Currently, you are in the process of releasing your webseries The
Hayley Project on the net. Could you tell us in a few phrases what the
series is about?
Co-creator Jato Smith
The Hayley Project is about misfit college sophomore
Hayley Winters (Rachel Risen) who investigates the murder of her best friend
Keira (Michelle Vanegas). The
cops label Keiraís case a suicide, but Hayley refuses to believe Keira
would take her own life. So Hayley takes it upon herself to track down the
murderer. Only catch is, she doesnít have a lot of real-world friends
and she knows she canít solve the case by herself. So she flips on her
webcam, and video blogs to the world, asking anybody watching to help her
solve the murder case.
The series was co-created by Andrew Y. Park and Jato Smith, produced by
Dave Evans, Paolo De Dios, Andrew Y. Park, and Jato Smith, and stars
The series' website, YouTube, whatever
The main site for interaction is at http://www.youtube.com/user/hayleywinters.
However, we recently signed a deal with KoldCast.TV (http://www.koldcast.tv)
so the series is
playing there, as well as TiVo and iTunes. We also have a facebook fan
page that everyone should join, http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Hayley-Project/28423917915?ref=ts
Rachel Risen as Hayley
On the website, you call The Hayley Project an interactive
series. How much influence can the viewer have on the series' plot and how
much is already mapped out by you?
We filmed everything ahead of time so the main plot is already mapped
out, and a viewer wonít be able to change the course of the plot.
However, there are two ways in which the series is interactive. First, we
filmed several versions of Hayleyís video blog, so that she is able to react
and comment back to viewers based on what they are saying in the comments
section. In addition, there is a lot of interactivity on the YouTube comment
boards, where Hayley (and other characters) responds to the community.
While I love the concept of making a true choose your own adventure,
the logistics of making that work is very difficult, especially with
limited budget and resources.
Michelle Vanegas as Keira
Where did the
inspiration for the series come from?
I loved this concept:
What if someone who had no real-world friends had to turn for help to an
anonymous community on the web to solve a crime? And what if not everybody
in that community could be trusted?
That was the kernel of the idea that really became The Hayley Project.
Hayley Winters is an abrasive character with few real-world friends. Quite
frankly, some of the web community had a hard time rooting for her early
on. But whatís exciting is we get to see her change over time as she
learns to embrace the community backing her, and subsequently, learns to
work with others in the series who will eventually become her allies.
In terms of other elements of the series, we really wanted to develop a
show that was original for the web category. In this case, there was
little out on the web that had the tone of a dramedy (comedic elements in
a dramatic premise). On top of that, we wanted to create a series that
skewed younger and female. Our YouTube numbers show that
approximately 70% of our viewers are female, and about 70% of our viewing
audience is 13-24. So we feel we did a good job creating a show for a
The cast of
The Hayley Project
A few words about your principal cast and especially your lead
Our cast is great. We had so much fun filming the series and each actor
brought their own style to the project.
Our main actress is Rachel Risen, who does a wonderful job playing Hayley
Winters. Sheís fantastic. We always joked that she sort of looks like
Sarah Michelle Gellar and thatís why we cast her. But truthfully, she
was really perfect for the role and by the time production was underway,
she really shaped the Hayley character.
Why did you
choose to make The Hayley Project a web-series rather than a
feature film, and what do you think are the advantages (and disadvantages)
of filming for the web?
The Hayley Project was
always only going to be a web-series. The inspiration to create a series
was based on the opportunity we saw on the web. And the premise about a
girl using an audience to support her investigation was a core element of
the story, so we never even considered this for a feature.
In my opinion, the biggest advantage of the web is that filmmakers can
reach their audience and get real-time feedback from their viewers. Before
webseries were popular, filmmakers had to get noticed by going through the
film festival circuit. The problem is that the chances of a film getting
1) into a noticeable festival and 2) getting actual distribution through
theaters or TV was near impossible. So the web really opened up the
ability to directly distribute to an audience. The downside right now is
that the web isnít significantly monetizable for the most part. Most
filmmakers should be looking at their web series as a loss leader for
future engagements, and not to make a quick buck. Another downside of the
web is that with little barriers to entry, thereís a lot of clutter and
Jessica Warner as Lexi
In the past few years, the internet has become a breeding place for
highly original series of all sorts. Do you at all watch other webseries,
and which are your favourites?
Iím certainly a fan of other webseries. However, Iíve been so busy
with The Hayley Project and my job that I havenít had as much
time to explore. But I am a big fan of The
Guild. And Iíve enjoyed the parts Iíve seen of LG15, The
All-For-Nots, and Drawn By Pain.
At its heart, The
Hayley Project is a murder mystery. Why did you choose that genre for
your series, and is the murder mystery a genre dear to you?
certainly a fan of murder mysterisa. Who doesnít like a good twisted
story? But Iíll admit that part of the reason this genre was picked was
because it was perfect for interactivity. We wanted the audience to
interact with Hayley and give her their thoughts on who they thought the
killer was and why.
Phillip Andre Botello as Stalkerboy
Despite its very serious topic (murder), The Hayley Project
also seems to have spots of humour all over. Would you like to talk about
that aspect of the show?
When Jato and I talked about the tone of the series during
preproduction, we agreed to create a dramedy, where the premise was
dramatic, but comedy was infused throughout. Iím not a fan of pure
drama. I find it boring most of the time without enough highs and lows.
For me, my favorite shows are able to integrate both dramatic and comedic
elements and switch between the two genres seamlessly. Itís not an easy
task but you have to have light moments to make the dark moment darker.
You have co-directed,
co-written and co-produced The Hayley Project - which part of
filmmaking do you like best?
I think after this experience,
I realize that Iím more of a writer at heart. I certainly enjoyed all
aspects of filmmaking, but I really love the creative process of
developing a story and characters.
Any movies and TV-shows that were direct
influences on The Hayley Project?
I think Veronica
Mars and Buffy
to some degree. Iím a fan of strong female lead characters, and I also
really like the idea of diverse characters coming together to solve a
mystery. I think the tone of Buffy
is what we aspired to be most similar to.
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experiences prior to The Hayley Project?
I had done a number of shorts and a couple of really bad features when I was
younger. Letís not talk about that ;)
Hayley Project is scheduled for 37 episodes. Would you ever consider
doing a sequel/second season?
I would love to do a second
season but only under the right circumstances. Jato and I funded the first
series for relatively cheap, but it took an incredibly long time to
execute. For a second season, weíd need to have sponsorship and more
dedicated resources to make it worthwhile. The Hayley Project season
1 was a long journey and incredibly rewarding, but we really need to pay
the people who work for us the second time around. I do hope that we have
a second season though. I really believe the character pieces are in place
to have a very fun second season, and I already even have the main premise
in mind. Itís ďkillerĒ ;)
Any future projects after
Hayley has found her killer?
Future projects for me or for
Hayley? Iím sure Hayley will be busy with school work!
Directors and writers who
have influenced you?
Iíd say a web series is more along
the lines of a TV series in terms of character and story development than
movies. In this case, Iíve always been big fans of Joss Whedon and JJ
Abrams. Theyíre on top of their game in TV.
Your favourite movies ...?
Club, Braveheart, Se7en, Swingers, Donnie
and some movies you didn't like at all?
Country For Old Men. I just donít get the Coen Bros. No offense
to them. Itís just not my style.
I've forgotten to ask and you are dying to tell us?
Go to http://www.youtube.com/user/hayleywinters
- itís a perfect time to catch up on the series. Weíre really
getting deep into the investigation and thereís going to be some really
exciting and darker episodes coming up. Definitely check us out and join
the facebook fan page. Weíd love all the support we can get.
Michael, for the interview.
Thank you for the interview!