GTO 3987 on Mulholland

GTO 3987 on Mulholland

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Confessions: Long-form storytelling in an unlikely venue

In 1997, I created a series that was one of the first to go on the Internet. Streaming video had yet to arrive on the scene so we had to be innovative about what we offered and how it was delivered to viewers. The website, supervised by Dave Manship, presented snippets of characters' dialogue via WAV files, for example.

Tales of the characters' misadventures were described in the fictional newspaper The Briarwood Breeze. To see the episodes, one had to purchase a subscription and subscribers would receive VHS cassettes through the mail--an early-day version of Netflix, you might say.

We also featured pages that described the relationship of one character to another so as to define key connections.

Unlike episodic television of the time, I created the story arc of the season to revolve around a single event--the murder of an undercover policeman named Jimmy Beacon and every character in Briarwood was a potential suspect. This sort of long-form storytelling is common in premium cable offerings today like House of Cards, True Detective, The Wire, The Killing and others but was exceptional when we made Confessions.

We also had a gift shop that, in addition to subscriptions, offered posters, T-shirts, coffee cups and other items featuring the poster and/or logo from Confessions.

I created the show and wrote and directed many of the segments but others in the repertory company also wrote and directed as many segments as I did, principally Kathi Carey and Stephanie Burnham. Articles about Confessions appeared in newspapers across the country and our launch party was attended by media including a news crew from China.

It was a very interesting time.

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