Selfie-Conscious on the Snapchat Series Two Sides

New Austin-set series explores breakups in the digital age

Gone are the days of packing up your ex’s belongings in a box to the left. Now, all you have to do is unfollow, mute, and block. Two Sides questions which is harder. “Breakups and heartache are universal,” said show creator, writer, and director Hannah Lehmann, “and this series offers a look into what a breakup looks like for teenagers today.”

Two Sides is part of Snap Originals, the first venture by image-sharing app Snapchat into narrative storytelling. The Austin-shot-and-set series chronicles first love and heartbreak for teens Chloe (Maeve Whalen) and Jeremy (Kai Kadlec). The show takes advantage of Snapchat’s vertical format and splits the screen in two, simultaneously capturing both Chloe and Jeremy as they each cycle through the age-old stages of breakup: desperation, anger, preying on a poor, helpless rebound, and so on. Shooting in laid-back locales like Zilker Park and Rosedale Market presents a sharp contrast to the chaos that ensues in cyberspace. In addition to the split screen, audiences see the ex-couple’s texts and social media updates as they try to disentangle themselves from shared circles and (unsuccessfully) project their indifference in the online arena.

By framing the characters’ emotional journeys in the context of social media, the series escapes the white noise of teen drama and establishes itself as a metanarrative of growing up in the digital age. With its innovative format and savvy modernization of teen romance, Two Sides capitalizes on connectivity and thrives on relatability among a young audience that craves to be understood. “Viewers will see screen life incorporated throughout the series,” said Vanessa Guthrie, director of Snap Originals. “It’s core to how teenagers today socialize and experience breakups.”

Each bite-sized episode is five minutes or less, so with a few simple taps the entire first season can be consumed in about 45 minutes. This type of quick-click storytelling may be unconventional now, but it is swiftly becoming an adept strategy for soliciting the coveted bounty of teenage engagement. “Having to present the story in individual Snaps forces you to write the most efficient and emotionally resonant scenes,” said Kathleen Grace, Two Sides executive producer and CEO of online content creators New Form.

Lehmann cultivated the story concept in partnership with Grace’s studio, which is already on the front lines of creating nontraditional digital content. “It went through a few different versions before finding its home at Snapchat,” Lehmann explained, including a proof-of-concept short for Facebook, “but the concept was always the same.”

Guthrie and her team approached Lehmann and New Form about bringing their story to Snapchat, a social media staple that Guthrie says reaches 90% of the highly coveted 13-24-year-old audience in the U.S. “Knowing how engaged Snapchat’s young audience is, we saw the potential of a series that really embraces what matters to you in those years of your life: your relationships,” said Grace. “We felt that the immediacy and intimacy of Snapchat would allow us to really explore the emotional highs and lows of a breakup, and to distribute it on a platform where you communicate with your best friends only furthered our themes.”


Austin Chronicle: Where did the original idea for Two Sides come from? Who were the major players in the series’ conception and why is it something the producers are pursuing now?

Hannah Lehmann: Two Sides sprung from the times in my own life where l caught myself wondering if a particular person was thinking about me too, and the idea that they had no idea and would never know that l had been thinking about them at that particular moment. When you put that in the context of a breakup, it’s a very relatable anxiety that most people have experienced. The split screen helped to answer those questions, “Are they thinking about each other/me right now?” It's interesting how these questions slither into and affect other aspects of life. Here we have two people experiencing the same thing and thinking about each other almost constantly, but apart. I was interested in what that looked like.

I think as well as establishing that there are two sides of the breakup, Chloe and Jeremy's, there is also this dichotomy between their online lives and the feelings they are projecting about the breakup, versus their interior lives and how they are really feeling. I think that people are looking for new ways to tell a story, ones that don't necessarily follow the rules of traditional storytelling, and with Two Sides, viewers get a relatable story told in a new and exciting way.

AC: Why is the series shot in some of Austin’s more low-key spots like Rosedale Market and Counter Culture Restaurant rather than more recognizable locales like the Capitol building, Lady Bird Lake, Sixth Street, etc.?

Kathleen Grace: Authenticity and relatability really engage the audience on Snapchat. We wanted this series to feel like real teens and the places they would hang out. While the iconic locales of Austin are amazing, we wanted the audience to feel immersed in this couple and their world.

AC: Why choose Austin as the city that Chloe wants so desperately to get out of? Judging from her frustrations, it seemed like she was living in someplace she hated, so why choose Austin as the source of that angst? Does it have to do with Austin’s reputation as a “velvet rut,” or was there some other motivation for painting Austin as the place to escape from rather than a place to escape to?

HL: I see it as not so much being Austin itself that Chloe wants to leave, it's more that she wants to separate herself from who she was and towards who she wants to be. Chloe realizes that she doesn't know who she is without Jeremy outside of their relationship, and it’s only through its disintegration that she realizes she has to keep moving towards what she wanted for herself all along, which is to go to Harvard. In this sense, Austin acts as an "everytown," and l like the fact that Austin is a setting that looks and feels relatable to so many other cities around the world. If this was set in NYC or L.A. for example, it might have sense of otherworldliness when l wanted it to feel relatable.

I think that Chloe is too young to really be experiencing the "velvet rut," and it wasn't Austin that she hated – it was that she hated the things she was feeling. As she is only 18, perhaps she sees those feelings and the place intertwined, when really they weren't.


Find Two Sides and other Snap Originals on the Snapchat app, and at snaporiginals.snapchat.com.

Got opinions about movie theatres, video games, podcasts, and everything else good in Austin? Let your voice be heard in our annual Best of Austin ballot. Voting is open now!

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More by Katelyn Landry
A Map of Austin's Queer Bars From the Fifties to Today
Mapping Austin's Historic Queer Bars
Got a photo or memory from a bar from years past? Share it!

Aug. 16, 2019

413 Fitness Brings the Fight Against Parkinson’s Into the Ring
413 Fitness Brings the Fight Against Parkinson’s Into the Ring
Meet the local gym reinventing senior fitness

Aug. 13, 2019

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Two Sides, Austin Filmmakers, Snap Originals, Snap Chat, Maeve Whalen, Kai Kadlec, Hannah Lehmann, Vanessa Guthrie, Kathleen Grace, New Form

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Time to vote! Best of Austin 2019 balloting is underway   VOTE NOW