Bringing creepy online flash fiction and timely original ideas to life on the TV screen, Vera Miao's new anthology series Two Sentence Horror Stories premieres tonight on The CW with two back-to-back episodes ("Gentleman" and "Squirm"), and to celebrate, we caught up with creator and executive producer Miao to discuss the show's journey from Reddit thread to go90 to The CW, as well as the show's technology-infused DNA and diverse tales of terror.
Thanks for taking the time to catch up with us, Vera, and congratulations on Two Sentence Horror Stories! This series has had quite a journey to getting made. Can you talk about how it started from the viral Reddit thread to finding a home on Verizon’s go90 channel, to now being a series on The CW?
Vera Miao: The idea for the show grew out of the fun I had reading the stories that went viral from the Reddit thread. When go90 shuttered, the CW Seed licensed the existing episodes for its online platform. Based on the response to the show, they wanted to develop it for the broadcast network and here we are.
With the anthology series format, you’re able to tell diverse stories each episode. Out of the countless two sentence horror stories that exist, how did you decide what to focus on in the first season?
Vera Miao: We had a blast in our writers’ room coming up with ideas, as well as original two sentence horror stories. We looked at everything as our way in: what scares us personally, what issues are we passionate about, what kinds of characters or scenarios are we dying to explore, what subgenres of horror do we love? From there, we whittled it down to our strongest ideas.
Constant online accessibility has drastically altered how people consume information and process the world around them. Since your series has online roots from the Reddit thread, are you always conscious of technology’s omnipresence when you’re working on this series?
Vera Miao: Absolutely. How humans relate to each other is fundamentally defined by technology. It may not be the sole focus of our show, but it's baked into daily life, so it’s a part of our stories. At times we’ve brainstormed horror ideas directly tied to technology, but at the end of the day, Black Mirror is doing a pretty good job covering that beat...
You’re tackling some very relevant societal issues in the first season. How important is it for you to address what’s going on in the world today while also scaring your audience?
Vera Miao: It’s the DNA of the series. It’s not just important, the show wouldn’t be the show if we didn’t. Though to be fair, I don’t think we need fiction to make what’s going on in the world today scary.
With Two Sentence Horror Stories now on its biggest platform yet, do you still have a lot of creative freedom over the show’s tone, direction, and stories?
Vera Miao: Yup. There are definitely new factors to consider with respect to broadcast television, and sometimes tricky when it comes to horror. But the show has always been psychological, predicated on the idea that what you can’t see is scarier than what you can, so the core of the creative vision I started with and the ability to explore and expand it is still there.
Now that Two Sentence Horror Stories is on The CW, have you gotten to work with some of the stars from the network’s other series in the first season?
Vera Miao: The casting process was solely focused on who is right for these very specifically-written characters. But as kismet would have it, we did have the opportunity to work with a couple of amazing women who are part of the CW universe, Nicole Kang and Aleyse Shannon!
You’ve brought in eclectic writers and directors for Two Sentence Horror Stories. When this series was green-lit, did you already have a roster of writers and directors in mind that you wanted to work with, or did you select them after deciding the stories you wanted to tell this season?
Vera Miao: The writers worked side by side with me to develop ideas I had for new stories, brought their own ideas that became powerful episodes, and really made this season what it is. They came from every sector: film, TV, comics, even poetry. The directors are all folks we admire from the independent film world, and were brought on because of their talent, voice, and personal resonance to the scripts. It’s a dream team, and I’m profoundly privileged to have all of them.
Looking back on this first season, is there a favorite or funny moment in particular that stands out?
Vera Miao: I don’t know if there was one moment in particular. Overall, it was a crazy endeavor to lift a broadcast television show off the ground. At times, you’re so exhausted that all you can do is look around at the rest of the crew and start laughing. It’s like we went into battle together. I’m really grateful for this crew.
Do you have any favorite horror anthology movies or TV series that influence or inspire you while working on this show?
Vera Miao: To no one’s surprise, Twilight Zone and Black Mirror are core anthology series inspirations for the show. Episodic anthologies have their own challenges, and those two are both classic and contemporary examples of the medium at its best. But the inspirations that really drive the show creatively come mostly from photography, paintings, and film. I built a look bible for the show with story and visual principles, lots of references, which are expanded on through conversations with my department heads. For this season, I had them all watch Paul Schrader’s film, First Reformed, especially for the amazing rigor in the camerawork and gorgeous production design.
With its first season airing August 8th on THE CW, what’s next for Two Sentence Horror Stories? Do you have multiple seasons planned out? It seems like this show could be on for a very long time if given the opportunity. Also, do you have any other projects in the works that you’re excited about?
Vera Miao: Right now, I just hope the show connects with viewers! And I do have other projects, but can’t talk about them just yet.
Photos courtesy of Stage 13/The CW: