Web series, with their originality and accessibility, have started to serve as the proving ground for aspiring filmmakers. The medium is a liberating platform that can give anyone and everyone a voice. Here, at Raindance, we love the innovative content that a web series can produce. So much so that we were the first dedicated web series festival in the UK to celebrate independent digital videos. We give you 10 web series that you should (if you haven't already) be watching in 2015.
1. S.O.S: Save Our Skins
The 13 episode web series S.O.S: Save Our Skins was the winner of the Best British Series at Raindance Web Fest in 2014. Written by, and starring talent, from British TV staples such as Smack the Pony and The I.T Crowd it follows episodically two British nerds, Stephen (Chris Haywood) and Ben (Nat Saunders), who are in New York for a sci-fi convention. They wake up to find out that they are the only two people left on Earth as the entire human race has seemingly vanished. In the vein of Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, S.O.S: Save Our Skins is part comedy, part horror and part sc-fi.
2. Written It Down
When it comes to the visual medium, relying too heavily on improvisation can be a very dangerous method. Yet, this is exactly what Dave Zwolenski's and Matt Saraceni's unscripted comedy does so well. Written It Down puts two comedians in an uncomfortable situation, different every episode, and waits to see where the situation will go, live on camera. The concept is simplistic but highly original. We're not the only people who think so too as the Australian series won several awards at LA Webfest last year.
3. F to 7th
Following the success of her first web series, The Slope, Ingrid Jungermann released F to 7th in 2013. The critically acclaimed series explores contemporary lesbian life in a visceral and compelling way yet still manages to be incredibly funny. Jungermann writes, directs and stars in the portrayal of a gay woman struggling to find herself in a modern world where new ideas of sexuality and gender have replaced the old.
With the second season funded by the Spike Lee Production Award and featuring a number of well-known guest stars, such as Kristen Connolly (House of Cards), a third season is sure to be on the table for 2015.
4. Whatever, Linda
The year is 1978 and Linda Thoroughbred is divorced, broke and approaching middle-age. What better way to turn things around than to take on Wall Street and make millions of dollars? Whatever, Linda is a female-centric Canadian dark comedy inspired by the real-life story of the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scandal. The ten episode web series twists the events to suggest that Madoff wasn't the mastermind behind the largest financial crime in history, but it was his unassuming female secretaries.
Winning three awards at Raindance Web Fest last year, Hannah Cheesman's (co-creator of the series and its lead) Whatever, Linda is cutting-edge digital entertainment at its best.
5. The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl
What began as an idea when working in a theatre became a viral sensation that was eventually featured on Pharrell William's YouTube channel "i am OTHER". Issa Rae's Awkward Black Girl subverts the stereotypical image of black femininity offered by the media. The series follows the life of the title character (Issa Rae) as she interacts with people who place her in situations she finds "awkward". Devices such as voice overs and dreams move the storylines and characters beyond the one-dimensional. It's quirky, funny and refreshingly realistic.
6. High Maintenance
From the mind of husband Ben Sinclar (the leading man) and wife Katja Blichfeld (casting agent who previously worked on 30 Rock), High Maintenance redefines the archetypal "stoner". In a series of vignettes New York neuroses are explored through the lens of a marijuana dealer as weed is used to expose people's foibles. High Maintenance proves that a web series can give the filmmaker an uncensored voice as the episodes deal with issues such as molestation, shootings, asexuality and loneliness.
"The Internet", as Sinclair has said, "allowed us the freedom to become filmmakers". As of 2014 the show is funded by Vimeo with the next three instalments due this year.
7. H+: The Digital Series
With "special effects that are too good to be on the internet", H+ is an apocalyptic sci-fi created by John Cabrera and produced by X-Men director Bryan Singer. The H+ story explores familiar questions about technology and the potential loss of control it may have on humanity in the future. H+ has an ambitious narrative but despite the cinematic visuals and recognizable names its structure could, essentially, only work for the web.
The arc of the first season is not sequential but cyclical. This means that control over perception is given to the audience as the YouTube episodes can be watched in a variety of orders.
8. Sad Motivator
Written and directed by Nathan Alan Bunker, the 7 episode web series documents the life of Kevin (Timothy Ryan Cole) as he desperately tries to pick up the pieces after his girlfriend Mary (Renee Dorian) leaves him. It's the green, animated blob Mark, voiced by Bunker, who is Kevin's only friend and acting guidance that makes Sad Motivator stand out.
Incredibly creepy, this animation is akin to the devil on the shoulder whispering in the subject's ear sweet perversions. Although depraved, Mark is almost mesmeric forcing us to want more. Hopefully, Bunker gets the funding he needs to produce a second season sooner rather than later. This series was an Official Selection as part of Raindance's Web Fest 2015.
9. My Drunk Kitchen
The alcohol-infused web series about cooking is a YouTube sensation. My Drunk Kitchen's long running series of short videos, hosted and created by Hannah "Harto" Hart, won Best Comedy Series at the 4th Streamy Awards. The concept is pretty simple. All she has to do is drink, drink, cook, and then drink. But it's the quick puns and spontaneity of the show that has captivated so many people.
10. Video Game High School
No web series list can be complete without mentioning Video Game High School. The series is produced by Freddie Wong’s RocketJump Studios and co-created by Wong, Will Campos, Brian Firenzi and Matthew Arnold. Primarily funded through crowdfunding sites Indiegogo and Kickstarter, the action comedy web series has a massive fan base. Set in the near future, it follows gamer Brian Doheny (Josh Blaylock) and his experiences at VGHS, an elite facility that teaches (and only teaches) a curriculum of video games.
BONUS: LARPs: The Series
LARPs: The Series follows a group of LARPers (Live Action Roleplay-ers) live and love and beat the shit out of each other with foam swords. Produced by a group of filmmakers from our Raindance Montreal hub, LARPs is a slick, technically gaw-geous comedy with bang on performances and writing. You can watch a new episode of LARPs: The Series every Friday on Geek & Sundry (Felicia Day's YouTube channel).
Interested in creating your own web series? Tutors Elisar Cabrera and Darren Chadwick-Hussein will be holding a day long class on March 14th, 2015. To find out more or book go here.