ShapiroPR.com The toronto star well cast - erica ives - april 29, 13-shap…
Monday, April 29, 2013
6:57 PM EDT
By: Alex Ballingall News, Published on Mon Apr 29 2013
Life / Parent
Quirky web series for teens tackles tough problems
with animated videos
WellCast, a YouTube series to help teens deal with issues, makes twice weekly videos on
everything from periods and acne, to coming out and boosting your self-esteem.
In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, as people groped for an explanation to the
carnage that was loosed, a small group of writers and animators in Los Angeles decided to
make a YouTube video to help teens understand the incident.
Entitled “From Our Hearts to Yours,” it was the latest installment in the group’s ongoing
animated web series,WellCast, which tackles teen issues and employs an idiosyncratic,
approachable style to reach them.
“The horrifying truth is that there’s no way to explain the horrible things that go on,” reads
the narrator, Caitlin Cutt, speaking over the jaunty animation that’s come to typify the series.
And then, as always in their videos, comes the lesson, replete with poetic aplomb: “Let the
bad days try to pull us apart,” reads Cutt. “We can put things back together again.”
WellCast began last September as a live action web series aimed at young
professionals and funded by YouTube, which was looking for original content on
“health and wellness,” explains series director Sarah Keokanock.
In the months since, guided largely by feedback from their largely teen viewership,
WellCast has transformed into a quirky cartoon serial that grapples with issues both
dark and lighthearted, from procrastination and dating to body image and how to cope
with death. The series has garnered more than 38,000 YouTube subscribers and nearly
1.7 million total views.
2. “I think it’s a really great concept, and I like the issues that they’re targeting,”
said Erica Ives, a mom of two teenagers and a writer on parenting in Malibu,
Calif. “It could be really, really wonderful if parents could even watch some of
these videos with kids ... It’s like having an impartial educator right there with
Keokanock and the WellCast team of writers and illustrators noticed many teens appear to be
looking online instead of turning to parents when faced with a problem, such as bullying,
depression or a struggle to come out as gay.
That’s why, in response to a common thread that emerged among requested video topics, the
group started a six-week series last month called “Selfies,” where the focus of their twice
weekly videos is self-confidence. The result has been a slew of educational shorts on puberty
— how boobs don’t grow at the same speed, for example, or how boys should carry around an
extra stick of deodorant, because they’re going to sweat a lot — depression and suicide.
Script writer Lucy Mueller said that a lot of the humour and content comes from her own
experiences in high school, which as she points out, wasn’t all that long ago. She’s 24.
“I do put a lot of myself in the script,” said Mueller. “I think, in general, our personalities
kind of come through.”
Becky Tsadik, another WellCast writer, said it’s important to the group to achieve a balance
between grave material, like the post-Boston video, and more upbeat content, such as their
videos on puberty. “We really try to keep in mind the diversity of issues that our audience
wants to see covered,” she said. “There’s a smaller group of people who’ve been touched by
suicide in their lives, for example … We really try to balance that with kind of universal
Josh Shipp, a motivational speaker for teens in California, said he’s never seen anything quite
like WellCast. “They’re saying things that mom or dad would say ... but it’s done in such a
way that a teenager would really dig it,” said Shipp. “I think it’s something that’s desperately
needed.” WellCast’s funding from YouTube is set to expire in August, but the group is hopeful
their contract will be extended.
“Hopefully, if this show continues for a few years, we can also grow with our viewers,” said
Tsadik. “That’s kind of the fun part of this show. We have this fan base that is going on this
journey with us.”