CYBERSPACE — It’s a new reality show where episodes are shown the day they are filmed and anyone can talk to the stars, but you can’t find it anywhere on TV.
Four Santa Monica teenagers are starring in a real-time series called @Summerbreak that exists solely on social media websites and YouTube.
Instead of being written, filmed then edited like a typical TV show, a film crew simply follows them and five other SoCal teenagers in their own summer rompings then posts short videos of them the same day.
The nine teens also produce much of the show themselves. They tweet and take Instagram photos, some more than 20 a day, about their summer experiences, many of which are then re-posted on the @SummerBreak Twitter account. The account has more than 118,000 followers after just a few weeks of filming.
Some of the episodes feature the kids doing what kids do — hanging out at the pool barbecuing, talking about relationships, skateboarding and gossiping. Others show more drama, including one teen’s struggle with her father’s cancer diagnosis.
The show, launched in mid-June by the Chernin Group and sponsored by AT&T, is the mobile service company’s attempt to engage with a teenage audience, said Georgia Taylor, AT&T spokeswoman.
“We’re always looking for new and innovative ways to engage with our customers and our brand,” Taylor said. “@Summerbreak sort of embraces that reality storytelling.”
AT&T is only one of many companies who are jumping onto the web-only entertainment bandwagon as mobile technology like smartphones becomes more prevalent.
“Everyone has a smartphone. You take that everywhere with you (and) essentially have a mobile life,” Taylor said.
Santa Monica High basketball star Trevis Jackson, along with Ray Mancini, Kostas Garcia and Zaq Moul, were chosen to represent Santa Monica youth on the show.
The producers sought Jackson out for his active presence on Twitter in the Santa Monica community. After tweeting about his basketball games, he would receive hundreds of responses from Twitter users who would follow his progress on the social media site.
The chance for direct viewer interaction with the stars of online video is one of the draws that’s bringing more young people to the web for entertainment, said Joshua Cohen, executive director of the Streamy Awards. The Streamys were founded just four years ago to honor video entertainment solely produced for the Internet.
With online forums for entertainment, the audience can comment and receive instant responses from the stars of the show.
“Users have a much greater opportunity to feel connected to that particular piece of programming,” Cohen said. “That’s a really powerful connection they’re fostering with the audience that they definitely couldn’t do with television or other media.”
Jackson said the attention he receives from being on the show has been “pretty awesome,” but that he also likes the larger sense of community that social media helped create as people followed his time with basketball and @SummerBreak.
“When we had our basketball run during the year… the community would kind of just show us love, good luck,” Jackson said. “It’s kind of the same feeling (with @SummerBreak). It’s just cool to know that there’s people out there who support you and enjoy watching you be you.”