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Waxing Websodic: Everything’s Fine, Nothing is Working

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?

Written by

I am a writer, director, producer and co-founder of HLG Studios.

35 thoughts on “Waxing Websodic: Everything’s Fine, Nothing is Working

  1. I dig what you’re saying, Yuri (and, damn, Liz got a little harsh there, didn’t she?). I really do. But I think you’re putting the cart before the horse a bit.

    I agree that web series should strive to be as high quality as they can be. To compete with TV. But “TV quality?” What do you mean by that exactly? Visuals? Writing? Acting?

    Let’s not forget that television budgets are obscenely disproportionate to web show budgets. Look, I like to think I have minor talents but, unless I’m a freaking GENIUS (which I’m pretty sure I’m not), I have little hope of seeming as competent as a network producer. The latest (soon to be released) episode of LFTI (my show) was the most expensive by far. About three times the budget of our previous episode and almost FIVE times the budget of our “pilot.” A comparable network show has a budget of $1 million! We’re operating on .001% (almost exactly) of a network show. I don’t think many people would accuse me of “making excuses” by saying that I have some serious deficits to overcome to get my show to “TV” quality.

    Now, the reason I’m saying that you may be putting the cart before the horse is that there isn’t anyone on this great EARTH who’s going to give you a budget even CLOSE to that for a web show. I’m sorry. That’s a fact. Not because web show creators suck or anything. Or that the internet is stupid. It’s just that they’ll NEVER make that money back. Not with the way the internet is right now. If it WERE the case that they could, HULU would be raking in the dough.

    HULU is not raking in the dough. Not enough to compensate for the costs of the shows they host anyway. Not by a LONG SHOT.

    Ad revenue paradigms have to shift before we can start sinking network cash into web shows. And, while I do think that network shows are severely overpriced, the ACTUAL costs of a network show would STILL be prohibitive on the web.

    I think we DO need to push each other. I think the vast popularity contest that is the internet pushes people every day. Though, I’m not convinced it’s pushing people in the right direction. The struggle to become popular rarely does.

    And to that end I agree with you whole-heartedly. We need to champion shows that try to do something great. Not just the popular ones. Look at YouTube now. It’s become nothing but a repository for videos. A huge searchable database. But not very useful if you’re looking for a diamond in the rough.

    But I’m not all that hip to having the good folks at Tilzy or Tubefilter or NewTeeVee be the harbingers of taste. No offense to them. But maybe it is a start? (On a related note: hey, Tilzy, who the hell do I have to pay to get my show on your freaking guide? I’ve submitted it three times. We’ve been featured on the front pages of iTunes and the Zune marketplace. Tilzy has reviewed our freaking SHOW for crying out loud! Sheesh.).

    Anyway, I think you’re right. I just think you’re a little early to start seeing things go the way you think they should (and the direction they will inevitably travel).

    I have more, but it’s getting late.

    Keep fighting the good fight, my friend.

  2. Hey, Robb.

    Let me clarify — I mean STRIVE for quality. You know, independent films aren’t going to necessarily look as good as feature films, right? They have no money, Hollywood features do. But, the ones that shine are the ones that are: well-acted, well-written, well-shot — in other words, I’m not saying that I expect web shows to look like 24. I’m just saying that we should strive to achieve the best possible quality in all aspects instead of going, “Wow, look at this show! They managed to write a script and get actors all on their own!” — i.e. quality doesn’t matter, we’re just all so damn proud that we’re doing this, and I think that’s the wrong way to go. Does that make sense?

    I’ll answer the other stuff this week — long shoots make Yuri sleepy.

    But, seriously, Tilzy guys — why aren’t you putting Life on the Inside on your guide?!

  3. After reading Yuri’s original post and allowing time for marination I returned to find a bit of of a dog chasing its own tail argument. SO MUCH said already. Plus the whole newteevee rant response, I had to go put on a facial mask and make popcorn before I could deal with commenting tonight.

    Now that my face is officially buffed and stuffed, I have a few things to assert, and a million questions to pose:

    Loooove is not the answer when it comes to doling out the rental and health care dollars.
    Yuri and all have worked their butts off to create something funny, fresh, entertaining and lasting. They do it all for fun/love/not money/hot chicks that follow them around and post cute comments on their blogs. But you know, it would be SO NICE if they could pay their bills with what they love to do.

    The entertainment industry is NOT SO NICE. It is all timing and connections. TV is hoping on the right boat and stepping off of it before it sinks. Or runs into another boat. Or pulls a magnum PI and puts all surrounding boats out of commission for lack of dope mustaches.

    But BAL is funny! And entertains people! They could do so much more if they didn’t have to work day jobs too…

    This said a few questions popped up for me:

    Are we they being asked to reduce this to a labor of love?
    Is this funnier than what is on TV?
    What audience is going to determine the fate of BAL?
    Why is there so much crap on TV and somehow it seems like there is less on the web?
    Will anyone pay for a Web Series?
    Being famous is nice but can we get a pay check that goes with that?
    Do I really have to go to film school to make the connections that will actually get this stuff on Network?
    What companies would want to support BAL or any web series for that matter?

    In short response: yes, no, me and my kind, Google, no, doubtful, don’t count on it,reply hazy try again later. Look- I can’t even begin to FULLY answer all these questions without taking you all out for a few drinks on trivia night.

    All I can say is that I’m the kind of viewer Yuri shakes his fist at. Because he loves me and hates me. I have seen 80% of the show. Or maybe 120%. BUT MOSTLY, I know the plot line and skip around to what I like and want to watch/ rewatch. Meaning, my online attention span is incredibly short. I have to be riveted. Or completely misty eyed as some guy dances in every imaginable place on the planet. But I think it is people like me that can make or break the web series. I watch online shows, if they are fast and I laugh out loud. And then I go dancing in the mission district. I live a life that is not computer centered but here I am writing this thing. You want people that could be more interested in something online than on tv. Not for the cool factor but the quality of writing and timing.

    Niche is dumb for those who want to move up in the entertainment world. Staying true to your art gets you paid one in a million. Jackson Pollack that lucky man dribbled and made it HUGE. And Matt dancing and me wondering where the hell he is, made him pretty huge in web world. Dude got his travels paid for! Niche has it’s place. haha, Liz, get it? But not when your objective is further reaching than making people in your personal social group laugh.

    Bottom lines:
    Advertising and or Backers.
    Non webfreak fans (look I can hang with alt reality games and find your ferengi pillow talk jokes hilarious but you and I both know that until we make like Bill Gates with the next super computer we can’t carry this genre).
    Viral Hilarity across the world.

    Last question: Why did lonelygirl get on Letterman? The guys and gals behind it all (Good job Mesh Flinders, Oxy shout out!!) tricked us. They tricked us right into her little world and we loved it. We ate every minute of it up. So, Yuri. My quest for you: trick us into paying you to live in your crazy BAL world. And makes us better people for it.

  4. A quick addition:

    One site that’s incredibly forward-thinking is Blip.tv. They’re the only video site that I feel constantly pushes itself and the creators it works with to do better. They’ve gotten us sponsorship deals, and people like Eric Mortensen and Dina Kaplan are damn near brilliant.

    If there’s hope for the web show, it lies in the proles… er, I mean, in Blip.tv.

    More on this in my next blog…

  5. Audience sizes for the growing bucket of top web shows has grown by more than a factor of 10 over the last three years. Money paid to shows has grown by leaps and bounds as well. The level of quality and consistency has skyrocketed. And the length of episodes that shows produce has grown by as much as 10x. Web audiences are growing more sophisticated and TV audiences are starting to move to the web.

    There’s still much to figure out, but I really don’t think the world of the web series is anything less than a bubbling cauldron of possibilities. There is much about the TV industry that we should use a model, but big budgets and mass audiences are not among them. You don’t get those things unless someone is willing to gamble, and gamble big, on a project. Big gambles are going to rapidly disappear now that we’re not all competing to get a single timeslot on one of only a handful of linear stations.

    We’re all going to have smaller audiences. Not just web series, but TV shows, too. It’s inevitable. The number of shows increases while the number of potential viewers stays the same. You’ll become niche, to a degree, whether you want to or not. Of course, that’s not to say that you still won’t need to get millions of views a month to be relevant. But that’s absolutely attainable.

    While I disagree with your premise, Yuri, I’m absolutely on board with your ideas for moving this industry forward. And here’s another… Check out Adam Quirk’s Crowdfunding experiment: http://tangent.ws/funding/

  6. Eric,

    The web shows that are already established — and became established when there was no competition are doing alright, sure, but the shows starting up now are having a helluva time getting anywhere.

    You know as well as I do that it’s insanely hard to sell an advertiser on a single show nowadays. A lot of the big production companies and video sites are losing tons of money and scaling way down, and in general, it’s really, really, really hard to get a web show sponsored right now. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but it’s hard.

    I think people have to understand that while maybe the idea of a web series is getting a little more palatable, creators are still suffering and the genre itself hasn’t actually figured itself out yet. Is Fred the best we can do? Is the Guild? I’m not insulting Felicia, but, where’s the web’s West Wing? Sopranos? Are we incapable of it, or do we just not trust ourselves to do that?

    What bothers me is that we tend to be an isolated community that brags about itself and pats itself on the back and sets an example that what we’re doing is the best we can do. it makes new creators go in with that mentality and make yet another 5-8 minute throw-away show instead of pushing themselves to go bigger and try wilder things.

    Business as usual isn’t a good idea because business isn’t great for very many people.

    The fact is, Eric, and I’m going to write about this in another blog, but — Blip.tv is the only company that I really think is doing it right and you guys are succeeding for it. You’re doing what I’m saying, essentially: you’re critical with the shows you choose to promote, you don’t just go with the most popular but the highest quality ones, you constantly evolve to make your company better, you make deals to expand viewership — frankly, everyone should be looking at you guys and your philosophy and see how we can apply it to the rest of the genre.

    So, what I’m saying is — you can’t argue with me because you’re already doing what I’m saying, you JERK.

    And because of the above compliment, you have to wear your Swambler shirt for a full week now.

  7. (Sidrah, great comment–important points.)

    My thoughts: I was watching a documentary on advertising today and it put forth the interesting paradox that advertising faces. To borrow from the documentary: “They create all this clutter, and then in an effort to break through the clutter, they make more clutter.”

    It reminded me of what’s happening with web shows, really (although the parallel isn’t perfect). The medium, which generously allows for all of this production, offers opportunities for distribution, which is then lost inside a mass of its own production. Basically, there’s too much stuff for audiences to sift through.

    My discovery of BaL exemplifies this: I was on YouTube, and a BaL video was featured. Now I know that shows like BaL have their own websites, but to a passive internet user like myself, YouTube is the starting point. Had the video not been featured, I’d never have stumbled across it (not being the kind of girl who’d search for “breaking legs”). This being the case, until individual users discover it, BaL is competing with home videos of babies and kittens and train wrecks and stupid pranks and music videos and whatever other garbage mingles with the genius there.

    It’s a competition that is incredibly unfair, in terms of cost and time and effort–and web series are competing not only with mom’s video camera BUT ALSO with pirated Grey’s Anatomy clips. How to beat that?

    I know that not all of the web operates like YouTube; not all net consumers are as lazy as myself. However, my argument reinforces two points: 1. people can make a lot of junk with a camera, and post it too freely, creating a distraction; and 2. web series audiences are still niche markets, as people who go online often search for what they already know (ie. laughing babies or Grey’s Anatomy or terminally laughing babies being healed on Grey’s Anatomy).

    Consider also that quality takes time and that the net generation is about instant gratification. Any time that consumers are waiting for a new webisode, they’re checking out the competition. And there’s a lot, a LOT, of competition.

    I think that Yuri, you touched on a solution when you mentioned that we need a top 10 master list of good quality series, for audiences to tune into and for series producers to aspire too. Indeed, web series need a new and focused starting point that consumers can turn to, kind of like the cable menu channel–allowing users to peruse what’s out there in Web Series Land without the clutter of the home video.

  8. Look, I think I’ll cime in. I’m not savvy with the whole web series thing. I had never even used the words “social” and “network” in the same sentence until about a year ago. Hell, I didn’t even know YouTube existed before 2007!
    But I am a student of humanity. Of society. I began saying 12 years ago that the Internet would replace TV. The tech didn’t exist then, and people laughed at me (except my computer geek friends, who nodded sagely). The tech exists now. The other thing I said 12 years ago was that the biggest hurdle to overcome in the Web replacing TV, wasn’t technological — it was societal. Until the Web could be watched from Joe Blow’s big screen TV while he ate Doritos and got the remote all sticky, the Web would never replace TV. The geeks poo-pooed. My couch potato friends nodded wisely.
    And I think that’s still true. When the Web can be viewed conveniently from my couch, with just a touch of the ‘mote, then Web series will begin to take over TV. Not a moment before that. The vast majority of the viewing public will not watch anything consistently, loyally, repeatedly, until it can be done on the 52-incher with a beer in its collective hand. It’s not about changing the “advertising paradigm.” It’s not about “niche-ing.” It’s not about art and quality over studio executives. It’s about what is the easiest for me to watch?
    Some say we’re approaching 1000 channels of TV. With the Web, it’ll be 100,000 channels. As a writer, I just hope it won’t be “100,000 channels and nothing to watch.”

  9. I’d guess – and I could be wrong – that 80% of the readership of NewTeeVee, Tubefilter or Tilzy are web series creators or aspiring creators, so I’m not sure how it’s on them to move things forward. They could push a show higher up the web series hierarchy, but what good is that, really? Now you get to be the most popular person in the club for a bit.

    I’ll trade zero coverage on all three of those venues for coverage on ESPN.com or Mashable or anywhere else that doesn’t normally talk about web series.

    (btw I see much of this same thing in the self-publishing book world – it’s a largely insular crowd of people linking to each other, with very few saying, “Hey, I’ma go over here and talk to these potential readers who don’t know I exist already.)

    Also…yes, it’s nearly impossible to get a web series funded through traditional venues…just like it’s nearly impossible to get a feature or a TV series funded through a traditional venue. Identical situation, smaller scale – not a hiccup that’s exclusive to web creators at all.

    That said, there’s money out there – go find it in places where the rest of the web series crowd isn’t already looking. Most mid-size businesses have a healthy ad budget – how good of a talker are you?

    I have a friend with a yoga studio who paid some “internet marketing company” two grand for some awful web commercial that’s sitting on YouTube with 14 views. If she gave that to someone who could do something creative with it and get 50,000 views, there’s some value there for her, even if it’s not targeted to her exact demo. Get 10 businesses to do that, and you’ve got $20K to make something with.

    I dunno…do good work and get people to watch it – it’s about the only 100% hard and fast rule that rings true to anything right now. If the budget isn’t there to make something high quality, then adjust your concept so that the lack of budget fits and becomes an asset to the feel of the show, rather than a big sign that points out there was no money to work with.

    And web series – from a dollars and cents standpoint – are not money-makers. That much is clear. It would be great if one could make a living with one, but in September 2009, they need to be viewed through the lens of “I hope this gets us more exposure and leads to better opportunities.” That may change, but that creators want it to change NOW, doesn’t mean the world has to adjust.

    In conclusion, no more derivative Office rip-offs.

    I like what blip is doing, also.

  10. Pingback: Twitted by LFTI

  11. Oh Brian, I’m so sorry that no one took a moment to teach you about what “in conclusion” means.

    I kid, I kid. Somewhat. But I do feel the need to respond to some of what you’re saying.

    Don’t you feel, in retrospect, that your advice of “do good work and get people to watch it” is a little too simplet?

    What seems to be emerging as a general theme from this blog and responses to it is that your hard and fast rule isn’t enough–it’s not working. Have you SEEN Break a Leg? It’s “good work”–in fact, it fits a myriad of adjectives stronger than ‘good’. And it gets people watching it–still. That said, the full potential of the market seems not to be reached and moreover, the current state of affairs is asking these creative and brilliant guys and girls to make this kind of thing their hobby. Which is fine if you only want a hobby.

    Please note also that the blogs thus far have not been of a complaining nature. It’s trying to be proactive. When you say “And web series – from a dollars and cents standpoint – are not money-makers,” you’re conveying a kind of passive mentality that the status quo is what’s due us. (It’s the kind of mentality that should disqualify you from say, promotions, or, I dunno, democracy. It would, however, be fine with slavery.)

    Just because this is the situation now, does that mean it has to stay the same?

    And be fair. These creators are not stomping their creative little feet in a creative little dance and demanding that they see change NOW! Instead, there’s an openness to looking at different avenues, different possibilities. It is asking for ideas. Wouldn’t you agree that this is more mature than you’re giving them credit for and certainly more positive than how you suggest they should respond to the situation?

    I’ll spare you the conclusion. (Basically, that means to reassert your initial point.) I will, however, recommend you watch Break a Leg (again, if you’d like). The show certainly doesn’t sport “a big sign that points out there was no money to work with” and reflects the innovative thinking that is necessary to move beyond September 2009.

  12. Femke –

    It is simple advice, but I also see a lot of creators that don’t follow it. What I see is a lot of people who make shows and take a “if I build it, they will come” approach to the marketing side of things – banking on the idea that an article on Tilzy or NewTeeVee will break them wide open.

    What are creators doing to go find that audience? “Starting a Twitter account” in and of itself is not a marketing plan, and marketing is a massive part of a creator’s job at every level of the business. With views will come attention, will come money.

    And it may not be a lot of money, because again, the business model isn’t mature enough to allow for it yet. That’s not being negative – it’s simply facing the reality of the situation – the numbers don’t justify large dollars for web-based material. That doesn’t mean there won’t be “real money” one day – things are much better today than two years ago – one can assume it will continue to develop.

    (I’m not addressing my points at Yuri’s show btw – I have seen it, and it’s clever and fun. It’s why I’m at his website. 🙂 )

    I’m all for change and finding solutions, different avenues, trying strategies and tactics and business models – I suggested one in my comment above, in fact.

    My only point of contention with Yuri’s commentary is really the idea that outside forces – Tilzy, NewTeeVee, even other creators – have a moral kind of obligation to promote someone’s show and push it out there. It’s nobody’s responsibility but the show creator’s – so I guess the question I would have for show creators is:

    What are you doing for the second part of the equation after ‘do good work’? What are you doing to get people to watch your show? And “having a Twitter account” isn’t an answer without, “here’s what I’m doing with that Twitter account short and long-term, and why”.

  13. I’m commenting here because the last time I did it drove over 100 views to my site.

    I kid, I kid. No I don’t, head over there when you’re done here and see something I like to call “a blog post”. I rarely do it, I hope I got it right!

    Anyway, some of what people said here and on the original post reminds me of this American Masters doc I saw on PBS. I only saw part one because it was an accident that I was watching anyway, and I couldn’t stretch my attention span to finish.

    It was on Andy Warhol, and how he desperately just wanted to be a famous contemporary artist. Not a GOOD artist per se (he already was that, in all fairness), or an important artist, just a famous and successful artist. Everything he painted (or rather, drew and silkscreened) was geared towards finding not just a way to express himself but a way to express himself in a way that people in America and the Art World would listen. He wasn’t just trying to paint things in his studio to be revered by his fellow artists and himself and hoping beyond hope it would lead to success. He was actively seeking wide-scale approval and fame.

    It struck me as odd, that concept that an artist would be looking to paint something that everyone wanted to see. He almost placed his need to express himself secondary to that, at least at first. The paintings of the soup cans that placed him on the map and launched him to fame were suggested in jest by a friend. He never spoke about those cans having any real meaning or commentary, at least not while he was working on them. He just painted every fucking flavor of Campbell’s soup they sold.

    That’s a bit of an oversimplification, but I think you get the point. He wasn’t just jerking around with dribbles of paint, getting wasted, and calling himself an “artiste”. He had his eye on a goal, he kept on the crest of trends in the art world, and even though pop art was established before he thought of those fucking cans, he took the pop art concept and found its ultimate expression. You should hear what everyone says those cans mean, it’s absolutely hilarious. All good interpretations, but hilarious that we’re talking about realistic paintings of soup cans.

    I think the web series needs its soup can. Unfortunately there are many dependent parts to the beast that not only does the series itself need soup cans, but the distribution model needs soup cans, the production model needs soup cans, the writing needs soup cans, especially the marketing needs soup cans… shit.

    Right, anyway, we need Campbell’s Soup for the internet series genre. Joe Six-Pack may be able to watch this stuff on his 52-incher and get Doritos on his remote, but how does he wade through all the dreck and not decide to just watch another On-Demand episode of CSI: Miami?

    I just don’t think niche will cut it for anyone as a means to make a living, ever. It will always be just a calling-card for everyone involved so that they can try and get funding to really get to work, as actors and writers and etc etc. Until there’s a foolproof way to drive eyeballs to your show (and even then, where does the money come from?), you’re just flotsam and jetsam on the sea of internet porn.

  14. I agree with Yuri, whole heatedly. Albeit, half-assedly. When we started discussing “EXIT: Stage Left” we were discussing not the medium as a long range plan, but as a way to get content (writing, directing, cinematography) out to the public in a quick manner. Short films don’t have an audience. Heck, short films, almost never get finished anyway. Feature films, are good, but at 1% making money, that’s a tough climb. Plus, so many of them don’t get finished, and if they do, they are either huge success or sit on a shelf. There’s not much of an in between.

    We made EXIT to get noticed. To get work as a production company, to get an agent, to get money to make movies. Did it work? Sort of.

    I’ve got another web series we are in pre-production and fund raising on, called Beer15. http://www.beer15.com After this web series, there is a feature film ready to shoot with the same characters and continues the story. The web series is the launch pad, the feature is the ROCKET!

  15. Drew I hear you, but if you look at journalistic news media and cable channels, everything is going niche. Niche isn’t by nature a bad thing. District 9 is niche – if you absolutely nail your niche, you’re good to go.

    That doesn’t mean don’t go for a broader audience at all. But blatantly making something broad because it’s what one thinks people will to see isn’t going to result in the best product in most instances.

  16. Pingback: the wild musings of a web celebrity » Blog Archive » The Web Series is a Blooming Sunshine Flower of Love

  17. Plain and simple Liz Shannon Miller is a clueless woman wielding a pen with an opinion unfounded in good taste.

  18. Great blog war. I feel sorry it took me so long to find it. What a great way to start a Sunday morning. Now with all due respect to everyone involved in this debate (including myself), you should all refer to the master William Goldman when he said: “Nobody knows anything.”. And he was right. None of you know anything.

    That does include myself, but I probably have more than a decade of experience over all you guys, so maybe I can help in the process. I wholeheartedly disagree with Yuri on his main point. I think Movies/Cinema is the format pushing daisies and WebTV is about to take off in a slow, methodical way. For the first time in FILM/TV history, access to the audience has never been so cheap and easy. And shooting a movie has never been so accessible and idiot-proof. If you look at the freedoms in New Media/Internet Distribution today as you look at the airplane, then might start to see that the future is no different than the past. I think what most people are obviously missing in this debate is a discernible Film/TV knowledge/background and a palate for the form.

    But, I do believe Yuri is spot-on correct with two of his claims;
    1. The material is remarkably bad, regardless of how much money is spent and how ‘Hollywood’ it looks. Yes, there’s a few good ones. But if it ain’t on TV or doesn’t get on TV, it’s probably because it sucks. And wouldn’t you think if there really was a ‘Magic Johnson’ or ‘Michael Jordan’ roaming the shadows of the WebTV farm leagues that he/she would be shooting on film and scanning at 2K? My point is, if anyone truly has the skill and talent to produce good media comparable to TV, then they weren’t born with it and their credit card didn’t expedite it. Considering Yuri is the one complaining here, he might want to honestly address his own work. If New media is to get any better, he must realize first that his ‘hit show’ despite its success, is amateur at best. I saw it. It was unbelievable and forgettable. Unfortunately, the problems for Yuri grow much worse when you get into the writing and storytelling. However, the show does hold merit and will be a strong stepping stone for him if he does hit us with the next Cheers or Seinfeld. And he found his audience with something that was unable to make it on TV and that has enough value and reward by itself.
    2. Yuri also hit the nail on the head when he questioned the integrity of the reviewing process. Without a doubt, the ‘blogger/reviewers’ are handing out trophies faster than a head coach at a little league banquet. And if they knew any better, they might realize it is in their best interest to legitimize New Media with solid reviews before everyone tunes out for good. They might gain from harboring a sensibility and the ability to pair crap with shit and roses with tulips. Unfortunately, most of these reviews have nothing to do with quality or the reviewers’ sensibilities. It has to do with paid advertising. It’s not alien to the publishing business. You advertise on their site/rag, and you get a good review for your product. All your favorite magazines do this on a daily basis. So if Tubefilter is charging $500 to give coverage/reviews, then don’t you think the writers will behave and ‘do the right thing’ for the betterment of their paychecks rather than the betterment of the industry? This has been the new way of journalism for quite some time now. Access over substance. Revenue over news. Considering NewTeeVee and Tubefilter still don’t come up in most people’s minds and browsers, we should expect many more good reviews on amateur home movies and horribly conceived web series.

    Since I ‘Know nothing’ and have already beat down another fellow’s work, I’ll make some suggestions that maybe New Media folks absolutely need to hear;
    1. Do your homework. I don’t mean studying other web series or trying to find the cheapest video camera for your shoot. Study vaudeville artists/writers at the turn of the century, and their transition from stage to microphone to TV. You won’t find any puppets having sex or friends peeing in sinks, at least not that I am aware of. Dialogue in this form is very crucial in telling a story, and most of the scenes I see on these web shows are badly crafted. Sometimes it appears the web-writers are just creating web shows so they can present one single line that they think will serve up a ‘big break’. One dirty line and a crass comeback is not enough to carry a story. If you do your homework, it will show in your work. Study the greats, not the ‘not-so-greats’.
    2. Understand the nature of the business. Proctor & gamble pushed television as a new way of advertising their products. They used Soap Operas. The name originated from Proctor & Gamble’s ploy at selling soap. So understand that the material and the medium are two different species. If advertising created the TV, the reason why it became what it it today is due to the vaudeville actors and writers providing the content. They came from doing it on radio and they understood comedy writing and timing. It would be like a filmmaker moving to New Media. It’s a natural transition. These vaudeville guys moved from one format to another. They didn’t quit jobs at the laundromat to look for a microphone in jopes of getting a show and being seen on TMZ!! They were trained in the basics and they knew the basics. So ask yourself if you are a storyteller, a filmmaker, a videomaker, or just a computer science technician looking to meet hot girls? Ask yourself where you started from and go there. Don’t rush into a web series just because you got laid off and other people are doing it. In that case, grow pot. And don’t forget that many gold miners went bust on beaten-down trails, so don’t caught in the same trap. It’s okay not to know a damn thing about making a good movie. Usually a good movie makes itself, and the director just gets in the way. Especially in today’s age. But at least educate yourself and understand how everything works. Learn from someone or something that doesn’t come out of a box or links from Google Adwords. Shoot film, not video. Change your perspective. Be creative– not different.
    3. The truth is TV doesn’t mean “good”. Movies/TV/Music are industries that have been merged together and sterilized of any originality from international conglomerates. The business as we all knew it got swallowed up by Wall Street and is now being run by people who studied Shakespeare– Not DeMille or Lear. Case in point, In The Motherhood was a successful Web series. The Network picked up the show (probably because int’l buyers are seeking anything with ‘wedding’ or ‘marriage’ in the title). The web series creator was replaced by network showrunners who took over and re-tooled the show. He was given a measly little credit like; “Based on the web series by” kind-of-crap. Then they replaced the original cast with stars from the network buddy-system… and the result was a cancellation before the second episode aired. So this just shows us that you can have something that works great on the web, and Network know-it-all’s can easily fuck it up.
    4. My final suggestion is listen to no one. Not even me– Some vague dude in the comments section. Just go and make your crap. You might win. You might lose. Either way, in the end you’ll still be poor but a little more wise.

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