MTV’s Savage County Goes Transmedia

Wondering how confident MTV (s VIA) is that its Eventful campaign for Savage County will reach 100,000 Demands, thereby leading to a television premiere?

Here’s how confident it is: The network has hired Nina Bargiel, who masterminded the Streamy-winning transmedia experience behind Electric Farm’s Valemont, to create another interactive web-based narrative to accompany the Texas Chainsaw Massacre-inspired slasher film.

Savage County Official Trailer from Savage County on Vimeo.

“The transmedia experience isn’t a full-fledged [Alternate Reality Game], but there are ARG elements,” Bargiel said via chat. “There’s a full narrative if you pay attention, with clues embedded throughout.” The “trailhead” can be found at, the small town newspaper for the area where the film’s mayhem takes place. Links there take you to a number of Twitter and Facebook accounts, and clues there will lead to at least one other website within the experience. (Bargiel hinted that the personals section might be key there.)

And this isn’t even “the main course” — that’s waiting on the approval and launch of a Savage County iPhone and iPad app, which will bring with it even more content. “The one scary part of this is that they can take however long they want to approve the iPad app, so I have to be flexible with the story,” Bargiel said. “But that’s why I’m a writer!”

While Bargiel did not work with the MTV New Media team on Valemont, Savage County director and MTV new media producer David Harris said that internally, she had a lot of admirers based on her work on that project, which led to her being approached for the project. And while the project’s only been online for a week, Harris said that the page views have been pretty high so far, and the early traction has come from fans of Nina and her work. “I think it marks a level of sophistication in the audience that they care about who makes this stuff,” he said via phone.

Harris said that the budget for the transmedia experience makes up a significant part of Savage County‘s marketing budget, but that it’s been given license to experiment with the project to see what kind of audience it can capture. “The great thing about the Eventful campaign is that people feel real ownership over the fate of Savage County. If they can also feel ownership of the story then it’s a win-win,” he added. “We’re bringing in people who care about a world more than about a genre.”

The question is — can a website be as scary as a horror film? “Because the audience member structures the pace of the experience, it’s a different kind of scary than the film,” Harris said. “It’s like picking a scab and realizing the wound is much larger than you thought is was. We can’t jump out at you when you see what’s coming, but we can plant something horrible for you to find if you go digging. It’s more like a haunted house than a movie.”

“While you want this to feel REAL, there’s an ethical question about making it too real. There was some stuff that David and I ended up nixing because while it would have been downright terrifying, it also would have resulted in people calling the cops,” Bargiel said.

Harris expects the Eventful campaign to top 100,000 Demands by either the end of this week or next week, thanks to some upcoming email blasts. If that proceeds accordingly, Savage County may premiere during the first week of October, just in time for horror movie season.

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