A couple of days ago I posted an article on my blog (a blogticle?) about the “death of the web series genre as we know it.”
There were some great comments and one, especially, caught my eye because, well, it was on the front page of NewTeeVee (I’m exaggerating, of course, they only have one page — but such is the curse of the blogticle) written by one Liz Shannon Miller.
I had my point, she had her counter-point, so now I have to have a counter-counter-point.
Let me start by quoting Liz’s premise:
“To be blunt, it sounds like Baranovsky doesn’t get out much. If he did, he’d be in touch with the new generation of web series creators, who are playing with their cameras, trying new things and making new deals.”
I’m on Twitter, I’m on Facebook, I’m on MySpace, and I even have Friendster. I might even possibly have a LiveJournal account somewhere. I take a daily stroll through the Internet and breathe that sweet, electronicky air. So, I’m pretty sure I get out. Or get out in the way Liz says I don’t.
Though, it is true that I haven’t left my house in forty-three weeks.
Liz is celebrating the idea of what web series, as a genre, offers. She’s celebrating that people are going out there and creating content — I think that’s phenomenal, but it’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about creating successful content — successful monetarily and artistically.
There are a whole lot of people in this business who are struggling right now. As an example: Two friends of mine are signed with CAA, did a show for WB and manage to get into meetings with big studios — I can vouch for their talent and wit, and I judge them not against other web shows but against top-notch professional talent.
Right now, they’re thinking about moving back to New York because they’re having trouble finding any work in LA. These are established creators with talent oozing out of their bloodshot, tired eyes. They have more connections than most people and I think they’d be hard-pressed to share Liz’s enthusiasm about the business.
Liz’s entire post is a prime example of everything I’ve had a problem with in my original blogticle (it sounds like candy, doesn’t it?):
Niche is good. Is it? What about thinking of a way to cater to mainstream? I’m glad that Mormons will have something to watch and there will always be niche creators for niche markets — that’s all well and good. But, I’m going to take a wild guess here and say that the majority of creators don’t want to be niche. I’m going to say that a lot of us are filmmakers who want our work to be seen not by large Mormon populations but by everyone.
The idea that the only way to succeed is by going to a small but loud market (i.e., the Guild and gamers) feels a lot like giving up to me.
You haven’t heard of it, so you don’t know what’s out there. Liz makes a point to name 10 indie web shows that she believes are great and that I haven’t heard of. Why haven’t I heard of them? Is it because I’m not a good enough web series detective or is it because it’s damn near impossible to wrap your brain around the millions of shows that are now out there? And more importantly — is it my problem, or is that the problem of the people covering the web series genre?
Drew Lanning wrote that this whole medium is one big circle jerk — I can’t help but agree. If those 10 quality indie shows are being watched only by hardcore web series fans, then they’re going to have a helluva time dropping that “indie” label.
Why hasn’t NewTeeVee, Tubefilter or Tilzy created a, say, Top 20 web series list? It can be changed monthly — and if a show–even with only two viewers–is shot, acted and written better than the Guild, then it should be on top. It shouldn’t be about numbers or what’s popular, but quality. Quality as compared to TV, not to “Fred.” It’s a simple idea, but at least it gives us a cohesive place to look for top shows. It also gives smaller shows something to work for (getting on the list).
I’m a creator — I badly need your help. I need people like you, journalists who know this business, to help me reach people who aren’t on the circle jerk email list.
Web Series shouldn’t aim to be the minor leagues of TV. You know, I fully agree. That was a false argument on my part and went against my main premise — that I want web series to match TV in quality and not give passes to people who don’t at least try. So, you’re absolutely right.
That said, I think it’s insulting to say…
Everything is Fine. It really, really isn’t. Your examples just prove that it isn’t. I’m not saying no one succeeds — but the people you list mostly either, A. succeeded a long time ago when the genre was new and the pickin’s were slim, or B. built a brand over a wealth of time and only now managed to push through (Dan Harmon, CollegeHumor, etc).
Were you aware that, currently, to get an advertiser to advertise on your show, you generally have to either, A. have a celebrity, or B. be established and popular? A ain’t easy and B is the hardest it has ever been.
Companies are tired of losing money, see? No one wants to invest in anything that isn’t proven to succeed — and we just aren’t succeeding. Yet.
It’s frustrating for creators to hear those covering the genre wax heroic on how everything is going great and we’re just getting started. If you admit that the 10 shows you listed will not find a large audience, how can you call that success? How can you possibly use that as defense that nothing needs changing? Do you understand what these creators go through to make these shows? Do you understand that that sentence you wrote is the absolute last thing they want to hear… especially from someone who is supposed to be championing them?
In the end, we’re all on the same team — I just think that the team needs to change its strategy or it’s going to keep losing. Yes, we win a few games here and there, but there ain’t no way we’re bringing home a trophy.
Every great artist needs to be pushed down and criticized. Every genre needs failure to succeed. Every medium needs to grow and get better instead of ignore the problems and keep blindly moving ahead. We need to push one another, demand change, expect nothing less than a large, mainstream following for every high-quality show.
Right now, it’s impossible. So, how do we change that?