Palestra apresentada por Julie Andem e Mari Magnus durante o evento Mediamorfosis Brasil 2017, em 16 de setembro de 2017, em São Paulo, Brasil.
Transcrição por Leticya Bernadete.
Mari Magnus: It’s worth mentioning that we work in NRK which is Norway’s Public Broadcaster and SKAM is a drama series that runs daily online trough this web page. It’s told trough clips, or scenes, screenshots of texts between the characters and also different social media platforms, which the characters live on.
Julie Andem: So you could say it’s a mix between a blog and a drama series, in a way.
MM: And it also runs in real time, which means if something happens in the story Friday night, 9:30, we would publish that content Friday night, 9:30, and today it’s Saturday 16th of September, 2017, right? So, if SKAM would still be running now, it would be September 16th in SKAM as well.
JA: So you get the point. They have the same time as we do.
MM: So, here’s an example from season 4 of the content we published. The audience never knows when new content can come, we’re online, like, 24/7, and new content can come out at anytime.
JA: Sometimes we will say, give them a hint, say maybe something someone’s meeting up at 5 and we know it will probably be a clip, but other than that, you’ll never know.
MM: So, you see, the week in SKAM runs from Saturday to Friday. (Example on Power Point). In this week in SKAM, Saturday morning was a clip published and then during the evening, some chats between characters. And also on Sunday the audience only got a chat and on Monday though they got two clips and so continues everyday. And we try to make that everyday is a small cliffhanger or end with question, just to keep our audience to continue going online and check the web page if there has come out any new content.
And also, this what I’m showing you now is published on that web page, but SKAM also is told on other platforms. (Shows Posts on Instagram about Eva’s Party). This Friday was a party, so on different Instagram accounts and on Youtube, content got published by the characters.
JA: So, all the characters that attended this party, everybody that had seen that scene, later that night, the characters would report from the party. Posting pictures, or small videos.
MM: Also you can watch SKAM as a traditional drama series, where all the scenes are cased and edited together, like a conventional episode that we publish every Friday on demand and also on Flip TV. But the episode, generally, last from, we have episodes with 15 minutes long to 50 minutes. So we never know before…
JA: We never know. The story decides how long the episode is gonna be. It’s not at all made for linear television. In our case, sounded clear, that they had to work and program around it, because as Mari said, it could 15 minutes or 50 minutes. The story decides.
MM: But the story, the concept, it’s customized on a daily experience and that’s on a web page we want our audience to follow SKAM.
JA: So we think the episodes, the full episodes, are more like promotion, because I believe that most people when they start watching SKAM they start watching the full episodes to just get engaged in the story, but then they keep on watching episodes until that one Friday when the cliff is so strong that they can’t wait until the next Friday and then they go online and then they’re hooked. Then they have to check everyday.
MM: So, Julie and I just finished the final season ever of SKAM, season 4, and SKAM has run for 4 seasons now in 2 years (2 seasons every year, Julie says), because we follow the school year.
So, in season 1 we follow Eva, it premiered September 2015, so we follow the school year, so every semester of the school there’s a new season.
JA: Every season is told by different character. All of these characters go to the same school and exist in the same universe, but the first season was told through Eva’s point of view, so it was her story. And she had an emotional journey as a character and there was a specific story to that character but then the next season the story was about Noora which was her best friend and then you see the universe and you tell the story through her point of view. So every season switches character, but all characters exists in everybody’s seasons.
MM: We’re from Norway, SKAM is made for the Norwegian market, it lives 5 million people in Norway. Our target audience was girls 16-year-old, which is approximately 30 thousand girls.
JA: Exactly, the smallest target group ever. We could call each one of them…
MM: Something happen during season 2 and season 3. For example, there’s a fan group in Brazil with 86 thousand members and during the last day of the episode of season 4 ending, ending this SKAM universe, ‘Thank You SKAM’ was globally trending on Twitter, under the hashtag #ThankYouSKAM, where fans were telling their stories about how SKAM had impacted their life. And then during season 3, I’ll just show you, 180 million views on the Chinese fan Youtube.
We never ever ever expected SKAM to become this big.
JA: So we’re gonna try to explain now why it got this big. We could talk about there’s not one reason, or I don’t think it’s either 10 reasons, I think it’s probably 100 reasons. We’re gonna give you some, or very some of the things we think, that we know have an impact.
The first question people usually ask me is how did you come up with the idea to have a show in real time as a blog? And that really is something NRK has done for since 2008. So it’s nothing that happened overnight. In 2008, I used to work in the children’s department and in 2008 we made a fictional video blog for 12-year-girl. So, it was an actor playing that 12-year-old-girl, playing Sara, and she would talk about her life in the web cam, she would blog, and tell the viewers everything that happened in her life. Everything was written and she was an actor. And then we started also to add small fictional scenes, almost what you have in SKAM, and we mixed that into the blog, and that not really logical, but the target group was 10 to 12 so they didn’t really care or understand so we just did what was best for the story.
And then in 2010, we tried to experiment more, we made the same type of blog, but this time we had 3 different characters blogging on the same page. And that was a mess. That was real messy. That was nobody that could understand that story except from the fans who were really engage in the story.
And lastly, in 2013, this show Jenter, is still running at NRK, I made the first 4 seasons and now someone else is making the last 5 seasons, season 10. It was still a fictional video blog that the characters would blog about their life, they would talk to their viewer through a web cam and we would have small clips and the characters would switch from season to season. So SKAM, that’s where SKAM comes from, because Jenter reach, it was really popular, it reached out from it’s target group and 15-year-old girls, 16-year-old girls, started watching in. NRK, the broadcasters said ‘Wow, maybe there’s a market here’, because they hadn’t made anything for teenagers in 20 years. And the saying at NRK was that ‘they are impossible to reach’. So the target group from 14 to 18 had never had any content made to them in 20 years. So that was what we were trying to do with SKAM.
MM: So SKAM is based on this experience from these productions and as well both us came from the children’s department have never worked with a teenage audience, so we had to do research. So during our 8-month comprehensive research period, we did over 50 depth interview with boys and girls between 15 and 19 years’ old with different religious background, or sexuality, or social background. I think I’ve spend over hundreds of hours stalking them on social media (I’m sorry about the lines, I think we crossed, many times, Julie said).
JA: I don’t know if you know this but I’m really a fan of this method called NABC, and it’s developed I think it was meant for tech companies, so tech companies would use it to develop new gadgets, (Mari complements) anyways, the method is like this: it says that’s instead of going out in the target group and gathering a lot of data and statistic, what you do is you find one representative in that target group and you interview that person trying to find a need, something that person needs. And then when you find a need, you try to meet that need with something techy, or a show, like we do. And that’s the method. So we didn’t use, we didn’t talk to one representative, we talked to many representatives, we talked to many, probably 15, 50 teens. But what we were looking for in our research was a need, what do they need, is there anything we can give them with a show? And I must say that very early, before we even started the research, because we ended up, I think it’s vey obvious we brought a need and knew about this need before we started research, but we didn’t want start look for it, and it was so strong. And that was that we could see that teenagers today are under a lot of pressure, in every aspect of life, in school, with friends, in sports, in music, everywhere there’s thrive to be perfect and the pressure is real. The question we ask, is it possible to make a show that we take away some of the pressure from the teens?
And we ended up with some tools, having some tools that we wanted to give out. One of them being, for example humor and the ability to laugh of yourself, self irony, if you can laugh of your suffering then the pressure is smaller to be perfect. So that was one of the tools we used. Another tool we wanted to use was showing then how human interaction works, because when you’re a 16-year-old and you get reject by a boy you will think that there’s something wrong with you, definitely. But trying to show them how every human being has their own problems and how that affects, how it will affect the people around you and that boy who just rejected you it’s probably, he got his own shit to deal with, so it doesn’t have to be… Interaction. And also, showing them the value of facing fear, to build self confidence, and showing them you always grow stronger in confronting a problem then running away from it, so that was the 3 main things we wanted to try to give them, to take away the pressure trough watching SKAM.
MM: Basically this mission is well down into this sentence which says ‘SKAM aims to help 16-year-old girls’ strengthen their self esteem through dismantling taboos making them aware of interpersonal mechanism and showing them the benefits of confronting their fears’. This is the main mission of SKAM in every part of the production if we were like unsure of anything we would go back and look at this and see if does this help their self esteem? This is our rule.
And also during research we asked our target audience what they watched and watch Game of Thrones, Modern Family, all these big budget drama series from the US and also spending a lot of time on Youtube and other social media, which is tough for our little budget project for us to compete with.
JA: We can’t really compete with Breaking Bad or Game of Thrones, but we have something that the big studios in America don’t have and that is that we know exactly who those 30 thousand girls are. We know what culture they grew up in, we know what they eat for dinner, we know what they watch… So identity was our strongest card and we had to play it really right. And the way to play it right is to have really great characters that the viewers can identify with.
One of the characters in SKAM is named Sana and I had an interview with a 17-year-old Muslim girl before season 1 and I asked her ‘I you could write, if you could decide, if I’m gonna make a character for you, how should that character be?’ and she said ‘Can you please make a strong Muslim girl, that is not suppressed by society, that is not under social control, that has her own opinion and is strong?’ and I made that character, I made Sana.
18:50 – explanation about Russ bus
MM: Creating this web drama genre, we call it, in 2015 was a bit different then in 2008 with the first show Sara. In 2008 the blog format was in the golden age in Norway, every pre-teen girl used blog to express through web cams and blog posts. During research, I knew this from the start that blogging is dead in that sense we used in the previous show, but I remember a girl told me ‘I’m 100% myself on Instagram, just a better version’ which I think it’s kind of true for all of us and that’s when it came to me that we had to include social media in the storytelling. Because the digital identities teenagers have, and I think for all of us, are so important and so involved in out life. So, that became this (shows all of the Instagram’s accounts). Every character in SKAM has an Instagram profile, a Facebook profile, and some are on Youtube and other platform, like Snapchat.
Which we can follow these characters are living 24/7 online during the season, posting pictures from their lives always in character. These characters would never publish a picture that didn’t feel that this was from Sana, or Noora or Eva. It’s true to character. Every character has a mood board, which also is rooted in the research, with the aesthetics of how they take the pictures, the humor, how they write the captions, and which emojis or filters they use. And everyone has their own identity online.
So you could follow these characters just like you do with your friends, and when you’re scrolling down your Instagram feed, watching what your friends are doing, then suddenly a picture of Vilde or the group of girls, then the fiction interferes with the reality and it meets us. And it doesn’t become so important if Vilde is a fictional character or if she is your friend, and that’s how I tried to work with social media to let the audience identify and let them feel authentic as if the character were speaking directly to them like they did in the web cams and blogs in the first [productions].
JA: So we tried to find new ways to create that identification and connection with the audience.
MM: And you can define the how we use social media and the social media accounts we use, we can define it as promotional tools or storytelling tools, and it actually doesn’t matter if it’s either way, because it’s so integrated in the story. Because when we use Instagram it’s a good promotion on the show, we’ll try to show you in a sample how we use social media and real time with the story.
So here we see from season 1 the clip from the bus meeting and season 1 is Eva’s season and her boyfriend is named Jonas. So this clip was published Friday, 6:50, Friday evening and the morning after, if you follow SKAM online everyday that week you would see Jonas and Eva waking together the morning after, we’re not telling how they ended up there, which is not so important, because they’re boyfriend and girlfriend, they sleep together once in a while.
Friday evening Jonas posts this picture on his Instagram, refer asking his best bud Izak if he catch a reference (blah). So Izak replies in the comment section this Friday evening and Izak is on his Instagram and Jonas is on his Instagram, in real life is Julie and me sitting on Instagram. (Could not understand). Izak is of course catching the reference immediately and Izak and Jonas start a conversation in the comment section underneath this picture. And Eva starts to interact with them. And that’s just me with my iPad and my iPhone.
JA: And they start a conversation in the comment section of Instagram and then the viewers start to comment also and the characters start to answer the viewers. (Julie reads the conversation at 30:26)
MM: They started to communicate with the fans on there in real time. But it’s important to know, this is the beginning of SKAM. I think there was 20 thousand people, unique users on the web page during that week, and Jonas’ Instagram he had like 200 followers and we knew, ‘okay, probably like 10 people will see this interaction in real time, see the conversation happening at that time’, but for them, who would see, it would feel so strong and so real and authentic that they would be like ‘are these characters real?’ and then they would go talk to their friends and the show would spread throughout the outlets.
JA: That’s kind of how we did promotion in the start.
MM: We wanted to let the target audience find the show themselves. So we didn’t send any big promos or trailer on the linear TV or anywhere else.
Of course we couldn’t continue doing this, because this accounts became very popular, they gained a lot of followers, with a lot of comments, so it would just disappear. But that’s a way of how we tried to work to continue find ways to interact with our audience and something in the storytelling to create a bound between the audience and the characters. And it’s really really easy to interact with SKAM, we don’t need a password or username to go into the website. There’s a comment section in every content that we publish and you can comment anonymously. The storytelling and tools we use in SKAM helps and amplifies the identification to the characters which also brings engagement. Then the audience start hammering on their keyboards, sharing a lot of theories, and emotional reactions, and also they dare to ask questions that they probably wouldn’t dare ask in real life, which becomes really beautiful interactions in the comment sections. We try to read most of the comments on our web page and on different fan forums, but it’s difficult. But it’s like a ongoing focus group, because they’re telling us their predictions, and we’ll go ‘okay, so we’ll try not to do that’, and them they’re telling how they feel about something, and because of that we know our audience really well and the audience knows us also, but we try to know them a little bit better. We’re trying to use all their response and comment section in the story. And we will try to show you some examples on how we use the reactions from the audience in the storytelling.
In season 2, the big love story is between Noora and William, this example is from the second last episode of season 2 and the couple has been trough a conflict, so they’re struggling, but Noora, the feminist Noora, has finally declare her love to her friends for the douchebag William and all of her friends and in whole SKAM universe is ready to see William and Noora together. But just a problem, William is missing in action, he won’t answer on any of her calls or texts messages and the fans are flipping out. Because remember, this is told in real time so, we have to, the audience have to feel what Noora almost is feeling, we have to wait with her to get the answer and we start analyzing why isn’t he replying…
JA: Yeah, everybody started analyzing. At this point, I think this was the first time we understood how big SKAM was in Norway, because everybody in Norway was analyzing what could be wrong with William, why isn’t he answering and what is he feeling? Big cellphones companies started making advertising saying if William had our coverage plan he would have answered by now. The whole public was going crazy. I think it was 2 and a half days or 3 days we waited.
MM: This is the spoiler. Some fans made this web page: haswilliamanswered.no and it would continue going no, not yet, no, no no… And then finally, when he did answer, it was just yes. But ok, it was an intense week. This person wrote this in the comment section ‘I can’t concentrate on my own exam until William has answered’, so what I did, I copy and pasted this line and gave it to Eva and included in a chat between the girls. Now Eva can’t concentrate on her exam until William has answered either. So this shows our audience that we see them and we’re all on this experience together, Eva is desperate to see them together, they’re desperate to see William and Noora together, we are all desperate.
JA: It unifies the characters and the audience. So reality and fiction mixes.
MM: And it’s not so important what is what, or if it’s fiction or reality, because we’re all desperate (could not actually understand 37:38).
JA: So another example, this William character that we talk about, he always enters in slow-mo. I use a lot of clichés in SKAM and one of them being him always entering in slow-mo. And the first time I did it the viewers loved it, second time I did it, they still liked it, third time I did it, they were like ‘c’mon, are you gonna do this forever, are you like, is he always gonna come in slow motion?’. But then I kind of answered that in this scene we’re watching now and you should listen to the lyrics of the song (clip plays at 38:33).
So instead of stopping doing slow-mo we decided to comment it and show that we hear what you’re saying, but we have humor and self irony, the same stuff we’re trying to show our audience.
MM: 40:06 – The last example is this: SKAM has become hugely popular on the SKAM and this is a picture drawn from a big popular talented fan fiction artist, @elleskam on Instagram, and she drew this in the end of season 3 and we got so many mails and comments on this, and hashtags, and people wanting to see this and saying ‘please, can you create this?’. Let us know if you recognize something from the first scene of season 4. (Clip from season 4 at 40:48). So that’s just a way of saying thank you to @elleskam who draws these beautiful pictures from SKAM and engaging with and fandom.
MM: So, we have tried to sum up – 41:25.
JA: Do the research and listen to your target group, take them seriously. Everybody knows that you’re supposed to listen to your target group, but really listen. I didn’t stop asking questions, when I did research interviews with these kids I didn’t stop asking questions until I really understood it, like until I really felt it. Because if they told me about an experience and I could feel and I could recognize something from my own life, and then try to tell that to the audience, then there’s a bigger chance of reaching. If a 16-year-old girl has felt it and I feel it, there’s a big chance a lot other people also have felt it. Try to listen and really understand and like we said, try to get them, I feel there’s a lot of studios and broadcasters that are always discussing how to get teens, but if you flip the question, if ask what can you give them and what do they need?
MM: And working with teenagers today, growing up in this digital world, they have this ease to become their own broadcaster, it’s natural to be heard and have an influence, if they want, they have the possibility to be heard. And I think there’s and expectation from the audience to have an influence and to be heard. So I think it’s important to listen to them and give them a possibility and see that some of the examples we showed you. And also adapt to user behavior, that’s a must I think, and also be willing to experimenting about how to challenge, maybe, the user behavior because it’s constantly changing and I think if SKAM would’ve run for 10 seasons, it would be looking completely different from season 1 to season 10, because how we communicate and how we consume is changing. And also a good story will always be seen.
JA: It’s always this discussion about how to tell stories about (44:25 could not understand) or how to… But if you don’t have a good story or good characters, it doesn’t really matter.
MM: And one more thing: like Kanye West says ‘listen to the kids, bro’.
Question about when Mari is posting on Instagram, or chatting on Facebook, or replying comments. Is she creating, is she improvising?
MM: Yeah, it does have a script. How we cross (?) is that Julie is writing an episode script and we’ll meet up at the meeting and talk through the script and start planning how can we tell this, which precedent should we bring to the online storytelling and that’s not in the scenes. And then I start to write how we can do that. And many people are saying, because I am in charge of all the accounts and writing all the text messages and their Instagram accounts, and people are like ‘How do you do so many personalities?’ and Julie is writing all these personalities in the script as well, which is in some way the same. But then constantly, cause runs in week time and I think it’s really value that we use the reactions that comes immediately in the story. Often I call Julie in the evening and I say ‘Oh, now they’re talking about this, maybe I should write a chat that could just continue it’.
Yeah, I’m listening and have to. I usually compare working with SKAM like in a band or standing on a stage, because it runs 24/7, we almost produce in real time and the response comes immediately, just like if you’re in a band or in a stage, you have to adapt on how the audience is responding on your performance and that’s what we try to do as much as we can in SKAM in use to respond to get a 48:57 (could not understand).
Question about the SKAM team. How does it work, how many people are involved in the process of creating and producing all the content?
JA: I write the script, all the episodes, alone, I don’t have a team. So I’ll write an episode divided into the clips we’ll see, I’ll write the clips and then make sure these clips will work in an episode. And then, Mari and I will sit down, when we have time, when we will discuss the clips and then, because the clips together should work like an episode, so I make sure of that, all of these scenes together work as an episode. But then we try to give all of the viewers who follow everyday, online, more story and that’s what Mari is ready.
MM: It is basically just also, Julie is really, really independent in her writing and then the web content and also, yeah. It’s basically us two who writes.
Question about how the production is their life.
JA: Yeah, that’s right. It’s a 24/7 job (Mari). I think also this is one of the reasons of it’s success, we have a really small team. Everybody in the team is really engaged in the show, they loved working with teens and we have the same vision for the show. So in the last season we had much more people on set and the thing is with more people something it just takes more time. Even though I’ve been working 24 hours a day, I loved working with a small team.
Question about the format of SKAM and selling this format to another company or country.
MM: Like I said, SKAM works in 2015-2017, like how is distributed and published, and like I think, like I said, we have to adapt to consumer behavior, so I hope like it will change and I really hope that telling like this won’t be the main storyteller in a way, because I hope that there will be diversity in how we distribute content and create and continue to develop story.
JA: This works in 2015-2017, maybe in half a year it won’t work the same way, but I believe we will see many examples of it and I think we don’t own this format, that’s NRK that owns it and they have sold it to different places. So we will see variations of SKAM and probably other companies trying to do similar things.
Question about how did it work when an episode had 15 or 50 minutes.
JA: With the work we started in SKAM was an experiment, so we had a really low budget and we were just going to try to reach teenagers. And nobody in NRK, NRK is a really huge production house, nobody really cared about us and that’s a good thing, because they would leave us alone and we could do what we want. So we said ‘okay, we’re gonna make this digital, the target group doesn’t watch linear television, so we’re gonna make it digital, they’re gonna watch it on this page, but we will also create episode in the player every week too. And I think of the episodes, like I said earlier, as a promotion strategy more than the real show. So then one day, NRK woke up and understood ‘oh my god, this is really big’ and then they told us ‘we want to put it on linear television’, and we said ‘no, but we’re making this a digital platform and we can’t change that, so okay, you can have the episodes, but they’re gonna be 15 minutes or 50 minutes, and you’ll have to program around it and we won’t deliver until two hours before it airs’ and they said ‘okay’, because what could they say.
MM: This is part of how we have to like change our mind set from this original media with all these new possibilities. We knew, okay, teenagers, they don’t watch television, so we don’t have to create a show that’s fitted for the television, we created a show that’s, it’s customized for the internet. And then instead of taking something from the traditional and trying to put it in the internet, it should rather be the other way around, like okay take something from the internet and try to put [on traditional media].
Question about how they unmixed reality and fiction.
JA: You can say this was almost a social experiment, because we had done it with younger kids earlier, we knew that it could be big and we knew that the pressure on the actors would be big, they have their own Instagram’s, but we would never let them do press, so they didn’t talk to the press, but we made sure that from the very start, we put them into therapy groups, just to make sure that they would be okay, because it’s true what you’re saying, they are young people and they’re living a life on a stage that is very much similar to their own life. But I think the fandom is old enough to understand that this is fiction, so they understood that, they understand that everybody in SKAM is actors and we never said that they are not actors, on our page it says that everything is scripted, everything is acted. And there was so many news articles about this concept, and so many theories about the actors, because they didn’t do any press, so I don’t think anybody was confused, but it’s just, when you look, you wanna live in the fiction. You want to be able to believe that these are real people, even though people didn’t really believe that.
MM: I think it’s interesting now, because I remember during season 1, in the Norwegian newspaper they were writing ‘NRK is trying to fool kids that these are real people’, which is not true of course, and also our target audience is so intuitive and understanding of the digital concept and they immediately ‘okay, I know this is fake, fictional, but I will interact with it like it was my friends’. Which is interesting, I think, about how they interact.
Question about the characters’ online personas.
MM: Julie wrote the characters before even writing any scripts and we talked a lot about them, and (casted the characters before I wrote them in scripts also, Julie says) so I feel I know the characters really well and I worked real closely with Julie and also the actors and their way of present their character. So developing their digital life, well it was basically to use the character map, that Julie has created.
JA: And also, Mari has a lot of research of how teens act online in social media, she would have boards filled with Instagram pictures from teenagers, so you [Mari] were inspired by real teens when made the characters also come to life online.
MM: Every character in SKAM has a mood board with real persons Instagram pictures. So Vilde is an example of that, her mask is to be like this perfect girl, and she’s working out, sharing these quotes about how great life is and sharing pictures of clothes and make up, and in reality she is a girl that has her own struggles which the audience finally gets to know during the last season. Yeah, their mask, these characters’ masks are often their digital personas.
Question about the male audience.
JA: 01:04:00 – talking about boys as audience against girls.
Question about the topics shown in SKAM, such as abuse, sexuality, and the direct form it’s done. How does that work?
JA: NRK didn’t really interfere, because we did a lot of research. I think that what we tried to do was not to underestimate 16-year-old girls. When we talk to 16-year-old girls they can handle almost anything, you don’t have to go easy on them, because they talk about everything between them. And then, exactly at that age, I believe they are going from being kids, teenagers to becoming adults and we really want to build their confidence on that, so that… My biggest fear was to underestimate them, I sometimes aim a little bit above their head, just to show them that I trust them, that they can take it, because they can. And I’ve never done a scene do provoke, it’s not to be provocative, it’s always to pass a reason or a story, and NRK, I believe trusted that. We haven’t had, I don’t think we had reactions from fans, I think everybody has handled everything perfectly.