The way that fans interact with their favorite serialized entertainment brands is shifting and changing all the time in this social media era but the goal of actually incorporating fans into the creative process in a meaningful way has been the most elusive of social media’s many promises. An intriguing vanguard on that front right now comes from the Facebook Watch series Sacred Lies, a Blumhouse TV production that has hard-wired its fan community into the show’s Season 2 writers’ room.
Sacred Lies, the evocative story about an amputee and cult survivor, has harnessed its robust Facebook footprint (661K followers and 38.5K members) by opening up the writing and show-running process in a way that is more instructional than purely promotional. The most active fans are likely candidates to join the ranks of the show’s “Keepers,” which means they have an active voice in some casting, designing and narrative choices.
The setting of Season 2, for instance, will be Colorado, a choice made by fans. The mystery man that arrives in town in the sophomore season will be named Hunter, anther choice made by fans. All of it speaks to the Facebook Watch stated goal, which is “to be a platform for all creators and publishers to find an audience and build a community of passionate fans.”
The point person for the Sacred Lies fan outreach has been Raelle Tucker (True Blood, Jessica Jones, Supernatural) is the show’s Creator, Executive Producer and Showrunner. She candidly admits that she was not thrilled by the prospect at first. “I was prepared for the absolute worst,” said Tucker, who was a relative neophyte at social media pursuits but knew enough to expect animus and vitriol. ” I was totally surprised. I couldn’t have been more wrong.”
Tucker’s anxiety was only heightened by Sacred Lies and its subject matter. The ten-episode, half-hour drama series was based on the award-winning namesake YA novel by Stephanie Oakes, which is a modern take on the Grimm fairy tale about “The Handless Maiden.” It unravels the mystery of a teenage amputee named Minnow Bly (Elena Kampouris), who escapes a cult after the death of its radical Prophet and finds friendship, hope, and redemption in the most unlikely place: juvenile detention, where Minnow finally learns that true freedom begins with the power to decide your own beliefs.
Even with filters in place Tucker anticipated (and dreaded) inappropriate, insulting or hurtful topics and comments but she said in practice that simply hasn’t been the case despite thousands or interactions at this point between the show and its Facebook Watch audience. Now Tucker is a steady presence reaching out to fans, explaining the behind-the-scenes creative process and its principles, and also surveying the active audience for its input on the show’s unfolding tale.
Even more unexpected, the Sacred Lies forum has created a haven for young people to share their own stories about amputation, disability, incarceration, or cult experiences. Tucker found herself in the jarring position of hearing from fans who “did not realize that they had been in a cult — or that they had grown up in a cult — until they found this show and this community.”
Blumhouse TV describes Sacred Lies as the first scripted show centered around a physically disabled female character. The description continues: “It addresses Minnow’s trauma and triumph as a double amputee from a grounded, emotional, and inspiring perspective. The show tackles deep, real life issues: from the institutionalized incarceration of children – the school to prison pipeline – to white supremacy, to the seductive allure and dangers of religious extremism.”
Asked for a takeaway on the experience, Tucker said that she believed the key has been presenting “an authentic message” and taking a risk on presenting “an earnest message” in an ironic age. “People respond when they sense that you aren’t hiding or holding back, even though holding back is the instinct we have.”