Pride of the Bay
A decentralised soap about a group of troubled teens who live, work, love and learn in a reclaimed hotel-restaurant in a sunny seaside town.
Pride of the Bay is public cafe/restaurant, and a live-in purpose-designed facility for NEETS (teenagers Not in Education, Employment or Training). It's run by certified caregivers. Sally Pride is a behavioural psychologist determined to help young people navigate the increasingly integrated and confusing blend of real and online worlds. Her wife Dale Pride is a master chef and star of a popular River Cottage- style cooking-cum-lifestyle show about Pride of the Bay.
Sally and Dale see the same brimming potential in the run-down town that they see in the foster kids that come to stay with them. Pride of the Bay begins at the beginning: with Sally and Dale taking charge of a dilapidated hotel restaurant and simultaneously welcoming their first cohort of NEETS. We follow everyone’s struggles with arrival, integration and renovation.
Each teenager who arrives at Pride of the Bay has special challenges that mask special talents. Sally & Dale know that the way to help their young wards develop as people is to identify and nurture their gifts.
Pride of the Bay is all about cross-channel pollination. Each character has one primary outlet of expression where they’re the star, and they play featured/guest roles on the channels of others.
For example: Dale has an actual cooking/lifestyle show called/about Pride of the Bay that acts as the heart of the story universe. It broadcasts or streams weekly episodes. In turn, Dale might feature on Instagram stories from a supporting character, who is documenting his struggles to get his head around his new role as an apprentice chef.
The teens each have one primary Social Media account. So there will be a TikToker, a Snapchatter, a Twitcher, an Instagrammer, a blogger, a Twitterer, a Facebooker, a YouTuber, a podcaster… the list goes on these days right?
Part of Sally’s work with her wards is to help them find the online/offline means of expression that suits them best. There can and will be rivalries as people try and fail to launch particular social handles, and start to succeed on others’ social turfs. There will be romantic, dramatic and tragic storylines between the characters that play out on social media. Storylines generated by fan engagement will also become part of the Pride of the Bay universe.
Dale’s cooking/lifestyle show (really a soap/series in disguise) will feature highlights of what’s going on across the social media channels of the teenage characters, which gives the audience that chance to catch up with the overall arcs, and choose to follow certain characters/storylines directly and more closely. Simultaneously, the characters’ social media storytelling will push viewers to the TV show.
The show is designed to spill out into the community. The characters will really participate in local markets, sports teams, clubs and societies.
The idea is to create a popular entertainment platform that produces and cross-pollinates gripping content and passionate audience interaction.
The metaverse is here.
I prefer that performers launch, build and scale a character/handle/ identity that offers them distance from their own. Online and broadcast worlds claim to want reality/authenticity - but they really need is story brand. That involves heavy curation and creative license. If you don’t have enough distance from that brand - and understand that there’s more to who you are, it can really screw you up. It’s way too limiting. I believe we all need our private sphere - an inner place that we can retreat to, and is accessible only to those we truly love. That’s why a distinct character/mask is a safety mechanism. And story is the way to make it.
I learned this from hanging around with too many stand up comedians. A funny thing didn’t really happen to them on the way to the show. They made it up. It becomes very tiring to be around some of them offstage because you get the sense that they’re testing out material on you. Or worse, casting you in their latest gag. From their own point of view, it wasn’t very healthy for them to use their own names. Many were and are prone to depression and I think that’s a factor.
“Hey, it’s you, you’re that funny chick.”
When you are your brand, and there’s no separation, life can kind of suck. I suspect that’s why humans evolved an extraordinary way to dip in and out of character for the purposes of conveying a story: it’s called acting.
When I wrote for New Zealand’s most popular soap, we would often hear stories about actors being stopped in public and complimented or abused in by their character names. The actors were a bit taken aback by this, but at least they had a response:
“You know it’s a show, right?”
They had that safety valve. Usually the people talking to them would apologise and let them get back to their shopping. Either way, separation was possible.
My favourite model for how this has precedent in entertainment is wrestling. Wrestlers are often perform - and post - under a stage name that gives them creative license and work/life separation. They can be a conniving heel in the ring, rip into their next opponent on Twitter, then strip off the tights, tie up their ponytail, and and go be a parent to their kids.
It will have to be highly coordinated by a great head of story, because in a way, the performers are the story table, and everyone will be guesting on each other’s channels, and there will be lots of planning to do to create cool arcs that play out over weeks, months and years.
I suspect that I’m proposing to create a form of Hype House - where the performers actually live on site in the town where the show is shot. A real-world API. That sounds like it could get tricky, but hey, this is where I can dream and scheme. I’ll leave the details to your imagination.
This is immersive creative fiction that is frank about its identity. It doesn't pretend to be real life. It just looks and feels like it. Ultimately, there's nothing it won't do to crack inside characters' skulls, interrogate their motivations and witness their actions. Combined with the best of scripted content's ability to deliver crafted character, story and suspense, we’ve got an immersive production with the potential to shoot better, faster, and more content than traditional high-touch soaps and present it in a far more intuitive style for various audiences.
We'll be able to include topical, up-to-the-minute storylines reflecting events from within the last 24 hours alongside universally relevant storylines that be created and scheduled in advance. This is similar to how news programmes can place last night's events next to investigative stories that have been worked on over a longer duration.
Our characters lead active, dramatic and aspirational lives that their audiences can also be involved in, if they want.
There, we’ve made a decentralised soap!