Interview with "Chloe Chronicles" Creator Mark Warshaw

"I'm Chloe Sullivan, and I'm here to bring you the truth," said Allison Mack's intrepid girl reporter in the first installment of the "Chloe Chronicles". Mark Warshaw also wanted to bring television viewers something — more content. In the early aughts Warshaw was on the cutting edge of interactive content when he pitched the idea for Chloe Sullivan to visit an even smaller screen: the computer screen.

Before you could tweet a[img_assist|nid=159|title=Allison Mack starring in the Chloe Chronicles|desc=Photo property of Tollin Robins Productions, Millar Gough Ink, Warner Brothers Television, and DC Comics.|link=none|align=left|width=350|height=320]long to your favorite TV series or live-stream a baseball game on your phone, Warshaw was figuring out that the internet could work as another channel for television content. Plugged-in viewers, more passionate than ever, were seeking alternative ways into their favorite television shows. Warshaw already knew that as the brain behind all the "Smallville" tie-in websites and DVDs. Still the "Chloe Chronicles", which he helped create, were a fairly new concept. This was material that tied into the show's mythology but could only be found on the web, engaging fans and working well for then-sponsor AOL. Suddenly you could use the web to tell more stories and who better to tell stories than "Smallville"'s favorite truth-finder?  Since  the "Chloe Chronicles" first bowed in 2003, Warshaw has gone on to work on a variety of other trans-media projects such as web content for NBC's late "Heroes". Now it seems like every genre of television show has dabbled in interactive content. When Warshaw and the "Smallville" brass were conceiving the "Chloe Chronicles", however, it was a brand new arena. After the success of the "Chloe Chronicles" Chloe once again picked up her digital camera and reporter's pad in "The Vengeance Chronicles", another tie-in web series. Legendary Women was lucky enough to speak with Warshaw about working with Allison Mack on the "Chloe Chronicles", the plucky appeal of one blonde girl detective and what the future holds in store for trans-media content. How did the "Chloe Chronicles" come about? Could you tell us a bit about your experiences working on them? At the time (Smallville  Season 2 - 2002), Warner Bros and AOL were one company.  AOL was just starting to experiment with online video distribution.  They asked for a behind-the-scenes video tour of the Smallville sets.  We had been having some good success with extending the Smallville story online with the Smallville Ledger, Torch and LuthorCorp websites and asked if we could instead take the opportunity to tell more stories in the online space with video.  They liked the idea and so I took Allison Mack out to lunch and asked her what she really wanted to do with the character of Chloe.  She had been underutilized on the main series to that point.  The fans were pissed.  They loved Chloe and wanted more.  So Allison shared her vision of turning Chloe into a character who could inspire girls to take action and make change in the world.  With that, we created the idea for the Chloe Chronicles -- an investigative news series where Chloe picked up where the stories on the TV series left off.  It was her crusade to expose what was really happening in Smallville.  We used webisodes, websites, comic books, mobile and other interactive experiences to create stories fans could engage with and participate on a deeper, more connected level. What was it that made Chloe a good character for an online series? She was the POV of the fans.  She was deeply concerned about the ongoing conspiracy and mystery of the series so there was a wealth of fun interactivity and deep mythology we could build into her Chronicles.  Plus, Allison was so talented and in the first two seasons of the series, the TV show needed to spend a lot of time establishing the Clark - Lex and Clark - Lana relationships.  This left less screen time for Chloe.  What transmedia does is create space were you can explore your lesser used characters and develop them some more. It costs less so there's a better opportunity to take risks. The online space served as a perfect storm for this.  Plus, the Chloe character was by far the most digitally savvy of the cast.  She was always on her computer or cell phone digging up info so Clark could go off and save the day.  So using Chloe as the main star of the online part of the show was a natural fit. What did you like best about writing for Chloe? What do you think makes Chloe a strong female character? Chloe was based on a real person named Dana Fox who is now one of the top screenwriters in Hollywood.  At the time, Dana was the assistant to Al Gough and Miles Millar.  Dana has brilliantly sharp wit to her and this inspired a lot of the Chloe snark that became the character's voice.  Of course -- Allison brought a ton to this as well.  She grew up in a very musical household so if you listen to the way she delivers her lines, there is a beautiful rhythm to her dialog.  This combination was gold to the Smallville writers.  You get to speak the truth through a super strong female character and try your best to infuse the dialog with some bite as well.  Chloe also stood for the "Truth" in the inspiration for Superman's "Truth, Justice and American Way" equation.  So writing Chloe gave you the license to go right to the core of what was really happening on Smallville.  You could be honest with the fans. What was it like working with Allison Mack? Working with Allison is my model for the perfect form of creative collaboration with an actor.  Allison grew up on sets so by the time we were on Smallville together, she was already a consummate professional.   So with Allison, you get the intangibles that professionalism delivers.  She is always on time and prepared and has a take on what she wants to bring to the work.  But Allison is an artist first.  She is constantly working on deepening her craft and finding the core of what it really means to tell stories and understand the power of story to move, inspire and entertain.  She is the type of actress that gives you 3 different options in the editing room and all three are usable and gives you great options when you are putting the story together.  Plus -- because we created the idea of the Chloe Chronicles together, she brought a ton of enthusiasm to the projects we worked on.  She saw it as a great opportunity to stretch her muscles as a future leading lady.  She was #1 on the call sheet when we did the Chronicles and she was a radiant source of positive energy during our time on set together -- this is contagious and so the crew always seemed like they were having a great time.  John Glover [who played Lionel Luthor] was the same way when he participated in the Chronicles.  I think he said it best when he told us that doing the webisodes was like kids getting to play make believe in the attic together. Why do you think genre shows like Smallville and Heroes were among the first to embrace online content? Because their mythologies are rich and thus there is natural room to explore the depths of the series.  Genre shows tend to have more active fan bases.  When you have mythologies to explore and ongoing mysteries to solve, there is a natural inclination to discuss and share your POV on what is really happening in the story. These create great conversations.  And, since media has evolved to a point where conversation is easily aggregated and linked with fans around the world, it makes for a great community building experience that naturally fits with genre.  That said, there are now tons of ways and reasons for all genres to embrace all sorts transmedia storytelling - online and otherwise.  You also ran the various Smallville tie-in websites. Why do you think it's important for shows to engage their fans? Because without fans you have nothing.   You don't have a story franchise if you are not connecting and co-creating with the fans.  And today, there are more ways for shows to connect with fans than ever before.  This allows for fans to form a stronger bond with the story, characters and world.    When fans form stronger bonds with the content, we've seen that they stay with the content longer -- I think this was one of the many reasons why the Smallville fanbase was able to keep the series going longer than any other continuously running Sci-fi series in the history of television. Why do you think fans connected with and loved Chloe so much? Because she was a doer.  She went after what she wanted and usually got it.  She made things happen.  She did this with passion.  This passion got her into trouble, but she usually figured her way out.   She was no damsel in distress. She was smart.  Whip smart.  And Snarky.  And she was the underdog to Lana. Clark loved Lana but he should have been with Chloe because she had the real depth.   And the series writers always did a great job giving Chloe the lines that let the fans know we were hearing what they were saying about the show. What do you think the future of online interactive content will be? We're past the sky being the limit.  The stars are the limit right now.     TV is becoming more interactive.  Over 1/2 of all TV consumption is viewed online or on DVRs now.  Video games are tearing down storytelling limitations.  With people enjoying their content on increasingly interactive devices, there is a greater range of storytelling options.  So now, we are in the more evolved stages of creating TV shows and other stories that are interactive from the start.  And this is going to lead to an even stronger dynamic storytelling experience between content creators and fans.  We're going to be building stories together and it is going to give stories and fans greater capacities to migrate, multiply, connect and create. What are you currently working on? My company, The Alchemists, is a transmedia storytelling strategy and production company that has taken what we learned from telling stories with Chloe on Smallville and other projects and built a whole business around it.  Now, we help other storytellers migrate their tales onto multiple platforms and connect with fans on deeper levels.  We also help brands build stories around their products.  And, we create our own original stories as well.  In the last 3 years we've created stories for the likes of Elle Magazine (check out the motion comic book series Dirty Little Secret staring Allison Mack as troubled fashion designer trying to recover from a bad break up).  We've also created multiple stories for the Coca-Cola company.   We founded the company in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 3 years ago and do a lot of work down there -- for example -- we started the transmedia department for the largest TV network in Latin America (Globo).  I am actually writing these answers on a plane to Rio where I am getting set to do a talk with Allison about our work together on Smallville. Smallville did very well in Brazil. Brazil has a rich storytelling culture and my partner, Mauricio Mota, developed a storytelling game that breaks down the core characteristics of story -- we apply this thinking to every storytelling platform there is. Its been a fun post-Smallville run.


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