It has been 24 years since the premiere of The Spot and 8 years since The Misadventures of an Awkward Black Girl appeared on our personal screens. Has the web series hit its peak?
It is a question that lots of web series creators have recently been asked with renewed urgency, particularly when they are met with an exaggerated rolled eyed response to their chosen artform. It is also something online platforms might be wondering about too.
For every streamed Netflix gem there is the counterpoint platforms and YouTube fill of the bonkers narcissistic excess of millennial angst and first world problem dramas, a surplus of slapstick comedies and not to mention the fantasy-horror and sci-fi flops.
One thing is for certain, the web series in its 26-year history has had its hits and misses. But has it peaked?
Some web series creators suggest the web series is in retreat as the form has not produced the lasting financial stability, control and visibility independent web series creators had hoped for.
That may be the case in some parts of Europe, UK, specifically. However, globally there is evidence to the contrary. There are some notable trends in Canada and Australia, countries that show a strong financial and communal support for the web series – no surprise, perhaps. Should more film funding bodies be supporting the web series? The web series is surely as much of a pathway to industry as the short film.
The curious thing about the web series is that, in many ways, it thrives on a flip side of innovation. Instead of hinging its core to the universal, it stakes it claim in the personal and subjective. Like the growth of the podcast. We now prefer to listen to personalised stories and conversations. This may go back to our experiences with early audio visual and printed materials.
The web series creates spaces for stories to bubble up from below. Independent creators bypass the top-down dictats from broadcasters, networks and online platforms by contributing stories to what they think the world can or should be. Perhaps, because the form is short and serialised, it truly values human curiosity. The web series does not labour in telling the story. The stories unfurl as propositional short pieces of drama which makes the form the story. This is part of its appeal and I would argue its ongoing success.
I was at the Edinburgh film festival last month not only to give a lighting talk, but for inspiration. I was thoroughly impressed that at a “traditional Television event” a plucky online channel such as BBC 3 scooped the online channel of the year award because of its edge and platforming traditionally marginalised voices.
In an age of super saturated communication powerful broadcasters and networks, web series creators have themselves to thank for not only telling diverse stories by infusing edge, attitude in a desire to entertain, inform and educate but have contributed a plethora of story-worlds to users, online channels and platforms.