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'Classic Alice' Web series gives a college girl's life literary treatment

Promotional photo of the
Promotional photo of the "Classic Alice" cast.
Aaron Matthew Kaiser/Classic Alice
Promotional photo of the
Promotional photo of the "Classic Alice" cast.
Classic Alice
Promotional photo of the
Production shot of "Classic Alice."
Aaron Matthew Kaiser/Classic Alice
Promotional photo of the
Production shot of "Classic Alice" star Kate Hackett
Aaron Matthew Kaiser/Classic Alice
Promotional photo of the
Promotional photo of the "Classic Alice" cast.
Classic Alice

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Web series "Classic Alice" takes viewers into the life of Alice Rackham, a college student who responds to a bad grade on a test by deciding to live her life according to the themes of classic literature, in order to show her professor she understands the material on a personal level.

Rackham is played by Kate Hackett, who also created and writes the show. The show came out of Hackett working with a YouTube channel, but they ultimately decided not to go forward with the project. However, they handed the keys over to Hackett and told her that she was free to make the show herself — which she did.

The show first sends Alice into living her life through the lens of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's "Crime and Punishment."

"It's a book that I think not a lot of teenage girls, who are the audience for this, they haven't read that," Hackett said. "I loved it, I read it when I was 16, 17, but it's not something that people are like, 'You know what I feel like feeling today? Guilt. Searing guilt.'"

Alice continued her journey through "Pygmalion," Hans Christian Andersen story "The Butterfly" and "Macbeth." Hackett says she wants to push the audience beyond the classics normally loved by teenage girls like the work of Jane Austen and the Bronte sisters.

She joked recently that she was going to do "Pride and Prejudice," which ended up backfiring because fans got excited about the prospect. It's not an area Hackett ever plans to visit, though, as it's been well-trod by other Web series including "The Lizzie Bennet Diaries" — which shares other similarities with "Classic Alice."

"It's a bunch of redheads in a vlog-style literary adaptation. Of course we wouldn't do that!"

With her show, Hackett wanted to write a female-positive series that showed women in a positive light.

"I think we're absolutely moving in the right direction. I think the Web is a little bit easier to get away with that, because you're not answering to advertisers," Hackett said. "I hope my show fits in, as far as it was created by a lady-person — oh, me! My producers are, the whole production team, we're all women, so it's women creating a very positive, female-oriented show in what is traditionally kind of a guy's playground."

Hackett says that she wasn't the most social person in school, which comes out in the Alice character. Hackett skipped a year of high school and graduated college when she was just 19.

"There was not a lot of partying, or going out," Hackett said. "So anytime Cara [her roommate] comes in and was like 'Hey, I'm going out!' This is all I understand of that. Like, I just assume people go out in college. I don't know what it looks like."

After the initial run of episodes, "Classic Alice" was funded by a successful Kickstarter campaign — one that almost didn't make its $8,000 goal .

"The last week, I think just all of the sudden, 90 percent of our donations came in. And it was just a function of the fans of these vlog-style Web series finally found us, and then kicked into hyperdrive," Hackett said. "They basically ran it for us."

In the end, the series raised almost $10,000. Hackett's advice to other crowdfunding efforts? "Aim low." She also did a previous Web series, "Kate and Joe Just Want to Have Sex," which was solicited on Kickstarter as "Sex" and was only looking for $500, before ultimately raising $2,420. Hackett credits that effort's success to people probably just looking for "sex" on Kickstarter and randomly coming across their series.

The "Classic Alice" crowdfunding helped pay for a full production team, with a mapped out storyline featuring even more intricately mapped out social media tie-ins. Rather than just the fake Twitter accounts popularized by a lot of productions, there's an immersive online world for "Classic Alice" fans including everything from fake websites to Last.fm and Goodreads accounts.

Hackett said that one of the biggest challenges she faced was how to fight the limitations of a locked-off shot in the vlog-style format. What she originally wrote for the show was more elaborate, but production costs led to the vlog format — though she hopes to do a more documentary-style series one day, and has already found ways to let the camera move a little within the show's existing format.

She watched other Web series in the same genre to look for inspiration on how to deal with the format, as well as to make sure they were setting out in their own unique direction.

"['The Lizzie Bennet Diaries'] had things like, she would put on costumes and stuff like that, and play act other characters, and that's a nice device," Hackett said. "You just want something to make it feel like you're not still in this friggin' room."

Hackett says she can see continuing to do "Classic Alice" as long as they're able to fund the production and make sure everyone's getting paid.

"I'd be happy to keep doing this, at least until I look too old to play a college student. They'd graduate at some point," Hackett said.

Or, it could go a different way.

"They just keep doing this while they're in a retirement home!"

Watch the first episode of Classic Alice below:

Classic Alice Episode 1

Hackett in the KPCC studios:

Kate Hackett at KPCC