Saturday, September 10, 2011
Friday, September 9, 2011
As told by one rogue web series pioneer and producer of "The Hunted" - one of the longest running series online (www.thehunted.tv).
THE EARLY YEARS
Ah... 56k dialup modems which took almost an hour to download an 8 minute fuzzy postage stamp with the resolution of 160x120. It was the summer of 2000, and these were the early, brutally slow beginnings of internet episodic entertainment; the days before DSL when everyone was excitedly banging rocks together trying to get aboard this huge band wagon called the internet with no money or technological idea how to deliver content.
I had a BS degree in computer science but I was a latecomer to the internet - seeing all my friends getting time-sucked into this little box. It just didn't seem healthy. During the 90's I was interested in the film business. I had moved to LA, become an actor and stuntman, written and starred in a swordfighting film called "Ring of Steel" and was working as a visual effects artist.
I had seen the blurry trickle of digital entertainment in the form of email attachments such as the first-ever episode of "South Park" in the early 90's - arguably one of the internet's first "viral videos". In 1998, Ifilm and Atom Films came along with the capability to deliver online content thanks to dedicated servers and gajillions of dollars to keep them running.
So it was the summer of 2000, the short film "405" (created by Bruce Banit and Jeremy Hunt) was a huge hit on ifilm, and folks like me were getting fired up seeing the potential of digital entertainment. At the time, I was thinking of creating a no-budget TV series called "The Hunted" for a local cable access channel. I was teaching a stage combat class in LA and I thought it might make for an excellent venue for my students to showcase their skills. But I realized early on that cable access was nothing compared to the internet, which had the potential for a worldwide audience with instant international distribution. And I knew this was gonna be big.
I had seen the research that people were already spending more time on the internet than they were spending on TV, and it was only a matter of time before ad dollars and DSL came online. When that happened, advertisers and online channels were going to be looking for all the content they could get, just like the early days of cable TV.
SHOW ME THE MONEY
Unfortunately, I was lacking at least a gajillion dollars to stream video online, and I didn't want to put my episodes on ifilm or any of the other channels since there was some uncertainty whether I would lose rights to the show. So I decided I was going to do this myself with what little money I didn't have.
Like most everyone else, I had no idea what I was doing. But unlike the others, I chose not to spend money I didn't have. I saw web shows trying to copy what they saw on TV, which was ridiculous. Even with a budget, it's virtually impossible to compete with something like Star Trek that had a million dollar budget per episode with professional writers, actors, directors, and visual effects. If you fell short in just one aspect, the result was laughable (and it still is).
Note to self, don't take yourself too seriously.
These overly ambitious web shows would produce a handful of episodes, advertise the hell out of them at every comic convention they could find, and would slowly fade out of existence as they ran out of money. It was buzz without content. And it wasn't just indie web shows, huge networks like DEN (Digital Entertainment Network) raised millions in the hopes of becoming a major content distributor. Even Spielberg's own company POP.com didn't get off the ground. It was the days of the dotcom bust when everyone big and small was suckered into this massive band wagon which turned out to be a sinking ship. And it's still happening today.
But our little show survived the bloody apocalypse for a few good reasons. First off, we didn't make any money (even though we tried banner ads), but we didn't spend any either. I taught myself HTML and created our own website which I hosted alongside my personal website on Mindspring (which had just merged with Earthlink). The URL "TheHunted.com" was taken (which it still is, curse you!) so I was one of the first to acquire a ".tv" extension (thanks Tuvalu!). I did some fancy footwork to redirect the URL to my existing website and "TheHunted.tv" was born.
I installed Adobe Premiere on my system (no easy task at the time) and taught myself how to edit. I had to do some research since there were three media players at the time that all claimed to have the best compression - Quicktime, Windows Media, and Realplayer. Compression was extremely important since I didn't have a lot of bandwidth on the site and I didn't want viewers to wait forever to download an 8 minute video on dialup. After some extensive testing, Realplayer was the clear winner and had the advantage of being able to play on Mac, PC, or Unix based systems like the SGI machines I used at work. Unfortunately, Realplayer eventually became extremely annoying due to their overwhelming advertising and tendency to hijack your computer's registry. Bad Realplayer.
One of the biggest mistakes I made at the time, however, was that I had chosen to shoot an action webseries - one of the most difficult types of video to compress. Most early web shows were "talking heads" for a good reason. Little movement made for easier compression, better image, less bandwidth, smaller file size, and faster downloads. It was bad enough that I was compressing video down to this fuzzy postage stamp with a resolution of 160x120, but fast action sequences made it almost impossible to follow. This is also why I had to make huge title cards and fill the frame with the face of anyone who was talking.
But I figured at the time that content was content, and it would only be a matter of time until the rest of the world upgraded to DSL. At that point I would simply upload the full resolution NTSC episodes. Little did I know that a video hosting site like Youtube would come along that would not only replace all this media player silliness, but would surpass video resolution with a completely new format, HD.
I believe the main reason we survived the onslaught of the dotbomb years is because we had a concept that worked within the limitations of a non-existent budget. "The Hunted" was designed as a scripted reality show shot in the style of "Cops" about a modern day group of slayers trying to prove the existence of vampires to the rest of the world. Vampires were hot thanks to shows like "Buffy", swordplay was big thanks to "Highlander", and reality TV allowed us to justify the fact that we were shooting on crappy hi-8 camcorders with existing light and sound.
So no fancy sets, equipment, locations, props or costumes. And even though I was a visual effects artist, I knew better than to weigh a show down with time-consuming effects. Our production value would have to come from the resources we had available to us. I knew swordplay, so I managed to work that into practically every episode. I also had a fairly extensive pool of actors, writers and stuntmen in LA who would otherwise be unavailable for a non-paying gig, but these episodes could be shot in a single weekend, and it was a chance to just have fun.
And I mentioned this before, but it's really important in a no-budget web series (and in life) not to take yourself too seriously. Comedy can save your ass. There's no way you're going to compete with high drama, big budget TV shows. But if you can make folks laugh, they tend to forgive and forget the details.
But our resources weren't limited to just actors, writers and stuntmen. Thanks to the fact that we were shooting on a small videocam with no crew, we had all of Hollywood as our backdrop and managed to shoot all over the city without a permit. We just made sure we shot the fights somewhere we wouldn't get stopped by police. So we took every opportunity we could to shoot a Hunted episode - locations and events that we couldn't otherwise afford even if we had a budget. At one point, we shot a swordfight we were doing at the Hollywood Bowl, but it was so tightly woven into the plot that folks were convinced that we somehow were able to afford the entire LA Philharmonic and 18,0000 extras.
My original plan for the show was to shoot a few episodes to get our feet wet before we shot the pilot episode - much like most TV shows. Once the six-part pilot episode was shot and edited, we would spread the word and release an episode a week which would give us a fairly good buffer to continue shooting episodes. Unfortunately, cool opportunities kept presenting themselves, so we kept shooting episodes. Sixteen episodes later, I still hadn't shot the pilot. What's more, I realized that producing a new episode each week is fairly impossible unless you don't have to work, pay bills, or take out the trash. It all takes time - writing, rehearsing, shooting, editing, website design. Years passed as I continued to produce the show in my limited spare time. And even though I had a fanbase with several hundred thousand views, I still hadn't done any advertising or officially released the show.
Youtube came along in 2005 and almost overnight became one of the most watched channels in the world. It was a great opportunity to be part of a larger community with millions of viewers and finally ditch the media players. But I was extremely tentative about hosting "The Hunted" with the site since various legal paragraphs suggested that all content would become property of Youtube. It wasn't until the summer of 2007 when Felicia Day released "The Guild" on Youtube that I finally decided to go for it.
I pulled all of our episodes offline and began releasing an episode a week on Youtube. I also asked Felicia for her advice on how to best market the show. She told me it was all about social networking - something I had been avoiding for years. Overnight I became a social networking whore - Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, FunnyOrDie, etc, trying to touch base with every site on the internet. Unfortunately, it's one more job, and I was already overwhelmed with production. What's more, web shows were popping up everywhere and it became increasingly more difficult to stand out in the crowd.
In 2008, the writer's strike prompted many professionals to take a stab at the internet. Among the most successful was Joss Whedon's "Dr Horrible" (also inspired by The Guild) which was an overnight success, literally crashing Hulu's servers in the first day of its release. Afterwards, the show saw significant revenue hosted on iTunes, quite possibly the first ever for a web-based show. To me, this marked a turning point for web content. Professionals are getting involved, you can make money doing this, and Hollywood is finally taking this seriously. Now it was gonna get crazy.
At that point, I began thinking of how to work smarter instead of harder. My biggest problem was that it took so long to produce new episodes that it was difficult to maintain a regular fanbase. Early on, I conceived an idea where episodes of the show could be shot by virtually anyone anywhere. TV shows like "Cops" and "CSI" had affiliates all over the country, why not "The Hunted"? We already had a few episodes shot outside of LA - one of which from Canada. If I could get users to create more episodes, I could maintain a steady stream of content.
It was an idea ahead of its time - user generated content (UGC), and it's how Youtube became an overnight success. Youtube produces nothing and yet it's the most watched channel in the world. So why not make it work for an internet series? What's more, it's easier than ever to create content. Everyone has a camera, and virtually everyone has a computer that can run editing software. The question is, does everyone have the talent? I knew there was a huge talent pool of actors out there who were trained in stage combat who would love to be a part of something like this. And rather than fight against everyone trying to create their own web show, I encouraged them to be part of ours.
To promote the idea, I created a Youtube contest with $1000 cash prize for best Hunted episode. I know this completely kills the idea of a no-budget show, but the rewards were totally worth it. I also enlisted professional judges to screen the episodes - directors, writers, producers, stunt coordinators, casting directors, agents, etc. The winner of our first contest, Kendall Wells, not only landed a role in the TV series "Leverage", he also signed with a top Hollywood agent. The winning episodes were also screened at various film festivals across the country. We've had three annual contests which have produced over 60 episodes, and the creators of the best episodes have also been invited to become affiliates - given a custom URL and featured hosting on The Hunted website.
By creating a show that encourages user content, suddenly everything was easier. Fans contribute not only to content, but to social marketing - telling their friends to come check out their episode along with the rest of the show. They create Facebook profiles for their characters, interact with each other, etc. What's more, folks are taking the show in directions I never thought about and are producing episodes way cooler than anything I've ever done.
Some folks think this is giving the audience too much control, and that professionals are professionals for a reason. I think this is a bit arrogant and there's room for everyone if you structure your show correctly. The show is based on some very simple rules, and we currently have a multi-tiered structure which features everything from our original episodes to affiliates, contest winners, and fans.
The only downside to hosting the show on Youtube is that our channel doesn't get any credit for views from fan episodes. I decided early on that fans should keep all rights to their episodes, and it was simply easier for them to upload content to their own Youtube channel which we link to via a "playlist". This unfortunately keeps us from becoming a Youtube partner with profit sharing potential, even though we have a substantial number of channel views based on associated content.
The challenge now is to find a way around this issue so we can be featured more predominantly on Youtube. I'd also like to redesign the website or adopt a service like ning.com to allow for all kinds of user content including pictures, blogs, and profiles. The new design would allow for all content to be searched by name, popularity, date, views etc.
The next step in the evolution of most web shows is to find a sponsor or get "picked up" by a cable or TV network. That has never really been my definition of success for the show. Regardless of whether or not someone gives us money, we can still produce the show and have fun doing it - although it would be awesome to be able to pay our affiliates to shoot episodes. If a web show is somehow fortunate enough to become a network show, the next step might be to become a full length feature film. We're skipping step two.
For any show to inspire fan content, you need something for fans to aspire to. So why not finally shoot our pilot episode as a feature film? Pull out all the stops, call in a bunch of favors, and do what you have to do. I don't know much about sponsors or networks, but I do know about independent feature film production after producing and starring in "Ring of Steel" almost 20 years ago.
With the backing of friends at New Deal Studios in LA, and thanks to our fanbase, social networking, and Kickstarter, we successfully raised financing for The Hunted feature film. Plans are to start production immediately upon completion of the final draft of the script, which will tie directly into the internet series. We also plan to feature user content within the film and spinoff characters from the film into their own episodes.
Transmedia is one of the latest buzz words floating around Hollywood and it's all about expanding an idea to all forms of media - from web shows to cable shows, to feature films, to iphone apps, to comic books, to advertising, to user content, to crowdsourcing, to alternate reality gaming (ARGs). The list goes on and on. It's clear now that if you want to survive the ever expanding flood of media, you need to keep up. In addition to user content and the feature film, I'm trying my hand at everything from ARGs to a location-based iphone game app.
At the latest San Diego Comic Con, I heard from some amazing directors including Robert Rodriguez, Guillermo Del Toro, John Favreau, and Kevin Smith. All of them were talking about social networking and user content in one way or another. It's fairly obvious to everyone that this is where the industry is headed, but no one quite knows how it's going to work. The best any of us can do is to hang on for the ride.
The young staff of the independent Second Spoon Cafe faces trouble when a major franchise moves in down the street. In a world of spiteful hipster waiters, ego-maniacal chefs, and low-tipping customers, can the manager save the restaurant she's worked at for years? Or she could just get another arts degree.
A 30 second teaser for THE MECHANICAL GRAVE, a new steampunk horror series debuting this Fall. Produced with the creator of "Pink" and starring Nicole Leigh from "Pink" (she plays Rhonda, College Nate's roommate)...
The year is 1895. Steam-powered ships fly through the air. Clockwork robots have replaced servants. And a grisly murder has taken place in the dark night of New York City.
Called to the scene of the ritualistic murder, newly appointed police commissioner Teddy Roosevelt discovers Detective Wayne and his police officers power usurped by two special investigators appointed by the White House: Occultist Edgar Allan Poe, a clockwork automaton housing the soul of the literary legend, and Mrs. Emma Entwistle, a dangerous assassin with a unique connection to the otherworld. When they elicit information from the demon Neshrew, a much darker and more dangerous plot of world domination is uncovered.
Please Like the show on FB... http://www.facebook.com/TheMechanicalGrave
The first time Marcus died, he thought his life was destroyed. The second time, he found out what life really is.
That is the tagline for Death's Door, a 10-part sci-fi/drama web series written and directed by Ben Schaeffer. The series, which is currently airing on YouTube and Vimeo, follows a man on the brink of success in life and love who is stricken by a unique disease that causes him to routinely collapse, have cardiac arrest, and then revive minutes later. “Death’s Door has more to do with living than dying. One day I asked myself, ‘What if there was a man who died every week?’” said Schaeffer. The result was a short film script about an old man who has died and revived weekly for nearly 70 years.
“When Ben told me about Death’s Door, I immediately had so many questions. I thought the mystery and supernatural elements of the story were as compelling as the characters and their personal struggles, and I felt the story had universal appeal,” says producer Stephanie Dawson. Schaeffer expands, “How many people have this ‘condition’? How do they live their lives? How do those around them cope? As the series progresses, the world of Death’s Door opens up grander and grander.”
Schaeffer and Dawson decided to translate the short film into a web series about a younger man to introduce people to the world of Death’s Door, which includes a forthcoming short film, a short story for Carrier Pigeon art publication, and possibly a feature film.
New York based film and stage actor Jeff Berg leads the series as Marcus, a man who has just graduated from medical school and is engaged to be married to Jessica (played by Jessica Vera), when life as he knows it literally ends. New York and New Jersey actors Geoffrey Pomeroy, Elizabeth Bove, Tom Patella, Ann Marie Yoo, Jose Alvarez, Stephen Medvidick and Alexandra Rosario round out the cast of the web series.
The series was shot on a shoestring budget, using free New York City locations and friends and colleagues for crew. Regardless of the small budget, production value is a key element for the filmmakers. “We wanted to set our series apart. We’d seen existing web series, and found most were heavy on dialogue and light on acting and production value...We used an HDV camera, got a high-end apartment location, and commissioned friends for original art, music and special effects,” explains Dawson. The filmmakers worked both on set and in post production to alter the look of the HD footage. “I wanted a gritty film quality. I am not the biggest fan of HD because I feel it looks too crisp” says Schaeffer. “I believe we have achieved an interesting look that will separate us from the other series out there.”
Past episodes and behind the scenes videos are available on the youtube site, youtube.com/ddoorfilm. For more information, or to stay connected to the series, check out the facebook page, www.facebook.com/deathsdoorwebseries.
Chapter 1: "Totes Adorbs"
The day of Canterbury High's back-to-school dance starts off perfectly for Rosie Rovello. As Rosie's longtime biffle Taylor would say, it def for sure has best-day-ever potential. Then, somewhere between a crush crushing back and a starting spot on the soccer team, everything goes totes wrong on the season premiere of FIRST DAY 2: FIRST DANCE. Watch what happens!!
Find out more about First Day 2: First Dance on the official First Day Facebook page (http://facebook.com/FDTheSeries), and make sure to catch new episodes every Monday and Wednesday through September 26th!
Zaboo’s Seat-Saver’s network gets serious as Clara tries to cozy up with a new group of friends.
It's the first softball game for the Hornets and things do not go well for Jake and Holly. Jake's team of beautiful models may look good off the field but, in their first game, there's nothing hot about this team.
Thursday, September 8, 2011
Filmmaker Randall Wallace (Braveheart, Secretariat, We Were Soldiers) talks about how he prepares for a directing job.
Johnson and Yorkshire discuss pre-production duties on The World when they are interrupted by the beautiful waitress, Vivienne. They discuss his many acheevments and her goals of becoming famus actress. He convince her to take class, Time for Passion. Johnson lectures to his students about best masterpeace to ever touch Hollywood cinema, The Karate Kid. After dealing with very tall troublemaker who don't know anything about acting or movies, Johnson hits Hollywood blvd to talk to the public.
Wednesday, September 7, 2011
Felicia Day & Sexy Nerd Girl @ 2011 Wizard World Chicago Comic Con
Stevi Perry & Jarret Crippin & Sexy Nerd Girl @ 2011 Wizard World Chicago Comic Con
Alaina Huffman & Sexy Nerd Girl @ 2011 Wizard World Chicago Comic Con
The Red Carpet - Sexy Nerd Girl @ 2011 Wizard World Chicago Comic Con
A zombie/comedy web series that follows a group of "uninfected" as they attempt to survive what seems to be the apocalypse.
Episode 1 debuts September 11th. Check out the website for more info.
After a particularly memorable first date Keli returns to work to find that things have... changed. Richard's a womanizer. Barry's got a goatee. Vlad's helping at the counter. And Joe... hey, where IS Joe? Has the world changed forever, or will we find out things are not as different as advertised?
Watch all of the episodes of The Variants comedy web series at http://www.thevariants.com
Electra & Elise Avellan & Sexy Nerd Girl @ 2011 Wizard World Chicago Comic Con
Patricia Kara & Sexy Nerd Girl @ 2011 Wizard World Chicago Comic Con
Keisha Tillis & Sexy Nerd Girl @ 2011 Wizard World Chicago Comic Con
Mimi Rogers & Sexy Nerd Girl @ 2011 Wizard World Chicago Comic Con
Julia Benson & Sexy Nerd Girl @ 2011 Wizard World Chicago Comic Con
J. LaRose & Sexy Nerd Girl @ 2011 Wizard World Chicago Comic Con
Gareb Shamus & Sexy Nerd Girl @ 2011 Wizard World Chicago Comic Con
Anthony Guajardo & Sexy Nerd Girl @ 2011 Wizard World Chicago Comic Con
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
There is The Dracula, The First Vampire, and The First Hunter, The Destroyer of Vampires. After 400 years, they will meet face to face once again. There Is Going 2 Be A Fight...
Like May Suck, but Vampirism Bites: Season 2
Jake McBride takes a trip to visit Kat the model during her sexy photo shoot in an effort to try to get her to join his softball team. Ultimately, Kat joins the softball team and attends the first practice with the girls who are dropping balls all over the field.
Check out new web-series About Abby!
This is Episode 1, "About Abby & the Aussie." Abby's a new story of a cock-eyed optimist in search of love in LA.
In this Episode, Abby is fresh off the boat. She and high school sweetheart Kevin have recently split. Besides feeling a bit frisky (though she'd never admit it), she's also clueless about what her next step is. Lucky for her, co-worker Harold has the perfect guy for her & her good friends Micah & Caroline are there to guide her along the way.
For more check out http://www.youtube.com/aboutabby
Monday, September 5, 2011
Those Video Guys Talking Geek: Fantasy webseries Mind's Eye
In this episode of Talking Geek we bring you our extended interview with Thomas Gofton the creator of the web series MIND'S EYE. Subscribe to our channel for more web series and web TV reviews and interviews.
On the way to Denver!
I take up more places on the internet here:
TheDoctorsCompanions (Doctor Who collab channel)
WeReadBooks Channel (Book review collab channel)
Jake and Peter challenge each other to the most offensive game yet.
Facebook us: http://facebook.com/watchgameroom
Terri tries Vlogging but Jimmy and Andre interfere.
Twitter - http://twitter.com/WatchGameRoom
Homepage - http://watchgameroom.com
Annemarie Pazmino - http://twitter.com/annapaz
Jimmy Wong - http://youtube.com/Jimmy
Andre Meadows - http://youtube.com/BlackNerdComedy
Brendan Bradley - http://youtube.com/brendanAbradley
Tony Janning - http://twitter.com/tonyJanning
Marisha Ray - http://twitter.com/Marisha_ray
Sean Spence - http://sean-spence.com
Ben Blair - http://twitter.com/dubblebee
Woody Tondorf - http://twitter.com/WoodyTondorf
Beau Ryan - http://youtube.com/RadNerdTV
Directed by: Derek Housman
Written by: Shawna Benson
Sound Design by: Jharon Pritchett
Bernie Su - http://youtube.com/BernieSu
Woody Tondorf - http://twitter.com/WoodyTondorf
Derek Housman - http://Youtube.com/DerekHousman
The back-to-school dance is a social equalizer, where lowly freshman dance with seniors, and sophomores, like Rosie Rovello, dougie with juniors, like JT Fox. Rosie thought this day would never come, but now that it's arrived, it's stuck on repeat! She'll relive the same day again and again, until she nabs the saboteur who's scheming to keep her from the dance. JT wants Rosie to be his date, but fate—and a high school diva named Whitney—have very different plans.
"First Day 2: First Dance," the second season of the super-fun Alloy.com & Kmart web series, premieres on Friday, September 9.
HUSBANDS PREMIERES 9.13.11 @ http://www.husbandstheseries.com
Stay up to date - follow http://twitter.com/teamhusbands
The world's first marriage equality comedy.
Cheeks, Sean Hemeon, & Alessandra Torressani
Jeff Greenstein (Friends, Will & Grace, Desperate Housewives)
Written & Created by:
Jane Espenson (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Torchwood, Game of Thrones) and Brad Bell
Sunday, September 4, 2011
Start Sub Saturday Playlist: http://bit.ly/na8EqC
SUB Saturdays is where I feature 4 cool Youtubers I think you guys will Like and should check out & Subscribe! Also, remember to see if you're one of the prize winners this week. Contact us within 48hrs or you'll miss out.
George Watsky- Subscribe: http://www.youtube.com/user/gwatsky
(Pale Kid Raps Fast) http://youtu.be/I6XLswqiX0s
DevinSuperTramp- Subscribe: http://www.youtube.com/user/devinsupertramp
(Water Jet Pack) http://youtu.be/im1iNq02Kz0
FinalCutKing- Subscribe: http://www.youtube.com/user/FinalCutKing?blend=1&ob=5
(Office Warfare) http://youtu.be/cdM8G1i2mKc
Meghan Tonjes- Subscribe: http://www.youtube.com/user/tonjesml
("Firework" by Katy Perry) http://youtu.be/4pV0rqqrBAA
Headed to Denver to work until Friday! Be good kids!
I take up more places on the internet here:
TheDoctorsCompanions (Doctor Who collab channel)
WeReadBooks Channel (Book review collab channel)
Video Postcard #1: Bellingham, Washington
On location scout in Washington. Gonna post a few of these short videos for you. Just want you to see what I see. - Tony
Video Postcard #2: My Backyard
Video Postcard #3: Down the street.
What is she saying?
Watch in FULL SCREEN.
This is a new character of mine Helen Himmelman. The parody is making fun of terrible local commercials. Also, Helen herself is bad at just about everything. She wants to be a businesswoman so badly, but finds herself constantly without the skills to do so. In these HH episodes Helen will always be trying to start a new local business because the last one failed miserably. This week she's trying to be a personal chef. Let me know if you like it or not. Also, still not great at the split screen thing. I'll get better though. Practice makes perfect.