Hi I'm Mary Mary
So hiimmarymary was conceptualized out of initially just wanting to make a webseries. I spent a lot of time in 2015-2016 (my freshman year of college) writing out various webseries ideas in my notes app on my computer. I’m someone who generally thinks very visually, and a song or situation can strike of tons of visual ideas in my head, typically similar to shots of a film - that's how most of the visuals of HIMM were conceptualized. Looking back through my notes app, there’s tons of shit ideas for webseries that never stuck, and then at the end of April 2016 I jotted down this:
(The original name for HIMM had been MARYMARY but after quickly discovering the existence of the Christian singing duo Marymary I added the “hiim” to avoid confusion.)
The idea stuck; I couldn’t stop thinking about it and got excited. The ideas kept flowing and I kept writing them down; typically coming to me in the shower or in transit to my classes. Initially I worked at jotting down all these random ideas and sat down to try to organize them - the whole thing was initially a series of messy ideas in my notes app - which I printed and transferred into a notebook that had been meant for non schoolwork ideas (basically usurped into the giant “Mary notebook”). I put it together into something that basically contained most of the main beats of the series; the ending wasn’t fleshed out but I had a general idea of what I wanted to happen. This continued over the course of April-June, and I didn’t really start doing any production until July 2016.
Throughout the process I kept in mind that I didn’t have easy access to friends who would drop everything to film with me (scattered in different colleges and scheduling sucks), nor did I have a great location, so I chose to set it in my own house, with strategic camerawork to hide anything identifying, doing all the filming on college breaks and editing during the semester. I accepted that most of the time I’d just have to play all the characters, and thankfully my sister was able to help with most of the additional acting when I needed it. I also had one other friend who I was thankfully able to schedule two different sessions with - to shoot “worse/the darkness moves” and “gone.” She had stage combat expertise and was able to help me when it came to the violence in “gone.”
I had an additional friend who recorded Liz’s voice lines in the blog that also went on trips to the woods with me. Obviously my family was in the house all the time, so occasionally I’d ask if everyone could go out for a bit or strategically film where nobody was around. The Garden was a mix of local park areas near me, various interesting spots in my state, and near my college the next state over. I had a tendency to just grab footage in the event I could use it later.
Regarding technical stuff: I had some skills with the Adobe Suite (particularly in Premiere and After Effects) that I’d learned in high school, and my college USED to give everyone in my department free Creative Cloud since I needed it for class (digital media), so I had access to it for free. I knew I’d be learning more so I decided that's what I’d use. I had a Canon Rebel T4i I’d gotten as a birthday gift a few years previously that I’d decided I’d do all the filming on. I had a tiny USB microphone I recorded additional audio on, but when I wanted to add in sound to a shot I’d just record it on the camera standing in the same area so I’d have to do little audio editing.
The writing for HIMM episodes usually went as follows: I would brainstorm out what I wanted and key visual moments, key dialogue if there was any. Next, I’d write out a shot list. This worked for most of the videos that were styled in a very montagey fashion. When a video had more of a in-the-moment-run-around-and-scream kind of feel, like “worse,” “DO NOT TOUCH,” “gone,” I’d write more of a choreographed sequence of moments to hit and would just improv outside of that.
I did write out separate scripts for the blog audio, the dialogue in “gone,” as well as all the dialogue and the monologue in “anagnorisis” and “goodbye.” For the last two episodes I was seriously flying by the seat of my pants so I wrote out that huge checklist document I posted on twitter to get ahold of everything I needed to do. It had been chaos before then.
I shot, edited, and posted the first episode in two days, since it was fairly simple and easy to do. I posted it, and told two of my friends, both of whom followed the series on their personal YouTube channels. Videos 2-5 were all shot in July-August 2016 so I had a large collection of footage. I worked as a camp counselor over the summer, and a few times brought my computer to work and edited on my break. I posted videos 2 and 3 before school started again, and then did my editing for 4-5 in free moments. I filmed and posted 6 on school break. Pretty much my general rule was “shoot during break, edit during school,” which continued until I graduated, so I’d often have footage taken way in advance.
PROMOTION AND GROWTH
I never really expected to get anywhere with HIMM. I just wanted to do it for fun, and figured I’d maybe make a few friends in the community. I was a big fan of the slenderverse and other ARGs/webseries so I liked to hang in those communities quietly as more of a lurker. My primary areas I spent time were Tumblr, where it was hopping, and the Unforum for slenderverse.
I was in communication with someone else in the community and name dropped my series in their anonymous asks, which they posted and said they’d watched and liked a few episodes in, but that did very little for actual growth.
I spent 7 months with 6 subscribers, three of which were my hometown friends and 3 I still don’t know but have a hunch about them. That was fine with me, as I was ultimately just having fun at the time.
I’d felt a little squicked out at the idea of self-promoting, but realized that the youtube algorithm was truly nobody’s friend very quickly and decided to promote myself one singular time under the Slenderverse tag on tumblr using my BTS blog.
So, after posting ep 6, I whipped up a kinda shitty image (graphic design is NOT my passion) and a small write up and posted this in the tag.
That one post actually did quite a lot for my growth, getting a lot of notes and getting the attention of other creators. I never needed to self promote again after that. Everything from that point on, no joke, was word of mouth. People shared it with each other in discord channels, people talked about it and made fan art on tumblr, people mentioned it on reddit, and somebody made a trailhead on Unfiction just before it went down (to this day idk who did it).
I think I got a couple hundred [views] initially, maybe 1000 after a little while. I was super happy with that and never really expected it to go from there. I saw a couple people mentioning telling [Nick Nocturne] about it but I didn’t wanna be that guy, even anonymously, so I didn’t say a word to [Nick] and just decided to see where it would go through word of mouth.
I basically just kept going with my small audience, trying to release videos every few months or so to avoid crazy long hiatuses, and actually most of the time met my goals of 1 video every 2-3 months. I hated the shit slenderverse creators got for taking time to post videos, so I’d made a point to get mine out every few months. It wasn’t until DO NOT TOUCH that I started to do more complex videos that took more time. I’d interact with my little audience on the BTS blog every once in a while, recording a thank you message for my first 50 subscribers, answering asks, typical creator stuff. I chatted with people in DMs, and on discord, and it was very manageable.
COVERAGE AND A BOOM IN GROWTH:
The very first video that exposed me to a larger audience actually came in the form of Nexpo's Unnerving Youtube Channels #3 on Oct 27 2017. It started to grow quite a bit from there. Then a month and a half later, your Night Vision episode on it came out in December, literally just as I’m doing my finals. I started to boom like crazy, experiencing major bursts in growth, going from 2000 to 10,000 in a matter of days. It continued growing pretty steadily after that, and I caught a few major international YouTubers as well, some in South America and some in Eastern Europe, building small audiences over there. Growth started to stagnate a bit, and then somehow somebody tipped MatPat off about me, and that video came out, which led to another MAJOR boom in growth, followed by another when his second video came out, and then there was another boost when I finished the series as well as your final video coming out. I’ve attached a screenshot of the analytics.
It’s grown now at a slow but steady pace, but I’ve been keeping my eye on TikTok lately and have noticed more people posting in the hiimmarymary tag since there’s a small “creepy media” fan community on there. Nothing major yet, but I want to be able to mentally prepare myself incase it goes viral on TikTok.
RESPONSE TO GROWTH/POST-BOOM PRODUCTION
I was actually quite happy to have a sudden very active audience, as it meant I actually got to play out my hopes of having Mary interact with an audience directly. It couldn’t have come at a better time, so when Mary revealed on new years 2018 that she could see everyone, it felt genuinely victorious. From that point on, I’d interact as Mary on twitter when I could, and would spend time hanging out with people on tumblr/discord as -k. I worked pretty steadily at getting the videos out there, and was really glad to actually have an audience for the livestream. I was able to quietly watch audience reactions to big moments like “gone” and it felt great.
THE FINAL ARC
My senior year got pretty overtaken by my college thesis, which ate my time like crazy. I was only able to post “gone” during college, and was so consumed by my thesis and other senior work that I spent very little time on Mary. I was only able to put “last 8 months” out after I graduated, and even then I was working so slowly because I was also working on finding a job. I did get a job, but took on an online grad school program in addition, so it became a lot harder to manage my time and I began to crash. Those last two videos were so huge that they felt unmanageable, and I’d even confessed to my audience on the BTS blog that I was hitting a wall and would be working slow for a while. In retrospect I had actually been very slowly burning out. I usually only had Sundays free to work on non-online school things, and so I worked on Mary stuff then.
In a moment of crazy motivation, I made the final arc checklist document and began to chip away at it. Believe it or not, the thing that finally led to very speedy production was the Coronavirus Pandemic. I was temporarily laid off for two months (April and May) and, while I still had online school, needed a way to spend my free time. I kicked into gear and managed to put the final two videos out at the end of May. I’d actually finished them a few weeks before, and I picked a random date in the future to post them so I could have Mary build hype for the finale on twitter. Thanks to several excited members of the two hiimmarymary discords, people caught on to the Woman In White’s source code hacking of Mary’s blog and started telling everyone else to interact when she hijacks the Twitter. The word spread just in time and the finale was a complete success.
PR AND BEING A "CONTENT CREATOR"
Being a “Content Creator” was definitely a learning process that changed with growth. I was able to interact more freely when I was in the smaller community with only a few subscribers. I became a lot more aware of parasocial relationships as I grew in size and needed to lock down my presence a lot. I noticed more and more often certain fans thought of me as a personal friend even though all I’d done was answer one or two of their asks, and I needed to make my presence a bit more professional so as not to cross anyone’s boundaries nor have anyone cross mine. I made that big behind-the-scenes blog post about why I was turning off anon asks and closing DMs and basically reminded people of the parasocial relationships in that post. Even now I keep my Twitter DMs to mutuals only so I don't get random people trying to be my best friend. I'd love to be able to talk to people more but frankly I don't have the mental energy to let people have that kind of access to me.
The growth had many benefits, but it came with a few unpleasant things as well, mostly in the form of unwanted sexual comments, attempts to hit on me, the occasional death threat from a 12 year old, and random harassment. It largely didn’t bother me and was thankfully pretty minimal.
My community was always (thankfully) a very nice place and never had any drama either; people were genuinely very nice to each other, likely from a mutual understanding that many were there because they empathized with the story. Hiimmarymary never got the crazy fandom treatment like EMH and TT did, and honestly in hindsight I’m glad it didn’t; instead it got a large community of kind, empathetic people there to enjoy the ride.