“My hope is to change the narrative of normal. If I can have a tiny part of turning the dial in a more progressive manner, in a more inclusive manner, that would be thrilling,” said Mia Lidofsky, the creator of the Facebook Watch series “Strangers” during a SXSW event for the digital platform in Austin, Tex. Tuesday.
Launched in August of last year, Facebook Watch is a mix of scripted series, documentaries and short-form videos, all of which are available exclusively on the digital platform.
Lidofsky’s “Strangers,” a coming-of-age tale about a young woman confronting various parts of herself and her relationships as she interacts with the tenants who come and go from her spare room. Originally picked up by digital media company Refinery29 two years ago, it premiered at Sundance the following year but Lidofsky was still trying to figure out how to get the show launched and distributed. Last spring, it appeared on Facebook’s radar, and the first season was acquired. A second season was also greenlit at the same time.
“Strangers” falls under the premium scripted content Facebook Watch has been going after, as a way to make noise in a streaming space more traditionally dominated by heavyweights like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon.
But Facebook Watch also strives to hit its audience where they already are and deliver content in a setting ripe for discussion about what is being consumed.
The combination of Facebook Watch’s bent towards unconventional content and its fostering of conversation attracted Lidofsky.
“I created this story to connect with people, and that’s part of the beauty of it being on Facebook. There are so many communities it can reach — and that respond positively — that I feel like I’ve done my job. If one person laughs and smiles and feels less alone, then it’s all worth it,” Lidofsky said.
Lidosfky, who identifies as a gay woman, wanted to be able to “explore sexuality in all of its idioms” with “Strangers,” in great part because she felt that there weren’t shows already existing that mirrored her own experience of life and love and “figuring [herself] out.”
“From day one, I wanted to explore a bisexual character, and see where that would lead,” she said, noting that Facebook Watch has let her tell the story she wants to, without the trappings of traditional censors or network notes.
“The beauty of the internet is that it’s the wild wild west,” she explained.
“Strangers’s” first season consisted of seven episodes, which vary between 13-18 minutes in length. The second season, which will begin production in late March, will consist of 10 30-minute episodes. Lidofsky noted that Facebook Watch is allowing her to take bigger swings and “risks” with the upcoming season.
“I do feel that the extra room has allowed me to grow in what I hope are major ways,” she said. “I really, truly believe in the stories we’re telling this season. It’s more inclusive, it’s more diverse, we’re exploring things a little more deeply while keeping the same tone and humor of season one.”
“I started writing this when I was 27, and the place I was in my life was so drastically different,” she added. “To me, looking back, we just feel like kids who were so desperate to grow up, and I feel like we’ve become women in the process. So, that’s something I’m excited about exploring in season two.”