The first screenplay to be released over Twitter is one more step towards screen convergence.
HECKY: Just gimme a sec. I need a second, okay? I just have to take this in.
-- END OF SCENE --
TNT's noirish new gangster show MobCity is peopled with cops and mobsters blurring the lines between good and bad in 1940's Los Angeles. But it also significantly blurred the lines between TV and social at this week's premier, with what is being touted as the world's first "Adaptweetion"-the first screenplay to be released over Twitter in its entirety.
After building suspense over social media several weeks ahead of the show - written and directed by Walking Dead frontrunner Frank Darabont - the screenplay was rolled out line-by-line starting on December 2, until the show's launch on Dec 4.
The last line of the screenplay, in which small-time criminal Hecky Nash (Simon Pegg) utters the phrase - "just gimme a sec. I need a second, okay? I just have to take this in," - was tweeted just ahead of the show's start at 9 pm ET. But it didn't give away the dramatic events that followed. Viewers had to watch to find out that (SPOILER ALERT!) Hecky shortly thereafter meets an untimely end at the hands of cop Joe Teague (Jon Bernthal) for as of yet undetermined reasons. (In the second hour of the premiere, viewers find out why he shot him.)
The ploy achieved its goal of getting users buzzing ahead of the show, according to post-show metrics from Deutsch NY. Twitter activity around "Mob City" (including #mobcity and #mobscript, a hashtag introduced the day of the show) was up 600 percent over the previous week. And within a span of three days, 11,000 fans had logged into the microsite housing the script, as well as twitter commentaries from Darabont, actors Bernthal, Milo Ventimiglia and Ed Burns, as well as other fans. The handle @MobCityTNT, where the script tweets were published, saw a 55 percent increase in followers from the first tweet through the premier.
Adam Levine, executive vice president, global brand marketing director at Deutsch NY, says the format fit in particular to the show because of Darabont's loyal, literary following.
"He is a writer's writer and there is pent-up demand out there for what he does. Exposure to his commentary is also a huge thing for a fan," says Levine. It also drew in fans of the book on which the screenplay is based, John Buntin's L.A. Noir: The Struggle for the Soul of America's Most Seductive City.
Most significant, Levine says, is the fact that the average fan spent around two minutes on the site. "We wanted to engage fans and there was nothing else to do on that site (but engage)" he notes. Around 80 percent of the hashtags #mobcity and #mobscript generated at least one reply, retweet or favorite to a tweet, also demonstrating high engagement.
The recent introduction of Twitter cards that incorporate videos and photos directly into tweets also helped TNT better tell the story, with short clips and dramatic pictures.
Although Levine claims adaptweetion is a "whole new genre", Jesse Redniss, chief strategy officer at social experience platform Mass Relevance and a former digital executive at USA Network, sees it as simply one more step towards the convergence of TV and social.
"TNT and Deutsch NY did a fantastic job at moving the digital & social storytelling boundaries further onto social platforms like Twitter and blurring the lines between screens to embrace the converged screen future we are moving towards," he says.
Fan involvement is one element of that convergence. "There have been a number of fantastic fan-fiction meets script-adaptations that combine both the traditional script approach and using that to fuel fan fiction generation on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube," he adds, pointing to USA Network's HashTagKiller and SocialSector, in which fans of the popular show Psych were asked to help solve an ongoing murder mystery online featuring Psych cast members.
Jon Yokogawa, vice president of consumer engagement at interTrend Communications, which developed a crowdsourced video series aimed at Asian-American youth last year for AT&T, says he finds fan interactivity much more compelling than a straight excerpt over Twitter, however. "What is interesting is getting the audience involved in the creative process," he says. He does concede, however, that film noir pieces like MobCity, with their terse dialogue, are perhaps uniquely suited to Twitter's 140 character format.
The adaptweetion will probably not be used again for MobCity, according to Deutsch NY's Levine, but will definitely be seen again elsewhere. "This was a specific task for the MobCity pilot. The form may continue for another show but we would have to look at that on a case- by- case basis."
It remains to be seen, however, how MobCity goes over with TV viewers overall. According to TV industry media, viewing numbers for the premier were modest, with only 2.3 million people tuning in.
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Mary Lisbeth D'Amico is a freelance writer based in Jersey City who frequently covers digital marketing, social media, tech startups, and venture capital. She has contributed to a wide range of publications including The Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Red Herring, and Real Deals. Find her on Twitter at @mldamico.
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