Snap is expanding its original programming into a new genre: soft-scripted docu-series, with the first Snapchat Show in this area from Bunim-Murray Productions starring teen YouTube creator Summer Mckeen.
“Endless Summer” is currently in production and slated to debut in September. The coming-of-age series follows the life of 19-year-old Summer Mckeen, a beauty and fashion vlogger who has her own jewelry line, living on her own for the first time in Laguna Beach — next door to her boyfriend, Dylan Jordan.
With “Endless Summer” and other docu-series, Snap wants to build a slate of character-driven serialized narratives focused on the stories of “compelling people around the world as they go through dramatic life moments, incredible journeys, and challenging relationships,” said Sean Mills, Snap’s senior director of content programming. The largest group of daily active Snapchatters are 18-24, and the docu-series format has huge appeal for this cohort.
The push is a half-step for Snapchat Shows toward fully scripted, serialized entertainment programming, which Snap expects to launch later in 2018. The company introduced the Snapchat Shows approach two years ago, inspired by the communication Snapchatters use to talk to their closest friends. The episodes are typically 3-5 minutes long, cut for vertical video and are designed to be “hyper-visual,” featuring motion graphics, split screens, quick cuts and other effects.
“Endless Summer” will be “soft-scripted,” which refers to shows featuring real-life people who are put into scripted storylines — with one of the earliest examples being MTV’s “Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County.”
To date, Snapchat Shows mostly have been unscripted formats; “Endless Summer” marks the first Snapchat Show that will have a serialized story arc. The series will comprise 12 episodes, each 4-5 minutes long, and Snap is planning to release new episodes daily when the show runs in the fall “so it feels like an event series,” Mills said.
Bunim-Murray Productions, the reality-TV pioneer behind such shows as “The Real World,” “Project Runway” and “Keeping Up With the Kardashians,” brought the concept for “Endless Summer” to Snap.
“Bunim-Murray is always exploring new methods of storytelling, so Snapchat was a natural fit to help tell Summer’s story with us,” said Julie Pizzi, Bunim-Murray’s president of entertainment and development. “They’ve been an incredibly creative and collaborative partner throughout our production and filming process and have been very open to experimenting in this genre and format.”
Snapchat’s reality shows won’t be quite like reality TV, though. Snap is applying practices it’s learned from producing unscripted shows to the “soft-scripted” slate. “It’s a lot more intimate — you will see characters speaking directly to camera more frequently,” Mills said. “A lot of action happens in five minutes, and you get dramatic build-up to drive you into the next episode.”
Snap has other docu-dramas in development, but Mills declined to provide details on partners or formats. “There’s going to be a breadth of content as part of this,” Mills said. “We’ll have a variety of different shows, and the styles will be widely different — some shot with smartphones, others more cinematic.”
To drive awareness and engagement, “Endless Summer” and other forthcoming Snapchat docu-series will launch with several new interactive features. Those will include being able to Snap into Watch Parties and after-shows, where users will be able to interact with other fans as well as cast members. Snapchat also plans to roll out lenses that Snapchatters can use when they open the app into the camera, allowing viewers to put themselves into the shows’ settings and share that content. The new docu-series also are expected to incorporate augmented-reality “portals,” to let viewers use the Snapchat camera to insert themselves into key scenes.
“Endless Summer” follows Summer Mckeen and Dylan Jordan in their new life together in Laguna Beach, showing the ups and downs of moving away from home and navigating the online digital space as a couple. Friends featured in the show include Summer’s BFFs Olivia Rouyre and McKenzie Luskey, who both have careers as digital influencers, and Dylan’s friends Sam Shryoc, Sidney Bowen, Zach Knell, and Matthew McFate.
Executive producers of “Endless Summer” from Bunim-Murray Productions are Gil Goldschein, Julie Pizzi, Farnaz Farjam-Chazan and Andrea Metz. Summer Mckeen, Clayton Santillo and Kyle Santillo will also serve as executive producers, and Andrea Metz is set as showrunner and will also executive produce. Mckeen and Jordan are repped by Scale Management and Ashley Silver of Bloom Hergott.
Snap’s foray into docu-series programming comes as part of its ongoing effort to expand lineup of original entertainment for its 191 million global daily active users. Since first launching original Snapchat Shows in 2016, Snap has partnered with several TV networks, production companies and studios. To date, those partners have developed and produced more than 50 series for Snapchat’s Discover platform.
In the next few months, Snap is gearing up to debut new scripted Snapchat Shows, including productions from partners and the joint-venture studio with NBCUniversal that’s developing short-form comedies and dramas. The Snap-NBCU studio’s creative partners include indie filmmakers Mark and Jay Duplass.
Pictured above: Dylan Jordan and Summer McKeen