J. Lynn Stapleton
16 May, 2010
It's been a LONG time since I last updated this newsletter. Life has been chaotic at the best of times, and my focus had found other things to spend time on. And now I'm back. :) I had written a blog post for my LiveJournal earlier this week about independent web television, and realized after the monthly FSFS meeting that there was an avenue for the club to explore, not in a do-it-ourselves kind of way, but in a find what we like and tell others about it kind of way. So, I wrote something up for the newsletter here, giving more of a slant to science fiction, fantasy, horror, and gaming shows I had for my blog post, which covered those as well, but also on other dramas and websoaps and lesbian oriented ones. So, without further adieu, I bring you the following:
A Crash Course on WebTV
The growth of independent web television shows has grown by leaps and bounds over the past year and a half. Web television began in 1995, with an episodic drama called The Spot, and considered the first web soap of its kind to appear online, and be involved in an interactive way with its fans, though it only lasted a couple years, finishing sometime in 1997 when the company that produced it went out of business. Eon4, was the earliest sci-fi webshow.
From 1997-2000, the creators behind the television show, Homicide: Life on the Street, developed a web spin-off, called Homicide: Second Shift which lasted for three years at NBC.com, but was cancelled not only because of financial issues but also technological issues as most people did not have access to broadband internet, cable internet, etc.
Since then, there have been sporadic appearances of web television over the years as the public were able to access to broadband internet and there was increased online video streaming, through sites like YouTube, Daily Motion & Vimeo. There were some web tv shows developed and airing in the early 2000 (2000-2005), with a news videolog with a comedic slant, called Rocketboom which jumped from an initial viewership of about 700 viewers to over 70,000, and beyond. By mid-2006, web tv was growing; shows like lonelygirl15, Soup of the Day, and Sam Has 7 Friends were distributed independently using sites like YouTube and others. Soup of the Day was the first web show distributed by a major distribution company DVD. (info from Wikipedia).
In 2007 with the growth of social networking sites like MySpace and Bebo, webtv got further distribution and grew in popularity. Shows like lonelygirl15 and Kate-Modern (a series that ran for two seasons). Roommates, a series produced by Ironsink and hosted by MySpace, ran for two seasons and sponsored by major companies and used product placement in its shows. Most of the shows were produced with moderately low budgets. Later that year, shows like Sanctuary and Prom Queen were produced and both nominated for Emmy awards. Amanda Tapping's Sanctuary was one of the first to be picked up for television, on the Sci-Fi Network, and Quarterlife picked up by NBC. Felicia Day also created and starred in The Guild, which is currently in its fourth season (the first thee seasons are available on DVD and via iTunes. Day has got one of the most interesting and successful business arrangments for The Guild, in that she has complete creative control, IP control and she negotiated with Microsoft and got an fat licemse fee upfront for the third season (as its run through xbox online first before it's released elsewhere) and her production company exclusively distributing second and third season which allows them to have a budget to pay for their actors and crew.
A similar case can be said for Joss Whedon's Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along-Blog. For distribution, his plan was to find a venue that would allow him to get his own seed money back and to be able to pay cast and crew. The episodes first aired on the Dr. Horrible website, hosted by Hulu, and available internationally, which was unusual given Hulu's usual unavailability outside the US. The three acts were released over a couple of days and then taken down, and later put back up, but with a US-only restriction. It wasn't until later when Dr Horrible's Sing-Along-Blog was released on iTunes, first in the US, and then nearly a year later released internationally. Sales for the series DVD exploded, making it the number 2 overall seller at Amazon.com and number 1 musical in January 2009, initally released exclusively through Amazon.com in December 2008, and then in January 2009 to Amazon.ca. Both Dr Horrible's Sing-Along-Blog and The Guild garnered several awards; Dr Horrible won the 2009 Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation (Short Form), 2009 People's Choice Award for Best Internet Phenomenon Award and a 2009 Primetime Creative Arts Emmy for Outstanding Special Class - Short-format Live-Action Entertainment Programs. The Guild has won the 2007 YouTube Video Award for Best Series, 2008 South by Southwest Greenlight Award for Best Original Production, 2008 Yahoo! Video Award for Best Series, 2009 Streamy Awards for Best Comedy Web Series, Best Ensemble Cast in a Web Series, Best Female Actor in a Comedy Web Series (Felicia Day), and 2010 Streamy Awards for Best Directing for a Comedy Web Series (Sean Baker), Best Female Actor in a Comedy Web Series (Felicia Day).
The past year and a half, the internet has become home to hundreds of web series in multiple genres, even going so far as to have it's own premier network for web television at Koldcast TV (http://www.koldcast.tv/). I've only tipped the surface of the webseries available online. Here are a few I've seen, and others I've downloaded (with Videodownload helper, an add-on for Mozilla Firefox). Descriptions for the various web shows listed below come directly from their own websites or from Wikipedia. Where the shows are aired in more than one place (ie own site aside from Koldcast link), I've added both links. Koldcast.tv streams the episodes in two formats: standard definition and high definition.
Lumina: (Koldcast.tv / Official Site) - Nine episodes aired. Beautifully filmed on the RED One, the nine part web series is a dark, densely woven fantasy set against the sparkling backdrop of Hong Kong.
Tyranny: (Koldcast.tv) - Ten episode suspence-thriller series. Very well done, though very dark in places.
GirlNumber9: (Official Site) - 6 part series aired; now on DVD - a UK webseries, mystery/thriller that reminds me of Val McDermid's "Wire In The Blood" books/tv series. DVD purchase link
The Guild: (Official Site) - (currently into its 4th season). Just starting to get into this (yes, I know, I'm a late bloomer into webtv). Humour, intelligence, and you really don't need to be a gamer to enjoy this. The first three seasons are now available on DVD (S1 & 2 / S3) or through iTunes store. Having only seen the first episode, I really enjoyed it!
Other series I haven't seen but have been recommended:
Cell: (< href="http://www.koldcast.tv/video/one">Koldcast.tv) - science fiction - Cell: The Web Series is about a man wakes up in a cell after a night on the town. When he realizes he’s not in jail and he’s not alone, he fights to stay who he is while helping someone else remember who they were.
Compulsions: (Official Site) - psychological thriller. Compulsions is the internal character story of Mark Sandler (Craig Frank), an admitted Sadist leading a life with a dull desk job. At night, he channels his inner compulsions as a professional interrogator, brutally and psychological extracting bits of crucial information from his “clients”.
Central Division: (Koldcast.tv / Official site) - a police thriller series. Currently five episodes aired.
The Steps: (Koldcast.tv) is a noir mystery web series that tells the story of Charlie Madison, a lowlife private investigator from Los Angeles who’s forced to live under an assumed identity in middle America to escape his criminal past.
Space Hospital: (Koldcast.tv / Official site) - is a retro-futuristic web comedy about doctors and nurses stuck aboard a once-glamorous spaceliner and experimental clinic, patrolling the galaxy under the whims of management in pursuit of power, love and financial solvency.
Puzzlemaker's Son: (Koldcast.tv) - mystery fantasy
There are 10 web series listed under the science fiction genre, 2 under fantasy, 6 under horror at Koldcast.tv, along with various other genres. 'Tune in" and find a favourite or two (or more).
Take a listen to Indie-Intertube, (currently 18 episodes; avail streaming via BlogTalk Radio, or downloadable as a podcast through iTunes) and hear Destini & Shad give their weekly favourites, as well as interviews with creators, writers, actors from various independent web tv shows.
We are open to new submissions of book reviews, movie reviews, tv show reviews, etc., original fiction, fanfiction, poetry, science news & information, sci-fi/fantasy/anime, etc. news & information, artwork, and more. If it fits in the genre, I'll take what I can fit in.