In roughly a month, The CW’s primetime lineup will return and viewers will, once again, by inundated by countless stories of slender, beautiful people looking for love. Until that time, though, TheWB.com hopes audiences might be willing to take a dip in “The Lake.”
The new web-series premieres on Monday, Aug. 10 with the launch of four episodes of roughly 10 minutes apiece. An additional four episodes will premiere on Aug. 17, with the story concluding on Aug. 24.
Written by Marcie Ulin and Meredith Lavender, produced by Jordan Levin and directed by Jason Priestley, “The Lake” is set in the fictional Lake Eleanor and focuses on a group of teens (and some of their parents) experiencing the usual teen dramas — romance, popularity, family troubles — over the course of a single summer.
“I actually grew up in Chicago and grew up summering on Lake Geneva, Wisconsin and Lake Elizabeth, Wisconsin,” Lavender told reporters at a Television Critics Association press tour panel last week. “And Jordan also grew up summering in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. So there’s a lot in this that pulled from my own experiences, going off to a lake and spending time in the summer with people that you may or may not see during the rest of the year, or you may keep in contact with, but there was a special bond and friendship that formed with those people when you were at the lake in the summertime.”
Added Ulin, “Jordan and Peter Aronson brought up the idea and said, ‘Would you guys be interested in doing a show about kids who summer at a lake together?’ And we jumped at the chance because we both grew up on ‘Dawson’s’ and ‘Felicity’ and all those stories, and we loved them so much that the chance to create a show about kids going through this transitional period and that time in your life, the 12 weeks of summer, it’s an eternity and you can do so much. It’s so exciting and invigorating. But then, to also tell stories about the adults who are dealing with teenagers going through this transitional phase, that was fun.”
Although “The Lake” will have the running time of a feature film once all of the segments are available, Priestley and the production team shot the whole thing over 12 days, working between Big Bear and Los Angeles. Given that frantic pace (and a budget well below that of an episode of a network TV drama), it’s no wonder that certain corners had to be cut.
“[P]eople didn’t quite have to bring their own lunches, but we definitely worked with a much smaller crew than is generally used when shooting television,” Priestley explained. “You know, obviously we shot with two cameras all the time, so you can save a lot there just in paying people. But we were streamlined all the way from the top on down. It was an incredibly streamlined production. You know, we could load up the entire production into two little tiny vans and get wherever we needed to be. So it was very lean and mean, because we had to be.”
Although reporters peppered Priestley with the usual questions about “Beverly Hills, 90210” and whether it was the teen soap aspect of “The Lake” that drew him, Priestley insisted that nostalgia wasn’t really on his mind.
“I try not to spend too much time looking in the rearview mirror. I try to keep moving forward,” Priestley said. “And I challenged myself by taking on this project, and working with this new medium was part of that. I think that the Internet and viewing things on the Internet is going to be part of the entertainment landscape. I don’t think it’s going to become all of the entertainment landscape, but I think it’s going to be part of it. So for those of us who make scripted content need to be able to do it, whether it’s for television, whether it’s for feature films or whether it’s for the Internet, which is going to be part of our landscape. So I think that taking on this project was a great challenge for all of us, but especially for me because I really had to learn about the limitations of the medium.”
Of course, given the cast of mostly unknowns — Samantha Cope, Devin Crittenden, Erica Dasher, Heather Ann Davis, Robb Derringer, Meredith Dilg, Elisa Donovan, Mim Drew, Amy Stewart, Nick Thurston, Mark Totty and Drew Van Acker topline — Priestley’s name and involvement are being heavily touted in promotion for “The Lake.”
“I think you look for anything to break through and cut through the clutter,” Levin acknowledged. “There is no doubt that it helps… [I]t helps to get some hooks, it helps raise some curiosity about it. But at the end of the day, I don’t think that this show’s success is going to become dependent upon it, but hopefully it becomes a magnet for certain people. And also that it extends that there’s some credibility there. You look at the people involved and the effort that we all made and that this isn’t a hobby. This is something that we really felt pretty passionate about and wanted to do. I mean, when we called Jason, it was one of those classic, ‘Hey, have we got a deal for you. There is no pay and you work your ass off; it’s on the Internet and no one may ever see it. Do you want in?’ ‘Yeah!'”
As for viewer involvement, TheWB.com is offering the series, plus a variety of ancillary and complimentary content, allowing viewers to experience as much or as little of “The Lake” as they desire.
“If you just want to watch the show, you can just watch the show,” Ulin noted. “If you are interested in the music they listen to or the text messages they sent back and forth or what’s gone on in their lives before and kind of after the show is over, you can engage in that as well. So it’s kind of choose your own level of involvement rather than choose your own adventure sort of thing.”
The first four episodes of “The Lake” are now available on TheWB.com.