Soon after the Kickstarter campaign for "Veronica Mars" sparked a ton of conversations and debates, another woman-led project took the crowdfunding site by storm, raising its $60,000 goal soon after it launched.
The team behind "The Lizzie Bennet Diaries," a YouTube-based adaptation of "Pride and Prejudice," have already raised $430,000 and counting, mainly by selling a DVD of the complete series (There are currently a few hours to go on the Kickstarter campaign, which can be found here). Funds from the sales will go toward a new Austen adaptation, "Welcome to Sanditon," based on the author's unfinished "Sanditon."
Where did "Lizzie Bennet" come from? Out of view of the mainstream media, the web series has racked up an impressive 180,000 YouTube subscribers, enough so that, right before DECA came in to take part-ownership of the show, it was self-sustaining (revenue paid for production).
DECA is a media company that provides programming for women across platforms. According to a Gigaom report on the series, the DECA deal with "Lizzie Bennet" allows DECA to take over the administrative aspects of the show. DECA co-owns the series and has a deal that ties them to future endeavors from the "Lizzie Bennet" producers.
Of course, nothing could be more mainstream than Jane Austen. How did they do it? By telling a traditional story untraditionally. Like 2006's lonelygirl15, "Lizzie Bennet" started slow, taking its time with key plot points. This built up anticipation for how the series would handle plot points Austen fans knew were coming, like keeping William Darcy offscreen until #darcyday and hyping their first encounter with aplomb. The writer, Bernie Su ("Compulsions"), also modernized some story lines, like making Collins ask Lizzie to join a startup, rather than his hand in marriage. The result is one of the most fan-driven web series since its predecessor in lonelygirl15.
The success of "Lizzie Bennet" signals the possible maturation of women's programming in web video. Even as advertisers and networks continue to see online as a way to reach young male viewers, producers like "Lizzie Bennet"'s Hank Green and Bernie Su, now with the help of DECA, have been proving how women, particularly young women, respond to web originals as well.
Watch the first episodes of "The Lizzie Bennet Diaries" below:
Bryce J. Renninger contributed reporting to this story.