Literature has a huge representational problem in the media: it can’t easily be portrayed in a visually appealing way. We like to see a painter splash and daub, a musician scat and croon, and a dancer spin and swing. But watching an author hammer away at her keyboard, well…
Lis T’Classique wanted to provide a solution to this problem. This web series, created by La Fabrique culturelle – a platform for video capsules whose mandate is to promote artistic production in Quebec – and hosted by rapper Webster, is both educational and fun. “Our goal was to incite young people to explore literary works and to provide literary analysis using a tone and structure that would appeal to them,” states Marjorie Champagne, a scriptwriter and director on the project.
Marjorie has her 12-year-old son to thank for stumbling onto the idea.
“He watches lots of youtubers,” she says. “YouTube seemed like an interesting format to me, close to young people, and I thought we could use it to create a book club.”
The idea then evolved toward a more traditional form of literary analysis, hosted by Webster with his usual wit and humour. “Our goal was to encourage people to watch from beginning to end. On the web, we all have very short attention spans. The editing is dynamic: we go from a joke to graphics to an interviewee quickly. We never read a whole paragraph, just a sentence or two.”
So it was necessary to find a powerful storyteller who can cast a spell. Rapper Webster seemed a natural choice. He is a well-known figure in Quebec City. He cares about the arts and was even a cultural columnist in the provincial capital. In addition, his colourful use of language made him an ideal host for the show.
“Webster peppers our video capsules with his personal touch,” says Marjorie Champagne. “He starts with a basic text, but takes plenty of liberties along the way, making jokes and using language that reflects his style and outlook.”
Facebook was used to cast the youths who appear in the video capsules. “We had all sorts of applicants, including people with no on-camera experience, young actors, and students who are part of their school’s improv team. We wanted to achieve a balance between known public figures and new faces.”
Broadcasting the capsules remains a challenge. Teenagers who share literary reviews on social media are rare. “The people at Télé-Québec work closely with school boards and teachers. We want to produce content that teachers can use to develop an appreciation of reading among their students. That is why we cannot gauge our success in terms of clicks. After all, a single click can represent a whole classroom.”