Last year, half my Twitter feed was going bananas over The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a webisode transmedia adaptation – excuse me! EMMY WINNING webisode transmedia adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. There were weekly videos, plus Twitter feeds, blogs, and a never ending supply of animated gif sets on Tumblr, too.
Now, the team at Pemberley Digital is back with Emma Approved, a transmedia adaptation of Emma.
Emma, matchmaking busybody, has been transformed into… Emma, matchmaking tastemaker and lifestyle expert. Her motto: I make your life better, and I never fail. Here's the first episode:
As with The LBD, Kate Rorick, known to romance readers as Kate Noble, is writing for the series and this time is also Co-Producer. I asked if she'd do another interview about the series, her work, and the adaptation process. She told us all about working on The LBD, and she was nice enough to answer my nebby questions about Emma Approved, too.
Sarah: Can you tell me about this series, how it's different (aside from the obvious) than The LBD, and what you've enjoyed about working on it so far?
Kate: The biggest difference between The LBD and Emma Approved is that Lizzie and Emma are verrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrryyyyyyyyy different characters. While Elizabeth Bennet is often considered one of the most beloved female characters of all time, Austen herself said that Emma is “a heroine whom no one but myself will much like.”
And she can be hard to relate to: Emma exists in happy little bubble, where nothing bad ever happens, and she sits atop the social pyramid like a benevolent queen. She’s absolutely certain that she knows best, no matter the havoc her belief causes. I’ve often thought that without Knightley and good friends like Mrs. Weston to check her, Emma could have easily grown up into a Lady Catherine.
But while her self-assurance can be played for laughs, it would be brittle if there weren’t things to love about Emma, just under the surface. She’s outrageously positive. She loves her friends and would do anything for them (even when they don’t want interference). She’s devastated when her plans go awry, because she really is trying to do what’s best. She takes care of people – her father, Knightley.
Taking the character of Emma and adapting it for a new medium is definitely one of the most fun and challenging aspects of the show.
Sarah: Do Emma's personality traits – good and bad – translate easily to a modern character? This sounds as if some of the themes of the original book, such as how much influence one should to exert over other people, would be possible though in other formats and social spheres. How have you updated Emma but kept her interesting?
Kate: One of the reasons Austen’s work is so enduring is that the characters are still (200 years later) relatable, Emma included. We all know that person who tries to insert themselves into every aspect of other people’s lives, whether they have good intentions or no. We are all guilty of gossip.
And while the lines of social classes may be more blurred in this day and age, they still exist. People are absolutely judged on what their job is, where they went to school, what part of the city they live in, etc. So yes, Emma’s personality traits translate pretty easily to today… especially when you consider how we live on the internet and through social media now.
How much of the internet is just people giving unsolicited advice? How many times do you go on twitter daily and get not only news, but within seconds, people’s opinions on that news? We are all influence peddlers.
Our Emma is making being an influence peddler her job. She’s smart, nice, rich, and bored. What better job than a lifestyle and matchmaking business for someone who knows they know best and want to spread that knowledge around?
Sarah: How is Contemporary Emma going to go about “building her brand?”
Kate: Contemporary Emma’s brand is, in story world, already pretty well established.
By the time the show opens she is arranging the wedding of her 20-for-20th happily matched customer. But she’s expanding her brand online via her website Emmaapproved.com, where she offers lifestyle tips, fashion advice, and blogs on how to succeed. You’ll also see in upcoming episodes how she’s expanding to take on new clients.
Sarah: Are there any scenes you're looking forward to most?
Kate: There are a couple of ridiculously awesome scenes coming up, but I can’t say anything for fear of the wrath of the spoiler gods.
Kate: I really enjoy the character of Emma. She says what she thinks, in a way that I think a lot of us wish we could. I have a few episodes coming up that have some fun scenes in them but I [still] fear the wrath of the spoiler Gods and can’t share too much.
And yes, I miss the LBD characters — but luckily they are there on YouTube for me to visit whenever I want.
Sarah: Has Emma found the same audience as the LBD, or is it a new audience, do you think? How much overlap have you discovered with the new series?
Kate: I think there is a core audience who carried over from the LBD, and their enthusiasm and support make us so ridiculously grateful to have people engaged in the show.
However, Lizzie and Emma are different people, and the shows are structured differently, so they are going to attract some different viewers. But new or old, we are so pleased to have an audience, and hope to keep making something you like watching.
Sarah: Last question (I PROMISE): Any glimmers of other Austen transmedia projects on the horizon, or is it too early?
Sarah: One last question: did you get to fondle the LBD Emmy?
Kate: I have fondled the Emmy. She is point on top, heavy on the bottom, and if you flip it over there are instructions for care and maintenance written on the base.
You can find out more about Emma Approved at the website, and they're on Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr as well — plus each episode also features a collection of what Emma and the other characters were wearing, which, geez, that's just EVIL. But yet very Emma Appropriate. All episodes and extras are on their YouTube channel, and, well, I'm sorry for the time you're about to lose enjoying them.
You can learn more about Kate Noble at her website. Her latest novel was Let It Be Me ( A | BN | K S | ARe) (SB Sarah grade: B+), and her newest book is A Grosvenor Square Christmas, a free holiday anthology collection (Free, cheezy bread, free!) featuring novellas from Kate, Anna Campbell, Shana Galen and Vanessa Kelly.
Thank you again to Kate Noble for taking the time to answer all my questions! (I NOTICED the lack of spoilers… and I wonder which Austen project would be next on the Pemberley Digital list. What do you think?)