By Sahil Patel
In a new interactive social-media series from digital content studio Astronauts Wanted, Grace Helbig and Mamrie Hart will take a summer road trip across the US, taking suggestions from and meeting with fans along the way.
There are multiple elements to the travel show. Astronauts Wanted, in partnership with Helbig and Hart, will document the trip via video. Helbig and Hart will also employ handheld cameras, allowing the YouTube stars to capture intimate moments with fans and each other.
On the interactive side, Helbig and Hart will look to fans on their social media accounts for suggestions on which city to go to next, which places to visit in a particular city, and in some cases even surprising fans in those areas.
“On YouTube, we’re used to putting out content and then getting feedback from our audience. ‘#HeyUSA’ will bridge that gap. We will be able to gear our trip to what the audience wants and when they want it,” said Hart in a statement. “Also, I really like staying in hotels, so there’s that.”
All of this content will be shared online via three, short weekly videos, which will be available on AstronautsWanted.com and the studio’s YouTube channel. Helbig and Hart will also be posting their own regular videos on their own channels, as well as sharing additional moments via their social accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
In this fashion, “#HeyUSA” is similar to The Chernin Group’s transmedia show “@SummerBreak.”
“When I came to Astronauts Wanted [from The Chernin Group], they asked if I had heard of Grace, because they wanted to do something with her,” says Billy Parks, chief content officer of Astronauts Wanted and executive producer of both “#HeyUSA” and “@SummerBreak.” When Parks was with Chernin and working on the first season of “@SummerBreak,” he had cut a deal with Helbig, who posted a video about the reality series, which drove viewership.
Helbig wanted to do a travel show, Park says. So Astronauts went to work developing a program that would allow the star to “harness the power of her audience.”
“I think that when you are trying to program for young people, we know that they are active — they like to comment, they ‘like,’ they share,” says Billy Park, executive producer of both “#HeyUSA” and “@SummerBreak.” “We want to make sure that everything we do online enables them to participate… All of the things I learned during ‘@SummerBreak’ — how to build an audience, how to listen to them, how to bring things to people in real time — we built a format around that.”
That won’t be all, though. While the first wave of “#HeyUSA” content will come via the weekly 2–4 minute videos and social media updates, Astronauts Wanted is also planning a longer version of the show, which will be made available across eight episodes in September. While Parks declined to comment on what kind of distribution the longer-version of the show will have, he did say that Astronauts is not beholden to a particular running time. It will be as long as it requires to tell the story of a particular city/visit.
“#HeyUSA” is executive produced by Nick Shore of Astronauts Wanted, alongside Parks and Ken Treusch of Bleecker Street Entertainment.
Helbig officially announced the show during her keynote at this year’s VidCon. “#HeyUSA” will premiere on July 1, spanning eight weeks in total.