Why Web Series are Becoming the New Wild West

Web series producer, Amy Quick Parish writes about how web series have quickly become a new outlet for indie-filmmakers. She also describes her experiences producing her series Into Dust and how filmmakers are making up the rules as they go.

Into the Dust

As digital filmmaking becomes more accessible and higher quality every year, more and more would-be filmmakers and TV show runners are taking their talents to the web and filming DIY-style. In 2008 this was daring new territory with few channels for independent web series, apart from You Tube and Vimeo, and no clear path to garner viewers. Now, with people of all ages watching more and more of their “television” on the web, web series are the latest frontier of indie filmmaking as filmmakers are taking on this new “Wild West” of TV.

Why web series?

In some cases filmmakers see a web series as an easy soapbox or platform for self-expression. Filmmaker Reggie Joseph, from Randolph, MA, says he is developing his web series, called The Reign of Reggie, because he loves to speak his mind and give his opinion. Joseph plans on posting his first episode in early 2014. Another filmmaker, Tyrone Jones, working in Cambridge MA, said the choice to do his upcoming series, The Dream Machine, as a web series over a film had to do with accessibility, both artistically and financially. “As a web series we don’t have as many rules and regulations in terms of censorship,” says Jones. “This has enabled us to build our own characters, story lines, and plots without fear of being censored. Financially, most of us have jobs and work different schedules. A full length movie without proper funding is simply out of reach.” Jones hopes to launch his first episode in February.
Other web series start out as unproduced feature screenplays with characters and stories that could fit multiple platforms. Filmmakers find, for various reasons, getting a full-length film off the ground can be costly and difficult. But adapting a story into a web series, which is shot and released in more manageable chunks, can give life to a series that otherwise might not have made it. Many series creators plan to turn the web series into a launching pad for a TV series. In this case, the web series serves as a more expanded sizzle reel, in which creators can display their directing skills, their ability to create characters, and tell a compelling story with strong act breaks or cliff hangers that keep audiences engaged and eager for more. And finally, for those with aspirations of creating network or cable TV series, a web series is fertile ground for experimentation. It offers creators a chance to green light their story without waiting for permission. Storytellers can push the limits of their creativity without executive input and red tape. There is freedom in autonomy and the only thing holding a creator back is his or her ability to get the film shot, edited, and uploaded.

My web series, Into Dust, a supernatural action adventure, began as a feature script. It placed in the 2nd round of consideration at the Sundance Screenwriting Institute, but did not progress further. Friends, who I had met through internships at Detour Filmproduction and the Austin Film Society, encouraged me to just shoot part of it. I did and soon enough a couple of scenes turned into a full-fledged web series. When strung together, it also works as a TV pilot.

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