. Our main goal was to create over 35 episodes and tell a season-long narrative, rather than the eight to10 episode model we see regularly.

MM: Carmilla has a predominately female cast and it widely represents the LGBT spectrum. Do you think those two factors have contributed to the overall success of the series?

SO: I don’t doubt it. When we’re lucky, we get to create exactly what we want to see: what we’re not seeing enough of. Personally, I’m addicted to predominantly female-led ensemble casts such as Orange is the New Black or Wentworth, which I love very, very deeply. I also have a heart-on for fierce, Bechdel-passing fantasy and genre fare along the lines of the Jossverse, Orphan Black, Legend of the Seeker, Lost Girl and (the great parts) of Warehouse 13. I wanted to see Queer Buffy. Then, of course, I want to see more normalized women — and queers — in relationships that aren’t about identity crises or simply relationship drama. Finally, I love long, drawn out “will they, won’t they” dynamics. The build-up. The UST (unresolved sexual tension). Those three elements together is what made it click, I think. There are a multitude of queer web series out there, but only a handful have a continuous following. So, here we are…

MM: The fans can’t get enough of this show! Did you expect such an overwhelming response from the fans on social media and across the web, the cast and its creators?

SO: Post-launch, we put a lot of effort into our outreach—connecting with a multitude of Tumblrs, vloggers, genre fangirls, etc. While we anticipated and worked towards a “fandom” of sorts, we never expected to take up so much of people’s dashboards. We love it. LOVE it!

MM: Can you tease anything for the rest of season 2? Come on—we won’t tell anyone.

SO: Will these kids ever learn to lock their doors? Would that even help? You’ll see…

SUBSCRIBE for new episodes of Carmilla every week! ►► http://bit.ly/Subscribe2VGTV

carmilla thumbnail

Recommended Reading:

51cA07xBGIL._SX402_BO1,204,203,200_Transmedia Marketing: From Film and TV to Games and Digital Media (Focal Press; June 26, 2015) by Anne Zeiser

There’s no denying that the transmedia revolution is here and this book by Anne Zeiser is the absolute essential guide for writers looking to break into the vast social media universe. It offers a lot of insight into those tricky media platforms and highlights how to navigate specific platforms to best suit a writer’s audience and the story they’re telling. The entertainment industry has been forever changed by this media; this is a comprehensive guide for making it work for you.

 

Comments

comments