I started creating content for the Internet roughly six years ago — in Internet time, that means I’m a grizzled veteran, wounded from the many cuts of a completely bi-polar medium.
I’ve seen web shows live and die, I’ve seen the “next big thing” turn into the next “absolutely nothing,” I’ve watched as creators struggled for years and then suddenly struck gold. I’ve seen our budding little world gain media coverage and I’ve seen it grow at an unimaginable rate. I’ve lived through every theory, every analytic, every douchebag with a blog predict the future of the genre with absolute certainty and then get proven wrong a couple of months later. I’ve seen my own company grow at dramatic rates and I’ve eaten food bought by the penny that was earned by making a web show — a concept that seemed like happy magic unicorn land only a couple of years ago.
In short, I’ve seen a lot.
And I think the 3rd Streamy Awards are the most important thing for the web series since ever.
For those of you who haven’t heard the news: the Streamy Awards are back, and now they have a new partner: Dick Clark Productions. Which, if you don’t know them, is a small, Ma and Pa production company that produced tiny little award shows like the Golden Globes. The production company and the guys behind the Streamys hope the partnership will not only help the show reach a much, much bigger audience (with a potential TV deal, which I believe DCP is looking for) but also add legitimacy to a genre begging for it.
And the latter point is really the most important point. As far as we’ve come as a genre, we still have far to go. One of the main issues with getting a mainstream audience to watch web series is that the mainstream audience doesn’t trust web series.
You know when you tell someone that you make shows or movies, and that someone isn’t really privy to the business and isn’t really aware of your life, and their response to you saying that is something like: “Oh, I’d love to see your little show!” ..and they say it with that annoying lilt that implies you’re just adorable for owning a camera. That’s the kind of thing that’s hurting us. That’s the kind of thing that’s more prevalent than we realize, and that’s the kind of thing we need to desperately fight.
Right now, there are, in my humble opinion, several ways to fight it:
1. Much better web shows that can compete with TV, if not necessarily with production values than writing, story,acting, etc.
2. Longer episodes (that’s another long bloggy rant that’s a-comin’).
3. Celebrities in the series.
4. An award show that’s worth a damn.
#4 might seem a little shallow. I know, I know, let the work speak for itself, etc. etc., sure. But this really help in two ways.
The first thing (I really like lists, don’t I?) is that it firmly suggests that the things made by independent creators are good enough to be nominated alongside professionals. Vlad and I were nominated as best writers and lost to Joss Whedon (I’m okay with that) and Mark Gantt and Jesse Warren won like every award last year (I was shocked that Mark won best supporting actress), and sure, the Bannen Way was funded by Sony, but these guys hustled and made this show with blood and sweat. They’re indie creators and they competed against pros and won. That’s important. It gets people to trust us. It stops people from thinking we’re making home movies and legitimizes our work.
The second thing is, without a doubt, shallow. But I think it’s kind of important.
Hollywood brings with it an intoxicating glamour. A lot of that was built on the shoulders of people like Marilyn Monroe, Frank Sinatra, Audrey Hepburn, and so on, but it’s there and people love it. There’s a reason there’s six hundred celebrity gossip magazines. People, for whatever reason, eat it up like delicious cake. As a genre, I feel we’ve followed a similar trajectory to television. Our silent films were the sketch-ey, short YouTube videos. Our talkies were the first few web shows that gave our genre life. Our color talkies are our scripted, funded web shows. I think our next step is to enter the public consciousness, to become part of pop culture, to, for lack of a better word, glamorous.
We all believe what we’re doing is the future of entertainment, surely there’s gotta be some glitz to that. We’ve got to get our own Hepburn’s and Sinatra’s, we’ve got to have parties that matter and award shows that the whole world wants to watch. Why? Because we’re in the business of entertainment and fame, and hate it or love it, we need it to keep succeeding and growing.
If it brings bigger budgets and, more importantly, bigger audiences, I’ll play. I’ll be Frank.
As it stands now, I think the Streamys have the best chance of raising our profiles both by showing the world we can compete with pros, but also by showing the world we’re not just kids with cameras, but beautiful, talented people who make amazing art. Shallow? A little. But if we weren’t, we wouldn’t be in make-up for an hour before we went on camera.
Yes, the Streamys were not good last year. Talking to those guys, they seem well aware that they made a mistake and are working hard on trying not to make it again. As I mentioned in the NewTeeVee article — they’re allowed a sophomore slump, and as prominent members of our world and, in general, extremely good and smart guys, we can give them another chance. God knows, we’ve all screwed up royally on things we’ve made — we can forgive them just like our viewers forgave us.
What I’m having trouble understanding is some of the extremely negative things coming out of some people’s mouths (or, I guess, fingers) about this. First of all, kudos to the Streamy guys for staying out of the mudslinging, I really applaud that. It’s classy and I hope they stick to it.
Secondly, really? This is a bad thing? Having a huge, television production company basically say: your genre is important, meaningful and can and will be on the same level as TV is bad…? Let’s not kid ourselves, here. As fun as circle jerking is, we need the world to get used to watching our shows, not the people in our community. The other festivals and award shows are great, but none of the same size or credibility as the Streamys. They have real potential to put us in the limelight, to say — hey, see those guys nominated? Yes, there are a lot of names you know from Film and Television — but those other nominees? They’re independent creators and they were good enough to compete with the likes of Paramount, NBC, whatever. That, that is an incredibly important thing to push the web show further.
For those of you who are saying this is going to be a celebrity love fest — there is that fear, yes. But frankly, if we want to be taken seriously, we should be able to compete with the big boys, right? So instead of being frightened and screaming about how unfair life is, we should grit our teeth, raise our game and loudly scream, bring it on, bitches.
To the Streamys guys: you know the stakes here. You’ve got a huge stage now, you’ve got a huge opportunity, in my opinion, to raise the profile of what we’re doing even higher. With Dick Clark Productions behind you, you can honestly be one of the best things that happened to this genre. But you have to nail it. That means: get some amazing writers on your staff. Writers who know this space, who live it, who breathe it, but who are writers. Not YouTubers, for the love of God, but actual, talented, TV-quality writers. Make every presenter hilarious. Show people that the web has talent. Nail this thing, and let’s hope it blows up the doors that are finally starting to inch open.
To the detractors: Criticism is good, it’ll push all involved to create something great. Jabs and insults are the weapons of idiots (see what I did there?) and none of you are idiots. Criticize, sure, but be helpful. Support. Let’s get our heads out of our asses and realize that anything that gives credibility to what we do helps all of us.
So, let’s applaud the effort of the Tubefilter guys and let’s hope and pray that they don’t just do better than last year, but that they absolutely kill it. Let’s hope beyond hope that not only does it give a bit more credibility to our genre, but that it’ll make people want to be a PART of our genre. That the new wave of actors and writers will come to Hollywood to be in web series. That little boys will dream of being me and little girls will dream of being Mark Gantt.
Let’s show the world how good we’ve gotten, how funny we are, how talented, how outrageously attractive. Let’s get all glitzed up, win some awards, and get a little further in taking over the world.