Since November 2010 I have been producing a web TV show called Those Video Guys. In the show I, alongside my friends John Atkins and Sean Harry, review videos we find on the internet. At first I thought the only thing there is to review will be countless exhibitionists who video diary (or vlog) their lives and funny cat videos.
But soon I discovered web series and a whole world of online entertainment opened its doors to me. Although the history of web series dates back to 1995, in reality the genre of filmmaking didn’t really come into mainstream consciousness until about 2007, so its still a relatively young medium of filmmaking.
Some web series have become very well known, such as Dr Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog starring Neil Patrick Harris and the teen worldwide sensation LonelyGirl15 (and its UK equivalent KateModern). Some of you may have already shared web series on your Facebook page when sharing episodes of the recent Alan Patridge’s Mid-Morning Matters web series.
Independent filmmakers in the US and Canada, and increasingly in the UK (where its still a pretty unknown medium), are looking at making independent web series more and more these days as the doors to TV drama and comedy are closed to anyone not associated with the large TV corporations like Endemol or Fremantle, and short films find it harder and harder to get audiences.
Sometimes beginning with ideas or pilots, web series creators are harnessing the popular crowd-funding sits to get their ideas on the to small screen. By demonstrating they can build fanbases and audiences with their original web series they can show brands that they can command audience loyalty. Brands then can look to web series creators to deliver loyal customers (games giant Bioware commissioned the creators of the web series The Guild to make a web series based on their popular videogame DragonAge) and so will invest in branded web series, thereby opening a new source of independent series financing.
Below are some suggested recent web series which I have personally enjoyed and which represent wide variety of styles, genres and range of web series. They only represent the tip of the iceberg of what’s out there::
Aidan5 - a science fiction live action/animated web series which sprung out from a short made for a 48 Hour Film Challenge competition. Made with pure guts and ingenuity and with a budget of less than your average short film.
Blood and Bone China- a Victorian-era set vampire thriller made by pop promo director Chris Stone from Stoke. I can see feature film companies begging Chris to direct their feature films after they have seen this series.
Anyone But Me - a great example of niche online programming, a drama series aimed at teen and LGBT audiences, that has build a loyal fanbase and who creators can now knock on doors of brands who will likely invest in future web series endeavours (and they already have).
Alan Partridge’s Mid-Morning Matters - an example of a branded British comedy web series, in this case the series is sponsored by Fosters, using celebrity talent.
Black Box TV - an anthology series in the style of the Twilight Zone, the creators have proved the value of learning to understand and interacting with the young audiences who spend their time on YouTube.
The Guild - possibly one of the most well known web series, began life as a crowd-funded series with a definite audience in mind (the online gamers) and is now into its fifth series now funded by Microsoft. Created stars of its actors.
Mind’s Eye- an example of web series aimed at the kids audience that originally went out with as short episodes as possible (assuming kids attention spans were very short) and discovered through feedback that longer, more TV style, episodes were actually preferred.
Fresh Hell - series one is a 5 episode sitcom (the second series
shoots in September) and a great example of indie filmmakers
collaborating with a recognisable TV name who can promote the series
to their 1.3m Twitter followers.
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Elisar Cabrera is a director at international sales company High Point Media Group and head of home video acquisitions for High Point Home Entertainment.
With over 23 years in the film business, Elisar has been involved in film and TV production, international film sales and TV distribution.
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