Mina Murray’s Journal, the trending “vladaptation” (vlog-adaptation) of the classic novel Dracula, has seen the end of its first season a few days ago. The vlog, which we previously talked about, provides an interesting adaptation and a refreshing new intake on Bram Stoker’s famous novel. James Moran, Mina Murray’s Journal creator, writer, director, editor and executive producer, and Rosie Holt, the actress embodying Mina, were at MCM London Comic Con. And we enjoyed the opportunity to have a chat with them!
Why Dracula in particular?
James: I wasn’t planning to do a vlog series. I just thought one day: ‘wouldn’t it be funny if there were a web series vlog for Dracula because the book is sold in diary form so it’s kind of the same sort of thing’. And that’s literally all I thought of at the time. It just stuck in my head for ages. I thought: ‘It’s too weird, no one is going to really be in that sort of thing.’ But there’s been so many great web series out of books that they sort of paved the way for us. So, why not Dracula? That’s the answer to the question.
How is it to be playing in a vlog? Nowadays, many people do vlogs for their personal use, so it’s tricky to put that into the form of a fiction. How do you find that line between playing and being yourself?
Rosie: Obviously you’re still acting, but I think in vlog acting you probably have to put a bit more of yourself just because vlogging is such a direct media. That’s why it’s so popular, it’s because people communicate directly with their audience so I think you have to have that in mind when you’re playing a vlog.
How is it to play Mina Murray when so many great actresses have played it before?
Rosie: I think that in our version, she’s very much her own thing. She’s stronger and she’s more different so I don’t really worry about how she’s been portrayed in the past. I really feel we’ve got our stamp on her character, so she’s really fun to play.
You’ve had several different formats of vlogging so far (like live streaming for example). Do you have other special formats coming?
James: Yes, we have some other characters doing their own vlogs. They have their own Twitter accounts, Mina has her own Instagram account, we’ve been teasing Renfield Tumblr account, today’s [aka 29/10]episode actually reveals the address of the website and I have been building that for a couple of months now, just adding lots of stuff to it. It has been there for ages and now it exists and people know where it is so I’m curious to know what they think of that. So there are lots of things that people may not go to outside of the videos but it’s there in case they do. They can see there is a whole world built up for them.
Are Lucy and Jack vlogs necessary to understand Mina Murray’s Journal?
James: No, you can watch without seeing them, but they add extra clues and things. If you watch all of them and pay attention they are inter-related clues that let you figure out what’s going on before the characters do. So you should watch all of them really.
Rosie: Yes, and they build up the characters. They make the world more rich.
We haven’t seen Dracula yet. Are we going to see him?
James: You will see Dracula at some stage, but like in the book, he doesn’t really appear for quite a while, and even when he appears he’s like in the background. It’s only half way through the book that he really comes forward a lot more. We are doing a similar thing: we’re not going to see much of him until season 2 or 3, then we’ll start seeing more of him. I think he is scarier when he is off-screen because you don’t know what he’s going to do or where he is.
Are you happy with the reception of the vlog so far and how people are reacting?
James: It’s been lovely, yes, because people know it’s not real but they play along with that and they talk to the character. And we’ve managed the social media so the characters talk back to them so yes, it’s a pretty nice reaction.
Rosie: People seem to be really enthusiastic about it, that’s great.
When we watched The Mina Murray’s Journal, we had that impression that it was very theatrical, contrary to a vlog such as The Lizzie Bennett Diaries for instance, which looks much more like everyday life. Here you have theatrical elements like the music coming out of the phone that we know is fake, but we enjoy it nonetheless. What’s your incentive behind all the theatrical staging?
James: Well, the whereabouts is, because I knew we weren’t going to get to the scary stuff until half way through the series, I wanted to make sure that people knew the stuff coming. There are some things like jokes about what’s going to happen, so people who know the book can spot little things like that. It’s a little reference to what’s coming up. So it’s funny for the audience but the characters have no idea they’re in Dracula!
How long does it take to film a 3 to 4 minutes episode?
James: We shot the whole thing in 5 days. It generally takes about an hour per episode, just to set up the lights and then decide what to do and then we’re usually going to run through the whole episode 2 or 3 times and that’s it! Because the episodes are short, it generally takes less than an hour, unless it is a complicated episode. For Matt, who plays Jack, I gave him so much complicated exposition that it took longer. Generally you can play around a little bit, but his stuff had to be really precise because it was referring to the website, so his was more difficult.
Is everything scripted?
James: Yes, but the actors are so good, they add stuff and throw things in it in the moment. I leave a lot of that in because it looks really natural and it’s what the characters would do. All the bits at the end where they go ‘please subscribe and watch…’, that’s not scripted.
Is there going to be a season 2?
James: If people watch the show, then yes.
What do you plan season 2 to be about?
James: In the overall plan, there will be 3 seasons to cover the whole book. So if it does well and people want to see more, then we’ll do the rest of the book in one big chunk and then we’ll release it as 2 separate seasons. There will be lots of stuff in that, lots of action and vampires and all kinds of things.
Are there enough people watching the vlog so far? Is it going well for a second season or are you unsure yet?
James: It’s going well so far. Because it’s a new show and it’s online, the hardest part is getting people aware that it exists so it is building. But it will be a while before we know how big it is.
Is there anything else you’d like to add for our readers?
Rosie: Just that they should watch the vlog if they’re not, because it builds up I think. You get to know the characters before anything scary starts happening which means you’re really invested in them. Now where we are in the series, the action is really starting to happen so it’s a good time to get involved, to catch up with the characters before the action kicks in.
James: Start from the beginning and watch everything! Go to the website and look at the episode page, you’ll see every single episode in order.