Showtime is staging an unusual promotional event, inviting fans of THE L WORD to help a writer on the show pen a spec script for an episode. The press release calls it "the first network-sanctioned collaborative fan event."
During the sponsored, multi-week event,
the show’s millions of fans will be invited to collaborate on an
original script for the show. Each week, fans will write short scenes
based on an instructive "scene mission" provided by the writer from THE
L WORD. Each week, fans will vote on their favorite scenes. At the end of each week,
the winning scene will be added to the script in progress. The process
will repeat each week with a new "scene mission" until the entire
script is complete.
Once the script has been pieced together, the L WORD writer will
perform a final polish to complete it. Contributors of highly rated
scenes and other winners will be featured prominently online during the
event, giving them a taste of online fame. FanLib’s innovative system
enables Showtime to maintain control of THE L WORD brand while
establishing an incomparable consumer generated media community where
fans can interact with each other and with their favorite show.
A couple of people who emailed me about this called it a "breakthrough for fanfic." It’s not. The key phrase in the release is that the program "enables Showtime to maintain control of THE L WORD brand." In other words, this "fan event" is a licensed tie-in, done with the full participation, consent, and control of the network, studio and writer of the show.
At the conclusion of the event, Showtime and FanLib will publish a free
commemorative eZine (a downloadable digital magazine) featuring the
completed script, plus a number of alternative scenes and editorial
features including profiles of the winning contributors and other
participants. Each fan whose work is included in the eZine will receive
an exclusive gift package from the show and the sponsors of the event.
The eZine will be distributed online to all of the participants and
voters and other members of the show’s online community as a pass-along
memento of the event.
Though the script will not be produced as part of the show’s upcoming
third season which will have wrapped production before the start of the
event, Showtime and the producers of THE L WORD have the option to
produce the finished script in the future.
It will be interesting to see how "event" works out, if the fans embrace the corporate managing of their fanfic, and if the cobbled-together script is the least bit readable. My guess is that the L WORD writer is going to take a pretty heavy pass through the material and that it will probably never be shot.