New Series: Using Chats as Narrative
Since the release of the US online series Web Therapy with Lisa Kudrow in 2008, the method of using video chats as an instrument of storytelling gained popularity. And it’s clear to see why: production costs are cheap and it’s profitable. Whilst this creative process does have its limitations – action has to fit within the frame of a desktop – nevertheless, it’s an innovative new way to convey a character’s point of view and personal experience. Audiences see every single detail of an actor’s face and expression, they listen attentively to what they have to say and develop strong attachments to characters. It’s almost as if these characters are inside our own laptops.
Another new convenient, yet challenging, format is narration via text chat. The comparison between the cinema and a keyhole, which Slavoj Zizek once proposed, is strongly felt when observing other people messaging.
For instance, the chat fiction app Yarn gives users a truly voyeuristic experience by providing dozens of chats. Suspense, thrillers, even horror stories are created by the process of inviting users in to observe the chats of other people. These stories may be fictional, but they remain very true to life. You’ll find characters modelled after celebrities, different genres of narrative, and even erotica within the content on this app.
Yarn can also be treated as a form of app-series, with seperate chat-stories acting as a singular episode. A story’s plot can be narrated by a short chat between two people, which users will then be able to see evolve. The app’s functions are straightforward – users can navigate between chats by tapping their screens – which offers the possibility to delve into the mysteries of numerous threads at the same time.
The aforementioned series, Web Therapy, has become so popular that it has even spawned a British television remake – Hang Ups.
The first episode was broadcast in August 2018, with critics claiming that it is every bit as good
as the US original. In this version, the lead character of web-therapist Fiona Wallice (Lisa Kudrow), has been replaced by Richard Pitt (played by Stephen Mangan). In addition to a different patient’s story each week, the show also goes in depth about the lead character himself over the course of the series. As the audience, we are introduced to Richard’s children (and their teenage anxieties), his wife and friends, all of which are struggling with their own problems. Each episode is constructed using video chats for Richard’s interactions with his patients, and webcam footage showing his personal life.
CREEPY SCHOOL BUS
Creepy School Bus is a text series that offers a simple, yet effective, way to tell scary stories.
This is a creepy compilation of role-playing, screenlife chats and short text stories, which the creators are calling ‘creepypasta’. You can find a broad spectrum of school-themed horror stories on the series’ website; including tales about a strict teacher and school bullies who all vanish in a summer camp at night, as well as homophobes, creepy children books, and even a snake in the school library.
The most popular project on the site centers around a group of kids who go on vacation to Highland Park, and end up going missing. Step by step, the audience gets to know the various characters who travel in this bus, and follow the horrible events that are happening to them. Psst, no spoilers!