Every once in a while there comes a project which attempts a colossal undertaking: to go where no one has ever before gone, to do what has never before been done, to web-series what has never before been web-series’d.
All joking aside, web series Guidestones is a pretty good indicator that there’s scores of creativity and talent to be found on the internet. Supposedly inspired by true events, it tells the story of two journalism students who uncover a global conspiracy while investigating an unsolved murder.
Kara Dueck, who worked on the first season of Guidestones, describes the project’s premise below:
The series is based on real events surrounding the Georgia Guidestones, a mysterious granite monument, which has been the centre of many conspiracies since it was erected in 1980. Jay wanted to create an investigative experience for his audience as they follow Sandy Rai, a journalism student, across the globe, uncovering the dark truth behind the conspiracy. Throughout the series viewers are given clues, along side Sandy, which lead to an expanse of supplemental material on the web for those that want a deeper interactive experience.
There are two ways to experience the show: either in a typical linear format, which is optimal for consumption only, or through the email system which sends you links to each episode in real-time from the character’s point of view. This real-time experience is designed for viewers who want to interact and will take the time to find clues and look through the supplemental material. Although the series is readily viewable on Youtube or the “Guidestones” website, the interactive experience provides exclusive material not found anywhere else.
Watch the trailer for the series here:
The show is extremely well shot and directed, and for the most part the actors give believable performances. (I only say “for the most part” because there was one minor news anchor character who couldn’t turn off his TV announcer voice no matter who he was talking to, and I could not stop laughing every time he showed up.)
The story and characters are written in an engaging, layered, and sympathetic manner. Though much of the story’s emphasis was on the action, drama, and mystery, the little bits of humor injected throughout the episodes were much appreciated (and some of them were laugh-out-loud funny).
I really, really enjoyed the show’s soundtrack, which is downright amazing, and is also excellent at building up tensions in certain scenes. The varied settings – they’re not kidding when they say Sandy travels the globe in pursuit of this conspiracy – keep things interesting.
Though I haven’t yet had a chance to try out the real-time interactive experience as described above by Dueck, I did check out some of the goodies mentioned throughout the show as I was watching, and from what I can tell, most if not all of the websites that Sandy visits in the episodes are actually up on the interwebs. It’s a nice touch that adds a layer of creepy hyper-reality to the show.
One thing I do think could have been improved, however, was the pacing: too much was happening way too fast, which caused the progression of events to feel forced and inorganic, and the mystery contrived. A lot of the clues that Sandy comes across are a little too convenient, in the “humongous breadcrumbs are being dropped in super visible places” kinda way. She barely has to do any investigating at all besides Googling the odd term here or there.
A lot of this probably had to do with the format of the series – with a total of 34 episodes, each running 5 minutes or less, there needed to be something interesting driving each clip so that people would watch the next one. Because of this, I think Guidestones could have benefited from slightly longer episodes so as to better develop a sense of intrigue and live up to its full potential.
Overall, though, I really enjoyed this series! The ending definitely left me wanting more. Fortunately, Season 2 is in the works – so we’ll be seeing more of these characters and their stories. In the meantime, I’ll for sure be rewatching this one under the interactive email system, to get the full Guidestones experience.
Check out the first episode below: