Earlier this year, I wrote a piece for a New York-based actors' resource web site, Actor's Life, about the do-it yourself-phenomenon of web series. At their best, web series can be for aspiring actors and screenwriters what blogs have become for journalists--a way to eliminate the producer, or editor, from the equation and focus solely on making art for art's sake.
Of course, while clicking away on a blog platform doesn't involve production costs (aside from coffee breaks and other writer's block remedies), filming and editing one's own series requires more extensive resources and a significant time commitment. For many actors, however, simply the promise of creative freedom and the possibility of attracting a real following are reasons enough to pick up a camera. And, in many cases, producing a web series is cheaper than renting a space for a short-lived stage production with significantly less growth potential.
Wednesday's Salon.com included a story, titled 'Where The 20-Somethings Are,' that approached the web series movement from a larger cultural angle. These consciously indie productions aren't just opportunities for a new generation of actors and producers, writer Judy Berman said, but they fill a niche that much of network television has neglected: the 20-something character. The crises of teendom and the middle age are exhaustively interpreted on scripted television, but giving a face to the quarterlife struggle is often left--in all its sloppy glory--to reality TV contestants.
I was happy to note that Berman brought attention to two of the same web series in her article as I had in mine: Successful indie filmmaker Joe Swanberg's 'Young American Bodies' (as you might guess from the title, much nudity is involved) and New York-based Kathleen Grace and Thom Woodley's 'The All-For-Nots' (about a touring pop-rock band). While Young American Bodies stands out for its charming, improvised rambling that simply doesn't have room in scripted network television, The All-For-Nots is a magnetic meta-tribute to web TV in its own right: In December I caught the group in concert at Lower Manhattan's Mercury Lounge, where they shared a lineup with other--but non-scripted--indie musicians.
Because the musicians were playing characters, their '80s-inspired act immediately came across as better produced than other artists who shared the stage that night. To a viewer there was, of course, something strangely deliberate about their on-stage demeanor. Watching a performer channel self-consciousness through reserved banter and decidedly hipster garb rather than mask it was an unexpectedly magnetic experience. In itself, their live act was a real testament to the power of a well-crafted story.
See Berman's Salon.com piece here: http://www.salon.com/ent/tv/feature/2008/06/18/internet_series/
See my story here:http://www.actorslife.com/article.php?id=230