July 25th, 2008 08:40 EST
Media Is The Masses: The Revolution will not be televised; it will be streamed online
The internet production movement spurred and reflected by the Writers Guild strike has indeed manifested an effort among Hollywood scribes to engage the marketing and distribution power of the internets, thereby circumventing a reliance on the usual studios and networks, as well as allowing creators to maintain complete creative and proprietary control. Moving production efforts to the internet was a common topic of discussion on strike picket lines, and has inspired some screen writers to venture into productions made specifically for release on the internets. Such writers have expressed a great enthusiasm in the possibilities for original internet content, but there is still question and concern about whether a profit can be made. This new medium can be used as a platform for previewing and showcasing projects intended for other media formats, as well as presenting made-for-internet content.
The internet is also well suited for short film and webisodes, AND full-length movies and tv shows.
The huge success of Dr. Horrible Sing-a-long Blog, a sci-fi musical pioneered by geek media icon Joss Whedon, serves as a kind of poster-child demonstrating the veracity and capacity of this new low-budget yet professional quality independent production model.
Dr. Horrible generated so much buzz in the online geek community that the site crashed a few hours after the first episode went active, receiving 200,000 hits an hour-- making the site mostly inaccessible. However, the 3-webisode project was also put on itunes, but it will be available online only until July, 29. Whedon has expressed intentions for a DVD release with extras, and other merchandising options (like toys, comics and a soundtrack) are also expected and hoped for. This approach defies the common assumption that the way to get attention is to flood every available media market. Its victory is made possible at a time when --and because-- the world wide web is gaining legitimacy as a canvas for creative people, and illustrates that the web is innately a legitimate (and practical) venue for storytelling-- particularly for innovative and unconventional content and methodologies.
The fact that something this clever and excellently constructed can not only be created and presented online, but done in a week, proves that quality does not depend on big name studios, million dollar budgets and blockbuster special effects. Although, maybe it does help for the writer/producer to have a massive fan following already established.
We can expect other creators --collectively and individually-- to similarly remove barriers not only between writers and their writing, but writers and the audience.
The Strike TV website, founded by and composed of professional Hollywood writers, actors and production staff, will soon unveil a slate of over 40 new programs designed exclusively as original online content. Their hope is that their projects will incubate and promote concepts that could be adapted to other media offline.
Another group of writers are striving to form Virtual Artists, an online productions distribution center offering professional writers deals to develop and produce films, TV shows and shorts.