If there's one thing Neil Watson wants everyone in his hometown of Modesto to know about the Web series he's working on, it's that it's not real.
Well, the series is real. The women it portrays are not.
Watson, a 20-year-old graduate of Beyer High School, is an intern at Yellow Line Studio, the Southern California production company that created a controversial new Web series called "Bump."
The controversy? "Bump" is a show about a show in which viewers vote on whether three women facing crisis pregnancies should have abortions.
Understand why Watson wants to make it clear the women are actresses and their situations are fictional?
"We're always watching out for people who think it's real," Watson said. "What it is is a way to start a conversation."
A very 2010 conversation. The idea is for people to watch the show online and weigh in with their thoughts. Viewers can comment on the show's Web site, www.bumptheshow.com, on its Facebook page and on YouTube.
What viewers say determines what happens next in the series. What will Katie tell her husband when he returns from Iraq? Will Denise stay in her abusive relationship? Will Hailey go on to become a nurse and raise a child, too?
Watson, a business major at John Paul the Great Catholic University in San Diego, does social marketing for the show. He manages the Facebook page and Twitter feeds.
The show is a perfect fit for today's reality-show generation, Watson said. He's not surprised at the things viewers post — everything
from personal accounts of abortions to comments on the role of fathers to the option of adoption.
"I'm 20. There's never been a time in my life without message boards," he said. "My generation tends to be one that puts a lot of personal information in a sphere that is public."
The show's writers read the comments, too, and incorporate ideas from viewers into the plot.
The concept was inspired by President Barack Obama's commencement address at Notre Dame University last year. The president said he wanted to find ways to communicate about unintended pregnancies.
Dominic Iocco, the show's executive producer and a professor at John Paul the Great Catholic University, was listening. He came up with the idea for the show.
"Bump" drew criticism from different sides of the abortion debate even before it aired.
Some said it would be dominated by a Catholic, pro-choice point of view. Watson said that's not the case, adding that the show has people with a range of beliefs on staff.
Others said the reality-show concept cheapened the abortion issue.
"For my generation, entertainment is storytelling," Watson said. " ... and what we're doing with the Web series (viewer participation) allows the conversation to happen."
The show has had its share of press. The National Catholic Register did a piece in which a reporter asked an influential priest what he thinks of the show — the priest likes it. The Washington Post's Kathleen Parker wrote a story headlined "Turning abortion into an online game show."
Other media accounts of the series have led readers to believe the women and their pregnancies are real, Watson said. Still, he's happy for the coverage.
"I hoped for the kind of attention we've been getting," he said. "We knew it would be controversial."
Bee staff writer Kerry McCray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2358.