Set in the UK’s North West, LOL follows impressionable 15 year old Keely Cooper as she struggles to fit in amongst a world of social networks and peer pressure. Series two picks up the story five years later as Keely’s kicked out of university and forced to deal with the choices she made as a teen.

Did the portrayal of social media peer pressure come from personal experience?
I was fortunate to have finished high school before social media took hold, but certainly I would see friends posting falsely positive things, even though they were going through a tough time. It can be depressing to see friends having wonderful, glamorous adventures when your own life sucks at the moment. There’s a mask that people wear when posting to social platforms – even for kids, it’s about creating a persona, a brand. It takes a lot of bravery to be honest publicly about what’s going on in your life – most people would never post that online in a million years.

What’s the overall message that you want viewers to take away in regards to moving on from personal negative events?
Series two picks up five years later, with our protagonist Keely now tougher and more resilient. She made a huge choice at the end of series one that’s made her become this darker, selfish person. The story that’s told in the new episodes sees her try to redeem herself. I guess the message is it’s never too late to try and change.

In what ways do you utilise social media to further your brand?
The webseries launched in 2008 with a website, Twitter and YouTube account – alongside Blip, Bebo and Myspace – which of course were big in the day! For series two the show will live on YouTube and Facebook. Features of the platforms are constantly changing – the show is returning to a very different market. Being based on the other side of the world to the cast now makes it difficult to make the most of things like Facebook live – interacting with the audience in real time can make a big difference to engagement.

How do you finance your series?
I funded it personally. Without brand, broadcaster or government funding it can be almost impossible to make a drama without dipping into your own pocket. The production model had to be as lean as possible to keep costs down.

Are there any web series, other than your own that inspire you?
There are some fantastic webseries out there with very unique voices – Doctor Horrible’s Sing along blog, Catherine, The Amazing Gayl Pile and Broad City to name a few.

Describe the ultimate fan of your series?
Series one built a small but passionate fanbase – mainly teens in the UK. I remember receiving constant complaints that episodes were taking too long to be posted. It really underlined that much quoted need for a consistent release schedule. Seeing character fan art posted online was awesome.

What’s special or different about your series?
At the time, it was doing a non-linear teen drama online. Now, maybe it will be known for having the longest break between seasons (5+ years!). I quite like the idea of turning it into a bit of a Boyhood style series and revisiting the same characters in another few years time.

How many people worked on this project?
I wrote/directed/edited the series, supported by a crew of 10 or so during season one. For season two I wanted to keep it as small as possible, so the only crew were myself, a producer, camera op and (sometimes) sound/lighting assistant. Allowed us to move quickly.

What’s your background as a content creator? And how did you approach this project differently to previous projects?
I studied Television Production in the UK before going on to work in a variety of digital/TV roles, producing content for NBC Universal, MTV, Neighbours and Hollyoaks. I enjoy both the creative/script and technical sides, so web dramas are a good fit. To date I’ve written/directed/produced eight webseries in different sizes and shapes – some funded, some not. LOL season one was about experimenting with storytelling in webseries, for season two I wanted to see how far we could strip back the production model whilst still making something audiences would engage with. Rather than hire RED cameras as I’d done before, the technology had moved on enough that I could afford to buy a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera outright and shoot the series on that using minimal lighting.

What was the most difficult challenge you had to overcome in production, and how did you go about it?
Prepping a series shooting in Manchester from Melbourne was not easy! Season two was shot during a Christmas break I had back in the UK. I remember stepping off the plane, dumping my bags and going straight to a location recce – jetlag be damned! The geographic distance has also made it impossible to get pickups or ADR – it’s always nice to be able and go back and fix things afterwards. So I invested a lot more time trying to improve the sound in post.

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