Fast Chat: Julia Stiles

Actress talks about her new Web series

When YouTube unveiled its budding lineup of original Web video channels, Wigs stood out—for its A-list talent, its high-end, scripted quality and serious tone. Wigs, which stands for “Where it gets interesting,” is the brainchild of director/producer/writers Jon Avnet (Black Swan, Fried Green Tomatoes) and Rodrigo Garcia (In Treatment). Among the actresses lined up to star in the series of short-form episodes are Virginia Madsen, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Jennifer Garner, Jennifer Beals and Julia Stiles. Last week, Stiles made her YouTube debut with the first handful of 13 planned episodes of the Wigs series Blue, which chronicles the struggles of a mother who secretly works as a call girl. Stiles spoke to Adweek about the project and what it means for the digital media world.

Adweek: What attracted you to this project?

Stiles: They sent me the script, it was simple as that. I’m a big fan of Rodrigo [Garcia, who is one of the filmmakers behind Wigs]. I loved [HBO's] In Treatment, I really love a movie he wrote years ago called Things You Can Tell By Just Looking at Her. I got sucked in by the first scene, during which you don’t initially realize that Blue is working. Her son calls, and one of her clients recognizes her from high school. I thought it was a great set up in one scene. Her secret life is about to explode.

I’m generally scared of the Internet, so I’m treating it like my own art project. I’m excited about working with Rodrigo, and I’m really excited to just jump in and do something that is going to come out so quickly. Movies take so long to develop. You need a script, you have to raise money, etc. It can take years and years and years for a movie to come out and then you never know how an audience is going to respond, or whether it will even make it into theaters. So for me, it was exciting that we started talking and then we just did it. We shot Blue in December and it’s out now.

What do you think the significance of this project is business-wise, given what is going on in the media world?

Stiles: Obviously, everybody needs to make a living. And it is nice to make things with a larger budget. But there are pitfalls to that model. There are so many people in the decision process. With Wigs, there is something insular about it. I liked that this was just about Rodrigo’s vision and that’s it. It’s kind of pure that way.

That is the fascinating thing. It’s kind of a frontier. I have many different feelings about that. I loved making Blue. It was a stripped-down way to make something. It had all the things that I love about filmmaking. Purely for the joy of it. But on the flip side there is so much frigging content out there. A lot of it is junk. Some of it is really good. The only thing that is confusing right now is how anyone’s going to make a living. The big question is how do you get compensated for your work. Because it wasn’t just me taking a pay cut; everyone on this project down to the crew is working for less.

Yes, initially ads are involved. It’s just less and less and less [profitable]. We’ll maybe see people paying some kind of subscription or other pay model. The irony here is that my character in the show is probably making more money than I did.

We still don't know whether people are going to gravitate to Web series like this, right?

Stiles: This was sort of like a pilot, or like short films. We’ll see what people respond to. For instance, these things have ways of righting themselves. For example, with the music industry, it took a big hit with the Internet, but you started seeing musicians touring more and publishing more. Yes, everybody’s watching more stuff on the Internet, and you can’t watch anything without an ad. People won’t want to do that for very long.

You said earlier that the Internet scares you. Why?

Stiles: Well, everybody loves having access to information. I worry about what it does to people socially. We just don’t have as much face-to-face as we used to. I worry about that. And it’s a really easy place for people to be nasty and critical anonymously. It takes away from social niceties. And it’s all just gossip. It’s also very easy for people to fake knowledge.

You’ve made 13 episodes of Wigs. Could you see this continuing, or ending up on TV or as a movie?

Stiles: We might make more. We have to get everybody on board and in the same place. I could see it being a TV show or movie. I would love to. I don’t know. I would love to see it expand to more episodes. Who knows?

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