Making Your Audience Part of Your Drama

Nuno Bernardo is the co-founder and CEO of transmedia production company beActive. Nuno is also one of the authors of Sofia’s Diary, a teen drama series broadcast by social network Bebo.

Sofia’s Diary tells the story of Sofia who, after an incident in a school chemistry lab, is sent to London to live with her dad and step-mom and brother, but still tries to keep in touch with her friends. The series was originally launched in Portugal in 2003 as an experimental web and mobile service - it was relaunched and was updated daily from 2008-2009 using online and mobile tools to tell it's story - with so much success that a TV version also aired briefly (after school on English TV's Channel 5) in 2009.

As the plot of Sofia's Diary unfolded in daily online episodes, Sofia encouraged teens to call a help line about gun crime after popular character Sean Walker was killed. Later Sofia also encouraged her audience to call a help line about road safety after the character of Scratch was hit by a car.

In a January 24th, 2012 blogpost for mipworld, Nuno Bernardo explained how Sofia's Diary used the interactivity of the web to engage the audience.

"We realized that it is vital to keep your audience communicating with you, because if you don’t engage with them they’ll quickly get busy with the billion other distractions on the internet. Beating the distractions is just one element of this interaction; the other is keeping the tone of your engagement consistent with the tone of normal communications between friends on social media, blogs, Facebook or Twitter."

So, for Sofia's Diary, the writers "created what in television terms is called the ‘A plot’. The ‘A plot’, or main story plot, has to be controlled solely by the writers. Accordingly, the audience could not touch, interact with or in any way interfere with the ‘A plot’. What they could alter was the ‘B plot’, which contained all the minor episodic dilemmas that were contained in Sofia’s life."

"We allowed the audience to make minor changes in the show – so they felt that this was their show and was responding to their suggestions – but avoiding dramatic changes that could ruin all the drama of the story we wanted to tell."

"The audience were being texted, coaxed and confided in on their web sites, just as one friend would to another. Sofia was telling them there was something happening in her life; but not only that, she needed the viewers to talk to her because she needed their help. By using these new tools, we moved away from passive storytelling, where the audience sits back and observes the characters in action. Instead, the characters were always living, always updating and, most importantly, always engaging with and challenging the audience to get involved."

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