At a time when every question can turn into a real debate on social media, it’s sometimes difficult to draw something positive from the hubbub. Since everyone can give their opinion on every topic via the Internet, one may ask: what's left to say about our everyday concerns?
This is where the girls from Code F come in. Maripier Morin, Virginie Fortin, Mariana Mazza, Marina Bastarache and Catherine Ethier (in addition to the new girls in the upcoming season) are open and frank, without pretention or fake modesty. The goal? To open the door on sometimes sensitive issues and encourage conversations among viewers.
To present a TV show for youth that addresses taboos, led by personalities who are not teachers or experts in their subject matter, is a fine balancing act. It is important to balance opinions, humor and anecdotes without offending sensibilities or becoming preachy. It is a matter of pushing the limits but not exceeding them.
At the youth network VRAK, the team wanted to talk to Millenials, to young adults, in a format other than fiction or variety. They took their inspiration from Girl Code on MTV to develop a project where humor would play a big role.
Producer Jeffrey Wraight speaks with enthusiasm of his team and the genesis of the show: "There was a ‘cool factor’ associated with the format and the tone of the MTV show but we knew that we had to adapt it to Quebec culture. Also, their target audience was 18 years old and over, but for us it was 13 to 18 years old. We had to do things differently. Therefore, I surrounded myself with intelligent, resourceful and cool directors (such as Frédéric Fournier, Maude Sabbagh, Stéphane Aubry and Marisol Aubé) who could understand what we were trying to do: make the audience laugh and think at the same time. All team members are bright and sharp people; it’s key to the success of this project."
From the beginning, the Code F team, produced in Quebec by Zone 3, exceeded what was proposed in the original English version produced by Viacom. While Girl Code had between 10 and 14 episodes per season, Code F offered fifty episodes in its first year. That much content produced so quickly could have led to some weariness or repetition but the team constantly has new things to say, addressing themes in ever evolving ways. Jeffrey Wraight says without hesitation that for the kind topics, tone and tight deadlines, "it is a big challenge, a big risk, but we manage to stay creative and original. We create something that stands out, with fewer resources. We are very proud of the result."
Virginie Fortin and Director Maude Sabbagh film an episode of Code F
Code F reaches a wide audience. Highlighted by the producer, "In the show, we talk to a 13 year old girl but we do not forget that there will be parents who will listen too. We hope that the older viewers are entertained as much as younger people because the whole family can watch and discuss the topics together. And we know it works, since all age groups come to talk to us about the show. So we managed to hit our target, while talking to everyone." With this kind of public response, the team quickly realised that Code F fills a particular void. Testimonies reveal that people are excited to watch a show that tackles themes that are barely discussed elsewhere in the media. "We talk about real stuff that young people can relate to. These are issues that can disturb, even shock in some cases, but it is always done with humor. For example, we can have an episode where the three topics will be: oral sex, Celine Dion, and the etiquette on farting in public" laughs Jeffrey Wraight. This direct and spontaneous approach created turmoil after the early episodes but critics stopped very quickly. Indeed, fans of the show defended the topics so well that the success of Code F only grew. The goal to generate discussion was achieved from the start!
Marina Bastarache, Mariana Mazza and Maripier Morin
The content of the show only explains half its success. For Jeffrey, it’s the casting and talent of the girls that made it all work: "They are amazing girls, who are willing to become vulnerable and to give their opinion. I'm a big fan of women around me and it's important to give them a voice to break taboos. The show presents strong women, each in their own way, to whom we can relate. I like that we can present a diversity that is cultural, personal and above all, of opinions. We are aware of the challenges that girls and women still face, so we talk about things that happen without becoming preachy. It's very rewarding. "
The story of Code F is just beginning. Several new ideas are in development to push the concept further. Moreover, the team is currently working on the male version of the show. While Code F encourages girls to talk about topics they rarely discuss in public, Code G will do the same for boys. The objective remains to express a wide variety of opinions on the same subject. The production team has again had the audacity to challenge conventions by giving a voice to the new generation.
Behind the jokes and the carefree tone, Code F gets to fulfill a unique mission: the show is a call to openness, to listening and sharing without judgment or fear... because all of us have a voice and an opinion that should be respected.