An Interview with Fringenuity
Welcome to Fringe Week everyone!
We think the perfect way to kick off the week is with an interview with Aimee (@aimeeinchains), a member of the Fringenuity team. They are the most active Fringe faction and have received national attention with their twitter campaign during Season 4. Aimee took some time to share what Fringenuity has planned for the final season and offer advice to other fandoms fighting low ratings. Consider this the State of the Fringe Universe address.
If you have never heard of Fringenuity, here is a brief history:
The core of us had “met” on forums and social media such as Twitter and Facebook. As time passed, we all discovered that we had similar views about Fringe and concerns about its future. We took part in several efforts led by The Fringe Network, which had a part in the fourth season renewal. It wasn’t long before the ratings dipped even more, and things looked grim; especially after Fox President Kevin Reilly’s remarks that Fringe was losing money for the network. Although we had several ideas and projects in motion prior, the birth of what would become Fringenuity started with a casual Skype conversation—one that we rapidly developed into something more. As the saying goes, hope is not just a luxury to those that take action. We brainstormed numerous ways to try and get Fringe some social media clout. Social TV was really coming into vogue, and we were there at the right time to take advantage of it.
I researched Twitter trending mechanics and cobbled together a post announcing out first Twitter event outing: #CrossTheLine, in support of “Back to Where You’ve Never Been.” Support from fans came in the form of promo vids and icons for Twitter. As the event unfolded, Annie, Kelly and I bit our nails off, as we were not sure if we would succeed. Then bam! Worldwide Twitter trend! Success! Fans were going wild. They had a voice. It is amazing what people will do when they feel like they’re being heard. So we decided to keep it up—freight train style—from several social media angles.
We tossed about names for the group and came up with some pretty interesting choices. We wanted something that was obviously Fringe-related and that would speak to our mission. The first choice was “Fringenious,” but this name was taken – our second choice, “Fringenuity,” would become our brand—and would take us places we never expected to go.
What is Fringenuity planning for the final season?
At this point, it’s no longer about fighting to be heard. Now, we can relax and celebrate the fruits of the actions of every Fringe fan that made season five happen. Let me tell you, I am so glad that I no longer have to have that feeling of dread—complete with nausea—when ratings come in on Saturday mornings, which made @maskedscheduler seem more like “@maskedexecutioner” last season…
We’re still going to hold Twitter hashtag events for each Fringe episode with Fox Broadcasting’s support. We’d still like to trend like a boss, to make sure that Fringe goes out with a bang. Our show deserves no less. There is also the fanzine, The Bridge, which will be released soon. We just created a few roleplay accounts that have been a hit on Twitter — @HeedObeyServe and @MinistryofSci—which even sparked another fan to create their own counter, @WeCanResist. Several activities and contests are in the works. We have some cards that we’re holding close to our chests. All will be revealed as we celebrate the epic final season.
Some folks at the dinner that closed The Fringe Event received a heads-up about one project that will outdo a similar one we undertook last year, before Fringenuity was made official. Several fans decided that we were fed up with the annual Emmy snubbing of Fringe and the show’s cast. So we made our own awards – The Blue Moon Awards.
This year we’re doing something even more special, and more people are sure to become involved.
What is next after the show ends? Will the fandom remain active with meetups or scheduled Twitter discussions?
Our intention is to continue celebrating Fringe past and future. There are surely going to be other media formats in which the Fringe stories and characters will live on, such as comics, and hopefully novels. Maybe even a film… The Fringenuity team has actually discussed morphing into a hub of support for science-fiction genre television. Many of us have major life events in the future, but I believe there will always be some sort of “adventures in geekery” going on. It’s in our very makeup, I do believe; DNA, heart and soul.
The X-Files and LOST fandoms are still very active, so I think that Fringe will remain a part of a fan’s lives. We have always said that it is more than a television show. It has inspired people to do great things and to make a better world. Fringe is also full of open-ended possibility. It may be a stretch, but maybe, just maybe, it will reach a franchise status in other incarnations, kind of like Star Trek. Television is changing, so you never know what future projects may happen.
As far as meet-ups, after the success of The Fringe Event in Vancouver, many fans that could not attend look forward to a future event, and those of us that were there anticipate a reunion. In my opinion, Fringe fans did a better job than any commercial for-profit con would have done. Despite some SNAFUs from some official channels, fans persevered, and we all had the time of our lives. As many Fringe fans as possible should experience that euphoric feeling. [We] are use to doing it on our own–all we needed was each other. We will always feel that “quantum entangled” emotional connection as part of a family unit. Personally, I plan on staying in touch with many special people that I’ve have had the privilege to work with and call friends. This mutual affection goes beyond Fringe: We’ve found many similar interests and philosophies. This show has brought out the best in so many people. Do I believe in destiny? Why yes, I do.
Part of The Fringe Event’s purpose was to raise money for charity. Oxfam was selected because it is Anna Torv’s charity of choice, and their objectives jive with our team. The event organizers set a goal of $3,500, and everyone worked to help exceed it. I can totally see us taking on charitable causes in the future, using the power of Cortexifans to back up our words with deeds in order to make the world better for those that may as well be living in a different reality. Geeks are passionate and vocal. Can’t Stop the Serenity and Cancer Gets LOST are fine examples of the difference organized fandoms can make, and Fringe fans can make our stand well into the future.
Fringenuity has demonstrated that united and organized fans can convince a network to support a show despite low ratings. What advice do you have for other fandoms facing possible cancellation and low Nielsen ratings?
The best primer for any fandom is Annie Burnaman’s article, Not Nielsen. This was the oil that greased the wheels in our heads and the fuel that stoked the fire in our hearts. It was a call to action for those who were not going to idly sit by and watch something creatively beautiful—that they love dearly-die.
It is quite the honor to be trailblazers and imitated by other fandoms. Fringenuity has always taken an approach of positivity, respect, and that money talks.
- Be creative: What worked in the past–such as letter writing and sending stuff to networks–have been done, and really don’t speak to a network. We became aware that social television was becoming all the rage this year for the industry, and decided a full out assault on all platforms would be effective. There were isolated Twitter campaigns in the past e.g., Chuck and The Fringe Network, but we went for a synergetic approach. All of the parts–Twitter, Facebook, GetGlue, Tumblr, Google Plus, YouTube, etc– combined to make a much more effective, unified and vocal fandom.
- Be Persistent, Consistent, but not afraid to experiment.
- Learn from your failures. Not every plan is sure-fire.
- Be prepared to defend your methods: Solid research is the key. I’ve joked for a while that I know more about television ratings and licensing than the average fan should have to care about. There will always be groups within a fandom. Such is human nature. Some may not agree with your methods. You must show them why you do things the way you do them. Success is the best indicator, of course. This doesn’t mean that your way is always the best way, so it is crucial to be flexible and open-minded. But there comes a time when you must stick to the chosen path and see it through. Our results were data driven and quantifiable. We ran our own data trackers via @nikolai3d and a great service, @hashtracking. We kept careful watch on where the tags trended and for how long. We checked GetGlue for check-ins and reviewed the reports from social tv analytic companies such as BlueFin Labs.
- Involve the fandom: Not every idea is going to fly, but some do. When we started our first campaign, we were approached by @cheribot about making icons. That was the start of something great, because her talent in making awesome icons excited the fandom, and led to friendship. We later received all kinds of icon submissions, videos, banners, and even a few episode themed cakes. Everyone has something to contribute. International fans sometimes feel powerless but we let their voices be heard. Shows are licensed to international networks and DVDs are sold. If a production company like say, Warner Brothers, feels that they can recover costs via all markets, then they can make concessions in licensing fees to first-run rights networks like FOX.
- Every situation is different, so think broad and think monetarily: What value do you have to networks, sponsors and advertisers?
- Don’t bash other shows. You never know when you may find an ally. Mutual respect—in a blogger poll of all places—won a friendship between us and Community fans. They like me, but they don’t know that I am a fan of The Big Bang Theory. ;)
What is the first thing you will do after the show ends?
As I write this, Joel Wyman confirmed this evening that the series finale is set to air February 1, 2013… so, let’s hope the Mayans were wrong about their calendar…
Really, my immediate action after the show will most likely be to take a deep breath and let it all sink in. I trust Wyman will leave me satisfied. After a bit of reflection—and a box of tissues—I’ll do what I’ve always done for the past few years—discuss it with other fans as each of us puts this chapter of our lives down to memory. It sounds dramatic, but seriously, these characters and the fans of the show have been a huge part of my life. Fringe has touched millions and will leave a legacy that will be difficult to distill and neatly describe. Some will choose careers due to its influence. It may guide people’s choices as they look back and say, “Hey, I remember something like this happened on Fringe.” There are so many lessons in love, life, family, hope, ethics, etc. Its influence cannot and will not be forgotten.
And I’m going to make sure that our valiant little fandom’s journey is not forgotten, as I am writing a history of the Fringe fandom.
If you could take one item from the Fringe set from any season, what would it be?
It would never happen in a million years, but The Machine! More realistically—because Peter Bishop is my favorite fictional character—definitely his peacoat from season three. If Joel Wyman is out there and feeling generous… dude, I’d love a vinyl copy of Violet Sedan Chair’s “Seven Suns” album. ;)
What would you bring to Olivia’s baby shower?
As a practical person, I’d bring tons of diapers. There was also this cute rocking cow toy.
However, upon further thought, as an Observer of sorts, I think some sort of locked time capsule that contains information about Olivia and Peter’s lives would make a nice gift to give to Etta when she was older. The loss of the memory of her parents is devastating. All she knows is that they are legends.
Thank you Aimee and the Fringenuity Team for all the work you do!
Fringenuity’s chosen hashtag for the premiere is #TheyAreHere and you should only use it one hour before the show airs at 8pm EST. Read the full Twitter event protocol here.
Don’t forget to continue visiting Pop Culture Nexus as we celebrate the return of Fringe. Viva Fringe Week!
-Mary and Louise